Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot (Part Two): The First Half of the Newbies
Also, directly copied from last year’s Hall of Fame post, here are my general guidelines for this:
1.) I tend to be statistically inclined, and base my arguments on them. I'll try not to 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, especially now. 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.
Adding to this is the rule that a voter can only vote for 10 players, a rule at which I follow. With all the big names joining the ballot, as well as the 5 I would’ve voted for last year that weren’t elected, that rule is going to come into effect. When I first looked through things, I found 16 names worth close consideration. Today, we’re look at the first half of the 24 new names on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Sandy Alomar: NO
Alomar played in the bigs for 20 seasons, but only played more than 97 games four of those seasons. He was the quintessential backup catcher, but clearly not a Hall of Famer.
Craig Biggio: YES
Craig Biggio has 3060 career hits. This matters because it’s that round number that makes him a good possibility to get elected at some point, if not this time around. However, getting to that number pulled his career slash line down and didn't let him leave the game in a positive light, as he was below replacement level those final years as he chased 3000. It’s unfortunate because in his prime Biggio was excellent, especially at getting on base, the most important offensive skill. This was despite playing most of that prime in the cavernous Astrodome. After breaking in as a catcher, Biggio moved to second base full time in 1992. His year-by-year OBP from that year until 1999, the last year in the Dome: .378, .373, .411, .406, .386, .415, .403, .386. Not many noticed because he got on base in subtle ways, by walks and getting hit by the pitch (he‘s 2nd in career HBP by a hitter), but it added up. Biggio is 18th all time in Times on Base. Every other player in the top 25 is in the Hall except Jeter (who will be) and Rafael Palmeiro (who is a special case). As a result of getting on base often, Biggio scored a lot of runs, good enough for 15th all-time. It’s not a case that pops out immediately, but take a closer look and Craig Biggio’s credentials are clear, even without the 3000 hits.
Barry Bonds: YES
We don’t know exactly when Barry Bonds started using enough PEDs to take down an elephant, but if we look at his career and for sake of argument say it started in 2000, when his numbers started to hit video game levels, then here are his home run totals each year from 1986-1999: 16, 25, 24, 19, 33, 25, 34, 46, 37, 33, 42, 40, 37, 34. That run goes from his age 21 season to his age 34 season. The totals ascend at normal levels for his improving player and stay high through his prime. After that of course is when things got ridiculous, but even prior to that he was a three-time MVP.
The general consensus is that Bonds was a Hall of Fame caliber player before he started using drugs. Given that and my beliefs over how to judge this era, Bonds is an obvious yes. We all know that not everyone feels that way at all, and certainly enough of the BBWAA voting electorate to keep Bonds out of the Hall this year, and likely a very long time.
Jeff Cirillo: NO
Looking at Cirillo’s numbers, the thing that stood out for me in his 2000 season in Colorado. He hit .326/.392/.477 that year. Impressive, right? Well, his OPS+ for the year was only 100. That means that after adjusting for the era and especially Coors Field, it was only a league average season. I found that fascinating. It was that kind of era and it's that kind of ballpark.
Royce Clayton: NO
Royce Clayton played Miguel Tejada in Moneyball. That’s infinitely more interesting than his playing career.
Turn to the next page for more, including the other very controversial figure on this ballot.
Roger Clemens: YES
Much of what I wrote about Bonds could be said about Clemens. He was among the best in the game in his early career (in his case, most of the Boston years), winning three Cy Youngs in the process. No one is sure when he started using PEDs (the consensus guess is around the point he joined the Blue Jays), but it was that which likely allowed him to keep being a top pitcher until well into his 40s. The only difference is Clemens actually wasn’t that great his last few years with the Yankees, before going to Houston and putting up insane numbers despite being over 40.
Just like Bonds, most concede the Roger Clemens was a Hall of Fame level player even before he started using drugs. Like Bonds, I must vote yes on Clemens given what I wrote in Part One. Also like Bonds, Clemens will come nowhere close to election this time around.
Jeff Conine: NO
He is most loved by Marlins fans due to his role on both their World Series teams, but I was a fan of his from his time with the Orioles. He was a pretty solid outfielder for both teams. He also played for the Royals, Phillies, Reds, and Mets in his career. Conine is of course nowhere near a Hall of Famer, but a tip of the hat to him for a fine career.
Steve Finley: NO
Steve Finley had 2548 career hits. Yeah, I was surprised to find that out too. He was often average to above average in his 19 year career, especially during his time in Arizona. That said, a career hitting line of .271/.322/.442 is only good enough for a 104 OPS+ and is not Hall of Fame worthy.
Julio Franco: NO
If there was a special wing in the Hall for interesting careers, then Franco would be a slam dunk. From his days as a shortstop with the Indians in the early 80s, to a second baseman with Texas, to the Mexican League, to pinch hit duty as a Brave and Met, Franco was a professional ballplayer for 31 years, 23 of them in the big leagues. He retired at the age of 49. The final numbers on Franco are 2586 hits, 173 homers, and a .298/.365/.417 batting line (111 OPS+). It’s not quite Hall of Fame level (not enough peak seasons), but it’s doubtful there will ever be a career quite like Julio Franco’s again.
Shawn Green: NO
From 1999-2002, his last year in Toronto and first three in Los Angeles, Shawn Green was a very good player. The rest of his career he was merely good, but never bad . In total he had 2003 hits, 328 homers, and a batting line of .283/.355/.494 (120 OPS+). It’s not enough for serious Hall consideration, but a very good career regardless.
Roberto Hernandez: NO
This Roberto Hernandez is the former closer for the White Sox, Devil Rays, and Royals in the 90s and early 2000s, not the Roberto Hernandez who used to be Fausto Carmona. His 326 saves are actually 13th all-time, which should tell you something about the evolution of the save and of bullpens. Relief pitchers justifiably have a high bar to clear to make the Hall, and clearly Hernandez does not meet that bar.
Ryan Klesko: NO
I always associate Klesko with the Braves, but he actually played more games as a Padre. He’s yet another corner outfielder/first baseman (he was about 50/50 as both) to have a good batting line (.279/.370/.500, 128 OPS+) but not enough total career heft (1564 hits, 278 HRs) to warrant consideration.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the other half of the first time players.