My imaginary Hall of Fame ballot

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I don’t have a Hall of Fame ballot, of course, but most people don’t and they pick their hypothetical ballot, so I’ll pick mine.

Note: this is not my assessment of who I think will get in. I’ll get to that later. These are just my thoughts on the guys and my selections. And, in case you’re new around here, I (a) do not disqualify guys who have been linked to or accused of performance-enhancing drug use for a host of reasons I’ve expained numerous times before, though I may discount their accomplishments somewhat as a result of drug use; and (b) I don’t limit myself to ten choices because the ten-vote rule real Hall of Fame voters have to abide by is dumb.

So, without further ado, here is my take on everyone on this year’s ballot, with my choices bolded:

  • Moises Alou: Very good for a long time, never great, though. I usually prefer to see a Hall of Fame peak and a long valuable career. Not seeing the peak here.
  • Jeff Bagwell: Yep.Been making this case for two years. For about a decade he was the third best hitter in baseball, behind only Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas.
  • Armando Benitez: Hahaha, no. Though he did once have a Hall of Fame-level quote, telling reporters “I did MY job” after he blew a save because of a defensive miscue behind him. Armando always had your back.
  • Craig Biggio: Crazy underrated. Was not just some guy who limped to 3,000 hits. Plus defense, did everything well, played in bad hitting ballparks for many years. No argument for Ryne Sandberg excludes Biggio and Sandberg is in the Hall.
  • Barry Bonds: If you have to ask.
  • Sean Casey: Great guy. Aesthetically speaking, I love first basemen like him. More fun than the fat guys who hit 50 homers. But my aesthetic preferences don’t a Hall of Famer make.
  • Roger Clemens: If you have to ask.
  • Ray Durham: Looking back, he’s better than I remembered him. Enjoy your one year on the ballot, though, Ray.
  • Eric Gagne: Really looking forward to someone saying “hey, he may have been ‘roided up to his eyeballs, but the ninth inning IS THAT TOUGH. Closers have an excuse because they have the most difficult job this side of hostage negotiators and powder monkeys!” OK, maybe they won’t, but it is fun to think of PED-hysteria clashing head-on with Closer Fixation Syndrome.
  • Tom Glavine: He’s what Jack Morris supporters like to pretend Jack Morris was, even though he wasn’t. A workhorse who just knew how to win and all of that. Except Glavine was, actually, among the best pitchers in baseball for most of his prime and has contemporary awards and accolades to back up the retrospective praise.
  • Luis Gonzalez: He hit 26 more homers in 2001 than he ever did in any other year. But he didn’t break any records doing it, so no one gives him any crap about it. I guess the key to a 90s-2000s player securing his legacy was to be just short of truly great.
  • Jacque Jones: The anti-Ray Durham. I feel like people talked about him as way better than he was, mostly because he hit 27 homers a couple of times and 27 is sort of a magic homer number in a lot of people’s minds. If you hit 27 homers, you’re a “power hitter.” If you hit 26, you’re a “20 homer guy.” And those things aren’t the same.
  • Todd Jones: Points for a mustache and closing down old Tiger Stadium I guess.
  • Jeff Kent:  .290/.356/.500 while playing a pretty darn solid second base for 17 years? Yes, please. If you’re going with Biggio and went with Sandberg as I did, I’m not sure how you go against Kent. I suppose if he gets less support it’s because he didn’t really fit the mold and expectations of a second baseman as a pesky little guy with gap power and because he switched teams several times. For those reasons I feel like he’s going to be a good example of how crazy and subjective Hall of Fame voting can be.
  • Paul Lo Duca: Guy should get a sympathy vote for paying for his PEDs with a personal check, as described in the Mitchell Report.
  • Greg Maddux: I tend not to get too wound up about the actual vote totals guys get, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the explanation of the folks who leave Maddux off the ballot and keep him from being unanimous. As someone surely will. Maybe because he got LASIK surgery that time? A character objection based on that story about him peeing on guys’ feet in the shower? Can’t wait.
  • Edgar Martinez: I think he belongs. I also wonder if I’d include him if I was limited to ten slots like real Hall of Fame voters are. He’s not a slam dunk, but as the best or, by the time Ortiz is done, maybe second base full-time DH ever, I think he’s deserving.
