Photo: Joe Greenwich
The Baseball Hall of Fame is set to announce which greats of the game – if any – will be elected to take their place in Cooperstown in July. Or, whenever they’re able to actually hold a ceremony.
This year’s ballot has 25 players on it; members of the Baseball Writers Association of America may vote for up to 10 players each year. Players who appear on 75% of ballots are inducted; those who receive less than five percent are removed from future ballots. A player can remain on the ballot for up to 10 years.
Following the voting rules, Joe and John cast their own ballots independently of one another. Here, then, is the inaugural Boo Birds Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot.
Joe’s Votes: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling.
John’s Votes: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Omar Vizquel.
John: Before we start the discussion, let’s just get these guys out of the way: the guys who are on the ballot, but neither of us felt was worth a second thought: A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, Latroy Hawkins, Aramis Ramirez, Nick Swisher. Adios, and thanks for playing (for at least 10 seasons at a decently high level).
Joe: Two more guys we agreed are out but I don’t want to just dismiss are Bobby Abreu and Shane Victorino. They’re not Hall of Famers, but I appreciate what Abreu did here in Philadelphia – probably more than most – and everyone loves Victorino. To throw them both on the trash pile so unceremoniously feels wrong to me. Honestly, using the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor and Standards stats we talked about on the pod last week, Abreu is a more likely Hall of Famer than your boy Scott Rolen!
John: Bobby Abreu’s candidacy picked up some traction. I don’t know how. It’s news to me… but I’ve read more than a few recent Abreu lobbyists who have hyped his offensive prowess. He had an undeniably good career, but at no point in my too-avid ‘90s Phillies fandom did I ever consider Bobby Abreu a Hall of Famer. Just no.
Joe: So rude.
John: I will, however, note that Bobby Abreu was among the most proficient Phillies baserunners that I’ve ever watched. There were a couple seasons where his stolen base percentage was hampered by a lack of instant replay. More than a few tallies in his CS column were actually safe, but he was errantly called out by his popup slide techn… wait, why am I lobbying for Bobby Abreu’s legacy?
Joe: Look at me, changing minds. There are three pitchers that I thought were more worthy of consideration than you did; Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, and Barry Zito. Zito didn’t garner much consideration, mind you; ultimately, while he was around for a while, he wasn’t quite good enough for long enough to merit a spot in Cooperstown. But you dismissed Buehrle and Hudson out of hand and I thought they certainly deserved some thought in their first year on the ballot. They were both very good for a long time, and I am interested in seeing what kind of support they get from the BBWAA.
John: I agree that both Buehrle and Hudson had very good careers, but ultimately neither are Hall-worthy. Buehrle’s Opening Day backhand play in 2005, however, is in my Favorite Plays Hall of Fame.
Joe: We both left off Torii Hunter and Billy Wagner, but gave them both some thought. Wagner just felt like such a dominant force on the mound when he was in his prime, but I think it’s so difficult to get in as a relief pitcher that you truly have to be a transcendent kind of guy – I mean, Mariano Rivera is the only unanimous Hall of Famer, but at the same time, that kind of sets a bar, no? – and I’m not sure Wagner was there. He was definitely in the next tier of “I could be swayed to vote for these guys in the future” guys.
What was it that made you think about Hunter but ultimately pass?
John: Billy Wagner was the guy I thought more about than any other candidate whom I didn’t think should get in. He’s right on the margin, but ultimately I didn’t see the black ink stats that push him over the top. He only led his respective league in games finished twice and never paced a league in the fake stat of saves.
Hunter was a guy I really wanted to get in. He (and his Web Gems) were a staple of my baseball fandom. Hunter made baseball fun, but you don’t get in the Hall of Fame for that. He ultimately didn’t have the offensive success to push him over the top. There wasn’t any one special thing he did with a bat to put him in.
Hunter and Jones are very close in their profile. What’d you think of Jones, a guy who robbed a lot of hits from Phillies players over the years (if not the most hits from Phillies players)?
Joe: There are a LOT of very, very good players on the ballot this year. On the pod, I said that I believe a guy is either a Hall of Famer or he isn’t, so for a lot of them, I tried to take that snap judgment into account: is he, yes or no? And when I got to Andruw Jones, I said, “no.” I can’t tell you why exactly I didn’t categorize him higher than I did, really. This is so subjective, and incredibly difficult!
