In recent years, the Hall of Fame ballot has begun to look crowded. This is for no short of reasons, as many voters refuse to vote for steroids users, others simply do not vote, and of course, many deserving players have retired recently. If I had a vote, this is what my ballot would look like:
1. Ken Griffey Jr.: Ken Griffey Jr. was one of the greatest players of all-time, and will become the first #1 draft pick ever to enter the Hall of Fame. Griffey, in his first year on the ballot, is just about the only sure thing this year, and it will be interesting to see how high his percentage climbs and if he can break Tom Seaver‘s record of 98.84. While Griffey never reached the World Series, and only reached the ALCS once, in 1995, he finished his career with 630 home runs, good for sixth all-time, 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, and 1836 RBI’s, which rank 15th all-time. If not for injuries, Griffey could have become the home run king, and as one of the few sluggers playing without steroids in the 1990’s I’m sure many fans would have preferred if that had happened.
2. Barry Bonds: Barry Bonds is a controversial pick, but as those of you who follow my writing know, I am a believer that players shouldn’t be held out of the Hall of Fame for steroids. Bonds stats speak for themselves with 762 home runs and 2558 walks, 688 of which were intentional, all good for first all-time. Add in 1996 RBI’s, and 514 stolen bases, along with 9 consecutive Gold Gloves and 7 MVP’s, and we might be talking about the greatest baseball player ever, statistically speaking. While I would not vote for players that I feel were only successful due to steroids, Bonds is not one of those players. It is widely assumed Bonds began taking steroids after the 1998 season, due to jealousy of inferior players receiving all the attention. If we assume he retired after 1998, at the age of 33, he would have finished with 3 MVP’s, 8 Gold Gloves, 411 home runs, 1216 RBI’s, and 445 stolen bases. These numbers are borderline Hall of Fame as it is, but now imagine Bonds played nine more years steroids-free. While he probably wouldn’t have reached 762 home runs, or 688 intentional walks, it is far more likely he would’ve reached 3000 hits would the extra at-bats. Bonds still would’ve finished above 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases, and would be in Cooperstown already. The pick for Bonds is controversial, but in my opinion it is the right one.
3. Roger Clemens: Roger Clemens is very much like Bonds in that he was a Hall of Fame talent before he was ever accused of taking steroids. Clemens, the first former Yankee on my ballot, finished his career with 4672 strikeouts, good for third all-time, 354 wins, and a 3.12 ERA. He also won one MVP and 7 Cy Young awards. Clemens, like Bonds, had the stats before he ever used steroids, and thus was deserving of a spot on my hypothetical ballot. Many suspect that Clemens began using steroids after 1996, and if that is the case, he would have already won his MVP, and 3 of his Cy Young awards if he retired after 1996. Like Bonds, Clemens would have been 33 then, and would have already picked up 2590 strikeouts, 192 wins, and a 3.06 ERA. Clemens continued to pitch for 11 more seasons, and while he may not have reached the same numbers he did, such as winning four more Cy Young awards, and adding 2082 strikeouts to his résumé, he would have definitely reached 3000 strikeouts, and 300 wins had he continued to pitch clean. Clemens, like Bonds, belongs in Cooperstown.
4. Mike Piazza: Mike Piazza is one of the greatest-hitting catchers of all-time. Unfortunately for Piazza, he played in the steroids era, otherwise he would already be enshrined in Cooperstown. While this will mark Piazza’s fourth year on the ballot, it is likely that 2016 will finally be the year he gets in, as he picked up 69.9% of the vote in 2015. Piazza holds the record for most home runs for a catcher with 396 (427 total). Piazza never won a Gold Glove, MVP, or World Series title, but his offensive abilities at the catcher position were worthy of Hall of Fame induction, as evident by his 10 consecutive Silver Sluggers.
