Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My 2014 Hall of Fame ballot -- Bonds, Clemens, Kent, Maddux, Thomas

This is my second year voting for the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, and the Hall of Fame vote is starting to get murky.

There are legitimately 17-19 players worthy of induction. While the IBWAA elected Mike Piazza last year (the Baseball Writers' Association of America didn't), the BBWAA didn't. The BBWAA elected Barry Larkin last year, while it didn't elect Piazza, hence the inclusion of Larkin on my ballot this year.

I left off guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens last year as "punishment" for their performance-enhancing drug use. While PEDs don't impact everyone the same way or make them superhuman, there is a reason why they're banned by MLB and, in some cases, illegal. There is an obvious advantage from using them, otherwise it wouldn't be an issue.

My ballot

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Jeff Kent
Barry Larkin
Greg Maddux
Mark McGwire
Tim Raines
Frank Thomas

It's only going to get more clutter in the coming years if the BBWAA/IBWAA doesn't increase the voting limit (from 10 to say, 15?) or if there are an unexpected number of inductions this year.

The guys who fell off my ballot this year are Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell. This isn't because they're unworthy of the hall, but because there are others who are more worthy at this time.

Last year's BBWAA vote (by percentage) in parenthesis.

Jeff Bagwell (59.6)

- Here's what I wrote about Bagwell on my ballot two years ago:
"Bagwell was one of the most fearsome hitters of the 1990s, posting an average season of .304/.416/.545, 29 HR, 107 RBI, 35 2B, 102 R, 98 BB. That includes his first two seasons, including a Rookie of the Year award in 1991 and two strike-shortened seasons. His career took off in 1994 when he slugged 39 home runs, drove in 116 runners and posted an obscene 1.201 OPS. Those numbers were good enough to earn him the NL MVP that season. From 1994 to 2003, he averaged the following: .301/.420/.574, 37 HR, 116 RBI, 36 2B, 116 R and 107 BB. So it seems his 1994 season (minus the .368 batting average and .750 slugging percentage) would set the tone for the rest of his career. The only reason he wasn't a surefire first-ballot guy was phantom steroid/performance-enhancing drug allegations. I left him off last year because I didn't envision him as a first-ballot guy in general (side note: he was one of my favorite non-Dodgers in the '90s). Upon further review, it appears I was mistaken. The guy put up some amazing numbers and should be rewarded as such.
Nothing Bagwell did in the last 24 months has changed my mind.

Most impressive season: 1994, Houston: .368/.451/.750, 39 HR, 116 RBI, 32 2B, 104 runs scored, 213 OPS+, 8.9 rWAR, 7.8 fWAR
Extrapolated for 162-game schedule (155 games played): .368/.451/.750, 55 HR, 163 RBI, 45 2B, 146 runs scored

