Tuesday, December 30, 2014

If I Had a Hall-of-Fame Ballot

Strikeout king Randy Johnson should make Hall-of-Fame in first year on ballot. 
(Photo credit: Ron Vesely, Getty Images)

There were three new Hall-of-Fame Inductees in 2014 - pitchers Tommy Glavine and Greg Maddux and first baseman Frank Thomas - but new candidates and many worthy holdovers still leave the 2015 ballot quite crowded.  The log jam is due largely to confusion and division on how to deal with players linked to the Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED).  There are 34 eligible players and writers can vote for up to 10 candidates.  Unless a voter favors a very small elite Hall of Fame, this makes it virtually impossible to fill out a ballot without leaving off some deserving names. I, of course, do not have a vote, but will fill my theoretical ballot here.

My selection process involves comparing players to their contemporaries, other players at the same position and current Hall-of-Fame members.  I value peak performance and career performance equally.  I use many traditional and advanced statistics, most of which can be found on Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.  Some of my favorites are plate appearances, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average, batting runs, wOBA,and WAR for hitters and innings pitched, ERA, pitching runs, strikeouts and WAR for pitchers.  I used multiple WAR statistics in my analysis, but any WAR cited below is Baseball-Reference WAR.

I do not bring PED use into my thought process.  The use of PEDs has been very widespread, not only in the 1990s and 2000's, but all the way back to the sixties and even further.  It is impossible to know which players stayed clean and which used and how much it affected their performance.  Eliminating or even judging players based on suspicion seems very unfair to me.  It also seems pretty obvious that the game turned a blind eye to the problem for many decades.  Thus, I consider PED use to have been part of the game and choose players solely based on their on-field performance.

Now, for my ballot:

Barry Bonds: He was the greatest player of his generation and is on a very short list of the best players ever.  You can't have a Hall of Fame without him.  

Roger Clemens: As with Bonds, the Hall-of-Fame would not make much sense if it excluded Clemens.  He is one of the five best pitchers in the history of the game.

Randy Johnson: He was one of the most dominant pitchers of any era finishing second all time with 4,875 strikeouts and posting 5 top of the 11 strikeout totals ever.  His career WAR of 104 was seventh best among pitchers.     

Pedro Martinez: Like Clemens and Johnson, Martinez is an obvious selection.  Martinez did not have as many great years as the other two, but his 86 WAR was 14th best ever and his 291 ERA+ in 2000 was the best in the history of MLB.    

Jeff Bagwell: Not on the same level as Bonds, but still a slam-dunk selection.  He is 21st all-time in Batting Runs and has a WAR comparable to Rod Carew, Joe Dimaggio and Pete Rose.    

Mike Piazza: Another automatic selection.  He is arguably the best hitting catcher ever leading all receivers in Batting Runs and Weighted Runs Created.

Mike Mussina: Might get overlooked because he never won a Cy Young award, but had a 123 ERA+ in over 3,500 innings and his 345 Pitching Runs was an impressive 13th all-time.

Alan Trammell: He was over shadowed by Cal Ripken and slick-fielding Ozzie Smith, but his 70 WAR is eighth all-time among shortstops.

Curt Schilling: He was arguably the best post-season pitcher ever, but was a lot more than that.  He had a 127 ERA+, 3,116 strikeouts (15th best ever), 81 WAR (21st best).  

Craig Biggio: The versatile Biggio scored more runs (1,844) than any second baseman ever and was second to Eddie Collins with 3,060 hits. He also had 291 home runs, 414 stolen bases and caught over 400 games.   

A voter can only check off ten names, but there are more than ten who deserve Hall-of-Fame status.  Other deserving Hall-of-Famers include Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, John Smoltz and Larry Walker.


  1. Pete Rose.

  2. Rose is not on the ballot.

  3. If you can have a HOF without Rose, you can have one without Clemens or Bonds. I'm not saying that Rose should be in the Hall. My question is: what is the difference between a gambler, liar and cheat, and a doper, liar and cheat?

