It is that time of year. Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America are sending in their ballots for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Like every year, it is controversial because of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs; steroids). Everyone have their own hot opinion on the Hall of Fame and the introduction of steroids. It was inevitable when Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds made the ballot six years ago. (Has it been that long already?) Now, every year, we have the same problem of beat writers making controversial ballots and fans demanding they undeservedly lose their ballot because they do not agree with popular narrative.
This is not a piece that will attempt to delve into who should or should not lose their ballots at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s not fair to the actual voters or to the Hall itself. The voters do a great job at what they do. You may not like the system or how people vote, but that is how it works. Everyone is human. While this writer does not agree with the Hall that revealing all ballots to scrutiny might cause people to conform, their point is valid. Realistically, these ballots need to be made public. The fear of voters conforming is probably an overreaction.
As part of this series, each voter will have 10 votes maximum to work with. The writer may choose to have honorable mentions to explain their reasons. Without further ado, here is this writer’s votes if he had a ballot.
Guaranteed votes of those suspected of steroids: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were on serious Hall of Fame paces long before they were suspected of using performance enhancing drugs. Even in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Clemens and Bonds were one of a kind. Clemens was a machine. His numbers in 1986 alone won him the Cy Young and MVP awards that year at age 23. Bonds won his first MVP in 1990 at age 25! While we are never sure they definitely did steroids, we definitely do not know when they started if they did. While steroids probably helped them stay on the field longer (and into their 40s), Bonds and Clemens were once in a lifetime talents. Therefore they get my first two votes.
That said, the hypocrisy of voting for Clemens and Bonds but no one else is omnipresent. No offense to Sammy Sosa or Manny Ramirez, but they are great talents. There just is not enough room with 10 votes to vote for all four. If you have to choose between the four, you should take Clemens and Bonds every time. The zeitgeist of the late 1990s and early 2000s were using steroids to bring baseball big money. It worked. However, we cannot elect Bud Selig to the Hall of Fame (along with owners who supported said zeitgeist) and not elect the players. No matter what Joe Morgan and the Hall think.
First timers on 2018 ballot that are guarantees: Jim Thome and Chipper Jones. Jim Thome needs very little explanation. While his numbers were never Bondsian level, Thome was a feared slugger of his time. Thome hit 612 home runs (right now best for 8th all time). One might argue he stayed in the league too long (his 2012 numbers were a shell of himself). However, that has no bearing on this case. This writer is a geek for Hall of Fame milestones, and 500 home runs should be a guarantee case for the Hall. 600 puts you in a special class and Thome’s 612 more than qualify.
Has it been five years since Chipper Jones retired? The creator of the farewell tour and Met killer will get to be in Cooperstown this July. One of the premier switch-hitters of his time, Jones was the fuel for the Atlanta Braves’ long run of domination in the National League East. He, along with fellow nominee Andruw Jones, were the faces of the franchise. And when you talk about the best switch hitters in baseball history, Chipper is near the top. There is no doubt that #10 will be in Cooperstown and gets this writer’s vote.
“Duh” votes: Vladimir Guerrero and Mike Mussina. Similar to Thome and Jones, there are not many reasons to say why Vladimir Guerrero and Mike Mussina should not be in the Hall of Fame. Guerrero is potentially one of the last Montreal Expos to go in wearing their cap (Larry Walker could wear a Rockies or Expos cap). VG was a feared hitter in Montreal, the best of a really bad team still on the downward trend from a 1994 fire sale. While he has fewer home runs than Thome, Guerrero could hit anything. His batting line represents that (.313 / .379 / .553). Anyone denying Vlad a Hall of Fame entrance is purely making a mistake.
When not getting decked by Bill Hasselman, Mike Mussina was the workhorse, and aside of Jim Palmer, probably the best pitcher in Orioles history. At his best in Baltimore, Mussina did not have the glitter of awards, but was always a top 5 or 10 nominee for a Cy Young Award. However, he got some All-Star nods. 270 wins for Baltimore and the Yankees help immensely on Mussina’s case, despite the 3.68 ERA in 3562.2 innings. Mussina was so good that he even won 20 games at age 39 in his last season in New York (2008). Time will catch up to getting Mussina in the Hall, but Baltimore will be happy when he joins Palmer.
The questions of the position: Edgar Martinez and Trevor Hoffman. Martinez and Hoffman are interesting cases because people seem to have issues of valuing the idea of a “closer” and the designated hitter. Starting with Martinez, he was at the time, the best designated hitter in baseball. Martinez played first base sometimes, but #11 clearly fit the mold of Hall of Famer designated hitter. There’s no reason to explain why statistically he deserves to be in. The only fight is over the value of the designated hitter. Edgar will get in. The general voting has solved that problem.
As for Trevor Hoffman, no offense to Billy Wagner, but this writer still has a thing for milestones. While many old-schoolers disagree, the save is a legitimate statistic to analyze pitchers with. Trevor Hoffman was the first to hit 500 saves in a game and eventually 600 saves. Mariano Rivera is going into the Hall of Fame next year with a chance (not a solid one, but a chance) to get a unanimous vote. He has 652 saves and five rings. While Hoffman’s numbers do not jump out at you, he was the best at what he did (until Mo came along) and when you heard “Hell’s Bells”, you knew you were in for hell from Hoffman.
The last two votes: Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen. It goes without saying that this ballot is stacked with a lot of great new nominees. Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen will get the ninth and tenth votes on this ballot. Like Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones was a stalwart of the Braves for a long time. However, as noted on MLB Network Radio, he was on a Hall of Fame pace until age 30. Then he was not. Jones fell off the radar after age 30, and it was unfortunate. If he had kept up his normal pace for another 5 years or so, we would be talking Andruw Jones as a guaranteed Hall of Famer. That did not happen.
Scott Rolen is the underdog on this ballot. Third base is not a stacked position in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Modern day third basemen in the Hall are rare (Paul Molitor, Ron Santo, Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs and George Brett). Rolen was a great player. A regular stalwart in the National League, the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year won eight Gold Gloves in his career at third. In comparison, Molitor never won a single Gold Glove. Similar to Mussina, Rolen’s numbers do not stand out, but eventually the Hall will come around and Rolen will make it as one of the best third basemen, ever.
Ultimately, the Hall of Fame vote is stacked. The 11th choice here was Chris Carpenter. This writer did not buy into the Omar Vizquel love. He may have been a great defender, but his 82 OPS+ is much too weak to overlook. Ronald Torreyes of the Yankees has an 82 OPS+ season last year. There are other great nominees, such as Johan Santana, but the 10-vote rule just stinks up a storm. Regardless, just a quick reminder:
Adam Moss’s Hall of Fame Ballot, 2018: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Trevor Hoffman, Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen.
11-15: Chris Carpenter, Johan Santana, Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield.