Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Baseball HOF Ballot for 2013 -- My pix

I do this every year -- well, at least for a few years. Always an interesting day when the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot comes out. There are 36 names on the ballot this time around. Some of the guys on the ballot clearly aren't all-time greats, but others are. Let's take a spin through the names -- unless otherwise indicated, the candidates are on the ballot for the first time:

Moises Alou. First year on the ballot. A solid guy who played for a number of teams. Might be best remembered for not catching the foul ball that Cubs fan Steve Bartman tried to catch, which set in motion a chain of unlikely events that ended up with yet another heartbreak for the North Siders. He should be remembered for being an excellent all-around player. Is he HOF material? No.

Jeff Bagwell. This is his 4th year on the ballot. He got 60% last year and will likely make the HOF in the next few years. Probably not this year, though. A great player who played in obscurity in Houston. Some suspect he might have used performance enhancing drugs, but there is no solid evidence. Having contemporary slugger Frank Thomas on the ballot doesn't help Bagwell's cause.

Armando Benitez. First year on the ballot. Longtime reliever for a variety of teams. Very good player, nearly 300 saves. Not even close to a Hall of Famer. Much like Roberto Hernandez, who was on the ballot last year and got zero votes. I'd expect the same thing for Benitez.

Also a catcher
Craig Biggio. Second year on the ballot; almost made it last year with 68% of the ballot. If Roberto Alomar isn't the greatest second baseman since Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg, it's likely that Biggio is. His credentials are impeccable -- well over 3000 hits, over 400 stolen bases, 4 Gold Gloves and not a whiff of scandal. The only reason he won't make is because there are three very good first-time candidates. Was a teammate of Bagwell for most of his career. I think he'll make it this year. If not, for sure next year.

Barry Bonds. Second year on the ballot. Based on sheer numbers, probably one of the top five players in baseball history. Of course, he cheated. It's too bad, actually. If his career had ended in 1998, he would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. Now, he might not get in for a very long time, if at all. His nasty disposition doesn't help him, either. Still, a genuinely great player.

Sean Casey. First year on the ballot. A quality player. Not a Hall of Famer at all.

Roger Clemens. Second year on the ballot. He got 38% of the vote last year. Of the cheaters (or suspected cheaters), potentially the hardest case. Based on the numbers, he's probably one of the ten greatest pitchers in the history of the game. And like Bonds, if he'd quit before 2000, he would already be in the Hall. He beat the criminal rap, but the jury of the baseball writers is far less likely to give him the nod. I suspect he could make it some day, but it's going to be a long time coming.

Ray Durham. First year on the ballot. A hard-nosed infielder who could hit. With 192 home runs, he's up the list of second basemen. But he's not close to Biggio, or Jeff Kent, who is also on the ballot this year. No chance.

Eric Gagne. First year on the ballot. For a period of about three years, he was absolutely dominant as the closer for the Dodgers. He also won the Cy Young in 2003. He also is a cheater. No shot.

All-time great
Tom Glavine. The finest lefthander of his generation and probably the best since Steve Carlton. Won 305 games and was the smartest pitcher outside of Greg Maddux to pitch in the last 20 years. He could hit, too. Easily a first ballot Hall of Famer. I would expect he'll get north of 85% of the vote. The only reason he wouldn't get a higher percentage is that his teammate, Greg Maddux, is also on the ballot, and Maddux is even greater than Glavine.

Luis Gonzalez. First year on the ballot. Nice player who is best remembered for ending the 2001 World Series with a walkoff bloop single off the great Mariano Rivera. Might have been a cheater, but it doesn't much matter, because he's not going to make the HOF anyway.

Jacque Jones. First year on the ballot. Former Twin and a nice player. I own a Jacque Jones bobblehead, but being the subject of a bobblehead is as close to immortality as he's going to get. Still, 162 career home runs and a lifetime batting average of .277 works out to a very nice career. When Bill James puts out his next baseball abstract, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jones in the top 100 all-time left fielders. But again, that's not a HOF career.

Todd Jones. First year on the ballot. It's easy to forget, but the hulking Jones was an effective reliever for a decade in the major leagues. He had 319 career saves, which is a good number. But it's not going to be enough.

