Breaking Down the 2017 MLB HOF Ballot
Well hello there SpreeGoogs nation! The posts don’t come very often anymore, but I wasn’t going to miss my annual column looking at all the MLB Hall of Fame candidates. For the uninitiated, voters can choose up to 10 players, and you need 75% of voters in order to be inducted.
When no players were voted in on the 2013 ballot, there was a backlog of really talented players that I believe are HOF worthy. The last three years have helped clear the deck – Thomas, Maddux and Glavine in 2014, Smoltz, R.Johnson, Pedro and Biggio in 2015, then Piazza and Griffey in 2016. There are a handful of new candidates worthy of a look, but voters should at least feel now that HOF caliber players aren’t making their top-10. Here’s a look, in reverse order, of how my ballot would look for each of the candidates on the list this year.
35 Casey Blake, 1999-2011, Career WAR 24.9
Can you be a hall-of-famer without ever being an all-star? No, no you can’t. Blake spent the first four years of his career bouncing from AAA to the bigs, never playing more than 20 games per season, then had a respectably average 9 years with Cleveland and the Dodgers. Not a chance.
34 Matt Stairs, 1992-1993, 1995-2011, Career WAR 14.3
I love Matt Stairs’ studly power and distinguished facial hair – but his stats don’t add up to a HOF career. He had 38 HRs and 102 RBIs for my A’s in 1999 in his best year, and won a ring as a pinch hitter with the Phillies in 2008. But never an all-star – congrats on making the ballot Matt.
33 Arthur Rhodes 1991-2011, 1X All-star, Career WAR 15.0
We’ve only got a handful of the best closers of all-time in the HOF, so I don’t think a career-long setup guy has any shot. Rhodes had a long and successful 21 year career, enough to put him 25th all-time in games appeared as a pitcher, but no stats that suggest real consideration for the HOF. Kudos to Rhodes for ending his career on top, with a ring for the 2011 Cardinals and three perfect appearances in that series.
32 Orlando Cabrera 1997-2011, 2x Gold Glove, Career WAR 21.4
In my mind, his place in history is solidified as the shortstop the Red Sox acquired from the Expos in 2004 when trading away Nomar Garciaparra in a four-way deal. Cabrera then went on to be a key cog in their World Series winning team that year. After that, he floated around and ended up playing on six teams in his last four years in the league. 15 years of solid shortstop play gives his some solid career defensive stats, but offensively he doesn’t make the HOF cut.
31 Carlos Guillen, 1998-2011, 3x All-star, Career WAR 27.7
Started his career as the guy traded for Randy Johnson, but established a decent run as a quality shortstop for Seattle and Detroit. Not HOF worthy.
30 Freddy Sanchez, 2002-2011, 3x All-star, 1x Batting Champion, Career WAR 15.8
Sanchez won a batting title in 2006 and a ring with the Giants in 2010. Not a long career, not enough for HOF consideration, but a few great career moments for this scrappy second basemen. Too bad he kept getting hurt.
29 Melvin Mora, 1999-2011, 2x All-star, 1x Silver Slugger, Career WAR: 28.2
Mora had a solid run as the leader of the mid 2000’s Orioles, capped by his 104 RBI, .340 BA season in 2004. I don’t think Mora had the career longevity or enough dominance at his heights to warrant serious consideration, but he was a very solid player.
28 J.D. Drew, 1998-2011, 1x All-star, Career WAR: 44.9
Won a ring in 2007 with the Red Sox and was the MVP of the All-star Game the following year. Drew was a high draft pick who shunned the Phillies and re-entered the draft the following year, ending up with the Cardinals. A very solid player but not likely to get many votes.
27 Mike Cameron 1995-2011, 1x All-star, 3x Gold Glove, Career WAR 46.5
Cameron’s best season came for the incredible 116-46 2001 Mariners team, after he was traded to Seattle as the centerpiece of the deal that sent HOFer Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati. Cameron delivered 25 HRs and 110 RBIs for Seattle that year, and his 278 homers put him in the top 200 all-time. On the other hand, he never hit above .273 and struck out incessantly (9th all time in K’s. Great speed-power combo guy, but not a HOFer.
26 Pat Burrell 2000-2011, Career WAR 18.8
When “Pat the Bat” hit one out, it was quite the sight to see. Also quite the sight to see was Burrell’s appearances as “The Machine” in Brian Wilson’s bizarre YouTube videos with the 2010 Giants. Burrell was picked up off the scrap heap by the Giants, his hometown team, and had one final revitalization by hitting 18 bombs in just more than half a season to help the Giants win the first of their three recent titles. Burrell also won a title with the 2008 Phillies and had 292 career homers to just edge in to the top 150 sluggers of all-time.
