The BBWAA has announced its candidates for 2014 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The players on the ballot will be seeking to become the first elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA since Barry Larkin in 2012; the voters infamously inducted no one last year despite a large ballot of worthy candidates. Now, the ballot includes people who retired in 2008 and is perhaps the most stacked ballot since the very first induction. So who are the nominees?
The Apparent Slam Dunks
Craig Biggio - The leading vote-getter from last year at 68.2% is unlikely to have to wait another year for induction. The 3,060 hits and amazing 668 doubles (fifth all-time) stick out on his stat line and make him an easy induction choice considering he was mostly a second baseman. The fact that he was the King of Plunk with an all-time best 285 hit by pitches only makes him more awesome. Biggio was everything to the Astros' organization, spending all 20 years of his career in Houston and playing pretty much everywhere for them (he began his career as a catcher and started a few seasons in the outfield to accommodate them signing fellow 2014 Hall candidate Jeff Kent). The Pride of Seton Hall belongs in the Baseball Hall.
Greg Maddux - Probably one of the five best pitchers of all time. If not top five, then easily top ten. He won't be unanimous because lol Hall of Fame voters. (Although one slightly more logical reason I've seen floating around is that since he is almost guaranteed to get in and voters can only list 10 players, they might want to use their vote on one of the many other players who don't deserve to risk falling off the ballot for finishing with lower than 5% of votes.)
Frank Thomas - The "Big Hurt" had an 80 grade nickname, but his devastating prowess at the plate is what should make him an easy lock for the Hall. The White Sox great slugged 521 homers and ended his career with a fantastic .301/.419/.555 triple slash, a 156 OPS+, and 73.6 rWAR. Even though he spent most of his career after age 29 as a DH, I can't see any way the voters turn him down; he had absolutely no connection to steroids. Writers not voting for Maddux and Thomas need their heads examined.
The Divisive Candidates
Barry Bonds - The all-time home run king is not in the Hall of Fame, even though he was easily a Hall of Famer long before he reportedly began juicing with the Giants in '99. The best player of his generation should be there.
Roger Clemens - The all-time Cy Young Awards leader is not in the Hall of Fame, even though he was easily a Hall of Famer long before he reportedly began juicing with the Blue Jays in '97. The second-best (or best, if you prefer him to Maddux) pitcher of his generation should be there. Sensing a pattern?
Mark McGwire - Obligatory: "...or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?!"
Rafael Palmeiro - Rafi was an incredible player who was one of only a few players to reach both 500 homers and 3,000 hits, but...
About a month later, he was suspended for steroid use and his 20-year career was over by the end of August. Oops. He only made it on 8.8% of ballots last year, so Palmeiro could very well vanish from the ballot despite his Hall of Fame credentials.
Sammy Sosa - It's no secret that Sosa would have been an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer had it not been for his link to steroid use. From 1998-2002, he was absolutely ridiculous, topping 61 homers three times and leading the NL in homers with 50 in 2000 and 49 in '02. His 64-homer '01 was overshadowed by Bonds, but it was quietly far better than his famous 66-homer '98 (201 OPS+ to 160 in '98). However, we might never see Slammin' Sammy honored at Wrigley or in Cooperstown.
Jeff Bagwell - Even in a high-offense era, Bagwell's 15-year career ended with a remarkable 488 doubles, 449 homers, and a staggering 79.5 rWAR and 149 OPS+. Any steroid allegations are mere hearsay and a load of speculative bullshit. He's a Hall of Famer. He just needs a boost from 59.6% last year, so induction should be coming soon for "Bags."
Tom Glavine - In almost any other year, Glavine would be the biggest name on the ballot due to his 300 winz. While he might get inducted this year anyway, the crowded ballot could force him to wait until next year. Going beyond the winz of course, he's a deserving candidate, no doubt about it.
Mike Piazza - Apparently not a Hall of Famer because blogger Murray Chass once saw him with back acne. Oh. Piazza not being in the Hall yet might be the biggest crime of hearsay we've seen yet; the combination of 427 homers and 1,630 games caught makes him worthy enough even before getting into his .922 OPS and 143 OPS+. He received 57.8% of votes last year, so it's not unrealistic to expect him to reach the Hall either this year or next.
The Overlooked but Deserving
Jeff Kent - Kent, Biggio, and Roberto Alomar were the preeminent second basemen of their era, and Kent deserves to join Robbie in Cooperstown for providing remarkable offense from a position that has rarely seen such power (560 doubles, 377 homers, and a 123 career OPS+). My step-dad (a former Mets fan) liked to bitterly say that he was too good for the Mets, who dealt him away in '96 for a declining Carlos Baerga and the horrors of Alvaro Espinoza. This also happened:
You heard it folks: "I'm a Game 7 loser... but this just sucks."
Edgar Martinez - Designated hitters belong in Cooperstown, but that's a rant for another day. I'll just leave this here: remember when everyone was calling David Ortiz the "greatest DH of all-time" and a "future Hall of Famer?" Well...
