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My (imaginary) Hall of Fame ballot

Dec 16, 2010, 9:44 AM EDT

Bagwell

No one asked and fewer care, but since I will probably continue to critique, praise and analyze Hall of Fame ballots of others, I may as well make it clear who I would support if I had the franchise.  Here would be my guys this year:

Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Alan Trammell and Jeff Bagwell.

The closest calls in terms of guys I excluded: Larry Walker, because I’m still not sure how to weigh his Coors Field days, though I may be convinced to (hypothetically) check yes in the future. Same with Fred McGriff, on whom I have wavered over the years. Indeed, I think I have written posts both for and against his candidacy in the past. Which is something I’m totally proud of.

Ultimately, I don’t believe in the concept of making guys wait because there are others “in front of them” — if they’re worthy, they’re worthy — but at the same time, I have a hard time putting ten guys on the ballot.

Put differently, Hall voting isn’t as easy as it seems.

  1. jasoncollette - Dec 16, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Love the ballot except my heart wants to have McGriff on it as well.

    • frankbuc - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:01 AM

      I wish the yankees never traded Mcgriff but was he dominant?

      • jasoncollette - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:15 AM

        I found him to be consistently extremely good and dominant at times such as his five season of OPS+ > 150. and 3 seasons of fWAR of at least 5.0. I think he was hosed out of the 89 MVP and am dumbfounded how Taco Bell got more than double the voted McGriff did that season. He somehow finished 17th behind 3 different closers for MVP (another joke) in 88 as well. I just always found him to be terribly underappreciated.

  2. BC - Dec 16, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    Yes on Blyleven, Alomar – definitely. Bagwell I would vote for, but I somehow don’t think he’ll get in, unsure why I feel that way. McGriff and Raines are two players who will get perpetually hosed – Raines especially. Larkin and Trammell I would tend to say no, but not a vehement no, it wouldn’t upset me if they somehow got in. Martinez – a hitting machine, but I have no idea what to do with him, there’s no one you can really reference him to. And McGwire, I still haven’t reconciled in my mind what I would do about the steroid guys, so I probably would punt on him.

    • cggarb - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:12 AM

      I know you’re just thinking out loud, but Larkin and Trammell have to rank ahead of McGriff, regardless of where the line is.

      Ignoring defensive contributions altogether (but acknowledging the generic position difference and eras), the shortstops are significantly ahead of McGriff (who’s a boderline candidate, IMO).

      Larkin: 66 oWAR
      Trammell: 59 oWAR
      McGriff 53 oWAR

      Add Larkin’s defensive value, and he’s a pretty clear “yes.” Trammell, IMO, was clearly the best AL SS of his era.

      • hackerjay - Dec 16, 2010 at 11:22 AM

        I’m a huge Tramell fan, and if I had a vote for the HoF he would be the first guy I would write down every year.

        That being said, Ripken was the best shortstop of his era, in either league.

    • Ace - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:28 AM

      I’m a strong supporter of Martinez for the HOF. As I see it, he’s the greatest DH of all time. And say what you want about the merits of the DH, but it’s pretty well established at this point. It’s a part of the game now, for better or worse. If the MLB is going to continue using the DH, it only seems right that the greatest player of that position should be honored. His offensive numbers are pretty much unimpeachable.

    • hackerjay - Dec 16, 2010 at 11:20 AM

      Just compare Edgar Martinez to Paul Molitor. They were both infielders that had very little defensive value and became DH’s in their early 30’s due to injuries. Molitor had a lot more hits, and Martinez had a lot more of everything else.

  3. frankbuc - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    I like to use the primary yardstick of “was he a dominant player”? Return fire welcome. To ME this means:

    1. Offensive- He was consistently in the top 10 in all premier offensive categories throughout his
    career (both leagues)
    2. Defenisve – Top 10 defensive at his position (both leagues). At worst – Was not a liability to his
    team.
    3. Starting Pitcher – He was consistently in the top 10 in all premier pitching categories throughout
    his career (both leagues).
    4. Relief Pitcher – Same as above but for the relief pitcher role.