Craig Biggio (68.2)
- Biggio is one of the most underrated players of the last 25 years. He began as a catcher before Houston moved him to second base to preserve his knees. He played second base from 1992-2002, before Houston moved him to the outfield to make room for Jeff Kent (whom you'll ready about later). No matter where he played, he was a solid offensive contributor, but his best years came at second base. Relative to the position, he was well above-average offensively and won some hardware on the defensive side of the ball. Biggio is one of the best second baseman to ever play and deserves induction into the hall.
Most impressive season: 1997, Houston: .309/.415/.501, 22 HR, 81 RBI, 37 2B, 146 runs scored, 143 OPS+, 9.4 rWAR, 9.3 fWAR
Barry Bonds (36.2)
- This one hurts, only because Bonds was a gigantic thorn in the Dodgers' side from 1993 through 2007. But there's no denying his greatness. Even before 1998, when he reportedly began taking performance-enhancing drugs, Bonds was on the fast track for the Hall of Fame. In fact, his numbers through 1997 would have been enough to garner him strong consideration (.288/.408/.551, 374 HR, 417 SB, 1.3 BB/K ratio). His career after 1997 looks video game-esque, as he hit .314/.496/.697 with 388 HR, 209 OPS+ and a ridiculous 2.3 BB/K ratio.
Bonds was a seven-time MVP -- the most ever. He had 762 home runs -- the most ever. He walked 2,558 times -- the most ever. He had eight Gold Glove awards and is quite possibly the best player in the game's history. Whether the PEDs had a legitimate impact on his numbers, we'll never know. But like I said earlier, he was Hall-worthy before he used.
Most impressive season: 2004, San Francisco: .362/.609/.812, 45 HR, 101 RBI, 232 BB, 129 runs scored, 263 OPS+, 10.6 rWAR, 11.7 fWAR
Roger Clemens (37.6)
- Another case of a guy who was a lock for the Hall of Fame, even before using performance-enhancers. Clemens was a seven-time Cy Young award winner, an MVP award-winner and an 11-time All-Star. He topped 250 innings pitched six times in his career and 200 IP 15 times in 24 seasons. Clemens may very well be one of the best pitchers to ever throw, but his legacy will always be tainted by PEDs.
He won three of his Cy Youngs in Boston before former Red Sox's GM Dan Duquette thought Clemens' best days were behind him. Clemens went to Toronto in 1997 and put up an historic season that netted him his fourth Cy Young. He'd win three more after that (one in Toronto, one in New York, one in Houston). No matter what you think about him or his on- and off-the-field antics, he's one of the greatest pitchers of this or any generation.
Most impressive season: 1997, Toronto: .21-7, 2.05 ERA, 264 IP, 1.03 WHIP, 7.0 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.3 BB/9, 10.0 K/9, 222 ERA+, 11.9 rWAR, 10.8 fWAR
Jeff Kent (first year eligible)
- Kent was the last inclusion on my list (he bumped Trammell from my list). While he wasn't the friendliest guy, he was a really good second baseman. He was well above-average offensively and maybe not as horrible as once expected defensively. Kent's 351 home runs are the most by a second baseman ever. He owns a .292/.357/.509 triple slash at the position in his career and remained a productive player until his age-39 season. He made his name with the Giants in the late-1990s and early-2000s, before signing with the Astros. He finished his career with four seasons in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. Kent won an MVP award in 2000 and was a five-time All-Star.
Most impressive season: 2000, San Francisco: .334/.424/.596, 33 HR, 125 RBI, 41 2B, 114 runs scored, 162 OPS+, 7.2 rWAR, 7.4 fWAR

Barry Larkin (elected by BBWAA in 2012)

- Here's what I wrote about Larkin two years ago. I'm honestly not sure why he wasn't elected by the IBWAA last year.
"Much like Roberto Alomar, when you thought of shortstops in the '90s, Larkin was one of the first guys you thought of. Not only was he a solid defender, he was pretty good with the bat -- so much so that he took home the 1995 NL MVP. He was a consistent hitter, putting up a career line of .295/.371/.444 and was the face of the Cincinnati Reds franchise for the better part of 13 years."
Most impressive season: 1996, Cincinnati: .298/.410/.567, 33 HR, 89 RBI, 36-for-46 in SB, 117 runs scored, 154 OPS+, 7.4 rWAR, 6.8 fWAR

Greg Maddux (first year eligible)

- If there was ever a case for a unanimous hall-of-famer, it's Maddux. Unfortunately, the BBWAA won't ever elect someone unanimously because there are some writers who refuse to vote for a guy on the first ballot. Whatever. Maddux had some of the best success of any pitcher -- especially in the so-called "Steroid Era" -- despite not having elite fastball velocity.

Rarely did Maddux's fastball break 90 MPH, yet he was able to get incredible movement on the pitch and was able to place any pitch he wanted, anywhere he wanted, in any count. He was a master of control and was perhaps the smartest pitcher who ever pitched. Maddux was won four consecutive Cy Youngs (1992-95) and finished in the Top 5 five other times. He was an eight-time All-Star and an 18-time (!) Gold Glove winner. Oh, and he had some amazing numbers. He threw more than 5,000 innings in his career, which is amazing in and of itself. After 1992, his age-26 season, Maddux walked two hitters per nine innings just once -- 2002. He made the hitters hit his pitches, and they didn't do that very well. We might not see a pitcher like Maddux for quite some time.

Most impressive season: 1995, Atlanta (strike-shortened): 19-2, 1.63 ERA, 209 2/3 IP, 0.81 WHIP, 6.3 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 1.0 BB/9, 7.8 K/9, 260 ERA+, 9.7 rWAR, 7.9 fWAR

Mark McGwire (16.9)

This is what I wrote about McGwire last year, his seventh year eligible on the ballot:
"I've never written about McGwire before. It's hard to come up with a set of rules to go by when it comes to those who used PEDs (reference the beginning of this piece). McGwire had a fantastic career. He wasn't a guy who was going to shorten his swing to go the other way or hit behind a runner to move him up, he was the quintessential power-hitter. He didn't hit for a high average, but he hit a ton of balls over the fence. That's what he was paid to do. He hit 42 or more home runs six times in his career. While he'll always be remembered for his 70 homers in 1998, his 49 home runs in his rookie season of 1987 was pretty impressive.
McGwire put up some ridiculous numbers, including a .394 on-base percentage. His career slugging percentage (.588) is good for eighth-best in Major League history. Despite the PED use, he had a Hall of Fame career. He'll be held out for a long time by the BBWAA and I'd actually be a little surprised if he were voted in by the writers during his time on the ballot."
The Dodgers' hitting coach, despite the PED stuff, is one of the greatest sluggers of all-time and should be enshrined. However, he won't be.

