Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part Three): The Second Half of the Newbies
Kenny Lofton: NO (but close)
No seriously, Kenny Lofton has a Hall of Fame case. A leadoff man’s primary job is to get on base, with stolen bases as an extra plus. From 1992 to 2000, Lofton had an OBP of at least .362 every year, with three of years over .400, making him the perfect leadoff guy on those famous 1990s Indians squads. Lofton also led the league in stolen bases five years in a row during that span. The second half of his career wasn’t as good as his prime in Cleveland (plus one year in Atlanta), but he was still a solid leadoff man for hire, posting OBP above average seasons with multiple teams well into his 30s, while still stealing 20 to 30 bases at a good success rate. In the end, after 17 seasons with 11 teams, he hit .299/.372/.423 with 622 stolen bases, 15th all-time. He was also a plus defender at center field in his prime and a 4 time Gold Glove winner. If it weren’t for the overcrowded ballot, I might have given him a vote. As it stands, I hope that overcrowding doesn’t cause Lofton to fall off the ballot. He deserves a real debate.
Jose Mesa: NO
I try not to be one of those people who says things like “Why is this guy on the ballot?” but seriously, why is Jose Mesa on the ballot?
Mike Piazza: YES
Piazza has a claim to being the best hitting catcher of all-time. He has the most homers ever by a catcher, with 396 (out of his 427 total). His career slugging percentage of .545 dwarfs every other catcher. He had an OPS over .900 every season from 1994-2002, and that was done at pitchers parks Dodger Stadium and Shea Stadium. If it weren’t for the issues discussed in Part One of this series, Piazza would be a lock for induction. That probably won’t happen, but I still think he’ll have the one of the better showings of the new players.
Reggie Sanders: NO
For a few years near the end of his career, Sanders seemed to find himself on different playoff team every year. He was another solid outfielder most of his career, but only in 1995 (155 OPS+) was he really spectacular.
Curt Schilling: YES
Evaluating 90s and 2000s pitchers will be different that in the past, because of the differences in usage that have developed in modern baseball. 5 man rotations and expanded bullpen usage mean it’s harder for starting pitchers to rack up high career win totals. Curt Schilling won 216 regular season games, which would be near the bottom if you ranked the legitimate starting pitcher Hall members by wins. What Schilling does have is over 3200 career innings with a 3.46 ERA, a 127 ERA+, and over 3100 strikeouts, 15th all-time. Multiple times he led the league in complete games (4 times), innings pitched, strikeouts, and WHIP (all twice). Schilling was never considered the best pitcher in baseball per se, but for most years from 1992 (his breakout year with the Phillies) to 2004 (his first with Boston), he was in the argument. We all of course also know of his postseason heroics. A 2.23 career postseason ERA, plus the Bloody Sock game, put a cap on a great career. I don’t much like the man personally, but I can’t deny he’s a worthy Hall of Famer. Outside of Biggio and maybe Piazza, Schilling is probably the most likely first timer to get in this time around.
See the next page for the rest of the first time balloters, including yet another one of those controversial sluggers.