There are 18 players appearing on the ballot for the first time, and 14 returning players. Among the newbies is no-doubt soon-to-be-enshrined Derek Jeter. The real question is whether any of the other 31 will also be selected this year (I think not). I love going over the HoF ballot each year—I like both baseball history and remembering the players’ greatness. I also think it does need to remembered every one of these players really were very very good, whether they get in the HoF or not. Below I talk briefly about the returning players (I’ll get to the first-years in another post); when/if I say something less than complimentary about a player, it’s not meant as disrespect, just to illustrate a weakness in their case for the ultimate honor in baseball.
Reminders: All voters are 10-years or longer members of the BBWAA and are at least nominally still active in covering the sport. There are over 400 voters. A player has to appear on 75% of the ballots to be selected, and 5% to be on next year’s ballot if not selected. A player also drops off the ballot if not selected after 10 years. Each voter can select 0-10 players. Not turning in a ballot does not count against players’ reaching the necessary percentage, but a blank ballot turned in does.
Okay, so let’s do this. Below are the returning players on the ballot, how long they’ve been on the ballot, what percentage of the vote they got last year, a little about their career, and what I think their HoF chances are.
Curt Schilling, 8th year on the ballot, 2019 vote was 60.9%. His case is pretty clear: 79.5 bWAR, 216-146, ERA 3.46, 3116 K, 127 ERA+, 6 time all star. His postseason accomplishments are also significant to his case: 11-2, 2.23 ERA, 120 K in 133 IP,; he was the 2001 WS MVP. Normally, I’d think he had a real good shot at making the leap to 75% this year with Jeter being the only slam-dunk pick this year. However, his post-playing career has made him understandably unpopular, and more than a few voters have a hard time getting past their justifiable dislike to vote for him. I think he eventually gets in, but I’m guessing not this year. Would I vote for him? Yep.
Roger Clemens, 8th year, 59.5%. On baseball merits, he’s a no-brainer: 139.2 bWAR, 354-184, ERA 3.12, 4672 K, 143 ERA+, 7 Cy Youngs, 1986 AL MVP, 2 pitching triple crowns, 11 all star nods. We all know why he hasn’t been elected. What I expect: he will pick up 1-2% more of the vote but no momentum. I’m convinced the HoF shortened the years of eligibility from 15 years to 10 specifically to keep Clemens and Bonds out…and it will work…until in a generation or so, there is an inevitable changing of the guard at the HoF itself, and a future iteration of the veterans committees do induct them. Would I vote for Clemens? Yep.
Barry Bonds, 8th year, 59.1%. Again a no brainer for HoF induction based on baseball merits: 162.8 bWAR, MLB record 762 homers, 1996 RBI, MLB record 2558 walks with an also-record 688 intentional passes, OPS+ 182, 7 MVP awards (another record), 8 gold gloves, 12 silver sluggers, 14 all star nods, hit .298/.444/.607. Again, we all know why he isn’t already in. Would I vote for him? Yep.
Larry Walker, 10th year, 54.6%. He had 72.7 bWAR, slashed .313/.400/.565, with a 141 OPS+. He earned 7 gold gloves, 3 silver sluggers, 5 all stars, and the 1997 NL MVP. There have been 18 career .300/.400/.500 hitters, ever. Three are on this ballot. One (Shoeless Joe Jackson) is ineligible. The other 14 are all in the Hall. Detractors try to say he’s a Coors Field product. That ignores (1) the splits show he was still very good hitting away from Coors, (2) the other teams in the division all play in pitching-friendly parks, suppressing his away stats, and (3) the superb 141 OPS+ is park-adjusted. A 20.4% is too big to expect in his final year on the BBWAA ballot, but I’ll bet the “Today’s Game” committee fixes that in the future. Would I vote for him? Yep.
Omar Vizquel, 3rd year, 42.8%. His case is built largely on his defensive reputation at shortstop, with 11 gold gloves. He did collect 2877 hits but with little power—slashing .272/.336/.352. The 45.6 bWAR is low for a Hall member. He had 404 stolen bases but ran into too many outs, getting caught stealing 167 times. I’m guessing he bumps to around 50% this year and eventually gets elected. Would I vote for him? No. Frankly, I think his defensive rep is a bit overblown (I’ve actually heard people compare him to Ozzie Smith with a straight face).
