Thursday, December 25, 2014

10 (Possibly Controversial) Hall of Fame Selections

I don't have the privilege of casting an official BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, but if I did, I'm pretty sure a couple of my selections would raise the ire of two-thirds of the general population; but so be it.

Also, since the maximum number of candidates eligible to receive votes on a single ballot is ten, I'm forced to leave off a couple of guys who clearly have Hall of Fame credentials ( ranks every player at each position, for comparison); but my hands are tied by Cooperstown.  Sorry.  Maybe next year.

My votes go to the most qualified, not necessarily the most popular.  They are:

Craig Biggio - After coming up just a bit short last year with 74.8% of the vote, I hope he doesn't have to play the waiting game any longer.  His career numbers are compelling, with 3060 hits in his 20-years with the Astros (112 OPS+); not a particularly great defensive player, but good enough overall to be ranked #14 all-time for second basemen (his primary position).

Mike Piazza - Clearly the best hitting catcher in MLB history (.308/.377/.545 - 143 OPS+), with moderate defensive liabilities during his 16-year career; but not enough to justify exclusion from the Hall of Fame; however, with the PED issue still raging among the voting ranks of the BBWAA, I'd be surprised if he gets in this year, despite being ranked #5 all-time for catchers.

Jeff Bagwell - His 15-year career was hampered by injuries, but the slugging first baseman still posted HOF-caliber numbers (.297/.408/.540 - 149 OPS+) and is ranked #6 all-time at his position.  He'll more than likely get in within the next 2-3 years, barring any shocking revelation that he did in fact, juice.  There's still too much suspicion within the voting ranks to be a likely inductee in 2015 - especially with the new competition coming up the ranks.

Tim Raines - So far, being the second-best lead-off hitter in MLB history as well as the eighth-best left fielder hasn't been good enough for induction.  Go figure.  In a career that spanned 23 seasons, Raines posted excellent offensive numbers (.294/.385/.425 - 123 OPS+) plus he stole 808 bases!

Roger Clemens - Of course, he's not getting in any time soon, but the third greatest pitcher in MLB history (354-184 - 3.12 ERA - 143 ERA+) won 7 Cy Young Awards, had a 12-8 postseason record - including a perfect 3-0 in World Series play and was on 2 World Series winners:  '99 & '00 New York Yankees.  His controversial career spanned 24 seasons.

Barry Bonds - Also not getting in the Hall of Fame any time soon, but the greatest left fielder in MLB history (.298/.444/.607 - 182 OPS+) played 22 seasons, retiring with the single season (73) and career 762) home run records.  He's probably the most despised player in MLB history, but his talent was certainly remarkable - a first ballot Hall of Famer if he had refrained from the temptation of hitting the juice in the wake of the McGwire single season home run record (70), set in '98.

Curt Schilling - There are 59 starting pitchers already enshrined at Cooperstown, and Schilling is ranked #27 all-time (216-146 - 3.46 ERA - 127 ERA+); and that's before including his astounding postseason record (11-2 - 2.23 ERA, including 4-1 - 2.06 ERA in World Series play).  Oh yeah, he was co-MVP (with Randy Johnson) in the 2001 World Series as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, leading that franchise to its first championship; then 3 years later, helped the Bambino-cursed Red Sox to their first title since 1918 - bloody sock and all; then did it again for Boston in 2007.

Alan Trammell - This may be the most underrated player in MLB history.  Overlooked by the BBWAA who apparently viewed him as good, but not great as a 20-year fixture at shortstop for the Detroit Tigers.  His offensive numbers (.285/.352/.415 - 110 OPS+) compare favorably to most shortstops already inducted into Cooperstown and his defensive skills were far better than he was given credit for; winning four Gold Gloves, but deserving at least seven. ranks him #11 all-time at his position, one notch higher than the universally heralded Derek Jeter.
Of course, he won't even come close this time around, as usual; but he belongs.

Randy Johnson - Making his appearance on the ballot for the first time, he's certain to get at least 90% of the vote; and rightfully so.  Ranked #9 all-time for starting pitchers (303-166 - 3.29 ERA - 135 ERA+), the Big Unit played 22 seasons, highlighted by his 3-0 - 1.04 ERA in the 2001 World Series win over the Yankees.

Pedro Martinez - The best pitcher in the AL during the height of the Steroids Era (219-100 - 2.93 ERA - 154 ERA+), ranked #21 all-time following his 18 year career.  Like Johnson, he should have no trouble getting in on his first try.

Just missing the cut on my imaginary ballot were first-time candidate John Smoltz (#58 all-time for starting pitchers) and the great and highly underrated Larry Walker (#10 all-time for right fielders).  Smoltz has an excellent chance of getting enough votes on his first try; Walker has zero chance; unfairly downgraded by his tremendous offensive production at hitter-friendly Coors Field during his time with the Colorado Rockies.  Yet, his career numbers were staggering (.313/.400/.565 - 141 OPS+), and he did it for 17 seasons.  Sooner or later, he's got to get in.

For now, it looks like Johnson and Martinez will definitely get in; Biggio has about a 50/50 shot, and Smoltz maybe slightly less than 50/50.  If Cooperstown is really the final destination for the all-time greats of baseball, this ballot currently has the top candidates, based on performance; not hype.

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