You had Jones on your ballot, as well as Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, and Omar Vizquel. I voted for none of them. Kent and Sheffield were on that list of “next tier” guys because while the numbers appear to be there, I think I find myself wondering how much of that was a…”product of the era,” to use a euphemism for no real reason. I’m alluding to PEDs, of course; I don’t know if those guys used, but the specter of it has so tainted the numbers from that era that it seems difficult to compare them to numbers from other eras. Kent’s got an argument as the preeminent offensive second baseman of his time, but I just…I won’t be mad if either gets in someday, nor will I be bothered if they don’t.
Vizquel, on the other hand, was objectively subpar as an offensive player. His career OPS+ is 82. League average is 100; that’s WAY below league average! How do you justify voting for him but not Hunter, based on the argument you just made above?
John: Andruw Jones was not only a preeminent defensive player in his day, but he also had a couple of huge power years that bolster his overall batting line. I think he is right on the margin, but ultimately should be in. I won’t lose sleep if he doesn’t get in.
Jeff Kent is a lock to me. I know he isn’t the most beloved second baseman of his day, but he was very productive at the position. Craig Biggio might be the only other better second baseman of their era. He’s in. Kent should be in too. I’m also not going to worry about if a guy used PEDs or not. There are probably already Hall of Famers who have done steroids and definitely guys who have done worse than steroids.
Joe: That’s fair. We’re both about to vote for a couple of them (allegedly), and I’m not trying to disqualify them per se; I just find it hard to assess what the stats really mean. More on that topic in a little bit, though.
John: Omar Vizquel… led his league in sacrifice hits four times… what, that doesn’t get it done? Eleven Gold Gloves have to count for something. As do 404 stolen bases. As does a rivalry with Jose Mesa that might still be on the table.
Gary Sheffield actually did admit to briefly using PEDs. He slugged 509 home runs. He also had the most intimidating bat waggle of his time. What hurts Sheffield is his lack of extended time with anyone team. In the “gut check” model of Hall voting, he doesn’t stand out as an HOFer because of extended work with any one team. Sheffield played for eight teams over his career. That being said, he’s in because of his tremendous power presence.
Joe: Did you just make a Mesa/table joke?
Joe: I hope you can hear my head shaking. There was only one guy who made my ballot who didn’t make yours: Andy Pettitte. I feel like Pettitte was about as good a big game pitcher as there was for a long time. Why did you classify him as an immediate “no” on your ballot?
John: … so we have stumbled upon a little vulnerability in your PED argument. Pettitte did admit to using substances beyond pine tar or sunscreen… but I digress and won’t hold that against him. Pettitte is a guy who has very good regular season stats, but his status as a Yankee overhypes his Hall of Fame profile. I won’t object to him getting in, but a 3.85 ERA isn’t extra special to me. He only has one sub-3.00 ERA season and only led a league in a major category (wins) once. Very good… not great.
Joe: Only one sub-3.00 ERA season…mostly facing roided-up guys in the American League, which isn’t exactly known for its strategic nuance beyond “should we try to hit this ball 450 feet, or just 425?” He was better than league average in ERA+ in all but two seasons, and in one of those, he was right on the average.
But to your PED point: this is where that subjectivity comes into it. I am not one of those “nEvEr vOtInG fOr sTeRoIdS gUyS” guys. I just struggle with contextualizing everyone’s numbers from that era. It’s difficult to compare a guy who played in the 1990s/early 2000s to guys who played before or after because, as we said last week, so many guys were juicing, and maybe even the ball itself was juicing…::sigh::
There’s one PED case that is a non-starter to me, however. You dismissed Sammy Sosa immediately – like, he was literally the first name on your “no” list – but gave a vote to Manny Ramirez, who retired rather than face suspension for his third PED violation. I get not holding it against guys who used before testing, but to get caught multiple times after testing started, and then to run from the consequences?
Very few of your takes genuinely shock me or make me legitimately angry, but this was jaw-dropping and elevated my temperature by at least a couple tenths of a degree. How on this or any other planet do you justify voting for Manny Ramirez at all, let alone while tossing Sammy Sosa on the trash heap?
