2012 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: One Man's Thoughts (Part One)

1/4/12 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Next week the BBWAA will announce the results of this year’s Hall of Fame election. This year is in many ways the last calm year we’ll have for a while. Next year, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa are on the ballot, among others. In 2014, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, among others. In 2015, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. For us, this means we get one more year of relative calmness before endless steroid related teeth gnashing. For those on the current ballot, it means this year is their last chance to gain any traction before the ballot gets flooded with great and/or controversial players.

Obviously, I’m not a member of the BBWAA and thus do not have a Hall of Fame ballot. However, I do think way too much about this than I should, so here are my thoughts on this year’s candidates. To give a quick primer on my philosophy:

1.)    I tend to be statistically inclined, and base my arguments on them. No, I won’t give you a players’ WAR, but don’t expect the word “RBI” to show up here.

2.)    I have no problem with the 15 year rule. I find the calls for the vote to be one and done incredibly shortsighted. The time frame for balloting allows for new information to come out, and for the electorate to argue amongst themselves and the fans. It allows minds to change, or at least think about the candidates more than a knee jerk response. If it helps a guy I wanted to see get in, like Bert Blyleven, great. If it helps a guy I didn’t want to see get in, like Jim Rice, so be it.

3.)    I don’t try to think of the Hall all encompassing. I try to keep it to each player individually. As Joe Posnanski documented, the Hall “standards” have changed so much that there really aren’t any standards. I also don’t label myself as a Big or Small Hall guy, but I’m guessing once you see my picks, you’ll say Big.

With that, let’s get started, and when you’re done reading, remember to take our poll if you haven’t already. This is Part One. Part Two will come later this afternoon.

Jeff Bagwell: YES

Let’s get one thing straight from the start. At no point in time has any evidence come up that Jeff Bagwell used steroids. To withhold voting for him because of “suspicions” based on the era he played and his physical appearance is unfair and wrong. With that said, Bagwell could mash, highlighted by his 1994 MVP season, where he hit .368/.451/.750. His overall batting line for his 15 year career was .297/.408/.540, good for a 149 OPS+. Also, until the very end, Bagwell hit year after year similar to those career rates. Even with the glut of first basemen from the 1990s, Bagwell stands out.

Juan Gonzalez: NO

Juan Gone won two MVPs. In 1996, he hit .314/.368/.632 and just beat about A-Rod, who had a .414 OBP and should have won.  In 1998, he won easily after hitting .318/.366/.630. It’s more understandable than 1996, but Nomar and Jeter had similar average and OBP numbers playing a more defensive position.  Gonzalez had a nice peak slugging wise, but was no-OBP maven, brought no defensive value, and basically fell off a cliff, hurting his career counting stats. He barely survived his first year on the ballot, and could easily drop off this year.

Barry Larkin: YES

Larkin’s two big shortstop contemporaries were Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken. He wasn’t as good as defender as Ozzie (although it’s close), and he wasn’t quite the offensive player as Cal was in his prime. Larkin was a career .295/.371/.444 hitter. He was the 1995 MVP, and of the hitters, deserved it (it could be argued Greg Maddux deserved it). He was also a career Red, spending 19 seasons there, 13 of those with at least a 103 OPS+. Given the offensive standards of shortstops, plus Larkin’s defensive skills, this is a fairly easy yes. Larkin last year received 62.1% of the vote, most of those not elected. If anyone does get elected, it’s probably Larkin.

Edgar Martinez: YES

It is without doubt that Edgar Martinez could tear the cover off the ball, hitting .312/.418/.515 in his career. After he broke in for good in 1990, Edgar OBP’ed at least .400 11 of 15 years, and led the league three times. At the same time, there is no doubt that Edgar provided no defensive value due to being a DH most of his career (he wouldn’t be the first primary DH in the Hall though, that was Paul Molitor). It’s also true that Edgar didn’t break in for good until he was 27, stunting his counting stats. For a guy that could hit like him, 309 homers and 2247 hits aren’t good. These are both legitimate reasons for not voting for him. I, however, come down on the side of Martinez being the best DH ever, and an incredible force with the bat for 15 seasons.

