My imaginary Hall of Fame ballot

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The Hall of Fame ballot came out yesterday. One does not get to vote unless one has been a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America for a decade. I am not a BBWAA member, of course, so my voting will have to be imaginary. That’s OK, though, I do a lot of pretend things.  Anyway, if I had a ballot, here would be my slate:

Barry Larkin
Jeff Bagwell
Edgar Martinez
Mark McGwire
Tim Raines
Alan Trammell

The Shortstops

Trammell and Larkin should be no-brainers. Superior defensive shortstops who, it just so happened, also happened to be superior-to-elite hitters through much of their careers. We got spoiled by the brief shining moment in the 1990s and early 2000s when some shortstops hit 40 homers and batted .350, but that’s a crazy-aberration. A-Rod in his prime is not the standard for a shortstop making the Hall. Both Trammell and Larkin are above the standard — way above the standard — and until the A-Rod/Jeter/Tejada/Garciaparra blip occurred, you could argue that the only better ones were Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughn and Cal Ripken.

Larkin will likely get in this year. Trammell won’t, despite the fact that they are basically identical players. This is a travesty. If I ever fully flip out and take the to streets as a costumed avenger, there’s a decent chance I’ll be wearing a Tigers number 3 jersey.

Raines

Tim Raines was the best player in baseball for about four or five years in the 1980s. People don’t believe this, but it’s true. He suffers because he had similar skills to Rickey Henderson who is an all-time elite, and that’s just as unfair as comparing those shortstops to similar outliers.  He also suffers because so much of his value was about getting on base and people just didn’t appreciate that as much at the time as they should have and still don’t, really. He also suffers because some people hold him to a different standard with respect to his cocaine use than they held Paul Molitor, for example, and that’s some ugliness I don’t think anyone wants to explore. But Raines is easily a Hall of Famer in my view.

The Designated Hitter

Edgar Martinez was a DH. And his career started late, meaning that his raw numbers aren’t as impressive as a lot of Hall of Famers. But his rate stats were astonishingly good. He had an OPS+ of 150 or greater eight times.  Sure, you have to hit at a higher rate than your average Hall of Fame hitter if you want to get in with no defensive value, but I think Martinez did that.

The PED Casualties 

As for McGwire and Bagwell, I don’t think anyone disputes that their numbers make them Hall of Fame first basemen. What people are doing with them is knocking them out because of steroids. In McGwire’s case because he has admitted to their use. In Bagwell’s because people — for reasons no one has yet had the information or the guts to explain — assume he used them. What they’re doing to Bagwell is outrageous, by the way, but we’ll save it until someone writes his “I have questions …” column about him later this month.

Here’s my thing on PEDs and the Hall of fame. I don’t totally ignore them.  My inclusion of McGwire shows that. However, my exclusion of Rafael Palmiero shows that I do consider it to some extent.  Yes, I know it’s not a perfect system, but my approach is (a) if the PED use is established; (b) to determine whether, roughly speaking, the guy was a Hall of Famer even if he never used PEDs. Yes, that’s subjective as hell, but I see it preferable to either assuming a player’s entire record was fraudulent because he took drugs, which would be silly, or alternatively assuming that PEDs had zero impact on his career performance. because we know neither of those things is the case.  I give guys like McGwire and Palmiero a discount, and in my mind that slips Palmiero below the Hall of Fame line and doesn’t do the same for McGwire. Have at me.

