Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part Four): The Returning Players
Jeff Bagwell: YES
Jeff Bagwell had big muscles and hit home runs in the 90s, so he must be a steroid user. This may well be the #1 reason Bagwell isn’t in yet, and given that there is no actual evidence, this is asinine unless you’re just voting against everyone that played from 1989-2007. Part One showed why I’m considering everyone, so obviously I’m not holding speculation against him. Like his longtime teammate Craig Biggio, Bagwell spent the prime of his career in the cavernous Astrodome. Despite that, Bagwell was one of the top hitters in the game throughout the 90s. He won the 1994 MVP by hitting a ridiculous .368/.451/.750 and leading the league in runs, RBIs, OPS, and total bases. That was the first of five seasons with an OPS over 1.000, all but one of those coming in the Astrodome, with two other seasons that just missed that mark. His career batting line is .297/.408/.540. His counting stats are a little low (2314 hits, 449 homers), an effect of injures forcing his retirement at 37. However, the sheer weight of his peak is enough for me to be sold on his candidacy.
Bagwell received 56.0% of the vote last year, his 2nd. It’s unlikely to happen, but it would be fitting if both Killer B’s can go into the Hall together this year.
Edgar Martinez: YES
What would this debate look like if the Mariners had given Martinez a full time job before he was 27? Then he would likely have counting stats that would make him less borderline (he ended up with 2247 hits and 309 homers). The other big knock on Martinez’s candidacy was that he was primarily a DH, but his advanced defensive numbers at third base were actually quite good, and the reason for his move was concerns about injuries. The overall point is that Edgar could rake; hitting .312/.418/.515 for the 2055 games he did play. He won the batting title twice and led in the league in OBP three times, part of 11 big league seasons where he had an OBP over .400. The last of those years was 2003, when he was 40 years old and playing home games at Safeco Field. He’s the best DH ever, and while the bar for DH should be high due to having no defensive value, I believe Martinez clears that bar, and in fact is the only DH to this point who has. (Note: Before you ask, I haven’t looked at David Ortiz, and won’t until he retires.)
Having received 36.5% of the vote last year, his third year on the ballot, Edgar has a long way to go.
Don Mattingly: NO
As I write this, Mattingly has 57% of the vote in our poll. In contrast, he received 17.8% of the vote in reality last year, his 12th year. Every year we conduct that poll, Mattingly is almost always the guy where our results are least in line with the actual vote. I side with the BBWAA on this one. At one point, specifically between 1984-1987, Mattingly most certainly was one of the best players in baseball. During that period, he won the 1985 MVP, and was even better in 1986, leading the league in hits, slugging, OPS, and total bases. He also won the 1984 batting title. He then had two more years where he was good, but clearly a step back from the elite level. After that, when he was only 29, it started to fall apart. He only had two years with an OPS over .800 in those final years, as his back problems became more and more of an issue and sapped his power. First basemen have high offensive standards to become Hall worthy. Mattingly just didn’t hit those standards long enough.
See the next page for more, including the player most likely to actually get elected.