25 Javier Vazquez 1998-2011, 1x All-star, Career WAR 43.3 (Left off the ballot).
My perception of Vazquez is way higher than his career numbers. He had a career ERA over four (4.22) and only won five more games than he lost. He was sub-par at best in the playoffs, and was only in serious consideration for a Cy Young once in his career, toward the end in an outlier year with the Braves. I remember him being pretty nasty at times though, which explains his spot at 30th all time in strikeouts. Crazy that he is not included on the official ballot.
24 Tim Wakefield 1992-2011, 1x All-star, Career WAR 34.5
A solid, reliable starter for the Red Sox for nearly two decades. Wakefield finished third in the Cy Young voting in 1995 in his first year with Boston, going 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA. He had another great year in 2002, but most of his career his ERA was over 4. With 200 career wins he gets in consideration for his longevity, but not a true Hall of Famer.
23 Jason Varitek 1997-2011, 3x All-star, 1x Gold Glove, 1x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 24.3
Varitek and Derek Lowe were traded to the Red Sox in 1997 at the trade deadline for Heathliff Slocumb, a deal that certainly worked out for Boston, as Varitek played his entire career as a middle-of-the-order presence on two world series winners. His stats don’t add up to be HOF worthy but I’m sure some nostalgic Boston writers will throw him a vote.
22 Edgar Renteria 1996-2011, 5x All-star, 3x Silver Slugger, 2x Gold Glove, 2010 World Series MVP, Career WAR 34.3
History will remember Renteria for the bookends of his career – he won the title for the Marlins in his second season with a walkoff single in 1997, and hit two homers in the 2010 Fall Classic to win the Series MVP and finish off the Giants championship run. In between, he hit over .330 twice and stole nea1rly 300 career bases. Renteria’s closest career stat comparison is to Alan Trammell (almost a HOFer) so Renteria is certainly deserving of some votes.
21 Derrek Lee 1997-2011, 2x All-star, 3x Gold Glove, 1x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 34.3
Albert Pujols may have won the MVP in 2005, but its hard to argue that there was anyone better that year than Derrek Lee, who led the league in hits, doubles, slugging, OPS and won the batting title. Lee actually won the Silver Slugger instead of Pujols that season. Lee was also a plus defender, hit 331 career HRs and won a World Series in 2003 with the Marlins.
20 Jorge Posada 1995-2011, 5x All-star, 5x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 42.7
Like Varitek for the Red Sox, Posada will be remembered by Yankee fans as a key contributor to their turn-of-the-century dynasty teams with Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte. Posada is the first of that group to come up for Hall of Fame consideration, and I expect he’ll be the only one that never gets in. He had a long, successful catching career and hit a respectable .273, but didn’t have any “wow” career numbers as a hitter other than negative ones.
19 Magglio Ordonez 1997-2011, 6x All-star, 3x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 38.5
Ordonez is a legit HOF argument. A career .309 hitter with an impressive .363 batting title in 2007, Magglio was also a terrifying power hitter (92nd all-time in SLG%). In an era where no one plays for one team his entire career anymore (aside from #24,#23 and #20 on this list), I’ll give Ordonez credit for having long runs with two teams, the Whitesox and Tigers.
18 Lee Smith 1980-1997, 7x All-star, 3x Rolaids Relief, Career WAR 29.6 (2016 Vote: 34.1%)
Last Chance for Lee Smith in his 15th year on the ballot. He won’t get in but he has had enough loyal voters to hang on for this long, which is commendable. For those who never saw Smith play, he led his league in saves four times with the Cubs, Cardinals and Orioles, and has the 3rd most saves ever (ahead of Wagner). He was also a seven-time all-star and had a career 3.03 ERA.
17 Billy Wagner 1995-2010, 7X All Star, 1X Rolaids Relief, Career WAR 28.1 (2016 Vote: 10.5%)
2nd year on the ballot for Wagner, and getting only 10% in his first year is a bad sign. He’ll likely pick up just enough votes to stay on a big longer but won’t be able to jump up to 75% within 10 years. His stats are very comparable to Lee Smith’s, who was never able to get high enough for serious consideration.
