Jack Morris: NO
*breathes* OK, here we go. Morris was a solid, innings eating pitcher for a long time, and yes he did win the most games of anyone in the 1980s. Also, yes, Game 7 1991 was as clutch a performance as baseball has ever seen. That said, wins are a team dependent stat, and despite pitching in mostly a low-offense era, Morris never had an ERA under 3 for a season. Never. His career ERA is 3.90, which would be the highest ERA for any Hall of Fame pitcher, even those whose elections were considered mistakes. His ERA+ is a mere 105. In addition, the notion that he “pitched to the score” has been debunked. I certainly have nothing against the man, but the Jack Morris momentum is somewhat mystifying to me.
Dale Murphy: NO (but close)
The two straight MVPs in 1982 and 1983 help, and in 1984 he was just as good. From 1979-1987, Murphy was the reason to watch the woebegone Braves. He also should get good character credit, as argued by Brian Kenny on Clubhouse Confidential (he argued the same should apply to Mattingly). The problem is after that he fell off a cliff, having just two seasons that even qualified as above average. The peak is long and good enough that I’ve considered voting for him though.
Rafael Palmeiro: NO
Palmeiro is in many ways like McGriff, only with better counting stats, an asinine Gold Glove, and a steroid scandal. It obviously hurts Palmeiro that he actually tested positive. It’s even a black mark for me and I’m pretty steroid ambivalent (One thing I’ve learned doing this is consistency is hard). Raffy just doesn’t have any wow seasons, so while he was very good for a long time, the lack of a big peak hurts him in a different way than his unfortunate finger wagging.
Tim Raines: YES
Gun to my head and I have to pick just one guy to vote yes on, it’s Raines. Raines was elite in all the major skills of a lead off hitter. He got on base to the tune of a .385 career OBP, with 10 seasons over .390. He scored runs, a total of 1571. Every player with over 1500 runs scored that wasn’t a nineteenth century player or Pete Rose is in the Hall. He stole bases, a total of 808, 5th all time. His 84.7% career success rate is best all time of those with at least 300 steals. Raines reached base 3977 times. That’s more times than Tony Gwynn. This all despite getting screwed by Collusion twice. I have no idea why his support last year was only 37.5%. Raines is the second greatest leadoff hitter ever. His support being that low is a joke, plain and simple.
Lee Smith: NO
A 3.03 ERA is good, but not necessarily elite for a closer, especially one whose candidacy was based on a saves record he doesn’t have anymore.
Alan Trammell: YES
I came pretty close to switching to No on Trammell. In the end, he benefits by the adjustment allotted for shortstops. A career line of .285/.352/.415, good for a 110 OPS+, very favorably compares to shortstops before the steroid era. His peak consisted of 1980-1993, save for three below average years. In 1987, he hit .343/.402/.551 but was robbed of the MVP by the voters’ RBI fetish, who gave it George Bell (Yes, Pat, I know Wade Boggs probably had a better year, but I think we can both agree that Trammell was > Bell that year). I’m not going to say this is a slam dunk case, but Trammell has a good argument for being one of the 10 or 12 best at his position ever.
Larry Walker: NO (but close)
On the surface, a .313/.400/.565 career line is a no-brainer yes. However, the problem with Walker is the 10 seasons (out of 17) he played at Coors Field, during both the height of the Steroid Era and the height of the Coors Field is Historically Ridiculous Era. The proof is in his home/road splits. Walker was a 1.068 OPS hitter at home, and an .865 OPS hitter on the road. Now, his overall numbers are good enough that I considered him anyway, but the disparity is just too great.
Bernie Williams: NO
Williams is the only first timer with any type of case. It’s not a bad case by any stretch, highlighted by a .381 career OBP. What Williams doesn’t have is a particularly large peak, and statistically he rates as a poor defender. So while Williams was a very good player for a long time and a key cog in a dynasty, he’s not quite a Hall of Famer. I would not have a problem though if he made a second ballot.
The Rest of the First Balloters: NO
Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Brian Jordan, Javy Lopez, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, Phil Nevin, Brad Radke, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Tony Womack, Eric Young. All these players had very fine careers. They don’t deserve any scorn for being on the ballot, but rather a nice tip of the cap.
So there you have it. To recap, if I had a ballot, I would vote for Bagwell, Larkin, Martinez, McGwire, Raines, and Trammell. What are your thoughts? Again, don’t forget to vote in our poll.