  • Don Mattingly: Close but no cigar. He had the peak, but not the staying power. “But … injuries!” is no excuse. They kept him from providing value to his teams. Not fair, not his fault, but no one said fair or fault had anything to do with it.
  • Fred McGriff: I’ve wavered on him for years. I used to say no, then I started saying yes once I looked at just how different the pre-1993 era and post-1993 eras were for offense. McGriff’s pre-1993 numbers were really damn good for the time and he, unfortunately, straddled both eras in a way that made his overall stats look less impressive than they were. A yes for these purposes, but if I only had ten he falls off.
  • Mark McGwire: Yes. He hit for power and walked like crazy and was simply fantastic.
  • Jack Morris: He’s a no for me — just not good enough — but I’ve put down my pitchfork.
  • Mike Mussina: 270 wins, 123 ERA+, durability, a lot of good postseason work. Yeah, I think he makes it, even if there wasn’t a peak where he was clearly the best pitcher in baseball. He’s like Jeff Kent in a lot of ways. People didn’t routinely talk about him as a Hall of Famer during his career, but when you look at the value he provided he was way better than a lot of guys people do tout as shoe-ins. He was better than Pettitte. Better than Catfish Hunter. Better than Jim Bunning, Early Wynn and, depending on how you measure things, Whitey Ford.
  • Hideo Nomo: He is a first-ballot crazy windup Hall of Famer.
  • Rafael Palmeiro: A closer call than his raw numbers would suggest — 500 homers and 3000 hits still turns heads —but he looks less impressive when you adjust for the parks he played in and the era in which he played. I’d lean yes, however, if I had room on the ballot.
  • Mike Piazza: Best hitting catcher ever. A travesty that he wasn’t in last year.
  • Tim Raines: Was baseball’s best player for several years in the mid-80s. Suffers because his most similar player was Rickey Henderson and they were contemporaries. He was way closer to Rickey than, say, Omar Vizquel was to Ozzie Smith, so let’s watch how those kind of comps work one day. He shoulda been in long ago.
  • Kenny Rogers: Can’t wait for the re-hashed “he couldn’t handle New York” columns from some bored New York columnist this holiday season.
  • Curt Schilling: Better than Morris. Similar to Mussina. Dominant in peak seasons, but strangely had peak years more scattered over his career than many. Killer in the playoffs. I think he’s a Hall of Famer.
  • Richie Sexson: The phrase “tall drink of water” always pops into my head when I think of him.
  • Lee Smith: He gets a lot of support, but nah. I’m a tougher grader on closers than a lot of people are. Too much hoodoo and mythology surrounds the concept if you ask me.
  • J.T. Snow: Really loving the “guys I watched play minor league ball when I was in college make the Hall of Fame ballot” era. Really not making me feel old or anything.
  • Sammy Sosa:  Crazy peak. I know people like to discount the steroids guys, but people discount him too much. One cannot be a mere PED-creation and still dominate like Sosa did. There was real baseball talent there. More than folks want to admit now, probably because Sosa was weird and has seemed to have gotten weirder since he retired.
  • Frank Thomas: No-brainer. He was a beast. One of the rare guys everyone will admit was among the best hitters ever yet still winds up underrated.
  • Mike Timlin: Four World Series rings. That’s four more than Barry Bonds has, suckers.
  • Alan Trammell: Criminally underrated. The guy who makes me still want to argue about MVP awards, because if he won it like he deserved to in 1987, I feel like the perception of him would be totally different among a certain class of Hall of Fame voter. He did everything well at a premium defensive position on a championship-caliber team for a decade.
  • Larry Walker: I’ve always leaned no, mostly because of Coors. A lot of people tell me I’m wrong to do that. I may be. He was good on the road too. A five-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove winner in right, an MVP and three batting titles? Power and speed? You know, I think I may have been wrong about him. Changing my mind.

Cripes, that’s 19 dudes. Oh well, blame the voters who haven’t voted in the multiple guys who should have been elected years ago for allowing the ballot to get all clogged up like this.

If I had to drop it to ten, I’d cut off Walker, Sosa, Palmeiro, McGriff, Martinez, McGwire, Schilling, Mussina and Kent. But I wouldn’t be happy about most of those guys. As for who I think makes it? If I had to guess I’d say Maddux, Glavine, Biggio, Thomas and Jack Morris. That’s it. And I may be wrong about Morris.

Anyway, that’s mine. What’s yours?

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.