Rock solid
Jeff Kent. First year on the ballot, and perhaps the most interesting case of the first-year candidates. Maybe I'm the only person who remembers him this way, but I think of Kent as a solid guy who didn't always wow you when you watched him play. Still, when you look at the numbers, he's the best offensive second baseman to play the game outside of Rogers Hornsby. He was the National League MVP in 2000 and ended up with 377 career home runs, including 20 homers or more in 12 seasons. Not many players can make that claim at any position. In some respects, he's the infield equivalent of Eddie Murray -- a guy who was consistently good for a very long time. I don't think he's better than Biggio, but I think he's likely to make the HOF within the next five years.

Paul LoDuca. First year on the ballot. A good catcher who made four All-Star games. Brian McCann without the power, essentially. A good career for sure, but not even close to the Hall.

As good a pitcher as we'll see
Greg Maddux. First year on the ballot. Simply put, the best pitcher of his generation and probably in the top ten pitchers of all time. He won 355 games, which ranks him 8th all-time, one ahead of Roger Clemens. A tremendous control pitcher who is one of only four pitchers of all time who have more than 3000 strikeouts and less than 1000 walks. He also won four consecutive Cy Young awards in the 1990s and 18 Gold Gloves. He won't get 100% of the vote, because no one does, but he'll likely be named on well over 90% of the ballots. And he deserves it. The dictionary definition of an all-time great.

Edgar Martinez. This is his 5th year on the ballot -- last year, he got 35.9% of the vote. The issue with Martinez is simple -- he was a career DH and rarely played in the field. He was a tremendous right-handed hitter, arguably the best of his generation, but at this point the baseball writers seem reluctant to put a DH in the Hall. He has time and he might make it in a few years, but not this year.

Don Mattingly. This is his 14th year on the ballot. He was a hell of a player in the 1980s, but he wasn't a traditional first baseman because he didn't hit for a lot of power. I also think he's punished a little bit because he was the face of the New York Yankees at a time when the Yankees weren't making the World Series. His credentials include a batting title and nine Gold Gloves, along with a career batting average of .307. Still, he's a borderline case. If you take Mattingly, you probably need to consider someone like Mark Grace as well. And I don't think Mark Grace is ever going to be in the Hall of Fame. If he wins a World Series as a manager, that might help him with the Veteran's Committee some day.

Fred McGriff. Like Martinez, this is his 5th year on the ballot. McGriff was a power hitter and a totally solid citizen who had a long career without even a whiff of scandal. Still, you never thought of him as a great player while was playing. One guy who had a similar career was Eddie Murray, but Murray was a better player. McGriff got about 20% of the vote last time, so he's losing ground. I wouldn't be surprised if he loses more ground this year. Probably a candidate for the Veteran's Committee some day.

Mark McGwire. This is his 8th year on the ballot. He's a cheater and he's paid for it -- he got 17% of the vote last time, so he's losing ground. By the numbers, he's a Hall of Famer for sure, but he'll be waiting for a long time.

Black Jack
Jack Morris. This is his 15th and final year on the ballot. I'm a partisan on this one, because I think Morris was the best big-game pitcher of the 1980s, but when you look at his overall numbers they aren't as good as you would think, especially his pedestrian career ERA of 3.90. Still, I think he was a dominant player at times and his performance in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is one of the greatest moments in baseball history. He got 68% of the votes last time, so he's close. I hope he makes it, but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't; it doesn't help that Glavine and Maddux are both on the ballot this time around. I'm cheering for him, though.

Mike Mussina. Mussina has bad timing. He's on the ballot for the first time the same year that Glavine and Maddux show up, so he'll suffer for it. Still, this is a guy who has a lot of numbers that compare favorably to the HOF standard -- a 270-153 lifetime record is pretty similar to Jim Palmer's 268-152 lifetime record. Palmer seemed like a more dominant pitcher than Mussina, but when you look at it, they're really quite close. If Palmer is a HOF pitcher, and he is, you can make an excellent argument for Mussina. I suspect he'll get there some day, but not this year.

Hideo Nomo. First year on the ballot. A very good pitcher and historically important as the first Japanese star in the major leagues. He bounced around a lot later in his career and only ended up with 123 career wins, so he'll not be in the Hall, but he could be dominant at times. He's likely to garner enough votes to stay on the ballot for another year, unlike many of the other first-time candidates.

Rafael Palmeiro. This is his 4th year on the ballot. Same problem as McGwire -- Hall of Fame numbers, but a cheater. He only got about 9% of the votes last time, so his time is running out. Don't see him getting there.