Manny Ramirez, 4th year, 22.8%. 69.4 bWAR, 555 homers, slashed .312/.423/.585, 12 all star nods, 9 silver sluggers. Those are HoF-worthy numbers. However, I’m guessing he stays in the 25% of the vote range. Would I vote for him? I’d consider it if I had fewer than 10 other players I wanted to vote for, but not otherwise. Here’s where I reiterate my view on PEDs. I don’t like them, but I don’t hold it against players who used prior to 2004. There was no rule then, just an unenforceable policy statement by Fay Vincent which was subsequently repeatedly undermined by Bud Selig. Managers of known PED users are in the Hall. However, that changes as of 2004. There are clear rules, and harsh penalties for violators who get caught. Ramirez got caught. Twice.
Jeff Kent, 7th year, 18.1%. He was the 2000 NL MVP, made 5 all star teams and took home 4 silver sluggers. He was a good hitter, slashing .290/.346/.500 with 377 homers and a 123 OPS+. His value was with his bat more than his glove as a second baseman, and didn’t produce as much value at the plate as most of the other players on the ballot. He’s not getting any traction with the voters…if he ever gets in, it’s via the Today’s Game committee in the future. Would I vote for him? No.
Scott Rolen, 3rd year, 17.2%. He has 70.2 bWAR, slashed .281/.364/.490 with a 122 OPS+. He was the 1997 NL RoY, an all star 7 times, and has 8 gold gloves. The BBWAA voters have shown a blind spot with all-around excellent players (see Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans, Bobby Grich and others). Unless he starts a significant surge in the vote, he will probably be a future veterans committee debate. Would I vote for him? Yes.
Billy Wagner, 5th year, 16.7%. Forget WAR for relievers. His case is based a career 2.31 ERA, 422 saves (6th most all time), 3.99K/BB and 11.9 K/9. His career ERA+ was a ridiculous 187. For those who denigrate “compilers,” he definitely still had gas in the tank in his final season: 7-2, 37 saves, 1.43 ERA and 268 ERA+. Getting in is tough for a reliever not named Rivera or Hoffman, and never was a good starter. He’s going to have hope he gets in via the Lee Smith path. Would I vote for him? I’d consider it at least.
Todd Helton, 2nd year, 16.5%. He had 61.2 bWAR, 369 homers, 592 doubles, slashed .316/.414/.533 with a 133 OPS+. He had 5 all star nods, 3 gold gloves, and 4 silver sluggers—all earned in the first half of his career. Even more than Larry Walker, and a bit more justifiably, he’s seen as a Coors product. I doubt the BBWAA ever elects him. Would I vote for him? Again one of only 18 career .300/.400/.500 hitters, but he’s likely one of my final cuts.
Gary Sheffield, 6th year, 13.6%. He had 60.5 bWAR, 509 homers, .292/.393/.514 with a 140 OPS+. He made 9 all star squads in 22 years, playing for 8 teams. He has no chance of getting in the Hall, was named in the Mitchell Report and implicated in the 2004 BALCO scandal. Would I vote for him? I waffle but lean no.
Andy Pettite, 2nd year, 9.9%. He had 60.2 bWAR, 256-153, 3.85 career ERA, ERA+ at 117. Much of his case is Yankees postseason based: 5 rings, 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA. As a little bit better than Jack Morris candidate, I expected better than a 10% of the vote showing last year. Maybe he is being held down by his PED admission, although it never seemed to hurt his rep before. In any case, future BBWAA inductees don’t start at such a low vote total. Would I vote for him? No.
Sammy Sosa, 8th year, 8.5%. 609 homers, the 1998 NL MVP. .273/.374/.534, 128 OPS+. We all know why he isn’t in—PED implication, corked bat, embarrassing appearance before Congress. No chance he ever gets elected; he’s in the same boat at Clemens and Bonds without as strong a case. I’d vote for him though.
Andrew Jones, 3rd year, 7.5%. 10 gold gloves in his 17 year career. He had 62.8 bWAR, 434 homers, and slashed .254/.337/.486. To me, he has a better glove-first case than Vizquel and was a significantly better hitter. A lot of pundits seem most to remember the weight gain and sharp decline at the end of his career. He’s definitely not getting the respect Vizquel is and seems more likely to drop off the ballot than to ever be elected.
There you have it—six yes votes from me, and Jeter, so three spots for Wagner, Helton, Sheffield, and Ramirez, and anyone among the new entries if I wanted to vote for them. My mythical final ballot comes with the newbies post.