5. Jeff Bagwell: Jeff Bagwell was another player that was hurt by playing in the steroids era. Bagwell finished his career with 449 home runs, 1529 RBI’s, an MVP, and a Gold Glove award. His career OPS of .948 is good for 21st all-time. Of the 20 above Bagwell, Larry Walker is the only eligible player not linked to steroids who has yet to be elected for the Hall of Fame. Bagwell, in his sixth year on the ballot, received 55.7% percent of the vote in 2015, and like Piazza, could be gearing up for an election in 2015.
6. Mike Mussina: Mike Mussina was the definition of consistent throughout his career. Mussina didn’t reach 300 wins or 3000 strikeouts, finishing with 270 and 2813. He ended his career after 2008, picking up 20 wins for the first time. Joining the Yankees in 2001 and retiring after 2008, Mussina never won a World Series. He never won a Cy Young award either, though he did win 7 Gold Gloves. Although it sounds like Mussina’s career is defined by what he failed to accomplish, looking at his numbers, though they lack the big number appeal, he is worthy of a spot in Cooperstown. Pitching in the steroids era, Mussina accomplished what he did facing hitters given an advantage, and his stats are hurt by pitching in the highest offensive era in baseball history. His 2813 strikeouts rank 19th all-time, and only two players above him, not linked to steroids, have failed to be inducted. Mussina is often penalized for lacking the flashy numbers, and after getting only 24.6% of the vote in 2015, he could be a long way away from induction.
7. Curt Schilling: Curt Schilling, who became one of my least favorite athletes of all-time, is another interesting case. Like many of the players above him, it seems Schilling is being affected by the overcrowded ballot, and possibly playing in the steroids era. Schilling is the only pitcher, besides Clemens, with 3000 strikeouts that isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Schilling only won 216 games, and never won a Cy Young, though he did win 3 titles, and build a very impressive postseason résumé. Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 postseason ERA and 120 strikeouts. Though Schilling has only been able to get 39.2% of the vote, he is certainly deserving of induction.
8. Trevor Hoffman: Trevor Hoffman could arguably be the second best reliever of all-time, and his 601 saves back that claim up. While many will argue that relief pitchers are interchangeable, and that a good pitcher wouldn’t be a reliever, that shouldn’t be the reason to stop Hoffman from induction. When Mariano Rivera hits the ballot, it will not be about his failed career at a starter, but rather his longevity and consistency at the end of games. Hoffman twice finished second in Cy Young voting, and in the top ten four times. He finished in the top ten of MVP voting twice as well. While Hoffman probably won’t be inducted in his first year on the ballot, he should eventually get in.
9. Jeff Kent: Jeff Kent, like Piazza, is one of the greatest hitters at his position, leading all second base in home runs, finishing his career with 377 home runs. Kent won the NL MVP in 2000 and finished with 560 doubles and 1518 RBI’s. While Kent’s numbers don’t compare favorably to others on the ballot, he was never linked to steroids, and accomplished his numbers playing second base, rather than the outfield or first base, which are traditionally higher offensive positions. Kent was one of the greatest hitters among second baseman, and should not be penalized for playing in the steroids era. While Kent’s road to induction will not be easy, I believe that he should one day end up in Cooperstown.
10. Tim Raines: The last pick was the hardest, as I feel there were several candidates remaining worthy of Hall of Fame induction. Ultimately, I went with Tim Raines, as he is closest to falling off the ballot, and closest to induction. While Raines finished short of 3000 hits, with 2605, he stole a whopping 808 bases, good for fifth all-time. The four guys above him are all in the Hall of Fame. I am a believer that Raines is penalized for playing at the same time as Rickey Henderson, the greatest base stealer of all-time. Raines received 55.0% percent in 2015, and with no sure candidates outside of Griffey, he could see that number climb in his ninth year on the ballot. It will be interesting to see if he can climb 20% in his final two seasons on the ballot.
Just Missed the Cut: Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Alan Trammell, Lee Smith are all players I would have voted for if there were 15 votes. Unfortunately, the ballot is too crowded currently and some of these players, no matter how worthy I believe they are, don’t have a realistic shot at Cooperstown.
What do you think Yankees fans? Which ten players would you vote for if you had a Hall of Fame vote?
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