The 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame announcement is tomorrow. I don’t have a hall of fame vote, but have attended induction weekend in July every year since 2009 and am eagerly awaiting another class. Here’s how I’d vote if I was lucky enough to be able to.
Tim Raines: It’s absurd that Raines has had to wait this long. He has a better stolen base success rate than Rickey Henderson and a higher career on-base percentage than Willie Mays. Yet he is still not in the hall of fame as he enters his final year of eligibility. It’s hard to think of a player whose long wait was as unwarranted as Raines’ exclusion for so many years. It looks like he’s going to get in, but it’s way overdue. He should be at the top of everyone’s ballots.
Jeff Bagwell: 1991 NL rookie of the year, 1994 NL MVP, 449 career homers, a lifetime batting average of .297, and a career on-base percentage of .408. Bagwell’s case is strong. While he’s shy of the 500-homer plateau, Bagwell was still a very productive player in 2003 and 2004 before a shoulder injury in 2005 put an abrupt end to his career. Without the shoulder injury, Bagwell likely could have easily stuck it out for a couple more seasons and hit 51 more home runs. But that should not be an argument used against him. He belongs in Cooperstown.
Vladimir Guerrero: Guerrero is often remembered for his free-swinging approach at the plate. But his offensive numbers were terrific as his home run total was identical to Bagwell’s 449, but his lifetime batting average 21 points higher at .318. Not only was he one of the game’s most dangerous hitters throughout his career, but in his time as a right fielder in Montreal and his early days in Anaheim, running on Guerrero and his arm was like playing Russian roulette. He may not make it this year, but he shouldn’t wait much past 2018.
Ivan Rodriguez: Jose Canseco’s book isn’t enough for me to leave Pudge off my ballot. Rodriguez is one of the best two-way catchers the game has ever seen. Canseco’s book is the only known evidence against Rodriguez and if you look at his numbers, there is a not a huge spike that would indicate Rodriguez was a steroid user. His statistics increased steadily as he entered his prime and for the most part decreased steadily coming out of his prime. However, due to the speculation, Rodriguez’s voting percentage is the one I’m most interested in seeing tomorrow.
Fred McGriff: Despite being known as the crime dog, McGriff was a victim of playing by the rules throughout his career. As Tom Verducci points out here, McGriff is the only player without steroid ties to hit more than 475 home runs and not be enshrined in the hall. If there was no strike in 1994 and 1995, McGriff would have had another 67 games to hit seven more home runs to get to the 500-homer benchmark. It does not make any sense why he never gets close every year.
Curt Schilling: Yes, he is certainly not a model citizen. But it’s silly to invoke the character clause as many do against Schilling. His career peaked in the heat of the steroid era which says a lot for a starting pitcher at that time. Additionally, he was one of the game’s best postseason pitchers. He’s borderline for sure, but gets a nod from me.
Edgar Martinez: This is where it got tough for me. My last three players all played positions that just simply are not as valuable. That said, Martinez’s offensive numbers and advanced metrics are too good to ignore. As a National League purist, it hurts my soul to advocate for a designated hitter, but I don’t think the argument against Edgar is strong enough to keep him out.
Trevor Hoffman: I don’t put much weight into saves as a statistic, but Hoffman continually found ways to get outs 25, 26, and 27 without the overpowering stuff that other closers possessed. His change-up carried him throughout his career and if it weren’t for Tony Gwynn, he’d probably be the face of the San Diego Padres. Whether that says more about the Padres or Hoffman is a debate for another day. I can see where those that do not vote for Hoffman are coming from, but for Hoffman to have the kind of career he had as a closer without a fastball that topped out in the upper 90s, is impressive enough for me.
Billy Wagner: From an analytical perspective, plenty of people will argue that Wagner was better than Hoffman. Wagner’s voting percentages have not been close, and he’s in danger of coming in below five percent and falling off the ballot. But in addition to the analytical argument in his favor, it’s hard to say he didn’t pass the eye test either. He had that overpowering stuff Hoffman didn’t have and would regularly blaze his upper 90s, and occasionally triple digits, fastball past hitters. It was hard not to enjoy.
Notable exclusions: I understand the arguments for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and agree with them to an extent. Yes, both are Hall of Famers without taking steroids. However, we never got to see that play out throughout their respective careers and I cannot get behind placing either one or any known steroid user into the Hall of Fame. Of course, the Baseball Writers Association of America cannot vote for Pete Rose, but the fact that any player that used performance-enhancing drugs would get into the hall of fame over Pete Rose makes me cringe. Mike Mussina is an interesting name and certainly had a terrific career. But, he did not pass my eye test when it comes to Cooperstown. There are many great players that are left out of the hall of fame and in my opinion, Mussina is another one. Lastly, Larry Walker had an exceptional career, but there’s too much inflation in his home-road splits for me to vote for him. Take that Coors Field.