16 Sammy Sosa 1989-2007, 7X All Star, 6x Silver Slugger, NL MVP 1998, Career WAR: 58.4 (2016 Vote: 7.0%)
He’s 8th on the career homerun list, and played a legit role in getting fans excited about baseball again with the homerun chase in 1998, but he is at risk of falling off the ballot completely. What’s the difference between him and Bonds or Clemens? I think there’s a feeling among some that Sosa’s mediocre pre-steroid numbers don’t help his case, whereas Bonds and Clemens would have likely been HOFers even if they hadn’t been BALCO customers.
15 Curt Schilling 1988-2007, 6X All Star, Career WAR 79.9 (2016 Vote: 52.3%)
Negative points for being a total idiot in his post-career. I think voters will be looking for reasons not to vote for him because of his off-the-field comments. He was a great & clutch performer for several world series teams and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting twice. I expect that he’ll go down slightly in votes this year.
14 Fred McGriff 1986-2004, 5x All-star, 3x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 52.4 (2016 Vote: 20.9%)
The Crime Dog hit 30 homers in 10 different years in the bigs – starting with 34 in 1988 with the ‘Jays and ending with 30 in 2002 with the Cubs. He had a long, successful career, and was consistently great hitter. He won a title with the Braves in 1995 as the most feared power hitter in that lineup.
13 Jeff Kent, 1992-2008, 5x All-star, 4x Silver Slugger, NL MVP 2000, Career WAR 55.2 (2016 Vote: 16.6%)
Kent has received surprisingly low support for one of the top hitting second basemen of all-time. After a mediocre start to his career with Toronto, the Mets and Cleveland, Kent became a star with the Giants and was over 100 RBIs in each of his six years with the team plus twice again with Houston and the Dodgers.
12 Gary Sheffield 1988-2009, 9x All-star, 5x Silver Slugger, 1x Batting Champion, Career WAR 60.3 (2016 Vote: 11.6%)
Sheffield had an amazing 22 year career – he hit the magical 500 homerun plateau, topped 100 RBIs eight times, and though he never won an MVP he finished in the top 10 six times. Also, playing in nine all-star games is no joke. He’s in the top-40 all-time in offensive WAR, runs, homers, RBI, total bases, walks, runs created, times on base, and extra base hits. And won a ring with the 1997 Marlins. At 11.6 percent last year, he’s unlikely to become a HOFer but has the stats to make a legitimate case if not for admitting that he used steroids.
11 Manny Ramirez 1993-2011, 12x All-star, 9x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 69.2
Slam Dunk Hall-of-Famer on stats alone. But the steroids case is not even a debate with him – he was suspended 50 games for drugs in 2009 toward the end of his career and it appears likely that he used them during his time winning championships with the Red Sox. The stats, however, are very impressive: 555 HRs, 12 All Star appearances, and a stunning 165 RBI season with the Indians in 1999. .312 career hitter. And his quirky persona is a positive for me. I still can’t believe he high-fived a fan, or peed behind the green monster. I think he will be considered more in the Sosa category than in the dominant Bonds/Clemens category in terms of votes.
10 Edgar Martinez 1987-2004, 7x All-star, 6x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 68.3 (2016 Vote: 43.4%)
I finally had room on my ballot this year for Edgar Martinez, a worthy candidate. Martinez is a seven-time all-star with a .312 career batting average, two batting titles and very strong numbers throughout his career. He made a BIG jump last year from 27 to 43 percent, but is running out of time in his 8th year on the ballot. I predict he’ll stay about the same and won’t make it to Cooperstown, but he gets my vote.
9 Tim Raines 1979-2002, 7x All-star, 1x Silver Slugger, Career WAR: 69.1 (2016 Vote: 69.8%)
Final Chance for Rock! Raines is 5th all-time in steals, having led the league four straight years in the early 80’s. Even when his speed went, he managed to stick around and hit nearly .300 for several teams at the end of his career. He was a seven-time all-star, all in the 80’s with the Montreal Expos, and won a ring with the 1996 Yankees. He needs 23 more votes than he got last year, I think he gets in – that will be a feel-good story for this year.
8 Larry Walker 1989-2005, 5x All-star, 4x Silver Slugger, 7x Gold Glove, NL MVP 1997, Career WAR 72.6 (2016 Vote: 15.5%)
If you’ve read this column in the past, you know that I’m a card carrying member of the Larry Walker fan club. Not really, but I’m higher on him than most, as I think he’s one of the most impressive hitters of this era. He had a .313 lifetime average, won an MVP in 1997 when he hit 49 homeruns, and chased .400 on four different occasions. Amazingly, he hit .379 in 1999 and only finished 10th in the MVP voting – that shows you how homerun friendly that era was. And don’t forget Walker also won seven gold gloves for his outfield play.
