My Hall of Fame Ballot for 2014
Barry Bonds, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas
I’ve always voted for the best players from their particular era and this year for me was no different. Using all 10 slots for the second time in a row, I voted for the all-time home run leader, a trio of pitchers who totaled 1,014 wins, the multi-faceted member of the Astros with 3,060 hits, the catcher and second baseman with the most homers ever at their positions, the pitcher with the most wins in the American League during the 1980s, and two first basemen whose OPS is among the best of anyone to ever play that position.
To do so, I had to revamp my ballot after last year’s astounding “no vote” from my colleagues in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Gone from last year are Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell. Guys I used to vote for like Tim Raines, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez may not be coming back on my ballot anytime soon, either. I had to also ignore quality pitchers like Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina, who had major impacts on the game.
Many good players, I fear, will now be neglected as more and more greats of the just past era will have exhausted their 5-year waiting period to join the holdovers on the ballot. John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Trevor Hoffman, Ken Griffey Jr., and Mariano Rivera are among others who by 2018 will eventually join the group. They all should be elected on the first ballot.
I had always voted for McGwire and Palmeiro, adding Sosa last year despite the shadow of PEDs hanging over their careers. But I decided this year there was no room on the ballot to waste my vote. All three came in at well under 20 percent last year and ultimately are in danger of falling off the ballot for not maintaining the requisite 5 percent to remain on it for a maximum of 15 years. Palmeiro at 8.8 percent is right there. The BBWAA is never voting any of them into the Hall, so why keep pushing against the wind?
Meanwhile, Biggio (68.2 percent), Morris (67.7) and Bagwell (59.6) obviously needed some help. They are all Hall worthy. Morris, sadly, may not be able to make up the 42 votes necessary in this, his 15th and final year, on the BBWAA ballot. Biggio and Bagwell, teammates in Houston, still have plenty time.
A player only has to garner at least 5 percent of the vote each year to remain on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years. This is going to create a logjam in the coming years as each voting member of the BBWAA individually determines who meets the Hall of Fame criteria.
But this year, Maddux, Glavine and Morris should all get in. Though wins are currently the bane of many analysts, you can’t discount the 355 Maddux totaled in his career. To me, he’s the only sure thing on this ballot. Glavine had 305, 244 of them for the Braves, who won 13 consecutive division titles with him anchoring the starting rotation. If that’s not the definition of Hall of Famer I don’t know what is, although some are arguing against his inclusion. Morris won 254 games and started for three World Series-winning teams: the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays.
Paraphrasing Braves manager Bobby Cox, who is going in to the Hall via a Post-Expansion Committee vote along with Joe Torre and Tony La Russa next July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y., any time any of those three took the mound their teams had a chance to win.
I know the entire definition of Hall of Fame starter is going to have to change. Because no one will accumulate close to 250 wins in this day and age, we’ll have to use other metrics. That must be determined in the future, but the current crop should be cast in the era they played the game when pitch counts were less material, starters worked deeper into games, and the staff leader pitched Games 1, 4 and 7 of the World Series like Morris did in 1991. That series ended when Morris outdueled Smoltz and pitched a 10-inning, 1-0 complete-game victory to give Minnesota the title over the Braves.
Morris is certain that will never happen again. I agree.
When voting for the Hall of Fame, I always ask myself if that player was a standout on the field during the years I saw him play. I then look at statistical comparisons to other Hall of Famers, who played the same position. Kent, for example, was a better offensive second baseman in almost every category than Ryne Sandberg, one of the players recently elected at that position, in 2005. Kent is way ahead in homers and RBIs and owns a slight edge in lifetime batting average. Lou Gehrig far and away owns the best OPS of any first baseman in history. He’s third overall, while Thomas and Bagwell finished 14th and 21st respectively. McGwire was 10th. Too bad he shoulders so much baggage. Bonds is fourth, behind Gehrig, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.
I know my decisions and rational are going to spark some conjecture among readers. They always do. For that’s the nature of the Hall of Fame voting every year. So let’s have at it my friends. I welcome the discourse and intelligent discussion.