Most impressive season: 1998, St. Louis: .299/.470/.752, 70 HR, 147 RBI, 162 BB, 130 runs scored, 216 OPS+, 7.2 bWAR, 8.8 fWAR

Tim Raines (52.2)

- Here's what I've written about Raines the last three years.
"Aside from Rickey Henderson, Raines is the best leadoff hitter of the last 50 years. Batting first, he had a slash line of .294/.385/.427. Surprisingly, he spent a lot of time batting second and third in his career (2841 plate appearances), but he will always been known as a leadoff guy. He had a four-year stretch from 1981-84 in which he led the National League in stolen bases -- 71, 78, 90, 75 respectively. In 1981, a strike-shortened season, he stole those 71 bases in 88 games."
There's a big push from the Internet community to get Raines in the Hall. Here's hoping it happens. He deserves it.

Most impressive season: 1987, Montreal: .330/.429/.526, 18 HR, 68 RBI, 50-for-55 in SB, 123 runs scored, 149 OPS+, 6.8 bWAR, 6.9 fWAR

Frank Thomas (first year eligible)

- The Big Hurt. My formative years were spent watching Thomas pummel opposing pitchers. He is easily one of the best hitters I ever watched. He may have been the most feared hitter after Bonds. For a 10-year stretch, Thomas was one of the game's best hitters. From 1991 through 2000, he hit .320/.439/.581 and averaged 34 home runs per season. His strike-shortened 1994 season was on pace to be one of the best ever. He won two MVP awards in that time (1993 and 1994) and finished in the Top 8 five other times. He also enjoyed success from 2002-07, as he hit .265/.381/.523 and averaged 28 home runs in his age-34 to 39 seasons. Not hall-level production, but really, really good production, especially considering his age.

Some take issue with the fact Thomas was a designated hitter more than he was a first baseman. While he spent more time as a DH (1,310 games at DH, 969 at first base), he enjoyed far more success as a first baseman (.337/.453/.625 compared to .275/.394/.505). No matter how you look at it, Thomas produced offensively like a hall-of-famer.

Most impressive season: 1994, Chicago: .353/.487/.729, 38 HR, 101 RBI, 34 2B, 106 runs scored, 212 OPS+, 6.3 rWAR, 7.0 fWAR
Extrapolated for 162-game schedule (162 games played): .353/.487/.729, 54 HR, 145 RBI, 49 2B, 152 runs scored


If the voting limit were increased, the aforementioned Martinez and Trammell would have gotten my vote (they got it in the past). Others I will vote for in the future include Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling and Larry Walker. Guys on the extreme outside looking in are Fred McGriff, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa.

I was actually surprised to see Bonds and Clemens got as much support as they did in their first year eligible. They have 14 more years (including this one) to get 75 percent of the vote, but I'm skeptical that will happen.

Maddux is a near-lock to be voted in by the BBWAA. I'd assume Glavine is another near-lock to make it this year. Beyond them, I don't know who else will get enough votes to make it.

Photo credits
Thomas: clare_and_ben, Wikimedia Commons
Bagwell: shgmom56, Flickr
Larkin: Rick Dikeman, Wikimedia Commons
McGwire: Keith Allison, Flickr


  1. I do believe some of the PED users would have made it into the HOF without the drugs, but there are a couple on this list that would not have and do not deserve the call of the Hall.

    Mark McGwire is the most glaring example. Without PEDs he would be Dave Kingman who was a good power hitter but not a HOFer. It is likely that McGwire used the bulk of his career. It did not necessarily make him hit home runs, but it kept him on the field more often than he would have otherwise thusly inflating his numbers.

    Jeff Bagwell is another one on this list. He played with a couple of users and looking at him he belongs in the PED enhanced performers


    1. Agree to disagree on McGwire.

      There's no proof whatsoever Bagwell used PEDs. He could have played with 24 other users and there's still no proof. The fact he's being kept out because of some folks' unfounded speculation is appalling.