7 Mike Mussina 1991-2008, 5x All-star, 7x Gold Glove, Career WAR 83.0 (2016 Vote: 43.0%)
Mussina was an incredibly consistent star pitcher across the 18 years of his career. His 270 wins put him in elite status among modern pitchers, and though I don’t picture him as an overpowering presence he is in the top-20 all-time in strikeouts. He was also an excellent defender on the mound. Currently he’s getting about the same number of votes as Bonds and Clemens – in a year with more openings on the ballot, this will be an important year for him – if he jumps up close to 50% I think he can keep increasing his share to possibly get in before 10 years are up. But if he stays where he’s at again, it could be tough for Moose to get in.
6 Trevor Hoffman 1993-2010, 7x All-star, 2x Rolaids Relief, Career WAR 28.4 (2016 Vote: 67.3%)
2nd all-time in saves behind Mariano Rivera who recently passed him, so as closers go he’s got one of the best track records in history. He had particularly impressive longevity, recording 30 or more saves for 14 straight years (!) save 2003 when he was injured. Like most closers, his career WAR was limited by only pitching one inning per game, so I’ve had to look at other stats to determine his worthiness. This is the stat that convinced me: Hoffman is 8th all-time in WHIP, tucked between HOFers Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. That means Hoffman not only had consistency in saves across his career, but there was some meat behind it as he rarely allowed any baserunners. He’ll get in eventually but I predict this year he comes just a few votes short.
5 Vladimir Guerrero 1996-2011, 9x All-star, 8x Silver Slugger, 2004 AL MVP, Career WAR 59.3
Conversations about Vlad the Impaler should really start with his amazing arm in RF. He also often led the league in errors, but made up for it with his outfield assists. Beyond that, he had jaw-dropping power and could hit baseballs off the ground. He hit over .300 for 12 straight years and was regularly over .330. Vlad is a legendary talent and was incredibly fun to watch. Anyone who watched him play will have been very impressed. He gets my vote, although with only 15 years in the league and a few of them plagued by injuries, he might not have the overall career stats to guarantee induction.
4 Roger Clemens 1984-2007, 11x All-star, AL MVP 1986, 7x Cy Young Award Winner, Career WAR 140.3 (2016 Vote: 45.2%)
Clemens led the league in ERA seven times, first in 1986 and then again twenty years later in 2005. He’s also 9th all-time in wins and 3rd in career strikeouts. Not a big fan of Clemens personally and his drug use suspicion puts a black mark on his career, but not enough to deny his stellar career.
3 Barry Bonds 1986-2007. 14x All-star, 8x Gold Glove, 12x Silver Slugger, 7x NL MVP, Career WAR 162.4 (2016 Vote: 44.3%)
Worth a reminder every year that Bonds’ numbers are other worldly. He stood alone with his impact on the game in his prime. He definitely gets knocked down a bit because his career is tainted with steroids, but I’m with the voters who say he should be allowed in and acknowledge his issues on the plaque. The guy is the all-time home-run king after all.
2 Ivan Rodriguez 1991-2011, 14x All-star, 7x Silver Slugger, 13x Gold Glove, 1999 AL MVP, 2003 NLCS MVP, Career WAR 68.4
Pudge was the best defensive catcher of his era, picking up almost every gold glove of the ‘90s and a few in the mid 2000s. Late in his career he developed quite the run as a winner, helping the Marlins win the 2003 World Series and leading the 2006 Tigers to the series as well. But Pudge wasn’t just a stud catcher, he was a HOF hitter. He hit over .300 10 times in his career and to me he’s a no doubt hall-of-famer.
1 Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005, 4x All-star, 3x Silver Slugger, NL MVP 1994. Rookie of the Year 1991, Career WAR 79.6 (2016 Vote: 71.6%)
This is the year Bagwell gets in. With no-doubters like Maddux, Griffey already in, Bagwell should get the minor bump he needs to get over 75%. He hit at least 39 homers six times and had 449 for his career. We were all robbed of part of his best season ever in 1994 when the strike hit, when I believe he may have had a shot at the record for most RBI’s in a season and made a run at Roger Maris’ HR record. An MVP, a Rookie of the Year, and this year, a Hall-of Famer.
I predict that we’ll see Bagwell and Pudge go in this year easily, with Raines sneaking in barely in his last year of eligibility. Will Hoffman also get in with an 8% increase in votes? How close will Guerrero get? Will the drug-tainted guys go up or down in votes? We’ll find out in early January.