    If you meet these then you are ‘in the conversation”. The main points though are dominant AND consistent.

    • cggarb - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:02 AM

      Offensive- He was consistently in the top 10 in all premier offensive categories throughout his
      career (both leagues)

      – Not sure what “all premier” categories are, but that, plus the “throughout his career” rule basically excludes everyone but Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds.

    • cggarb - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:03 AM

      On the other hand, you’ll have a dozen closers.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:09 AM

      Just curious, and not saying your ideas are wrong, but wouldn’t this eliminate a ton of people in the HoF? You’d only have the elite of the elite? For instance, in this year’s ballot that would maybe include Alomar, Martinez and possibly Larkin (hitting SS before they became en vogue).

      • professorperry - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:53 AM

        Right – I think this leads to the “small Hall,” which seems a perfectly intellectually consistent position. The closer issue is a problem, though.

      • frankbuc - Dec 16, 2010 at 12:05 PM

        I think the Hall has too many of the “almost great”. I would like to see the criteria raised but from a PR perspective they have to keep fan faves coming in in order to keep Cooperstown vists up. I heard that they were losing money.

  4. Kevin S. - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Craig, out of curiosity – do you feel that the park-adjusted metrics (ERA+, wRC+, various RAR and WAR calculations) don’t adequately adjust for pre-humidor Coors Field? Because Larry Walker, in his 10 years in Colorado, had an OPS+ of 147, and I would hazard a guess that it was the highest team total of the three teams he played with more because it lined up best with his peak than anything about the ballpark. Similar results bear out when you look at the other metrics I mentioned. Larry Walker was awesome, regardless of where he played.

  5. fuggles7 - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    Bert Blyleven – for sure
    Roberto Alomar – for sure(should have gotten in last year)
    Barry Larkin – probably the Hall of the Very Good
    Edgar Martinez – yes
    Tim Raines – yes
    Mark McGwire – I’d make him sweat til his last year of eligibility.. damn steroids
    Alan Trammell – borderline but yes
    Jeff Bagwell – yes
    Fred McGriff – yes
    Larry Walker – yes

  6. nps6724 - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    IMO the Hall needs to quit penalizing relievers, pinch-hitters and DHs. Are they or are they not part of the game? Obviously they play a smaller role than SPs and everyday players but it’s still a job and if they are vastly superior to everyone else in that role, they deserve recognition for that.

    I think McGriff deserves to be in. The steroid era really hurts him, especially considering there’s never been even a whisper about him using PEDs. He had 7 consecutive seasons of 30+ HR, which was a big deal before the HR boom. He also had 16 consecutive seasons with 19+ HR. He also had 8 consecutive seasons with an OPS+ at or over 130.

    • scapistron - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:57 AM

      McGriff had the best PED of all time on his side, Tom Emanski.

    • paperlions - Dec 16, 2010 at 11:34 AM

      No one is penalizing relievers; they simply don’t have the impact that players that start do. It’s like saying someone penalizes utility guys…if they were good enough to start, they would. Similarly, pretty much every relief pitcher is a failed starter.

      • nps6724 - Dec 16, 2010 at 12:16 PM

        Relievers, like it or not, are a big part of today’s game. They deserve a place in the HOF. If you want, make a wing for non-starters where pinch-hitters, relievers, and DHs can go.

        I have the same problem with the Pro Football HOF. Kickers and punters are niche jobs, but a big part of the game and neither is represented in the HOF much at all. In fact, I don’t think any punter is in.

        If you dominate in your role, you deserve to be in for your contributions.

      • tomemos - Dec 16, 2010 at 12:57 PM

        There isn’t any comparison between DHs and relievers (particularly non-closers) or pinch-hitters. DHs play every day. They don’t contribute on defense, but they play every day. Relievers and pinch-hitters play situationally; if they were good enough to play every day, they would. Pinch hitters in particular–can you name a pinch hitter who was, in your words, “vastly superior to everyone else in that role”? If he was vastly superior he wouldn’t be on the bench!