  4. I would not have a problem with Rose going into the HoF, but I think his circumstances are a lot different from Bonds and Clemens. First, I don't think you can compare PED use to gambling. When a player uses PEDs, he is cheating to win. When a player gambles, he is potentially cheating to lose and that completely destroys the integrity of the game. That is why gambling is the ultimate sin in sports. The only people getting cheated by PEDs are players who stay clean and may be losing out on a job or more money. For the fans, it's still a fair match between two teams trying to win. There has been a sign in all clubhouses for years outlawing gambling and everyone knew the consequences. At the time Bonds and Clemens were supposedly using them, nobody really seemed to care that much and there no serious consequences.

    I'll also add that Rose is not the same class of player as Bonds and Clemens. Bonds and Clemens are among the elite players to ever play the game. Rose was great, but not elite in the same way. He holds the hits record, but a lot of that was because he spent the last five years padding his counting stats even though he wasn't a good player anymore. Rose is more comparable to Bagwell than Bonds/Clemens.

    1. "The only people getting cheated by PEDs are players who stay clean and may be losing out on a job or more money. For the fans, it's still a fair match between two teams trying to win".

      I see this as a contradiction. How can you have a fair match when some (even only one) of the players is cheating? My point is that PED users POTENTIALLY affect the outcome of EVERY game they play in. There is no way of measuring this on a game by game or even year by year basis of course, nevertheless there are negative consequences, not only for the clean players (750+ per year for how many years?), but for the fans as well, to say nothing of the integrity of the game. To induct these players into the Hall (and I include Rose here) is to condone bad behavior ("Let us look to the future and not to the past"?) and in effect sweep the whole sordid issue under the rug.

    2. Also, in your last paragraph, you seem to be suggesting that PED use didn't affect Clemens and Bonds counting stats, while in the previous paragraph you seem to suggest PED use does indeed give the user an edge over clean players. Does not the use of PEDs affect counting stats?

  5. It's not a contradiction at all. It's a fair match from the fan's perspective because both teams are trying to win. Baseball is entertainment for fans, so how a player gets his talent should be of no concern to fans. When a player bets against his team, that completely destroys the integrity of the game. The two are not comparable.

    If you are going to punish all players who used PEDs, what about all the players who loaded up on greenies in the 60s and 70s? Why do they get a free pass while players of the 90s ans 2000's get punished? Hundreds and hundred of players used PEDs for many decades and there is no way to sort it all out, no way to know who was clean and how much they were helped. Moreover, MLB - Bud Selig and the owners - benefitted greatly from the drug use because fans love the long ball and that's why they did nothing about it until government got involved. They now have punishments in place for PED use and everybody knows the consequences. The past is done. Let's stop trying top rewrite history and move forward.

    1. I agree that corporate baseball benefitted greatly, they are a significant part of the collusion as well. The past is never done, you carry that with you wherever you go and on into the future, whether it be a personal, societal or national one. It isn't about rewriting history. It's about getting the history right. Painful and difficult I know, but denial inevitably creates greater problems on down the road; the lies to cover up the previous lies just get bigger and bigger. I'll stop now.

  6. I'm not suggesting that Bonds and Clemens were not unaffected by PED use. I was only pointing out that Rose's claim to fame - his hit record - was overrated. Bonds was a superior player to Rose in almost every way even before the time of suspected PED use. He had a lot more power, was better at drawing walks, was a better fielder and base runner and his contact hitting skill was not far behind Rose either.

    It is impossible to get the history right as you are hoping. There is absolutely no way to know which players were clean and how much players were helped by drugs. Even if you assume that someone like Bonds added a lot of stats due to drugs, you would also have to concede that drug using pitchers might have hurt his stats in other ways. It's so complex. And what do we do about amphetamine use which was rampant in the 60s and maybe earlier? That may not seem as dramatic as steroid use, but I would think that frequent use of amphetamines could have a fairly large cumulative affect over a 162-game season.

    1. Amen on Rose. He was the worst regular in baseball for a few years, an immobile first baseman with no power. But as player manager, he kept putting himself in the lineup. I would hope he had the sense not to bet on his team. Ty Cobb retired in the middle of the 1928 season. His slash line for 1928 was: .323 /.389 /.431. But he was no longer performing to his own standards. It is going some to demonstrate a character less appealing than Ty Cobb's but Rose managed it.



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