I do one of these every year. We all do in our heads, I figure. But I also have the keys to a website, so I get to inflict mine on more people than you do. Let’s take the whole ballot, shall we?
First, the new guys. And note: I am first saying whether I would vote for them if there were no limits on the ballot. At the end I’ll make the cuts for the Hall of Fame’s stupid 10 vote limit rule.
Randy Johnson: Today Jonah Keri called him “the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time.” My default answer to that has always been Lefty Grove, but it’s not unreasonable to reverse these two given the tougher competition Johnson faced. Once you account for something we accept in all other sports but somehow don’t accept in baseball (i.e. that athletes today are clearly better than those of the past) it’s not hard at all to give Johnson the nod. He’s among the easiest Hall of Fame calls ever.
Pedro Martinez: I got all kinds of crap for tweeting this last week, but Pedro is better than Sandy Koufax ever was, no matter what your dad and grandfather say. Again, offensive eras matter. Koufax pitched in the friendliest one to pitchers since the deadball era. Pedro pitched in the worst, and he faced stacked Yankees and Orioles lineups on the regular. So ridiculously good that he may be the only mutli-time Cy Young Award winner who everyone says is great at the drop of a hat yet is still underrated.
John Smoltz: I’m a big hall guy so I don’t take the approach that you have to have been the absolute best throughout your career to make it. I have room for guys with one Cy Young Award, a lot of really high-level years and lots of postseason success and all of that.
Carlos Delgado: Fun guy. But no.
Gary Sheffield: Unfun guy. Better than many give him credit for, but probably falls just short for me given that he was so one-dimensional. Borderline, though, as some days I feel like a one-dimensional masher who annoys a lot of people I find annoying needs to be in Cooperstown. Maybe my generation’s Dick Allen.
Nomar Garciaparra: At his best he looked like a Hall of Famer but he wasn’t good enough long enough. Don Mattingly v.2.0.
Troy Percival: He was way better in High Heat Baseball 2002 or whatever version of that was I had back in the day than he should’ve been. I’ll give him that.
Rich Aurilia: His middle name is Santo. That’s kind of neat.
Aaron Boone: His middle name (to some, in Boston mostly) is unprintable on a family website like this.
Tony Clark: Easily the best player to ever run the MLBPA. Not the best case for the Hall of Fame, however.
Jermaine Dye; Darin Erstad: I may be mistaken, but I think these two are the first two players to ever appear on a Hall of Fame ballot who are younger than me. That’s special.
Cliff Floyd: One wonders how his career goes if he stays healthy. At his best he was great, but he just couldn’t stay on the field or, when he was on the field, he couldn’t keep 100%.
Brian Giles: I’m not going to say we were all a bit desensitized to high rate stats during the 90s and early 2000s, but if a hitter came along today and put up 15 years of .290/.400/.500 we’d be freaking the hell out. Heck, if a guy did it in one season we’d talk the dude up. Brian Giles? We all thought he was good, but he didn’t wow anyone, even though that’s what he did for his career. He’ll be one and done and deservedly so, but if he played in the 30s you wonder if some later Veteran’s Committee, not too big on adjusting for era, would’ve given him a longer look than he’ll get.
Tom Gordon: “Flash” may be the best nickname on the current ballot.
Eddie Guardado: “Everyday Eddie” is pretty good too, though it’s false advertising. He averaged 66 games per 162, and a lot of guys do that.
Jason Schmidt: He was supposed to be the next big ace for the Braves and then they traded him for Denny Neagle. Who was pretty good too, but Schmidt had a nice darn career.
Craig Biggio (74.8%): Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. If you call him a “compiler” you’re just ignorant and need to go think about things for a while, preferably in a corner.
Mike Piazza (62.2%): Yes, the best hitting catcher of all time deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
Jeff Bagwell (54.3%): The dude was Frank Thomas South and we put Frank Thomas in the Hall last year. So yeah.
Tim Raines (46.1%): If your argument against him was “he was no Rickey!” then by your logic no slugger can be in the Hall except Babe Ruth and no pitcher can be in except Walter Johnson. He was the best player in the NL for a good chunk of the 80s and did everything well. He’s an easy choice for people whose heads aren’t up their butts.
Roger Clemens (35.4%); Barry Bonds (34.7%): I have dealt with these two an length. There’s nothing else left to say.
Lee Smith (29.9%): The Cult of the Closer is strong enough to keep Smith on the ballot this long, but I’m sorry, he doesn’t make the grade for me.
Curt Schilling (29.2%); Mike Mussina (20.3%): Matthew wrote up a comp of Schilling, Mussina and John Smoltz the other day that makes loads of sense. In order, I think Mussina was the best of the three and Schilling probably edges Smoltz a tad, but they are incredibly close and all three should make it in my view.
Edgar Martinez (25.2%): The best DH ever, probably. Maybe second after Oritz once his career ends. DH has been a position for longer than I’ve been alive, so arguing that it’s some gimmicky position is idiotic. And arguing that a DH only plays part of the game while simultaneously pumping up one-inning closers like Lee Smith is laughable.
Alan Trammell (20.8%): Criminally underrated. He did everything well at a premium defensive position on a championship-caliber team for a decade. If he wasn’t jobbed out of the 1987 MVP Award or of he played in New York or Boston, he’d be in the Hall already.
Jeff Kent (15.2%): My gut had me thinking he wasn’t a Hall of Famer when he played, then it switched to thinking he probably was just after his retirement. Now I have no idea. It’s still worth remembering his era and that his numbers looked better then than they do once we realize it was a silly offensive time. Borderline, like Sheffield. It would not be an atrocity if he ever made it. Not as much as, say, Bobby Grich or Lou Whitaker not being in now actually is.
Fred McGriff (11.7%): Underrated. Had his peak at just the wrong time given the changeover of eras from the low offense late-80s/early-90s to the high offense mid-90s.. Much like Kent, I would not cry if he made it, but I waver on him, and at the moment I waver to no.
Mark McGwire (11.0%): One dimensional, but what a damn dimension. I think he’s a yes.
Larry Walker (10.2%): An MVP and three batting titles. Power and speed. Again, a guy I never thought of as a Hall of Famer when he played, but he looks way better with perspective and (with the help of others who have done the heavy lifting here) the realization that he was not a Coors creation. I may lean yes, even if the ten-vote limit would cut him off for me in all likelihood.
Don Mattingly (8.2%): Close but no cigar. Call me back if he has a near-HoF managerial career and goes in as Joe Torre, Mark II.
Sammy Sosa (7.2%): He, McGwire and Palmeiro are probably the three guys people who do the PED-discount thing (i.e. don’t disqualify PED users from the Hall of Fame but do downgrade their accomplishments as a result) talk about the most. I dabbled in the discounter camp in the past, but not anymore. I just don’t care. You can’t tell the story of 1990s baseball without Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. They were great players. Maybe he’s easy to cut out if you only have ten votes, but if you’re just talking about being deserving, I’d say let him in.
THE IMAGINARY VOTE: I obviously came up with way more guys who I think are deserving than I could fit on an imaginary ballot. Fifteen guys easy, and maybe two or three more if I’m feeling generous. But let’s pretend we only have ten votes. If so — and keeping in mind that I’m forced to cut off several guys who are 100% Hall of Famers in my mind, I’ll go with: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines and Curt Schilling.
But really, trading any of those guys for a couple I left off would be easy. Just way too many deserving guys on the ballot.