I’ve never bothered to actually write an article about the upcoming Baseball Hall of Fame election each year, despite being extremely interested in the ballot tracking and reading the arguments for and against each player on the ballot with keen attention. What makes this year different is that there are ten players that I decided to cast my virtual vote for on this year’s ballot. Some of these choices may seem surprising, but I think this is a very solid list of ten, all of whom should end up in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York at some point.
While I’m not going to go to the lengths that some baseball writers will do in defending their picks, many of the arguments I would use have been explored in great depth by Chris Bodig at Cooperstown Cred. He and I see eye to eye on many of these choices, although my reasoning for some is rather different.
First of, yes, I do believe Barry Bonds deserves a Hall of Fame plaque only because he was a Hall of Fame caliber player long before his steroid use. Yes, he owns both the all-time single season Home Run record and the career Home Run record. Of course, these are tainted by his use of PEDs, but Bonds was more than just his home runs. Bonds has perhaps one of the best batting eyes in the history of baseball and no other player in history has as many intentional walks as Bonds (by a mile!) Bonds has 688 career intentional walks, and in second place is Albert Pujols with a comparatively modest 315 intentional base on balls. No hitter has ever been feared as much as Bonds, and on his last year of eligibility on the ballot, he finally gets my vote.
Roger Clemens is one of the best pitchers of all-time, with seven Cy Young Awards, an MVP award, and 139.2 Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference version). He has 354 wins, 9th all time directly behind Greg Maddux, Warren Spahn, and a bunch of late 1800’s and early 1900’s guys. Yes, he hung on at the end of his career with the use of PED’s, but he was going to be a hall of famer anyway and I’ve always supported his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Todd Helton gets a lot of crap for playing his entire career with the Colorado Rockies and playing half of his games at the launching pad known as Coors Field. Yes, his home numbers are staggering in contrast to his road numbers. He hit an otherworldly .345/.441/.607 at home and only a solid .287/.386/.469 on the road. Overall, he has a 133 OPS+, which adjusts for park factors and league averages while he played, which isn’t the best, certainly. Helton has also had some issues with DWI’s later in his career and after his career, but it seems he’s cleaned up his act recently. Honestly, Helton is a borderline candidate to me, but because there’s room on my ballot, and he is easily the best player the Rockies have ever had to this point, Helton deserves to represent Denver in the Hall of Fame.
Andruw Jones is yet another borderline Hall of Fame candidate thanks to the absolutely brutal way his career ended. But, he was one of the first ballplayers I ever saw for their entire career when I started seriously following baseball in 1998. Yes, the defensive metrics gush so much about his work in center field, and without any context, Jones appears to be twice the gloveman Willie Mays was. Of course, I don’t believe Jones was twice as good as Say Hey Willie. But, he’s certainly the greatest defensive outfielder I’ve ever seen. While he was pretty much a one-trick pony at the plate, blasting homers with regularity, his defense was so incredible that he could’ve hit almost nothing and still have been valuable. I stand by Andruw as the best defensive center fielder who ever lived, and to me, along with his power at the plate, deserves a Hall of Fame plaque.
Jeff Kent was a late bloomer, but he’s easily one of the greatest offensive second baseman of all-time. His defense was terrible in the beginning, but as his career progressed it was just fine. Hat tip to Cooperstown Cred and Chris’s argument for Jeff Kent’s consideration for the Hall of Fame, as I will point to some cogent points he made in the linked article. Kent was a better overall offensive player than Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, and Craig Biggio. Defensively, Sandberg was much better, but Kent wasn’t much worse than Alomar (believe it or not, by WAR Runs Fielding) and far better than Biggio. Kent was also greatly overshadowed by Barry Bonds during his peak years, to the point he got sick of anyone asking him about Bonds. Compared to some borderline inductees in recent years, Kent is quite deserving of a plaque as he was clearly on par with contemporary Hall of Famers.
David Ortiz is perhaps most famous for his postseason heroics with the Boston Red Sox. I was shocked when he was implicated in the PED scandal, although it seems by most reports now that the test was a false positive. He’s had quite a few interesting episodes occur post-career, including almost being killed in the Dominican Republic, when he was accidentally shot; his friend was the intended target. Overall, though, he’s still one of the best ambassadors of the game and beloved throughout the sport. His detractors point to his WAR total being low, but that’s due to the penalty players receive by spending the majority of their careers at the DH (Designated Hitter) position. Since Edgar Martinez received his plaque (quite deservedly so), Ortiz seems like a shoo-in. 541 Home Runs and a 141 OPS+ are pretty much enough to get him a plaque, and that doesn’t include his postseason record: slashing .289/.404/.543 with 17 HR and 61 RBI. Ortiz’s WPA (Win Probability Added) in the postseason is 3.16 over 18 postseason series, a very strong number. Big Papi is an obvious pick for me, and it seems the writers agree – the leading vote getter in the revealed ballots by a solid margin.
