Here’s the good news. I was invited to join the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA.com) with a free lifetime membership and now I get to vote in their Hall of Fame vote.
The bad news is they only have 10 spots on their ballot and I have 21 guys I want to nominate.
So first of all, thanks to the IBWAA for the invite. I highlighted them as an alternative option to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame (or the physical hall, or BBWAA Hall of Fame, I’d like not to call it the real Hall of Fame) in a piece I wrote for my previous job.
In that same piece I advocated a tiered hall of fame that also included the “further consideration vote.” The jist is that first ballot hall of famers can get one of three golden tier nominations (only first year candidates), other hall of famers get one of up to 10 silver tier nominations and any who are boarderline or come with questions can be one of your remaining slots up to 15 total nominations. (so 2 golden, 8 silver leaves 5 bronze or further consideration slots).
I wish I could vote like that, because this ballot is stacked. If we can vote in five players this year, we’ll about break even when the next class comes in, otherwise the water level rises as we drown in legitimate candidates.
As it were, a vote among the membership to raise the limit to 15 votes did not pass, so I need to hack down my list.
Here’s the 21 finalists; Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Barry Larkin.
Larkin is listed last as he’s a name that is not in the IBWAA hall, but is in the Cooperstown hall. IBWAA instead has Mike Piazza inducted, while the physical hall does not.
For further reference, here is the IBWAA’s vote from last year http://ibwaa.com/ibwaa-selects-piazza-in-2013-hall-of-fame-vote/
After much deliberation I picked my 10, but first here’s my ballot if we ran a tiered system.
Golden tier: Maddux, Thomas, Glavine
Silver tier: Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Martinez, McGwire, Morris, Mussina, Schilling, Biggio, Walker.
Bronze (Further Consideration) tier: Kent, Palmiero, Sosa.
The full 15 still missed out on good names…
Who’s not on my IBWAA ballot
I’ve decided to try to game the system. Maddux is a surefire election, so I left him off. Biggio was the highest returning vote getter, so I left him off. Thomas was the next surest first-year guy, so I left him off. I figure the “no steroids” guys will all vote for those guys (maybe not all on Thomas), and then enough of the rest will still have them all on to push those three into the hall.
It should be noted that I expect the Biggio numbers slide backwards this year in both halls’ final tallies. Not because he isn’t a hall of famer, but because there are better hall of famers ahead of him.
It does feel wrong to turn in a ballot that does not include the names of sure-fire hall of famers, guys I’d definitely vote for. But it also feels wrong to only have 10 votes and also know that candidates can fall off the ballot if they don’t get five percent of the vote.
Larkin was also left off, though that’s half because I think he’ll get enough support on the IBWAA ballot, but also because I simply didn’t think he stacked up well enough with the others.
Sosa and Palmeiro are both hall of fame worthy, but since they were both hit with performance related suspensions, I moved them to the bottom of the list. Thy rest of the 15 I’ll lay out below with my picks followed by the other that just missed the cut. Note these 15 are the not the same 15 as would have voted for in a tiered list.
My IBWAA ballot
- Jeff Bagwell- The bagboy as I used to call him, and I’m sure no one else ever called him. But he played his bag well (I finished typing that out before getting the pun). He could really hit and did a lot of the things power hitting first basemen didn’t do, like run the bases. And the batting stance alone is memorable enough to be enshrined. “Bagwell is sitting at home plate, awaiting the pitch.”
- Barry Bonds- I mean, duh. There’s a hundred million pieces debating this. My favorite has only tangental connection to Bonds, as it doesn’t mention his stats or single him out. But it was done as he hit one of the big milestones. The study by Baseball Prospectus showed that during the steroid era there was not a noticeable increase in home runs in players who hit for power or didn’t hit with any power, but rather in middling guys who went from hitting 10 regularly to hitting 20. How did Bonds become a great home run hitter late in his career? By abandoning his speed and defense to focus primarily on hitting. And the results were impressive.
