Ok, I obviously don't have an official Hall of Fame ballot. The BBWAA isn't the easiest organization for an internet baseball writer to penetrate and, quite rightly, they don't allow every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a blog into their club. But nobody said I couldn't produce my own hypothetical ballot anyways, and with January bereft of actual baseball news, it seems like the timely thing to discuss.
For the sake of congruity, I've followed the same rules BBWAA members use, meaning I limited myself to picking ten of the thirty-seven candidates on their ballot. Feel free to share your list and rationale in the comments. Here's mine:
Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo*, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Don Mattingly, Jose Mesa*, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele*, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, Bernie Williams, and Woody Williams.
*- Quite a bit of Mariner torment in this list.
Fred McGriff: In another generation, his raw totals would be eye-popping. In the 1990's and 2000's though, 493 homers and a .284/.377/.509 line is only good for a 134 wRC+. On this ballot, that's not quite good enough.
Mark McGwire: McGwire is a victim of the ten vote maximum. It was between McGwire and Kenny Lofton for my last spot, and given that McGwire is less likely to fall off the ballot, I went with Lofton.
Jack Morris: A fine pitcher and a durable workhorse who falls well short of hall consideration by most metrics. Morris's case essentially relies on a couple of points that sound good initially, but upon close reflection, lack substance. Yes, Morris did win more games in the 1980's than anyone else. But that's an arbitrary ten year period -there's no momentum to induct Ron Guidry, who won the most games from 1978-1987- and it's an achievement you'd expect from a pitcher who threw a lot of innings for great teams. Similar arguments (pitched to the score, threw a lot of complete games, etc.) have also been debunked: there is no statistical evidence that Morris pitched to the score (the suggestion that such a strategy would be beneficial is more absurd than Morris's HOF case), and his complete game totals are again a product of era and durability. 175 CG's is certainly a large number, but he only led the league in the category once.
The fact is, Morris was a very good pitcher, but also one much worse than the vast majority of hurlers in Cooperstown. His 3.90 ERA - compiled in a pitchers era, no less - would be the highest mark of any HOF pitcher and his 105 ERA+ is in Jamie Moyer territory. He was a good player for a long time but there's nothing controversial about his case for me.
Dale Murphy: Great peak (including two MVP's) but this ballot is too stacked for a guy with 47 career WAR.
Rafael Palmeiro: Never among the greats at his position and never deserved any MVP attention. I'm not a big anti-steroid guy, but I also can't really quibble with someone voting 'no' based on Palmeiro's positive test in 2005.
Sammy Sosa: Much like McGriff, McGwire, and Palmeiro, Sosa's numbers are less impressive in the context of his era. Yes, he was an incredible home run hitter, but he was also a one trick pony: despite the times, Sosa's OBP only cracked .400 twice. He was outstanding in 2001 and quite good in a few other seasons, but he's another victim of the strength of the ballot.
Lee Smith: Closed games effectively for a long time, but was a bit of a compiler. His 134 career ERA+ is certainly good, but it's well behind Dan Quisenberry (146) and Tom Henke (156), just two of the many closers with relatively similar numbers who will never reach Cooperstown. Rightly or (in my opinion) wrongly, his case took a huge hit when Trevor Hoffman, and later Mariano Rivera, broke his all time saves record.
Larry Walker: Walker's career was pretty long (seventeen years) but his career totals are still a little short, mainly because he only once appeared in 150 games in a season. Between that, his stark home/road splits, and the quality of the rest of the ballot, and I don't think he's one of the ten best players up for consideration.
David Wells: Not to beat the Jack Morris thing to death, but:
Pitcher A: 108 ERA+, 5.8 k/9, 1.9 BB/9, 49 bWAR, 61.2 fWAR
Pitcher B: 105 ERA+, 5.8 k/9, 3.3 BB/9, 39 bWAR, 56.9 fWAR
Pitcher A is David Wells. Pitcher B is Jack Morris. Wells will be lucky to collect five votes. Morris will probably get elected in the next two years.
Jeff Bagwell: Statistically, Bagwell is a slam dunk. After tossing out deadballers Cap Anson and Roger Connor, Bagwell is 5th all time among first basemen in fWAR with 83.9. Unfortunately, Bagwell's case has been hampered by the ugly under belly of the BBWAA: the writers willing to retroactively penalize big power or big muscles, regardless of the absence of actual evidence. Despite zero positive tests and only baseless speculation, Bagwell will likely need to wait several more years for enshrinement, as certain writers punish an entire generation of power hitters for presumed steroid use.
Craig Biggio: A great peak and a long career. A crowded ballot may delay his enshrinement (it would be cool if he and Bagwell could go in together) but with Biggio, it's a matter of when, not if.
Barry Bonds: I'm not terribly offended by PED use, particularly drug use prior to official testing in 2005. I understand that many feel differently; it certainly would have been nicer if players had ignored the temptations of drugs, but ultimately, competitive athletes will pursue an advantage as long as they are incentivized to do so. Ultimately, I applaud those who resisted (and in rare cases, the ones who actively fought against) PED's, but I can't lambast entire generations of players that ended up using.
I also worry that the Hall of Fame, already burdened with a haphazardly constructed group of honorees, will suffer if it does not include some of the game's truly great players.
Roger Clemens: Ditto.
Kenny Lofton: Ultimately, I thought that his 1992-1998 peak was strong enough to warrant induction. He was particularly impressive in 1994: he posted a .349/.412/.536 line with a league leading sixty stolen bases before the strike. Like with Tony Gwynn and Matt Williams, we'll never know how good that season could have been if Lofton had the opportunity to play 162 games (he compiled 6.9 fWAR anyways). With so many worthy candidates on the ballot, Lofton will likely fall off after this season. It's a shame. He had a wonderful career, one that, even if it ultimately falls short of enshrinement, at least deserves a longer look.
Edgar Martinez: The main argument against Martinez appears to be specialization. It's funny though. Voters weren't bothered by specialization when they inducted Bruce Sutter, who started exactly zero big league games. The Veterans Committee doesn't have any qualms with one dimensional players either, as evidenced by their inclusion of glove-only second basemen Bill Mazeroski. And if we're admitting specialists, I don't see why there isn't room for Edgar, a world class hitter, and the best designated hitter in the game's history.
Mike Piazza: The best offensive catcher in major league history (141 wRC+). Bacne as much as anything else might keep him waiting awhile.
Tim Raines: Widely considered the second best leadoff hitter of the live ball era, Raines is also one of baseball's best left fielders and is second only to Carlos Beltran in career stolen base percentage.
Curt Schilling: There's no shame in being the second best starting pitcher on this ballot. Schilling's eight year run from 1997-2004 are among the best peaks a starting pitcher has had in baseball history, and he tossed in a couple of other solid years ('92, '93, '07) for good measure. Between that and his 2.23 ERA in nineteen post-season starts, he's a pretty easy call for me.
Alan Trammell: Trammell was stuck playing in an era where Ozzie's defense and Ripken's offense characterized the position, and he seems to have got lost in the shuffle a little bit. He might be in the hall anyways if George Bell hadn't robbed the 1987 MVP award. As it is, Trammell has virtually no chance of reaching enshrinement from the voters.