Manny Ramirez is going to be a contentious pick, but as just a hitter, Manny Being Manny deserves a plaque. His defense was legendarily horrible, and as someone who watched him for the vast majority of his career, the numbers back it up. Yes, his antics ranged from hilarious to downright unacceptable. Of course, we are talking about the Hall of Fame, and few players are more famous than Manny. He actually batted behind David Ortiz for many seasons, which no doubt helped Big Papi see some better pitches. 555 HR and a gaudy 154 OPS+ including a .312 career batting average are Hall of Fame shoo-in numbers. As bad as his defense was, he only loses about 22 WAR in fielding value, perhaps thanks to the Red Sox playing him mostly in Fenway Park’s short left field. Had the Red Sox not had Ortiz at DH, it’s likely Manny would’ve actually gained career value as a DH.Also, like Ortiz, Manny had quite a few big postseason hits, although his career 1.75 WPA in 23 postseason series is significantly less. In any case, he was a postseason plus, too, which only helps his case. Manny gets my vote this year, although he may not have in past years.
Alex Rodriguez is a shoo-in pick for me, despite all of his admitted PED use in his later years. If anything, A-Rod has certainly endeared himself to many people in his post-career as a color commentator, a pretty good one at that. A-Rod is the best baseball player I’ve ever watched, and yes his numbers are ridiculous: 696 HR, 3115 hits, and 140 OPS+ are obvious bests for any shortstop or third baseman. He didn’t bat over .300 for his career (.295) and missed that 700 HR plateau, but he was a plus on defense especially at shortstop and a plus on the bases. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the greatest postseason career, although he was a huge help in the 2004 ALDS, 2009 ALDS, and the 2009 ALCS. He did just fine in his only World Series win with the Yankees in 2009, too. I thought he was on the ballot for 2023, but he is indeed on the 2022 ballot, so he gets my vote.
Scott Rolen is one of the best third baseman of all-time by most advanced metrics. Unfortunately, he’s so similar to Ron Santo, who didn’t make the Hall of Fame until after his death when he was finally elected by committee. Rolen also played in an era with A-Rod, Adrian Beltre, Chipper Jones, and Evan Longoria, although Longoria has tailed off his intense Hall of Fame pace in recent years. He’s most likely the 10th best third baseman of all time, 9th if you don’t really count Molitor as a third baseman. To me, these are all good enough, and Rolen was probably the second best hot corner glove man of his era (Beltre being so disgustingly good that Rolen would’ve been number one in most other eras.) He’s always been one of my favorite players, so Rolen gets my vote.
Billy Wagner seems like a very borderline pick to me, but as a closer, he was certainly one of the most dominant of his era. By JAWS, Jay Jaffe’s score system which measures a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness, Wagner is right behind Trevor Hoffman (27.7 to 28). His 187 ERA+ is second to Mariano Rivera, virtually tied with current pitcher Craig Kimbrel. His peripheral numbers are much better than Hall of Famers Lee Smith, Rollie Fingers, and Bruce Sutter. His 422 saves are 6th all time, believe it or not right behind John Franco. By these numbers alone, Wagner is a mid-tier pick for the Hall of Fame, and I’m fine to make him my tenth pick.
As for those I didn’t pick, I think Wagner’s fellow closer Joe Nathan may be deserving of Hall of Fame attention on some weaker ballots in the future. Bobby Abreu may be deserving, but I feel he’s a bit short, at least in this packed ballot. Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Jonathan Papelbon, and Andy Pettitte all belong in the Hall of Very Good, plus Tim Lincecum barely made the 10-year cutoff, and had too short of a peak to deserve a plaque. Torii Hunter was a really solid player, and while he’s very similar to fellow Twins hero (and now Hall of Famer) Tony Oliva, he doesn’t seem to meet the standards. Jimmy Rollins is one I’ll revisit on weaker ballots, too. Mark Teixeira is very close to consideration for me, but he may be a committee pick in the future. Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa may have gotten my vote, and I still think Sheffield has a shot, but both were one-trick ponies with home runs, and Sosa is likely to languish on committee ballots for a little while. Omar Vizquel doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, and his character issues are just the nail in the coffin.
Curt Schilling would have gotten a vote from me, perhaps over Wagner, simply due to his absolute postseason dominance – probably the best postseason pitcher ever. I hate the things he says on social media, but really, I’m simply granting Curt his wish of not being elected by the Baseball Writers. He’ll get in on a future committee almost guaranteed. I adored him as a player, despise him as a human being, although yes, he has done some good things, especially with massive charitable donations and good works throughout his career and afterwards. Is that enough to balance him out for me? Probably not, but he’ll get a plaque someday regardless, as he’s better than most Veteran Committee picks by far.
What do you think of my picks? I would go into more detail, but there is already so much discussion on all of these guys already, so these are just the reasons that clinched a vote for me.
As for the committee picks for 2022, I have a lot to say about all of them, and one of them I feel doesn’t really belong. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the Eras Committee picks for 2022.