I finish every year here at Sports on Earth with my Hall of Fame ballot, because everyone's filling one out this time of year. I will reuse last year's intro because it's still how I feel about all this business, and also because it's the week between Christmas and New Year's and we should all be trying to enjoy a little time with our loved ones.
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I do not have a Hall of Fame vote, and I do not want one. Part of this is the old Groucho Marx maxim -- attributed mostly to Woody Allen, even though Woody explicitly credited Groucho with it when he said it -- of not wanting to be a part of any club that would have me as a member. But I also am still not quite certain writers should have this responsibility in the first place. It is our job to document what happens in baseball, both on and off the field, not to affect what happens on the field. The idea that a retired baseball player would have to appeal to a bunch of frazzled sportswriters to plead his Hall of Fame case seems … undignified, to both the player and the writers. We should all write about who we think belongs in the Hall of Fame. I'm still not quite sold that we should have the power to actually decide such a thing.
But it's not that big of a deal, and all told, I'd rather Keith Law and Jay Jaffe and Jeff Passan and Richard Justice and Derrick Goold decide who makes the Hall of Fame than, say, Mike Matheny or Hawk Harrelson. So I can live with it. The BBWAA has made some moves to correct some of its larger voting inefficiencies -- purging from the rolls voters who haven't covered baseball in years, bringing in younger, less ideologically rigid voters -- so I don't find this whole process as demoralizing as I used to. This resembles something fun again.
So, I thought for the third time, I'd get my Hall of Fame picks down, for the record. Again, I don't have an actual vote -- so there's no need for Ryan Thibodaux to put me in his invaluable HOF Ballot Tracker -- but as an exercise, it's worth getting one's picks, and reasoning, down. (I am a member of the IBWAA, which doesn't mean anything but at least gets me thinking about this sort of stuff.) I'll adhere to the BBWAA restrictions in this list: I can't choose more than 10 players, even though I have more than 10 players I'd like to vote for.
Here's my "ballot."
Barry Bonds. I'm not going to just repeat my column from last year word for word, I promise, but I honestly cannot elucidate the case for Bonds any better than I did last year, so let's do it again. I personally believe future generations will look at the way PEDs were used in our time, and the way they are discussed, and think of us as philistines. I personally believe that the glorious baseball experiences that were given to us by Bonds, and Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens, were real and mattered and should not be apologized for. But even if I didn't believe all of that: Bonds might have been the greatest baseball player of all time, and a Hall of Fame that doesn't include maybe the greatest player of all time honestly doesn't have much point in existing.
Roger Clemens. Roger Clemens won a Cy Young Award at the age of 42. 42! Imagine Bartolo Colon winning a Cy Young Award. Clemens went on to pitch three more years after that. Clemens pitched 24 seasons in the Majors, and essentially every single one of them other than the first one and the last one were dominant. His era seems so long ago it's almost Cy Young's itself.
Vladimir Guerrero. I have three spots freed up from last year thanks to the election of Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez, and two of them are taken up by two new players on the ballot. That leaves one spot open. We should have three spots open, because Clemens and Bonds should have been elected years ago, but alas. I didn't vote for Vlad last year, but he was 11th, which puts him in this year. (It looks like I'll end up with this spot free for next year too; he's getting in, it appears.) If I had an extra two spots, I'd fill them with Manny Ramirez and Scott Rolen. (Sorry, Trevor Hoffman: I'm swayed by the Joe Sheehan-Andy Benes theory when it comes to closers, Mariano Rivera excepted.) But I don't have them. I just hope Rolen doesn't fall off the ballot like Jim Edmonds, who was even more deserving.
Chipper Jones. It's nice to have a legitimate shoo-in. We had Ken Griffey Jr. two years ago, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez three years ago, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine four years ago, and that has been it this decade. Jones is as easy of a call as you'll find on the ballot, and hopefully helps fix the ongoing third base Hall of Fame problem. His easy election just makes the fact that those Braves won only one World Series all the more frustrating, doesn't it?
Edgar Martinez. I'm still not entirely sold that a full-time designated hitter who isn't David Ortiz should get in -- and there's even an argument against him, though I won't make it -- but I'm a big-Hall guy, and I voted for him last year. (Well, "voted.") I will say that fans and other hitters talk about Martinez with the same sort of awe they use when they talk about Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Cabrera (and a different way than they talk about, say, Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltre). That's enough for me. Also: He legit might get in this year:
With 112 ballots revealed/~26.9% of the vote known:- Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) December 27, 2017
Chipper - 98%
Thome - 96%
Vlad - 95%
Hoffman - 80%
Clemens - 71%
Mussina - 71%
Bonds - 71%
Schilling - 67%
Walker - 40%
Manny - 30%
Vizquel - 28%
McGriff - 15%
Rolen - 9.8%
Mike Mussina. Here are some players that Mussina is ahead of in Jay Jaffe's JAWS rating: Glavine, Nolan Ryan, Don Drysdale, John Smoltz. There isn't a current active pitcher even close to him. He's sneaking a little closer every year. He's going to make it in eventually.
Curt Schilling. Schilling is everything Mussina was, except better (he's above him in the JAWS ratings) and he was also a dominant postseason pitcher. He's gaining a bunch of votes this year, too:
Net gained/lost votes through 118 ballots (~28.4% of the vote):- Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) December 28, 2017
Bonds/Manny/Sosa +/- 0
No one should have been voting against Schilling for his politics in the first place, and it's starting to look like more and more voters are realizing that. He should be in the Hall, easily. I'll still probably skip his speech, though.
Sammy Sosa. Sosa got only 8.6 percent of the vote last year, and he has just three more years on the ballot. But I am going to die on this hill. Sosa is as central to baseball history as anyone on this list, and, by the way, if you care about that sort of thing, he never failed a drug test or admitted to PED use. (If that's your standard, you can't use that against him like you do against Bonds and Clemens, and did against Mark McGwire.) Sosa hit 609 homers! He hit more than 63 homers three times! He got a parade down the Canyon of Heroes! How do you leave out Sosa?
Jim Thome. Word Up, Thome. It has been a pleasant surprise to see Thome so comfortably cruising to election in his first year. Thome was one of those wonderful baseball lugs, and every game he played was more fun because he was in it. I bet his plaque ends up looking insane. Welcome, Jim. Word Up, Thome. /mashes tater
Larry Walker. I believe he belongs before Guerrero and, frankly, I'm surprised Vlad appears to be breezing to induction. (Remember, I didn't vote for him last year.) Walker has gained as many votes as Vlad in Thibodaux's accounting, but he has far more ground to cover to catch up. He only has two years left. He's not going to make it, sadly.
But a reminder: Please do not ever give me a vote. Have a great New Year.
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