- Roger Clemens- It is not unheard of that players have great years after seemingly being washed up. It has happened before and it will happen again. Additionally, Clemens’ best season ERA wise, came after there was serious testing for banned performance substances. All-time great pitcher, which is hard to say when the guy throw a shard of bat one of your favorite players.
- Tom Glavine- Seems a shoe-in to me, but man am I seeing trepidation about his candidacy on the interwebs. 300 wins is supposed to get you in, but both ends of the wins argument seem to be getting traction. Jack Morris isn’t in because he didn’t win enough. Glavine may be held out of first ballot status because his wins weren’t valuable enough. Whereas my other votes for surefire candidates were shuffled aside for lower totem pole guys, I kept Glavine in because I feel he might need the vote when all is said and done.
- Edgar Martinez- the annual “best DH in the MLB award” is named after him. I’m not sure he needs more credentials.
- Mark McGwire- best homerun hitter ever to play the game, tied with maybe Ruth (and that’s with me fudging some numbers in Ruth’s favor). I don’t get the steroid argument, I do get the argument that the rest of his stats are not hall worthy. So I can respect keeping him off the ballot because of his stats. But he and Sosa (and Cal Ripken Jr) saved baseball. So there’s that too.
- Jack Morris- I wouldn’t have voted for Jack Morris in the past. His numbers just aren’t that good. But he’s in his last year and the anecdotal evidence really got to me. It’s the Hall of Fame, not the hall of stats. Our greatest memories of the game are about people doing things, not people making stats. Plus after this year I’ll never be able to vote for him again.
- Mike Mussina- If you put Morris in, you put Mussina in. He’s the same pitcher but better. He doesn’t have anecdotal chutzpah to match Morris but the stats are better.
- Curt Schilling- And Schilling is better than both of them. His stats compare favorably with Mussina, with better peak years, and his anecdotals blow Morris out of the water.
- Larry Walker- He’s a hitter on par with many names in the hall. Silly stuff like “Coors Field effect” and “maybe, possibly steroids” keep him out. But I keep seeing him in a Cardinals hat, still swinging the lumber as well as he did in the purple hat.
Missing the cut
Jeff Kent- I fear he might be a one-and-done candidate like Kevin Brown. Maybe not a hall of fame player, but close enough to warrant an extended look. I wanted to vote for him in order to just keep him on the ballot.
Don Mattingly- Donnie Baseball doesn’t hold the same anecdotal leverage with me (being a Mets fan) that he does with others. But he didn’t do anything wrong, except play on the Yankees when they played like the Mets. In leaner years I’d throw a vote his way.
Tim Raines- Raines was before my time. I’m acquainted with him through his MLB Showdown Super Season card. I look at the numbers and I like them. But I have no visual, no frame of reference for him. One day when I don’t have to figure which of the 21 players I think belong in the hall of fame are going on my ballot, I’ll take time to find footage of Raines play and get some anecdotal evidence for myself.
Alan Trammell- Kinda the same boat as Raines. Actually almost exactly the same boat. I feel like they’re supposed to be hall of famers but I can’t quite figure out why. It’s like some fuzzy, half-remembered dream.
Lee Smith- Ugh. I felt he should have been in when he was all-time saves leader, but does he deserve to be in now that he’s not? Do you stop being hall of fame worthy? Or since his worthiness was based on one single stat, was he never worthy in the first place?
That’s not even mentioning Luis Gonzalez and Moises Alou, who both probably aren’t hall of famers, but deserve to be vetted as if they were. Ex-Mets Kenny Rogers and Armando Benitez were too infamous to Mets fans to even be worth consideration, while fond memories of Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Estes gave way to the fact that neither of them was exceptionally good.
Man that whole process was a mess, and it doesn’t get easier.
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz join the list of folks in need of my votes, while Gary Sheffield, Brian Giles, Carlos Delgado and Nomar Garciaparra all need space on the further consideration list. (Fun Fact: Nomar once saved a man from drowning.)