Don Mattingly: NO

Every year I put out the FanIQ version of the ballot, and every year Mattingly gets around 60% of the vote. To a point, I see it. From 1984 to 1987, he was one of the best players in baseball, and of course, who doesn’t like Donnie Baseball? There’s also the very similar numbers to Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, as seen below.

Mattingly:  .307/.353/.471, 2153 hits, 222 HRs
Puckett:  .318/.360/.477, 2304 hits, 207 HRs

There is one big difference though. While Puckett was a centerfielder, Mattingly was a first baseman. The standard of offense for these two positions is very different. What hurts Mattingly was his back problems hastened his decline, especially power-wise, which is very important for first base. With a true peak of only four years, his career numbers just don’t cut the mustard.

Fred McGriff: NO (but close)

From 1988-2000, Fred McGriff hit between 27 and 37 home runs every year but two. His average those years was always between .273 and .318. His OBP was always between .353 and .405. Crime Dog was almost metronomically consistent, which in a way hurts him, as there aren’t any seasons that jump off the page. The high standards of first base, especially given the era, don’t help McGriff either. For me, he’s a close no, meaning more than anyone else, my mind could change.

Mark McGwire: YES

Two things. One, I’m not taking his disastrous Congressional testimony into account, for reasons I explained the last time I wrote about the Hall of Fame. Two, no matter what your reasons for opposing McGwire, please don’t compare him to Dave Kingman. McGwire had a career OBP of .394, which is very un-Kingman like. In addition to his 583 homers, McGwire hit .263/.394/.588, good for an OPS+ of 162, the 12th best mark of all time. The way I see it, the history of baseball can not be told without McGwire, especially since we’ll never know how many people were on steroids and how much they exactly benefited from them. Of course, McGwire isn’t anyone close to election and probably never will be.

Tune in later today for Part Two.

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1/4/12   |   Jess   |   34807 respect

I don't know squat about baseball - I love to watch it and I'm a Mariners fan because that was my home team growing up and I'm loyal (sometimes to a fault).

That said, having nothing of value to add to the conversation, I'm just commenting because you're all talking about Edgar, and he was loyal to a fault too. Poor guy.

A great big resounding YES!  


Sorry for the interruption. Please continue with your educated baseball HOF discussion. 

1/4/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

janet011685 wrote:
I'm just tossing this out there at the moment, but how do you reconcile saying yes to E.Martinez when he was almost entirely a DH, but no to Mattingly because he was a 1B?  

Yes, Martinez's batting numbers were better over a longer period of time, but he had no defensive responsibilities whatsoever for most of his career.  How do you gauge the importance of a defensive position, and factor it into the voting, when there is no defensive position?  

Would Martinez have been so impressive if he were, say, a terrible 1B?  Or could Mattingly have hit better (with numbers to match Martinez's) if he didn't have to play the field?  Or maybe his back would have held out longer, prolonging his career, if he hadn't been in the field, too.

Certainly agree that DH's should be subjected to the highest offensive standards of all (and yes, that should've said he provided no defensive value, I have corrected that mistake). My belief is what Edgar provides enough quality in terms of big years and career rate stats that he makes it in my book despite being a DH. That .418 career OBP stands out a lot for me. It's 22nd all-time, and most of those ahead of him played a long, long time ago. His 147 career OPS+ is tied for 40th all-time, tied with Willie McCovey and Mike Schmidt among others.

Mattingly's issue is he had 4 really big years and 3 other pretty good years. After 1989, he just wasn't the same player. His career OPS+ is only 125. I didn't want to use WAR, but I'll point out that Edgar's career WAR is 67.2, and yes that penalizes him for no defensive value. Mattingly's career WAR is only 39.8.

