Thursday Thought: If I had a Hall of Fame ballot...

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It’s that time of the year, folks. The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2022 will be announced next week. The New York Mets have a couple of players on the ballot, most notably, Billy Wagner. Gary Sheffield, Bobby Abreu, and Jeff Kent also had stints with the Mets, but their odds of getting in are iffy at best.

Let’s take a look at what my Hall of Fame ballot would look like if I had one.

Yes (7)

  • Andruw Jones
  • Billy Wagner
  • Jeff Kent
  • Scott Rolen
  • Joe Nathan
  • Todd Helton
  • Mark Buehrle

It’s beyond me how Andruw Jones isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet. He’s arguably the best defensive center fielder ever, and he had a 10-year run of offensive dominance. From 2003-2007 he put up 67 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). From 1998 to 2007, he averaged 34 homers, 30 doubles, 103 RBI’s, and an OPS of .847. He dropped off in the second half of his career, unlike others we’ll talk about later, but he unquestionably deserves to be in The Hall.

Billy Wagner is another guy who unquestionably belongs in Cooperstown. The natural-righty-who-learned-to-throw-lefty posted a career 2.31 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and struck out 1,196 batters over 903 innings. He had a career ERA+ of 187 and a K-BB ratio just a shade under 4-1. Wagner was a dominant closer, and it’s so much more impressive when you consider he learned to throw 102 with his non-dominant arm. I don’t understand why there’s this stigma about relievers getting into Cooperstown, but this guy belongs.

Jeff Kent is a guy who has been on the fence for a few years now. He has 377 career homers, which is most all-time among second baseman. He had a nine-year stretch from 1997 to 2005 where he slashed .296/.365/.529/.895 and averaged 28 homers, 110 RBI’s, and a 132 OPS+. Whether you value the final career statistics or the stretches of dominance, he checks both boxes.

Scott Rolen is one of the more underappreciated players in recent memory. Similar to Andruw Jones, he had a dominant stretch early in his career and tailed off later. From 1997 to 2004, he slashed .287/.379/.524/.903 and averaged 28 homers, 36 doubles, and 102 RBI’s with a 133 OPS+. He also played some of the best defense ever at third base, racking up 114 DRS since the stat started being tracked in 2003. He posted 30 DRS in 2004, which combined with his 158 OPS+ led to finishing 4th in the MVP voting. Rolen is a sneaky-good player who belongs in The Hall.

I didn’t come into this planning on voting for these next three guys, but after researching their performance, I was swayed.

Joe Nathan was simply untouchable from 2002 to 2009. He pitched 500 innings and allowed just 323 hits, 113 earned runs, 153 walks, and struck out 603 batters. He posted a 2.03, 2.56 FIP, 0.95 WHIP,  and 217 ERA+ during that run. He was one of the most dominant relievers of that era.

Todd Helton doesn’t get talked about as the elite hitter that he was. He’s a career .316/.414/.539/.953 hitter with 369 homers, 1,406 RBI’s, and a 133 OPS+. Helton was an on-base machine, which really wasn’t appreciated for his era, but in today’s game, he’d get much more recognition. He’s basically the Joey Votto of the previous generation. Yeah he played in Colorado, but when you’re putting up numbers like this, you belong in Cooperstown.

Mark Buehrle did things that no one of this generation has. The only year Mark Buehrle didn't make at least 30 starts and pitch at least 198 innings was his rookie season in 2000. From 2001 to 2015, he was the definition of endurance, stamina, and consistency. Yeah, he wasn’t flashy, but when you pitch 3,281.1 innings with a 3.81 ERA, you did your job extremely well. We might never see another starter go 15 years in a row with 30 starts or more.

The hard no’s (5)

  • Prince Fielder
  • Torii Hunter
  • Tim Lincecum
  • Mark Teixeira
  • David Ortiz

Prince Fielder was a special player before suffering a second neck injury that required surgery and ended his career. He hit 321 homers in just 12 seasons with an OPS+ of 134. He was also known for playing everyday, with three consecutive years of playing all 162 and nine seasons of more than 157 games played. The problem is, that’s just not enough to get into Cooperstown.

Torii Hunter was a really good all-around player. However, he just doesn’t have the stats to get into Cooperstown. A 110 OPS+ isn’t enough, 350 homers and 200 steals is good, but not great. He was a solid defender (36 DRS) and a below average baserunner (-8.5 BsR). As much as I enjoyed watching Torii and playing as him in video games, nothing about him screams Hall of Fame.

Tim Lincecum is the definition of a flash in the pan. He had a four-year span from 2008 to 2011 where he was the best pitcher in baseball, leading the league in strikeouts three times and winning two Cy Youngs. However, that’s not a long enough span of dominance to get in on that alone, and he certainly doesn’t have the counting stats since he only pitched 10 seasons and the last five were not pretty.

Mark Teixeira is a player who quietly racked up stats. Tex finished his career with 409 homers, 1,298 RBI’s, and a 126 OPS+. He was also a really good fielder who was known for scoops that saved some throwing errors for his teammates. He racked up 92 DRS at first base over his career. But is he one of the best to ever do it? It’s tough, but I’m say no.