      • nps6724 - Dec 16, 2010 at 1:10 PM

        Being a vastly superior PH compared to other PHs has nothing to do with whether he should start or not. Lenny Harris wasn’t starter-quality, but he is easily the best PH ever.

      • tomemos - Dec 16, 2010 at 1:35 PM

        So someone who’s not starter quality should get in over someone who was a decent starter?

        You seem to think that the Hall of Fame is about providing a representative sample of how baseball is usually played. By definition, it is not.

      • nps6724 - Dec 16, 2010 at 1:42 PM

        If you’re the best at your role and that role is within the game, I have no problem with it.

        What definition are you going by? I go by “the honoring of persons who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport.” Whether or not their role is small, relievers and PHs can excel at their role.

        Can a decent starter be moved to a PH role and suddenly be one of the best PHs ever? If you’ve ever seen regular starters serve the role, you’ll know it isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. There’s a certain mentality and a different kind of preparation for it.

      • tomemos - Dec 16, 2010 at 2:50 PM

        Would you be in favor of putting Dave Roberts in the Hall? He was clearly the best base stealer and pinch runner of his era. On the other hand, that was all of his game; he didn’t do much else. Consequently, he didn’t help his teams win nearly as much as many, many other players did. That’s no knock on him; it just means he’s not Hall of Fame material.

        The definition you cited said “those who excelled at playing the sport.” To me that doesn’t just mean one very small facet, like pinch-hitting or getting left-handers out every few days; it means excelling *at the sport,* in other words, making a comprehensive impact. Edgar Martinez, who played every day and put up huge numbers, fits this definition. Lenny Harris does not.

      • nps6724 - Dec 16, 2010 at 2:56 PM

        To each his own. I’d personally love to see the very best of RPs and PHs make it in. Going by these rules, Mariano Rivera wouldn’t be a HOFer because he’s just a “failed starter”.

      • tomemos - Dec 16, 2010 at 4:05 PM

        No, Rivera is a Hall of Famer, because his impact is much greater than a lefty specialist or a pinch hitter. That being said, I think a few of the closers in the Hall shouldn’t be there.

  7. Jonny 5 - Dec 16, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Even for a “big HOF” mentality it’s got to be tough to pick 10 names. I can’t imagine any “small hof” minded guys enjoy writing down 10 names where only 1 or two might deserve it in their opinion. I could never do a good job of this voting myself. I change my mind too much. First to mind is Mcguire. One day i feel he should be excluded for obvious reasons. Then the next day I feel he should get in because there were too many guys not caught that will, or already did get in (the benefits of steroids have been known to man since the Model T was on the dealer floor, and no one is going to tell me no athletes used them “back in the good old days” you’d be lying to me as well as yourself).

  8. paperlions - Dec 16, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Shocking to me how underrated Larkin is by pretty much everyone. They guy was a great hitter and fielder and much more valuable that guys like McGriff.

  9. diamondduq - Dec 16, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    I can’t get behind this “Hall of Very Good” mentality that people have. There is no way Martinez should be in. As just a hitter, DH, you’ve got to be that much better a hitter than a position player to overcome the complete lack of defense. At least a guy like Ryan Howard tries! Forget not overcoming a lack of defensive contribution but how many position players in Martinez’s era do you name as the best hitters before getting to Martinez? At least 12-15, if not more.

    If you support putting Martinez in as a DH then you’ve got to put Jesse Orosco in as a left-handed specialist. As a pitcher he wouldn’t be a HOFer but as a left-handed specialist he certainly would. Same with Martinez, as a hitter he isn’t a HOFer, he was very good but not even one of the greatest, as evidence by the at least 12-15 names before Martinez, of his era let alone of all-time. How can you be in the HOF without being one of the greatest of all-time? IMO you can’t, that’s the whole point of the HOF, the greatest players of all-time.

    Also, using past mistakes of players who have been put into the HOF doesn’t justify making more. Certainly it’s easy to say “look at player A who is in the HOF and compare him to player B who I want to be in the HOF” but if you can’t justify player A being in the HOF, regardless of him actually being in as a mistake, then you can’t justify player B being in the HOF.