The Exclusions

  • Fred McGriff: McGriff continues to be really hard for me. I go back and forth on him all the damn time.  I’ve argued for and against his candidacy on alternate occasions. I’m a basketcase when it comes to him. I think there’s a good argument that he was the best first baseman in baseball for a few years there in the late 80s and early 90s, and usually if you were the best in baseball at your position for a few years, that’s enough for me.  Maybe I’m making a big mistake here. Someone help me out. Convince me one way or the other on him.  If I had a real ballot I think I’d be spending most of my December considering Fred McGriff’s candidacy. I don’t rule out changing my mind here and putting him on.
  • Jack Morris: He is not a Hall of Famer. I’ve spilled a lot of virtual ink on this. Short version: Morris didn’t prevent the opposition from scoring runs at anything much greater than an average clip.  He didn’t “pitch to the score” (or, if he tried to, he was not particularly successful at it), as so many will tell you when trying to explain away his pedestrian ERA.  Apart from one game in the 1991 World Series, he was nothing special as a playoff pitcher.  Despite his “best starter of the 80s” reputation, he was rarely thought of as special by Cy Young voters, who gave him the same number of Cy Young votes over his career as Mike Hampton and Dontrelle Willis. That title is a function of him putting his best ten year stretch together in a way that corresponded with the decade beginning and ending, not by being the best pitcher in the decade most of the time. He wasn’t. Just cut it out, OK?

So that’s my ballot. Have fun.

Orioles acquire Jeremy Hellickson from Phillies

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In their second trade on Friday, the Phillies dealt right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the Orioles for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, minor league lefty Garrett Cleavinger and international signing bonus slots. The Orioles will also receive cash considerations from the Phillies.

Hellickson will bolster a pitching staff that, while not well-positioned to contend for a division title, still stands a slim chance of reaching the postseason this year. The Orioles have not yet revealed where he’ll land in the rotation, though MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli speculates that the right-hander could supplant either Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez.

The 30-year-old righty went 6-5 in 20 starts with the Phillies, racking up a 4.75 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 5.2 SO/9 through 112 1/3 innings in 2017. It’s a bit of a comedown from his performance in 2016, during which he maintained a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since 2012. While Hellickson’s numbers haven’t been outstanding, he’s been relatively healthy and hasn’t sustained anything more serious than a mild knee sprain and back tightness over the last year. His presence should bring some consistency to an ailing Orioles rotation that currently ranks third-worst in the league with a cumulative 5.90 ERA and 2.2 fWAR.

The Phillies will receive some outfield depth in 29-year-old left fielder Hyun Soo Kim, who carries an underwhelming .232/.305/.288 batting line with five extra bases and 10 RBI through his first 142 PA in 2017. He made just 33 starts in left field this season and could step into a similarly limited role in Philadelphia’s outfield after the club traded Howie Kendrick to the Nationals on Friday.

Cleavinger, 23, has seen mixed results in his first Double-A stint this season. The left-hander dragged a 6.28 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through 38 2/3 innings with Double-A Bowie and has struggled to improve both his control and velocity during three seasons in the Orioles’ farm system.

Although the deal netted Baltimore some much-needed pitching depth, they still have a long way to go before they can give the AL’s top teams a run for their money. Per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, it doesn’t look like they’re done adding at the deadline just yet:

Mets acquire AJ Ramos from Marlins

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The Mets acquired closer AJ Ramos from the Marlins, the team reported Friday. The Marlins will receive two prospects in the deal, right-hander Merandy Gonzalez and outfielder Ricardo Cespedes.

The trade comes as some surprise given the Mets’ current status as non-contenders in the NL East, though MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo points out that they could position themselves for the division title again in 2018. They also have a proven closer in right-hander Addison Reed and will presumably continue to field offers for him before he hits free agency following the 2017 season.

Ramos, 30, is coming off of his first All-Star campaign with the Marlins in 2016. He racked up 20 saves in 40 appearances and compiled a 3.63 ERA, 5.0 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9 over 39 2/3 innings in 2017. He’s due $6.55 million this season and will remain under team control through 2019.

The Marlins, meanwhile, will receive the Mets’ No. 9 and No. 22 prospects. Gonzalez, 21, began the season in rookie ball and advanced to High-A St. Lucie in June, pitching to a cumulative 1.78 ERA, 1.7 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 106 innings. He was ranked No. 5 among the Mets’ pitching prospects and No. 9 in their system, and has found some success in the lowest rungs of New York’s farm system despite some command issues and trouble defining his breaking balls.

Cespedes, 19, progressed to Short-Season A Brooklyn in 2017 after several stints in rookie ball. In 81 PA with Brooklyn, the center fielder slashed .240/.278/.280 with a double and 12 RBI before getting sidelined with an undisclosed injury.