One of my favorite parts of Hall of Fame day is looking down at the bottom of the voting results to see which obviously non-Hall of Fame caliber players garnered a couple of votes. They’re usually hat-tip votes. Token niceties to friends or the admired from journalists who wish to signal their goodwill to the player because, I dunno, the player doesn’t text and can’t receive such compliments the way everyone else does.
This year I believe the legitimate vote/tribute vote cutoff comes between Nomar Garciaparra and Mike Sweeney (the list and vote totals is here). Everyone above Garciaparra has, at some point, had someone actually arguing for his Hall of Fame worthiness at one time or another. Everyone below, nope.
Garciaparra got eight votes. I suspect that, among those eight, are some voters who actually think he’s Hall of Fame worthy in the way that, say, Dale Murphy was. A peak that could’ve stood as a Hall of Fame peak had his career not cratered so quickly but, rather, went on like everyone else’s. Most voters don’t make that hypothetical leap because, even if we’re not judging guys like Garciaparra personally or blaming them for their injuries, production matters and he just wasn’t around and productive for a long enough time. But I can see a couple going against that, making a Garciaparra vote a “real” vote.
Then we get to Mike Sweeney. He got three votes. We don’t know who voted for him, as only 29% of Hall of Fame voters allowed their ballots to be published on the BBWAA website (last year 42% of voters did). All who included Sweeney were anonymous. Which, given that Sweeney was a good but not great hitter who spent more time at DH than in the field in his 16-year career, probably makes sense. It’s pretty much impossible to construct a case for Sweeney as a legitimate Hall of Famer. Many, however, have sung his praises as a nice guy. And kind of forgot about that time he threatened to fight his teammates for giving a reporter an interesting story.
Then there’s Captain Grit, David Eckstein with two votes. One of his voters — honorary BBWAA member Chaz Scoggins, late of the Lowell Sun — made his ballot public. Scoggins, on record as a guy who has no problem voting for PED players, likewise voted for Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Griffey, Hoffman, McGwire, Piazza, Raines and Schilling. Given a full ballot, it’s hard to understand how he found room for a shoutout to Eckstein, but I presume he simply believes there were only nine worthy candidates, giving him space for the EckVote.
Jason Kendall got two votes. His voters likewise remain anonymous. Kendall actually has a better Hall of Fame argument than a lot of one-and-two-vote dudes. It’s not a GREAT argument, but overall he was better than you think. He may even have been better than some old-timey catchers the old let-everyone-in Veterans Committee put in back in the day. Still, I don’t think anyone ever considered Kendall a Hall of Famer and can’t recall anyone making a serious argument for him, suggesting to me that these were hat-tip votes.
Last but not least, Garret Anderson, who received a single vote. The voter, Earl Bloom of the OC Register, did not make his ballot public to the BBWAA, but did share it with Ryan Thibodaux back in November. Given the location of his newspaper and the team for which Anderson played, one suspects this was a “thanks for the quotes” vote. He likewise voted for former Angel Jim Edmonds, though as I have argued, Edmonds was a legitimate candidate, one for whom I probably would’ve even voted.
One sad bit of rando-voter news is that, this year, ESPN’s Pedro Gomez did not throw a token vote out there. He is perhaps the most high-profile voter to have made a habit of that, giving votes to Jay Bell and Bill Mueller in past years. Either he got tired of the criticism for that practice — which he called “favored son votes” — or else he had no friends or buddies on the ballot this year.
So that’s it for the also-rans this year. Tune in next year for J.D. Drew’s first year on the ballot. Which reporters will throw a vote in the direction of that well-loved, team-first ray of sunshine?