    PED players = TBD. It’s too complicated and messy at this point. There needs to be a little distance from the emotion and ruination of the record books for me to look at those players objectively.

    • tomemos - Dec 16, 2010 at 12:41 PM

      I’m not a huge fan of the DH, but I don’t get the anti-Martinez beef at all. If there was no DH, or if Martinez played in the NL, they’d make him a mediocre 1B–his hitting was good enough that it’s worth taking the defensive liability. Plenty of defensive liabilities are in the Hall of Fame. So you’re saying Martinez shouldn’t get in because he never had the chance to hurt his team on defense? That makes no sense.

      The comparison to Jesse Orosco makes even less sense. Martinez played every day, for the whole game; he just wasn’t in the field. Orosco faced one or two batters every few games. There’s no comparison.

      Who are the 10-15 hitters you would say were better than Martinez, in his time? And a follow-up question: you can find ten pitchers better than Nolan Ryan or Gaylord Perry in their time. Should they not be in the Hall?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 16, 2010 at 1:54 PM

      as a hitter he isn’t a HOFer, he was very good but not even one of the greatest, as evidence by the at least 12-15 names before Martinez,

      Name them. let’s see 15 hitters that were better than Martinez.

      • Detroit Michael - Dec 16, 2010 at 2:30 PM

        Ranked by adjusted batting wins for 1992-2001 (Edgar’s best 10-year period) according to baseball-reference.com, Edgar ranks 5th. There were not 12-15 better batter during his peak years.

  10. Detroit Michael - Dec 16, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    It would be interesting to hear whether Craig would not vote for Rafael Palmeiro: steroids or performance?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 16, 2010 at 2:13 PM

      A mixture of the two.

      My take on PEDs has long been that they should not disqualify you from Hall of Fame consideration automatically. We don’t know who did them and who didn’t. Even for those who did them, we don’t know when they started or stopped or what they took and how much of it. We don’t know whether the hitters or the pitchers were aided more by it. We can’t discount all numbers because of PEDs because I believe there are other factors in play — ballpark size, strike zone, etc. — that affect them.

      So what do we do with guys like Palmiero? We do our best to determine whether — roughly speaking — we think the guy was a Hall of Famer even if he never used PEDs. Yes, I know that invites a bit of chaos, but I see it preferable to either assuming his entire record was fraudulent or assuming that he never took PEDs, because we know neither is the case.

      I look at Palmeiro and I see a guy who was very good for a very long time in some very friendly hitters parks. I see a guy who, while crossing over the magic 500 home run and 3000 hit barrier, was never considered the absolute best hitter in the league. And then I have to take a couple of mental ticks off because of the PED association.

      Putting those things together, I think he’s a close call. I may change my mind on him one day. But he’ll be eligible for a long time yet. In that time, we may come to learn more about his own history of PED use and the history of PED use in baseball in general. That information may make him rise in my estimation. It may make him sink. But I feel like I need to take that time in his case.

      I don’t believe that McGwire is as close a call. I certainly don’t think that Bonds or Clemens will be. But Palmiero may be as close as we get. And maybe Kevin Brown is in that boat, actually as well.

      • Detroit Michael - Dec 16, 2010 at 2:29 PM

        I’d also differentiate Palmeiro (and Manny Ramirez) as taking PEDs after MLB starting enforcing a ban against them, unlike many of the other Hall candidates.

  11. lampdwellr - Dec 16, 2010 at 11:20 PM

    Thanks, Craig; I mostly agree with your ballot.

    Why do people persist in thinking that Alan Trammell is only borderline? He was one of the top ten position players in the AL in six different seasons, and an above average defender. What has happened to Trammell is similar to the Darrell Evans problem from Bill James’ New Historical Baseball Abstract:

    “Specialists and players who do two or three things well are overrated; players who do several things well are underrated.”

    Trammell was kind of powerful (10+ HR 8 times, high of 28), kind of fast (10+ SB 13 times, high of 30), hit doubles and triples, walked a decent bit, and played above-average defense. Put it all together and he’s like a guy who hit 40 HR a season but was average at everything else. The only difference is that Trammell’s value comes from all over the place.

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