1/4/12   |   Pat   |   5232 respect

wrote:
Martinez= NO 
Mattingly= Maybe (check Bagwell's response)
McGuire= NO (Unless you put Pete Rose in with him.)
Juan Gonzalez= YES (because you are completely wrong about 'no defense.' Dude had a better arm than Nelson Cruz out in right field. Steroids did start to break down his knees, just like it did Bagwell's arm.
McGriff= YES
Larkin= YES
Bagwell= Maybe (I would have to do more research on his career.)

MAN! We simply agree to disagree.

 Wait... you're saying no to McGwire, insinuating that it's because he broke rules, and then you're saying yes to Juan Gonzalez, while admitting that he did steroids? And then you're making assumptions about the effects of steroids on Jeff Bagwell, who has never even been linked to anything steroids-related?

Hard to understand the logic there, to be honest.

1/4/12   |   jaysinw   |   4973 respect

We do not know how Martinez would have held up if he had OT play defensive his whole career. To many things could happen which would have hurt his batting. With that said he played 4 more seasons and 370 more games. With that he only has 189 more hits and 94 more HR. and they BA was only a .05 difference. Martinez'  numbers are not that overly impressive, seeing how he was used as a DH. I would have to see a DH with over 3,000 hits or 500 HR for me OT say he should be in the HoF. Having a defensive captain who controls the infield and can go out and settle a pitcher when things get tough means more to me then someone who sits on the bench watching,

Prior to the DH we have seen a lot of guys who can hit,but because they where weak on defensive their careers were cut short and some never really had a great career so with that I just believe if you are primary a DH for most if not all of your career then your stats should be within the top ten on the hit list, HR list BA list, which Molitor is #9 on the all time hit list. So I do not have an issue with him getting in. McGwire I believe should ,make it, and to Bagwell, I would have to take McGriff.

1/4/12   |   alainpeartree   |   6871 respect

Edgar MArtinez gets in and McGwire  goes in the Hall of Shame

1/4/12   |   Pat   |   5232 respect

 "Martinez's batting numbers were better over a longer period of time"

I think you just summed it up. Edgar was an elite, elite hitter for a very, very long time. Mattingly was a good hitter, maybe even very good, for a decent amount of time.

Throw Edgar at any position, let him flounder around and be horrible defensively, and he's still a HOFer, just because of the way he could hit the baseball.

1/4/12   |   ML31   |   3675 respect

(Edited by ML31)

For me, I wouldn't vote for Bagwell but consider him on the edge and can understand the arguments in his favor.  There are far less deserving players in the Hall than he anyway.  This is probably the last year any of these borderline guys are going to get for a while considering the heavyweights who are coming up the next few years.

Which leads me to one of my beefs about the voting process...  A lot of getting in the Hall is determined by what the competition is in a particular year.  Doesn't seem right or fair to me but it is the way it is...

BTW...  Consider me someone who feels being a DH works against players.  Which is why I would say NO to Martinez and don't feel Molitor belongs either.  (And Molitor DH'd less than Martinez did)

1/4/12   |   janet011685   |   25875 respect

I'm just tossing this out there at the moment, but how do you reconcile saying yes to E.Martinez when he was almost entirely a DH, but no to Mattingly because he was a 1B?  

Yes, Martinez's batting numbers were better over a longer period of time, but he had no defensive responsibilities whatsoever for most of his career.  How do you gauge the importance of a defensive position, and factor it into the voting, when there is no defensive position?  

Would Martinez have been so impressive if he were, say, a terrible 1B?  Or could Mattingly have hit better (with numbers to match Martinez's) if he didn't have to play the field?  Or maybe his back would have held out longer, prolonging his career, if he hadn't been in the field, too.

1/4/12   |   Pat   |   5232 respect

 So far, I agree 100%. Good stuff.

1/4/12   |   Debi_L   |   11862 respect

 I have to read this a little more carefully before I make a significant comment, so I'll be back after work.....