It pains me to vote no on David Ortiz, but there’s just no way to know if he’s clean or not. Big Papi was also a fantastic personality in the game for his 20 years in The Show. 541 homers and a career 141 OPS+ is impressive, but are these stats legitimate? Who knows. See the full explanation below, with solutions. 

The easy no’s (18)

  • Bobby Abreu
  • Carl Crawford
  • Omar Vizquel
  • Justin Morneau
  • Jake Peavy
  • AJ Pierzynski
  • Jimmy Rollins
  • Jonathan Papelbon
  • Ryan Howard
  • Tim Hudson
  • Curt Schilling
  • Rogers Clemens
  • Barry Bonds
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Manny Ramirez
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Andy Pettitte
  • Gary Sheffield

Bobby Abreu was a great player for a long time, but he doesn’t really have any stats or accolades that stand out. 

Carl Crawford was an electric player early in his career, but injuries really shortened what could’ve been a dominant career.

Omar Vizquel ran like Mays but hit like [expletive]. He was an elite defender and baserunner, but an 82 OPS+ isn’t getting into Cooperstown.

Justin Morneau was a really good player for a long time, but he doesn’t have that wow factor to get into The Hall of Fame. 

Jake Peavy had some strong years early on with the Padres, including a Cy Young award, but he really fell off after going to the White Sox and bouncing around towards the end of his career. 

AJ Pierzynski was a gritty player, but grit doesn’t get votes and his stats won’t either.

Jimmy Rollins was a great baserunner and defender, but he was a below average hitter who ridiculously stole an MVP from David Wright in 2007. Pass.

Jonathan Papelbon doesn’t have a large enough body of work (just 725.2 innings) to get into the Hall of Fame. That’s not enough time to rack up the stats you need.

Ryan Howard had a dominant stretch from 2006 to 2011, but that’s too short to get into the Hall on that alone. It’s impressive that he hit 382 homers in 13 years, but due to injuries, he didn’t rack up the stats or play long enough to get in.

Tim Hudson was a consistent, reliable arm for a long time, and one of the good guys in the game. I remember one time he was pitching against the Mets and Eric Young Jr. accidentally stepped on Hudson’s foot on a play at first base, and EY was so upset that Hudson was trying to calm him down while he was injured. Nice guy and career, but not a Hall of Famer.

Non-existent morals and basic brain functionality aside, Curt Schilling has the stats to get into the Hall of Fame. However, he is a horrible person and he asked not to be put in the Hall of Fame, so that made this one easy.

I’m going to lump all the cheaters (Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, Ramirez, Rodriguez, Pettitte, and Sheffield) together and talk about them as one: If you cheat, you don’t deserve to be immortalized among the greats that have played this game. Period. 

Sure, some of their numbers are eye-popping, but that’s because they’re not natural. Wanna know why Bonds hit 762 career homers? Because he’s the only player ever to hit more than 300 homers from his age 35 season until retirement, and he shattered the second-place mark by 72 homers. Eight of the top 10 players on the homers-after-35 list are connected to performance enhancing substances: Bonds (#1, 317 homers), Hank Aaron (#2, 245 homers), Nelson Cruz (#3, 208 homers), Rafael Palmeiro (#4, 208 homers), Andres Galarraga (#5, 199 homers), Darrell Evans (#6, 198 homers), David Ortiz (#9, 192 homers), and Ted Williams (#10, 184 homers). The only two in the clear are Babe Ruth (#7, 198 homers) and Carlton Fisk (#8, 193 homers).

Of course there’s an argument that he could’ve made The Hall before using PED’s, and to that I’d say this: you’re right. If he didn’t start doping, he still would’ve ended up with over 500 homers and steals. We talked about how Andruw Jones belongs in Cooperstown for his 10-year run of brilliance, Bonds had 14 before he started cheating. All he had to do was not screw up, yet that’s exactly what he did. If there was an option to put pre-steroid, skinny Barry in The Hall, I’d vote for that. 

The other solution I’d support is making a separate wing of The Hall for the cheaters. PEDs are a part of history that should be remembered and discussed, but not honored. Having Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds immortalized in the same way in the same place is insulting to all the people that played the game the right way. If The Hall made a separate section that makes it clear and obvious that these players cheated themselves and the game, I’d vote to put him there. PED users can be joined by trash-can bangers (Jose Altuve or Carlos Correa someday?), sticky-stuff users (Gerrit Cole? Justin Verlander?), or even guys that gambled on the game, like Pete Rose, in that separate section.

Some say that there are already cheaters in the Hall of Fame, which is true, so you might as well admit them all. Not only is that lazy, it makes no sense at all. If you came home to find your house on fire, would you douse everything in gasoline? I’d sincerely hope you wouldn’t, but might as well, right? The solution here is to remove those players or executives (looking at you, Bud Selig), or relegate them to my proposed cheaters section. 

The class of 2022 gets announced on Tuesday, January 25th on MLB Network. It’s expected to be a small class, if anyone gets in this year. You can check out the tweet below to see updates on where the voting currently stands.

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