Edgar Martinez is a thing that happened, @Buck. Edgar: .312/.418/.515, 147 OPS+. Ortiz: .287/.381/.549, 139 OPS+.— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) October 24, 2013
Tim Raines - There is no reason for "Rock" to not be a Hall of Famer. He was a seven-time All-Star in the '80s, so he was obviously considered a terrific player in his time. He owns the fifth-greatest stolen base total in MLB history at 808. He played for an amazing 23 years, even coming back from a lupus diagnosis in '99 to play two more seasons in the 2000s. He hit .304/.392/.443 as a regular in the '80s with a 133 OPS+. To put the cherry on top of his career, he won a pair of World Series rings as a crucial role player on the '96 and '98 Yankees. He should not be penalized for not being Rickey Henderson. He's a far better player than Lou Brock, and Brock reached the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Send Rock to the Hall of Fame, BBWAA. You know he deserves it.
Curt Schilling - Schilling is a Hall of Famer, but he's a scumbag and I don't feel like making his case. If you need to be convinced, read Grant Brisbee's article from last January. Actually, just read Brisbee anyway.
Alan Trammell - The voters have never seemed to realize that Trammell should be a Hall of Famer. The problem might be that although he, Cal Ripken, and Robin Yount began the phenomenon of hard-hitting shortstops that progressed with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, by the time Trammell became eligible for the Hall, his numbers did not look as gaudy as Jeter and A-Rod's. Yount and Ripken faced no such barriers because they reached the magical 3,000 hit auto-pass, but the slick-fielding, smooth-hitting Trammell deserves to join his peers. For a full decade from 1983-93, Trammell hit .295/.361/.448 with 54.9 rWAR and a 125 OPS+, eclipsing 135 five times. For more on why Trammell is a badass, read Jay Jaffe's 2013 write-up. Since this will be his 13th year on the ballot and he has yet to pass 37% though, he will likely need help from the Veterans Committee to reach Cooperstown.
Larry Walker - Consider the following player: a .278/.370/.495 hitter with an OPS+ in the 120s who was widely acclaimed for his surprising speed, terrific defense, and rocket arm in right field. His career OPS of .865 ranks higher than easy Hall of Famers George Brett, Reggie Jackson, and Wade Boggs. Given his all-around talent, he would have to receive some Hall of Fame consideration, no? Well, the previous player described is Larry Walker, road version. People like to discount Walker for inflating his numbers at home in Coors Field for 10 years, but if we do that with everyone from there, how will any Rockie ever reach Cooperstown? Even with numbers adjusting for the Coors offense inflation, he ended his 17-year career with a 141 OPS+ and 72.6 rWAR. Walker was a superb enough player to warrant consideration merely from his road stats, and even a smaller fraction of his home numbers is enough to push him just over the top for me.
The Hall of Very Goods
Don Mattingly - This is Donnie Baseball's 14th year of consideration, and with such a crowded ballot, there's a decent chance it could be the last. He only garnered 13.2% of the vote last year and hasn't received more than 20% since his second year in 2002. Like Dale Murphy, his 1984-87 peak sadly just wasn't long enough.
Fred McGriff - "Crime Dog" was another 80 grade nickname, but even though he finished just seven dingers shy of 500, he is not quite a Hall of Famer. There are better slugging first basemen more worthy than McGriff. Maybe one day I'll change my mind on McGriff, but not this year.
Jack Morris - Arguments of dissertation length have been written on why Morris is not a Hall of Famer. Sorry, Jon Heyman, but he's really not. The funny thing about it is that even his biggest supporters forget that they didn't even support him earlier during his 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot (this year is his last)--it took him six years to reach higher than 30% on the ballots. There's a chance that he'll receive a final year boost from his 67.7% last year to reach the Hall, but that would require at least 42 more voters to change their minds. Whatever. The veterans will probably induct him in a few years anyway... Oh well.
Lee Smith - Smith somewhat randomly receives praise for being the all-time saves leader until Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera easily usurped him, and in 2012, he actually appeared on just over half the ballots. Is Smith a Hall of Famer though? Only five relievers have made the Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, and Goose Gossage. Both Jaffe and Wendy Thurm have been unsure about Smith's qualifications. If elected, he would not be the worst reliever there (that would be Sutter), but in this packed ballot, he'll probably get lost in the shuffle. Until we can better evaluate elite relievers, perhaps it's for the best.
Moises Alou - Six-time All-Star who played on seven different teams and hit an impressive .303/.369/.516 with 421 doubles, 328 homers, and a 128 career OPS+. Won a World Series ring in '97 with the soon-to-be fire saled Marlins. Also pissed on his hands to get a better grip on the bat and made the infamous Bartman play a bigger deal than it needed to be so... yeah. Had Alou played in a less offense-heavy era, he might warrant brief consideration, but he is quite overshadowed.
Armando Benitez - Hahahahahahahaha. Rumor has it that Tino Martinez will personally deliver the news of him falling off the ballot to him.
Sean Casey - Three-time All-Star who had a nice 12-year career mostly with the Reds from 1997-2008. Most well-known for being a chatty first baseman nicknamed "The Mayor," and for getting thrown out at first base from left field one time. Many lulz were had.
