Monday, January 07, 2013

The Yearly Hall Of Fame Ballot

We'll know the results for this year's Hall of Fame voting on Wednesday. Right now, it doesn't look certain anyone will get in. Not that there's any shortage of worthwhile candidates, but there's the whole PED thing mucking it all up. It's gotten frankly ridiculous. Jeff Bagwell's never been linked to anything. No failed drug tests, no mention in the Mitchell Report, never brought up by some other player as a guy who did steroids with him. But, he had big muscles, hit home runs, and played in the '90s and early 2000s, and that's enough for some people. What's more hilarious/infuriating is some people are holding Bagwell's presence as a teammate against Biggio. They have no proof Bagwell did anything, but they think he did, so that means Biggio is suspect, too.

When Jeter comes up on the ballot, I wonder if he'll be held to the same standard. He played with Clemens, Pettite, Giambi, and A-Rod, so clearly Jeter must have used, right? I don't know if he did or not. As I've said before, unless someone admits it, or fails a drug test, I give them the benefit of the doubt. That's not even getting into the question of what baseball's official policy was when there was no testing, or the fact there are dozens of cheaters in the Hall, from amphetimine users (including Mike Schmidt and Hank Aaron) to ball doctorers like Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry. And there's no conceivable reading of the character clause that should let Ty Cobb in, not if the "character" stuff really means anything. If someone were to vote against all those players, I wouldn't mind their voting against known PED guys, because at least they were consistent. It's this notion that steroids are somehow the only form of cheating that's really bad that wears on me.

Anyway, ballot time. Start with the returning candidates.

Still Yes: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker. I feel stronger about supporting Walker this year, because it was pointed out that he wasn't just a guy with Coors-inflated numbers. He was a very good rightfielder defensively, and a good baserunner, especially before injuries and age sapped his speed.

Still No: Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Bernie Williams.

Changed to No: Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmerio. It's more about the number of promising candidates on the ballot this year.

So that's half of my available "Yes" votes. Let's look at the newbies, all 24 of them.

No Chance, That's What Y'All Got: Todd Walker, Jose Mesa, Sandy Alomar, Mike Stanton, Jeff Conine, Royce Clayton, Roberto Hernandez, Aaron Sele, Ryan Klesko, Rondell White, Woody Williams, Jeff Cirillo, Shawn Green, Reggie Sanders, Julio Franco, Steve Finley, David Wells.

A few notes:

- I'm still more than a little biased against Royce Clayton, seeing as he was the guy LaRussa was so sure should start ahead of Ozzie. At least he was a good SS, even if he never drew any walks. It kind of astounds me he managed 1904 hits.

- When I was a kid, I hated Ryan Klesko. Called him "Ryan Crisco". Not sure why. He looked goofy in the outfield, and it seemed like Atlanta was always on the verge of moving out McGriff to use Klesko at first. That bothered me for some reason.

- Ah Woody Williams. We'll always have that stretch from your arrival in St. Louis in 2001, until you wore down in mid-2003. What a good run.

- In the same way I wanted Jamie Moyer to hang on until he got 300 wins, just to see how the Hall voters would handle it, I wanted Julio Franco to hang on until he reached 3000 hits.

- David Wells was a pretty good pitcher. I might be selling him short, putting him in with the rest. Still, I don't think he's a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher.

Which leaves us 7 candidates.

Sammy Sosa: I feel like 600 HRs should be enough, but then, that's about all Sosa has going for him. He wasn't much of a fielder, his speed evaporated as his power increased, and he never drew many walks (witness his .344 OBP). That last one is what I'd have to hang my hat on to differentiate him from Jim Thome, assuming I want to vote for Thome when he's eligible. No.

Craig Biggio: He got to 3,000 hits, got on-base a lot during his prime, played good or better defense at 3 positions during his prime. He may have looked bad at time those last couple years as he struggled towards 3,000, but he's hardly the only person in baseball history guilty of that. Yes.

Kenny Lofton: I've seen some good arguments for just how good Lofton was. And I am partial to guys with speed who could field pretty well. It's probably better to focus on Tim Raines first (who has a stronger case), then try to work off that success for Lofton, but what the hell, Yes.

Curt Schilling: Ugh. As a St. Louis Cardinals' fan, I don't like being reminded of the 2004 World Series. That being said, Schilling has 3,000 strikeouts. I know his win total is low, worse than Morris' and Wells', but I think Schilling was indisputably the better pitcher, even if he wasn't as effective for as long. Sigh, grumble, grumble, Yes.

Mike Piazza: Best hitting catcher ever. My impression of Piazza is of a guy who was absolutely terrible at throwing out baserunners, but wasn't that bad otherwise behind the plate. I feel like before he got older, he was solid at blocking pitchers in the dirt and stuff like that. Not Molina, but hardly the disaster people make him out to be. Even if he were as bad as they say, he was more than a good enough hitter to compensate. Yes.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds: At this point, you may notice I've left myself only one empty spot, with two pretty deserving candidates. Well, I suppose deserving depends on your perspective. As far as I know, Clemens contends he never took anything illegal, and despite Congress' best efforts, was never proven to be lying. Bonds has said he did take steroids, or Victor Conte said he did, and Bonds didn't dispute it, but Bonds does contend he never knowingly took anything. It feels like that should make a difference, but I'm not sure how.

Clemens was, going by the numbers, a great starting pitcher. Bonds was, going by the numbers a great leftfielder. Well, a great hitter who played left field for part of the time anyway. I'm not sure he defense was up to snuff in his later years (understandable, given his age). If I have to pick between the two, and I suppose I do, I'd probably go with Bonds. I think he was more dominant relative to his peers than Clemens was. It could go either way. I could take either Edgar or Lofton off my ballot, but screw it, these guys can share the spot.