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Monday, December 29, 2008

My 2008 Hall of Fame Ballot

In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I am disclosing to you the readers my 2008 ballot for the baseball Hall of Fame. The BBWAA does not require this disclosure (in fact I think they discourage it) but screw that, I've got nothing to hide!

Just so we're clear on the rules:

1. There are 23 players on the ballot, each voter is allowed to vote for 10

2. Any player named on 75% of all ballots cast is elected to the HOF

3. Any player failing to reach a minimum of 5% of the vote is off the ballot forever

4. Everyone with more than 5% and less than 75%, better luck next year

5. If after 15 years on the ballot a player fails to reach the 75% threshold he is removed forever.

The Ballot

Rickey Henderson *
Jim Rice
Andre Dawson
Bert Blyleven
Lee Smith
Jack Morris
Tommy John
Tim Raines
Mark McGwire
Alan Trammell
Don Mattingly
Dave Parker
Mark Grace *
Dale Murphy
David Cone *
Harold Baines
Mo Vaughn *
Matt Williams *
Jesse Orosco *
Greg Vaughn *
Ron Gant *
Jay Bell *
Dan Plesac *

* indicates a players first year of eligibility

My votes
1. Rickey Henderson - anyone leaving him off of their ballot has no business voting. The greatest lead off hitter of all time and a member of the all century team is baseball's all time leader in runs and steals, and is second only to Barry Bonds in walks. If you really need more convincing read what Joe Posnanski wrote over at Joe's blog.

2. Bert Blyleven - easily the best pitcher eligible for the HOF but not in, and better than many that are. Guys like Rob Neyer and The Baseball Beat have been all over this for years.

3. Tommy John - His numbers are actually pretty good, and had he not been plagued by injuries he would have easily managed the magic counting stats that have kept him out.

4. Tim Raines - If he had not been relegated to Henderson's shadow he would have been a no brainier last year. I won't regurgitate the arguments, but if you have doubts you should read for yourself.

5. Mark McGwire - I wasn't a big fan of his while he was playing, I always thought he got too much credit because he was so one dimensional, and I never thought he was in the same league as his fellow Bash Brother, Sosa or Jr. and that's because he wasn't. But anyone not willing to vote for him because he embarrassed himself in front of Congress, or because he "cheated" needs to take both hands and get a hold of themselves. Lot's of "cheaters" are in the HOF, the BBWAA is not the moral police, so stop acting like it.

6. Alan Trammell - I go back and fourth on this one, but let's let the debate continue.

7. David Cone - Honestly, right now I'm not convinced that he belongs. However, he was a phenomenal pitcher who retired earlier than he could have and a class act who deserves the respect of not going vote-less, but also, I think maybe the right stat package hasn't been put together and new math may show him more hall worthy down the road.

8. Mo Vaughn - (see Williams)

9. Matt Williams - Neither of these guys have any kind of shot at induction, and really, they don't deserve it. I expect that they will both fail to hit 5% and fall off of the ballot, but they were two of my favorite players and I enjoyed watching them and want to be sure they at least get a couple votes.

10. My tenth spot will go unused, I'm only voting for nine guys.

Yes that's right, I am not voting for Jack Morris, and I am not voting for Jim Rice. Why? because they just weren't good enough. Get over it.

The two biggest points for Morris are that he won more games than anyone in the 80's and he was a big game pitcher. Winning the most games in a decade is trivial, arbitrary and down right meaningless. He had a post season ERA of 3.81, including a hefty 4.87 in LCS, not to mention the 6.57 and 8.44 he had in two rounds with Toronto. Everyone chooses to forget about those series and instead remember the one game he was brilliant. If he gives up a run, or comes out after 9, or even if his line remained the same except it took the Twins another inning or two to score and the bullpen got the win, he's not in this discussion. One game is not enough.

As for Rice, oh boy. We are supposed to ignore the fact that he was one of, if not the, worst fielder in the league. We are supposed to ignore the fact that he is one of the most horrific base runners the game has ever seen. His poor eyesight cut his career short and sped up his decline, so we have to overlook his counting stats not measuring up. We are supposed to believe that he was the most prolific hitter of double play balls, relative to his number of at-bats because of his greatness, because the runners were afraid to steal and cost him an rbi (I've never understood that point). We are also supposed to overlook the fact that he almost never walked and was a bellow average hitter on the road because "those aren't standards that were used at the time". Oh, and only look at his good years, he played 16 seasons (including his 1974 cup of coffee) and was downright awful in 5 of them, so forget those 5 stinkers.

Here's the thing, even if you do all that, he's still not good enough. If you look at stats like ops, which is just about the best of the widely accepted measures of a hitter, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans and Yaz were all about even with him. What does that mean? It means that without even bringing defense into the equation (and they were all defensive phenoms) Rice was about the fourth best hitting outfielder on his team. Not in baseball, not in the AL or even the AL East, there were three better outfielders, on his team.

Yes OPS was not a common stat when Rice played, and yes that does matter, just not how you might think. What it stands to prove is that Lynn and Evans were a lot better than people think, much better than Rice. If the pitchers were so afraid of Jim Rice, they shouldn't have been, it was the other guys in that lineup they should have been worried about.

That's my ballot. I think Henderson sails and Rice eeks it out and we start all over again next year. That's all on baseball for now


Jeff Hodder said...

Someone posted a link to my ballot on an ESPN message board, I don't want to get bogged down in that circus, but there has been some discussion about me selecting Tommy John and I wanted to address this further.

Yes he is a boarder line choice. Comparing him to Tiant or Koufax is beyond misguided, it's just plain silly. Very silly. My point about his history with injuries was meant to be that if he had won just one more game every other year, or not missed quite so much time to his famous injury, he would have been a first ballot lock. I think wins are an arbitrary stat and 300 is arbitrary standard, but I also think it's ridiculous that 12 wins over 26 years, especially for a guy who battled injuries, to go from slam dunk to not good enough.

Questioning how a career may have been different if not for missed time isn't new either. Fans have long discussed what kind of numbers Mathewson, DiMaggio, Williams, Mays and others would have put up had they not lost time to the military. Even more recently what Griffey, Bonds, Prior, Wood or the Cubs would have been able to do without injuries.

I know John isn't going to make it in, but I think the discussion is important. Dwight Evans and Ron Santo ought to be in and who knows how many others, by debating this and finding new stats and keeping guys on the ballot we are afforded the opportunity to take the red pill and repair mistakes of the past, and that is why I used my microphone to speak for John, Cone, Raines, Trammell and others. The debate is important, and who knows what we may learn.

Thanks to whoever shared that link, and to all who have contributed to the discussion. Keep it up


Eugene Freedman said...


Very good ballot with a lot of thoughtful analysis, something lacking with many of your colleagues. I appreciate your explanations on players who don't belong in the HOF, but don't deserve to be dismissed so quickly.

Beyond Dwight Evans, I hope, if you had a ballot then, you voted for Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. Both deserve induction rather than one-and-done as they got.

All that said, I think you should look more closely at Trammell. He absolutely belongs. His case is similar to Raines. His performance wasn't properly evaluated during his career for as great as he was. He deserved two MVPs- 1984 and 1987, much like Raines, who also deserved two. He was a very good defender, yet played in the era of Ozzie Smith- similar to Raines leading off during Rickey's era. Further, both he and Raines suffered from being part time players at the end, hurting the perception of them.

Trammell is probably in the top 8 shortstops of all-time, definitely in the top 10.