Ray Durham - The switch-hitting second baseman was small at 5'8" but quite productive in a 15-year career (104 OPS+). He mostly played on the White Sox and Giants but made four different playoff appearances with four different teams. Steady career, but obviously not a Hall of Famer.
Eric Gagne - Steroids or not, his streak of 84 consecutive saves with the Dodgers from 2002-04 remains an absolutely ridiculous record that will probably never be broken. The record in 32 saves longer than Jose Valverde's 52 straight saves, the second-longest streak. Unfortunately, those three years represented a short apex to his 10-year career. Just four years after the streak ended, he was out of baseball. Remember when the Red Sox traded David Murphy to the Rangers for him in '07 and he was hot trash? Good times.
Luis Gonzalez - Blooping jackass. Apparently someone was upset with Yasiel Puig this year because he didn't recognize Gonzalez. That's just hilarious; who outside of Phoenix actually gives a damn about Luis Gonzalez?
Jacque Jones - I defer comment to this tweet:
Let's just get all the voters together and agree to make Jacque Jones the first unanimous inductee. It'll be fantastic.— Mike Bates (@commnman) November 26, 2013
Paul Lo Duca - Was annoyingly considered good for being a scrappy catcher until the Mitchell Report outed him for juicing.
Hideo Nomo - It feels like Nomo should have fallen off the ballot long ago, but three random games in '08 with the Royals (his only appearances since '05) pushed him back a few years. "Nomomania" only actually lasted a couple years, as after his '95 NL Rookie of the Year campaign, he fizzled out for a few years until a comeback with the Red Sox and Dodgers from 2001-03. He struck out nearly 2,000 men in fewer than 2,000 innings (8.7 K/9) and threw no-hitters in two of the most difficult parks for pitchers in MLB history ('90s-era Coors Field and Camden Yards), but ultimately, he's not a Hall of Famer. Maybe one day he should be honored for being an innovator as the first successful Japanese player in MLB (and second overall), but he is not a Hall of Fame player.
Kenny Rogers - His 20 years in the majors indicate that lefties truly do pitch forever. He only made one All-Star team during his first 15 years, then oddly made three All-Star teams in a row at the ages of 39-41. Rogers was a big disappointment in New York in '96 and '97 with the Yankees and '99 with the Mets, but he still had a commendable career. Not a Hall of Famer, but I don't think anyone is really arguing his case.
Richie Sexson - Hit a startling 262 homers in a mere eight-year span, and that was with missing almost all of '04. However, he struck out a ton, and his career quickly fizzled out at age 33 after a forgettable 22-game stint with the '08 Yankees. At least that led to this:
J.T. Snow - In an alternate universe, perhaps Snow became Mattingly's successor at first base for the Yankees. He was drafted by the Yanks in the fifth round of the '89 draft and played his first seven games with them near the end of the '92 season. After the season though, he was dealt along with two other players to the Angels for Jim Abbott, a trade that yielded an amazing moment when Abbott spun a no-hitter on Labor Day '93, but was ultimately a bust for the Yankees. Snow spent four years in Anaheim before moving on to a quietly productive nine-year career with the Giants, where he hit .273/.369/.438 with a 112 OPS+ by the Bay. His career ended with 36 games on the '06 Red Sox and an honorary one-game appearance on the Giants in '08 to mark his retirement. Snow's not a Hall of Famer, but he's an interesting "could have been" case for the Yankees had they not traded him for Abbott. I'm fine with what happened since Tino obviously was obviously a terrific fit to succeed Donnie Baseball.
Mike Timlin - The 18-year bullpen veteran began his career as a weapon for the early-'90s Blue Jays (he closed out Toronto's first title in '92) and ended it as a valued member of the Red Sox 'pen from 2003-08. He is one of just 15 pitchers to appear in at least 1,000 games, and his total of 1,058 ranks eighth all-time. A 125 ERA+ in an era of high offense is not shabby at all, but no one is confusing Timlin for a Hall of Famer.
Those are all the candidates. If I was given a ballot and asked to name at most 10 players for induction, I would first complain that I can't add more, then submit the following ballot:
Maddux, Thomas, Mussina, Glavine, Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, Raines
Seriously, how are voters supposed to cut that down? The BBWAA needs to eliminate the 10-player limit or at least extend it. Otherwise it's only going to get more crowded next year as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield join the ballot. My ballot for this year wouldn't be permitted to include the other worthy players I mentioned above, like Schilling, Edgar, Walker, Kent, and Trammell. I frankly don't bear much ill will to McGwire, Sosa, and Palmeiro, either. The bottom line is that the limit of 10 just doesn't cut it anymore.
In the end, I can sadly see the possibility that only Maddux is chosen for induction. Voters have been weird about seemingly obvious candidates like Thomas before, and despite Biggio's strong showing last year, the large ballot could complicate matters. Although there are other candidates better than Biggio, those are my predicted top three finishers. Please surprise me and induct more than one Hall of Famer, BBWAA. There are so many worthy candidates.
Who would be on your 10-man Hall of Fame ballot? Who else would you vote in beyond the 10 if there was no limit?