Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part Four): The Returning Players
If I could have one thing happen from this year’s results, it’s Tim Raines getting in. Want a peak? Check out 1983-1993, particularly 1983-1987. In that span, Raines led the league in stolen bases twice, won one batting title, and his *lowest* OBP in that span was .393. Raines had an OBP of at least .350 every year he played from 1981-1998, when he was 38. He’s fifth all-time in stolen bases with 808, and second all-time in success rate for those with at least 300 steals (was first until passed by Carlos Beltran). He scored 1571 runs in his career. Every eligible player with at least 1500 runs scored in modern baseball is in. He reached base 3707 times in his career, which is more than Tony Gwynn. If 395 of his walks had been hits, he’d be up to 3000 and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
Raines got up to 48.7% last year, but it’s still not nearly enough. Why is that? The cocaine issues? That didn’t matter with Paul Molitor. Playing the prime of his career in Montreal? That doesn’t seem fair. Sticking it to stat guys? If that’s true, then how did Blyleven get in? I don’t get it. I truly don’t.
Lee Smith: NO
Lee Smith received 50.6% of the vote in real life last year, and currently is close to election in our vote at 70%. I don’t see it all. A 3.03 career ERA for a reliever isn’t that special, he doesn’t have the saves record anymore, and he stopped being a 90-100 inning guy seven years into an 18 year career.
Alan Trammell: YES
I have for you a blind player comparison.
Player A: 2263 games (1977-1996), 2365 hits, 1231 runs, 185 HR, 1003 RBI, 236 steals, .285/.352/.415, 110 OPS+, 1 World Series MVP, 4 Gold Gloves
Player B: 2180 games (1986-2004), 2340 hits, 1329 runs, 198 HR, 960 RBI, 379 steals, .295/.371/.444, 116 OPS+, 1 MVP, 3 Gold Gloves
Fairly similar numbers, with Player B slightly better, but he played in the better offensive era. Player A is Trammell. Player B is Barry Larkin, deservedly elected last year. Trammell had a bit of disjoined peak, following up his best seasons with mediocre ones. At his best though, Trammell was an OBP machine at a position where defense is the calling card, defense which he also provided with aplomb. The offensive barrier for shortstops is lower than most other positions, so even though Trammell might not quite be as good as his contemporaries Robin Yount and Cal Ripken on offense, and Ozzie Smith on defense, he belongs in the Hall just the same. Unfortunately, after 11 years on the ballot, he’s only up to 36.8%.
Larry Walker: NO (but close)
Of Larry Walker’s 17 years in the bigs, 10 of them were spent in Colorado. As a result, his career numbers at home (which include 5 seasons in Montreal and 2 in St. Louis) are .348/.431/.637. His road numbers though are far from terrible: .278/.370/.495. Every full season in Walker’s career is well above average. He was not solely a creation of Coors Field. However, Coors Field is where most of his peak came. It’s where he won the 1997 MVP and three batting titles. The raw numbers of his career say yes; the video game ballpark he played in for 10 years for now puts him below the line. If the backlog clears up a bit though, I’ll give him a second look.
Bernie Williams: NO
A .381 career OBP from a center fielder is not something I can just ignore. However, his career ended pretty quietly and defensive statistics indicate he wasn’t very good in center. He was one of the best for a few years, just not enough of them.
So to review, if I had a vote, it would go to Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Martinez, McGwire, Piazza, Raines, Schilling and Trammell. In reality though, I only expect Morris to definitely get in. Biggio is the only other player with a half decent shot of making it, although it wouldn’t be a complete shock to me if Schilling or Piazza got in or at least got close. I hope the momentum that Raines has had continues and get him over 50%. As for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and the rest of the steroid guys, I have no clue. Your guess is as good as mine.
Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Want me to move out of my mother's basement and go watch a game? Let me know in the comments.