As a baseball fan at Christmas time, a perfect gift would be for players who created dynamic statistics in their era, cheating or not, being rewarded and honored for their achievements in a baseball museum, not critiqued for their personal shortcomings or judged for their character – baseball, after all, is a game of numbers. Players have cheated, been racists, drunks, and womanizers for nearly 140 years of the game’s professional existence, so why should character clauses and the personal vendettas of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America be the end-all-be-all vote in a museum created for baseball fans.
For these reasons, I felt that it was time to look at the 2014 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class and make my votes public. Statistics speak for themselves and this is who is eligible this season:
|Batting Stats||Pitching Stats|
|Paul Lo Duca||1st||21||17.9||18.7||1082||3892||483||1112||80||481||20||266||.286||.337||.409||.746||97|
You can click on the links above for more specific statistics, but I’m a big fan of WAR7, which measures how dominant a player was in their seven most valuable seasons, which isn’t an entire career, but it is a great measuring tool when comparing players of the same era, that is, if you prefer to use statistics over your eyes and your own ideas of what makes a player great. Jack Morris, for example, is in his final season of Hall of Fame eligibility and I don’t view him as a Hall of Famer, postseason success and grit be damned, but despite a 32.8 WAR7, he earned 67.7 percent of the BBWAA vote in 2013. With legitimate Hall of Fame pitchers on the ballot this season, you would assume that vote percentage would drop significantly, right?
You can’t really assume anything when it comes to the BBWAA, but with all of the numbers provided above, these are the ten players who earned my vote (and, yes, I would fill the ballot and then some this season):
1. Greg Maddux: The best pitcher that I have seen in my 33 years on earth, Maddux could do whatever he wanted with the ball, using pressure points and amazing break to paint the corners and dominate opposing hitters. He didn’t overpower many, he was just smarter, which earned him the nickname “The Professor”, four straight Cy Young awards, and my vote.
2. Barry Bonds: Use the cream and clear to paint him as a monster who ruined the game all you want – I know what I saw out of Bonds and he was the best player of his generation, which included several other players who used steroids and even prior to his bulking up. Bonds would have been a Hall of Famer had he continued his production from his skinnier days in Pittsburgh for five more seasons in San Francisco, and the fact that he changed the game with his on-base skills and power mean more to me than how he treated reporters and how he manipulated his body when the collective bargaining agreement, at that time, didn’t call for the correct form of testing. Players sought advantages in every era and Bonds wouldn’t be the first cheater in Cooperstown.
3. Roger Clemens: Speaking of cheaters, Clemens was absolutely one of those and he was also one of the greatest pitchers of all time, using a dynamic fastball to overpower the opposition on his way to seven Cy Young awards and 354 wins.
4. Tom Glavine: Just like Maddux, Glavine used the corners to dominate over his career, winning 305 games and two Cy Young awards in his 22 year career. At just 6′ tall, he gives all of those “too short to start” labeled prospects a legitimate counter-argument, as the crafty left-hander creatively defeated so many in his strong career.
5. Craig Biggio: After earning 68.2 percent of the vote in his first season of eligibility in 2013, Biggio would appear to be a lock to earn enshrinement this season; however, with so many solid first-timers, that number could fall. It shouldn’t. Biggio still has the same accolades in his 3,000-plus hits, 400-plus stolen bases, all of those runs scored, and seven All-Star games. He was an All-Star catcher and second baseman before moving to center late in his career. And he was a nightmare for opposing pitchers, along with…
6. Jeff Bagwell: Bagwell hasn’t been linked to any reports to the public’s knowledge, but for whatever reason, he enters his fourth year of Hall of Fame eligibility and has received a maximum 59.6 percent vote, which happened last year. His 1994 MVP season is one of the greatest seasons in baseball history, as he posted a 1.201 OPS and 213 OPS+ while hitting 39 home runs and driving in 116 runs in just 110 games. Shoulder woes cost him a chance to extend his career to reach 500 home runs, but Bagwell’s 11 year run from 1993 to 2003 was eye-popping.
7. Frank Thomas: “The Big Hurt” deserves the label of “best DH in MLB history”, which will and should cost Edgar Martinez a lot of votes. While Thomas did start 971 games (out of 2,322) at first base, he did most of his damage as the bat, posting a career .974 OPS to go along with 521 home runs. Thomas could have probably hit 400 home runs batting left-handed due to his strong 6’5″, 240 pound football-esque frame, and his upright stance and power formed a different breed of a power hitter, as evidenced by his low strikeout totals and high walk totals throughout his career.
8. Mike Piazza: Piazza may have been a horrendous defensive catcher, but the man could hit, and he changed the position with his power and many games with his incredible production. Piazza was a 12-time All-Star and he holds many offensive records for catchers. His offensive longevity at such a challenging defensive position is Hall worthy, and he, like Bagwell, appears to be lumped in with the steroid era, but is worthy of the vote in his second year of eligibility.
9. Tim Raines: Raines appears to be overlooked for what he accomplished due to being similar in abilities and skill-set to Rickey Henderson without actually being Henderson. This is Raines’ seventh season of eligibility and last season was his most vote-heavy, as he earned 52.2 percent of the vote. His 808 stolen bases rank fifth all-time and he made seven consecutive All-Star appearances from 1981 through 1987. He may get overlooked once again due to the powerful bats and magnificent pitchers, but Raines was a dynamic player who, clearly, did enough for enshrinement.
10. Alan Trammell: I wrote a whole article last winter about why Trammell deserves enshrinement (read here), but the fact that there are so many less worthy shortstops already in the Hall of Fame is a good enough reason for Trammell to earn his Cooperstown plaque in his 13th year of eligibility. It’s a shame that he has been overlooked for this long, and an even bigger shame that his voting trended in the wrong direction last season, falling from a high of 36.8 percent in 2012 to 33.6 percent in 2013. He didn’t win an MVP like Barry Larkin, but he and Cal Ripken, Jr. were the reasons why offensive-minded shortstops like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra were able to stay at short for so long…and now that the position is heading back to defensive skills as the focal point, it just goes to show the value of Trammell at his peak.
I’d love to see who you think is worthy for the vote. I created a survey for fans to cast their Hall of Fame ballot and after the BBWAA messes everything up again, I will post the fan results here.