John: Sammy Sosa didn’t have a great career. He had a handful of excellent seasons, but he didn’t perform at a high level for an extended period of time. Sosa was an outstanding player from 1998-2003. Beyond that? Meh.
As for Manny Ramirez… if you don’t serve a suspension, does it make a sound? Manny was a lot of things. One of them is a Hall of Famer. He was an integral part of the Boston and Cleveland teams that dominated the discussion around baseball at that time. Cooperstown being a museum, ultimately, should house a guy who used the bathroom in Fenway’s Green Monster during a game. Would I want Manny on my team? No. Would I want him to face my team with the game on the line? Also no.
Joe: So you don’t see a difference between using PEDs in the late 90s and using them after they were explicitly banned and a suspension system was put into place? His numbers are certainly Hall-worthy, but you can’t show that kind of disregard for the game and get my vote, and I’m stunned he can get yours.
John: I don’t see a difference, but let’s delete this discussion between now and when A-Rod is eligible next year.
Joe: Ultimately, we agreed on five: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Scott Rolen, and Curt Schilling. We talked at length about Rolen on last week’s pod. Personally, I think Bonds and Clemens were Hall of Famers before they (allegedly) used PEDs, and they belong in the Hall. It’s the Hall of “Fame,” not the Hall of “Morally Acceptable,” which Schilling has really put to the test lately. But if I’m going to vote for Pettitte as a “big game” guy, I can’t not vote for Schilling. The dude could pitch, and if he wasn’t outspoken in a way that made a lot of people very upset, he’d have been in years ago.
Looking at Helton’s numbers, I was taken aback that he’s only gotten up to 29.2% of the vote in his first three years on the ballot. The writers are punishing him hard for playing at Coors Field. I expect he’ll get in eventually, much like Larry Walker was finally elected last year.
John: I changed my opinion on alleged PED users*. The Hall of Fame tells the story of the game and I can’t imagine telling the story of the game without these characters. The only guy who shouldn’t be considered is Pete Rose, but that’s another can of worms and perhaps another podcast.
Todd Helton has to get in. His career resembles Joey Votto’s current career and I don’t know if many people don’t think Votto will be enshrined in the future. If writers are going to punish batters for their stadium, left-handed batters who spent time in Fenway and the old Yankee Stadium should also be docked.
Schilling is a big test for writers clinging to the morality clause. He wasn’t a beloved figure when he played, but he was respected. His regular season stats are Hall-worthy, but he is the best postseason starting pitcher of his generation. The consummate Schilling sportswriting quip came in the days following Gary Thorne’s allegations that the bloody sock was fake. The quote (from I believe Jayson Stark) was that the bloody sock was real, but if anyone was going to put a ketchup packet in their sock in that moment… it would be Curt Schilling.
In addition to those, I had Kent, Sheffield, Jones, Vizquel, and Manny Ramirez, while you had Pettitte.
*Note to the legal department: I said “alleged.”
Joe: Which one of us is the legal department?
Honestly, aside from Manny, and maybe Vizquel a little bit, I won’t be the slightest bit upset if any or all of your other votes get in. But here’s a question for you: these guys may get in eventually, but how many do you think get in this year?
John: There is a good chance none get in this year. Schilling is probably the most likely guy to get in this year because his voting percentage is so close. I did see that a couple of writers were trying to have their pro-Schilling votes retracted after their submission. I don’t know if you can object to your own votes, but I suppose anything is possible these days.
I think Schilling, Bonds, Clemens, and Rolen get in next year after their candidacies gain more momentum.
Joe: I agree that the most likely outcome seems like nobody gets in. However, in light of his most recent behavior, I think if he doesn’t get in this year, Schilling is more likely to lose votes next year. So, even though he’s got one more year left on the ballot, I think it’s now or never for Schilling. If anyone gets in this year, I think it’ll be him and him alone.
Voters aren’t asked to rank their choices, but I have two questions for you:
1) If you had to rank all of the players on the ballot from 1-to-25, who would be last?
2) How quickly did you say “Nick Swisher?”
John: Quickly. Just let it be known he somehow made $92 million. $92 million. Maybe his agent should be in the Hall of Fame.
The results of BBWAA voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced on Tuesday, January 26, at 6:00 p.m.