To have a Hall of Fame vote, one must be a BBWAA member for 10 years. I’m not a member at all, of course, so my opinion of who belongs in the HoF on this year’s ballot means literally nothing. I won’t let that stop me though.
There are 30 names on the ballot. Going by Not Mr Tibbs’ HoF vote tracker, 13 will drop off the ballot for next year because they won’t get the requisite 5% of the vote. With just over a third of the votes known, three are currently above the 75% threshold for induction—David Ortiz, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens. Bonds and Clemens are not expected to stay above 75%. (Link: http://www.bbhoftracker.com)
Bonds, Clemens, and Sammy Sosa are all being held back because of voters who feel “known” users of steroids do not belong in the Hall. Curt Schilling has lost a lot of votes and will be the 4th player in his 10th/ final year on the ballot this year who will not be elected… in his case because he’s a jerk who can’t keep his mouth shut.
I have never liked using the Hall of Fame’s character clause as a weapon to keep a player out of the HoF. To the extent where I would use it, it would be as a tie breaker if the character issue was violating league rules. For instance, I do not even consider pre-2004 steroid use. Right or wrong, there was no rule. There was a policy letter by Fay Vincent that even he said was unenforceable. Plus, with Bud Selig in the Hall, managers of known steroid users in the Hall, and remembering how they said some players need to “bulk up”—it seems like a double standard to withhold votes for players but not others who were complicit in the steroid era. Besides, I am long since tired of the debate. Thus, I would not withhold votes for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, or Gary Sheffield for presumed PED use. However, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez each got caught violating rules set forth in the JDA—ie, post-2004 PED use once rules were in place. I consider it fair game to use it as a tie breaker although not as a complete disqualifier. MLB does not disqualify players due to PED use unless they are caught 3 times, so I won’t either.
All that said, I feel 13 players on this year’s ballot are Hall-worthy. Voters can only vote for 10, so in filling out my fake ballot I had to leave 3 off. Below are my picks. For brevity, I won’t go as heavily into stats as I often like to do.
1-3: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling. I don’t have to like them, but they all easily pass the “can’t tell the history of baseball without mentioning them” test.
4. David Ortiz. Not the best DH of his era, that’s Edgar Martinez. However, 541 HR, 17 more in the postseason (and a .947 playoff OPS) will do it.
5. Scott Rolen 70.1 WAR. One of the best 3B ever, an underrepresented position in the HoF. Combine a great glove and really good bat (122 career OPS+), and you have what should be an obvious pick for everyone.
6. Alex Rodriguez. Remember when I said PED use could be a negative tie breaker? Well, there’s no tie here. 696 HR, 117.5 WAR, top 5 ever as either 3B or SS.
7. Todd Helton. 23 players ever have a career .300/.400/.500 triple slash line. Helton is one. Some hold playing at Coors against him, but the voters eventually got past that with Larry Walker and need to here too. They forget that Rockies players play a lot of away games at LA, SD, and SF too—all among the 10 most pitchers friendly in MLB. Helton did have an amazing 1.048 career OPS at Coors. His career OPS in away games, though, was still a very good .855.
8. Billy Wagner. Career 2.31 ERA, 187 ERA+, and ridiculous 0.998 WHIP to go along with 422 saves. He’s easily the best reliever on this years ballot, and better than most already enshrined relievers too.
9. Andruw Jones. In his 12 years in Atlanta he was one of the very best defensive center fielders ever and good with the stick in his hand too. His last 5 years bouncing around the league? Not really, but…the JAWS metric on Baseball Reference still has him the 11th best ever at his position. 18 centerfielders are in the Hall.
10. Manny Ramirez. This is the first time he’d have made my ballot. Two times getting caught using PEDs and abruptly bailing on my Rays rather than taking his punishment will do that. However, remember how I said Todd Helton was one of only 23 players ever to be a career .300/.400/.500 hitter? Well, Manny Ramirez is also one of those 23. Add in 555 homers and 69.3 WAR, and he’s clearly a step above my three players who—while Hall worthy if it was a simple yes/no vote—did not make the top 10.
11. Gary Sheffield. An excellent hitter, but not an excellent defender.
12. Bobby Abreu. JAWS has him as the 20th best RF all time. 28 are in the Hall. 3-4 players on my top 10 will not be on the ballot next year. Abreu will start getting my vote in future years, just not enough room now.
13. Sammy Sosa. He’s often thought of as a one trick pony, but it was a pretty darn good trick—609 homers. He won’t ever get in the HoF until after a future Today’s Game committee finally realizes Mark McGwire (and Barry Bonds) belong in there too.
Players who will still be on the ballot next year for whom I would still not vote:
Andy Pettite. “He’s better than Jack Morris” isn’t a good enough argument. He was really good, but short of the HoF threshold for me.
Jeff Kent. Let’s use JAWS again—he’s rated the 21st best 2B ever. 20 are in the Hall. I think that excellently portrays him: the very definition of borderline but ultimately just short of Hall standards player. I bet a future Today’s Game committee inducts him.
Jimmy Rollins. A really very good shortstop but the discussion isn’t the Hall of Very Good.
Omar Vizquel. He’s not the second coming of Ozzie Smith as some have portrayed. He was also often a liability with the bat. That’s why his very long career came up with 45.6 WAR. JAWS has him as the 42nd best SS ever, with 23 in the HoF. He ain’t even borderline to me. Until this year it appeared inevitable the BBWAA would ultimately put him in the Hall though. However, he has now also been shown to not be a great guy, so his candidacy is now languishing.
Not getting 5% of the vote:
Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson. Both better than Jack Morris. Both as good or better than Andy Pettite. Not good enough.
Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon. Really good relievers, not as good as Billy Wagner.
Tim Lincecum. His first 5 years? Sandy Koufax good. Two Cy Youngs. The next/last 5 of his 10 year career? Not at all.
Ryan Howard. He’s remembered as much for the Phillies bidding against themselves to sign him to an albatross contract extension…one that virtually everyone but delusional Phillies fans and the Phillies front office knew would be horrible before the ink was dry. He did hit a lot of home runs.
Torii Hunter. Excellent defensive outfielder.
AJ Pierzynski. Not a lot of catchers are able to be effective for 19 years in the bigs.
Mark Texeira. Once a big free agent signing for the Yankees.
Jake Peavy, Prince Fielder, Carl Crawford—no votes so far.