Sunday, January 4, 2015

The 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

It's that time of year again. It's time for the Baseball Hall of Fame to announce its Hall of Fame election results. These have been more fun for me recently, since I've started to be old enough to have really experienced the players involved. I feel like I can make a more informative opinion on who should, or shouldn't be, elected. I bet you're just dying to know who I would vote for if I had a ballot, aren't you?

Too bad. I'm going to do it anyway. Well, at least I'm going to tell you which former Red Sox players I would vote for. That makes this a much shorter, more manageable post, after all. Shall we get on with it?

First of all, what's a Hall of Famer? I've said it before, but once again, here's how I answer that question. The Hall of fame requires a ten year career. This is how they eliminate flashes in the pan. It makes sense to have some sort of minimum, and ten years seems about right. So, I figure, if you only play ten years, they better all be "All-Star" years. I don't mean actually being an all-star, since those team elections are jokes. But, I mean years where people would consider you all-star caliber. As luck would have it, baseball-reference actually puts a number to it. They call a WAR above 5 an all-star season. While I would never use a stat like that as an absolute, it's a handy way to think about things. So, above and beyond having ten all-star seasons, if you want me to call you a Hall of Famer, five of those years better be elite years. I'm not looking for long-time mediocrity. I want superstars. (This requirement, BTW is where players like Tim Raines and Craig Biggio fall off my ballot. Lots of all-star years, but not enough elite seasons) Baseball-reference to the rescue once again. They call a WAR of 8 to be an MVP season. Again, that's a great guideline to keep in mind. Now, if you played more than ten years, I don't give you much credit for it. You just can make a fool of yourself out there. (Again, sorry Biggio...I don't care if you hung on long enough to reach those 3000 hits everyone gets so excited about. I mean, you never even won a batting title.)

So, know that, what would my Red Sox ballot look like? Glad you asked.

Tony Clark. An easy one off that bat. I like Tony Clark a lot. Not that I know him personally. Never actually met him. (Met his wife once, but that's a different story.) He seemed like a nice enough guy. But, his career doesn't even warrant further discussion. Fine player, not a Hall of Famer.

Roger Clemens. Interestingly, for a guy with seven Cy Youngs, he only had six seasons with 8+ WAR. Not that his resume is really the question here. It's all those PEDs he kept using in order to establish the resume. My hunch is that if you can keep Joe Jackson out of the hall for something he wasn't found guilty of, you can do the same for Clemens. Is it fair? No. Is it fair that Jackson is banned but Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were two of the first six Hall of Famers? No. Sorry.

Cliff Floyd. A long major league career is something to be proud of. Playing in the league for 17 years is quite an accomplishment. There's no shame in having a career that long that isn't good enough for the Hall of Fame. Hope Floyd feels the same way.

Nomar Garciaparra. At first, I thought this one was going to be tougher. After all, he was a monster when he was healthy in Boston. Plus, he made that all-star team in LA. I thought, maybe, He'd squeak in. It pains me to no end that he didn't. He just didn't have the years. I could make a case that his had the five years I need. He never had a WAR over 8, but he was pretty steadily a valuable player. He had six seasons over 6, including two over 7, in Boston. I could almost stretch it. But, that was all he had. He had nothing after Boston. Even the actual all-star year was under 3. Damn.

Tom Gordon. As much as I like the fact that he wore #36 for a lot of his career, and all he did for the Sox in 2004...I can't do it. The numbers just aren't there.

Pedro Martinez. Remember when I said I wouldn't use the 8+ WAR as an absolute? This here is why. Pedro Martinez is the type of pitcher you create a Hall of Fame for. But, he only had four seasons of 8+ WAR. One of the years he didn't was 2001. That year he had a 5 WAR in half a season. That's also the season that he made the all-star team as a special inclusion. While the manager/coaches of the team realized that his season didn't warrant it, they couldn't imagine an all-star team without Pedro Martinez on it. So, they added a roster spot just for him. That's really all you need to know about his career. They changed the rules of the all-star game just for him. He gets a vote as fast as possible.

Curt Schilling. I have to admit, he was closer than I thought he would be. Looking at the numbers strictly, I see two seasons with a WAR over 8, with another at 7.9. Then, I see five other seasons over a 5.0, with a 4.9 and 4.8. So, he's a bit short on the peak years, and stretching it on the overall excellence. But, as I mentioned with Pedro, these aren't "chiseled in stone" type requirements. So, can I give him anything to help push him over the edge? Four times he finished fourth or better in Cy Young voting, but never won one. He was pitcher of the month four times. Never in the top nine for MVP. Led the league in wins twice, and WHIP twice. I also notice that he was a much better pitcher playing second fiddle as a #2 man in the rotation. No idea what that means, but it's something. Like I said, it was closer than I though, but I can't see a way I would vote for him.

Lee Smith. I can't imagine voting for a modern closer. I certainly can't imagine doing it for an old-time one. A top WAR of 4.8 for his career? Pass.

John Smoltz. Much like Nomar, I thought this might be a close one. Once I looked at the numbers, though, I don't get it. His highest WAR was 7.3, and only two other times was he over 5. People keep talking like he's a shoe in. But those numbers certainly don't scream at me. Even "classic" stats don't seem to help. He won twenty games once. Saved 40 games three times. I look at Pedro's career stats, and am just in awe of all the bold numbers. I look at Smoltz, and I feel "eh." I'm not saying that any team wouldn't be thrilled to have him. But, I don't elect "eh" to the Hall of Fame.

So, there you go. Looks like I would only vote for one former Red Sox player. I guess that makes sense.

It's supposed to be hard to get in the Hall of Fame.

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