Mike Piazza. Second year on the ballot. Arguably the greatest hitting catcher in history and might be the best right handed hitter of his era other than Edgar Martinez. His credentials are in order offensively -- a lifetime batting average of .308 and over 400 home runs, which puts him up there with Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra. Defensively, he wasn't much, though, and although he's not been directly linked to performance enhancing drugs, he's suspected by some of doing so. He might find himself in the same boat as Jeff Bagwell in that he might have to wait a few years before he gets in, but I think he will. He got 58% of the vote last time, so unless he drops off, he'll get there within the next five years.

The Rock
Tim Raines. This is his 7th year on the ballot. Raines has two problems, neither of which are his credentials, which are rock solid. Raines had a drug issue, but not steroids -- he had well-documented trouble with cocaine during his career. More importantly, he was a direct contemporary of Rickey Henderson, who had the same skill set but was the superior player. I personally think Raines is the best player who has been eligible for more than two years who is not in the Hall of Fame. He's getting closer; last year he made a big jump and was on 52% of the ballots. I think he'll get there in the next few years, but not this year. I'll be complaining about the injustice of it all until he makes it, however. Raines was a hell of a player.

Kenny Rogers. First year on the ballot. A sometimes dominant lefthander and a very dour personality. He won 219 games, which is more than Curt Schilling, but I don't know anyone would regard Rogers as a better pitcher than Schilling. I don't think he'll make it, but he could stay on the ballot for a few years. Like Mussina, would get more attention if he weren't coming on the ballot with Glavine and Maddux.

Curt Schilling. Second year on the ballot -- he got about 39% last time. Actually, a lot like Jack Morris -- a big game pitcher and a big personality who was dominant at times but whose overall credentials are less than optimal. I don't think he'll make it this year, but he should have a chance at some point, although I'd certainly take Mike Mussina first.

Richie Sexson. Exceptionally tall (6'8")  first baseman who had serious power but couldn't stay healthy. First year on the ballot and likely his last.

Lee Smith. This is his 12th year on the ballot. He'd been moving up the list, but last year he slipped a little and went down to 48%, so I'm not sure he's going to make it. He was a dominant relief pitcher in the 1980s and 1990s, but it was a time of transition between the old school relievers like Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers and the newer specialists like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Smith's biggest issue, I think, is that he was so consistent that it was easy to take him for granted. He also played for a lot of bad teams, which doesn't help.

J. T. Snow. First year on the ballot. Almost certainly his last year on the ballot. The question is whether he gets more votes than Jacque Jones. My guess is that they both get shut out. Good career, but not HOF.

Sammy Sosa. Second year on the ballot; suspected by all of being a cheater, but not proven. By the numbers, a Hall of Famer for sure, but he's not going to make it any time soon. If you doubt that, read this report from the Chicago Tribune, where they know him best.

The Big Hurt
Frank Thomas. First year on the ballot. The Big Hurt, as he was known, was a great right-handed hitter with tremendous power. He finished with 521 home runs, but unlike some of his contemporaries was not suspected of cheating. The numbers don't lie -- offensively he's an all-time great. He was a brutally bad fielder, though, which might be the only thing that keeps him out of the Hall the first year. He was born the same day as Jeff Bagwell and in the end had a better overall career. He'll be a Hall of Famer soon, perhaps even this year.

Mike Timlin. First year on the ballot. It's hard to believe, but he pitched for nearly 20 years in the big leagues. That's an accomplishment. He had good taste in teammates, too, since he was on four winning World Series teams (Blue Jays in '92 and '93, Red Sox in '04 and '07). Nice career. No chance.

Don't forget Lou Whitaker!
Allen Trammell. This is his 13th year on the ballot. Personally, I think Trammell is a great player and should have been the HOF years ago. His problem, I suspect, is that he was an exact contemporary of two other shortstops who were better -- Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount. Yount in particular was a longtime rival and was a better player. Still, Trammell was very, very good and his overall credentials are excellent. He's never gotten the traction he should with the voters and last time he got 34% of the vote. I think he'll continue to fall short and that a future Veteran's Committee will put him in the Hall with dispatch. Aside from Morris and Raines, the best long-time candidate.

Larry Walker. This is his 4th year on the ballot. He suffers because he played in the Steroid Era and he also played for a long time at Coors Field, which inflated his numbers. He had a distinguished career but he might have the experience as Dale Murphy, where his support (about 22% last time) wanes over time. I don't think he's gonna stay on the ballot much longer, though.

So my guess -- three new members of the HOF this year; Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Craig Biggio, with Frank Thomas and Jack Morris possibly making it as well. Since no one made it last time, we're due for some new plaques. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

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