Not quite Friday, but it's about time I got around to my Hall of Fame post.
Well, obviously, it's an unusual ballot this year, with so many all-time greats appearing for the first time. I mean, even without the writers who are inventing crazy distinctions to justify voting for some guys and not others...about that, I'll link to Christina Kahrl's perfectly sensible comments, and a reasonable alternative perspective from T.J. Quinn, and also to a very nice explanation of his own vote by Hank Shulman. I'll also repeat my opinion that eventually, all these guys are going in...maybe not a handful of players who were right on the edge otherwise, but all the obvious HOFers will eventually wind up enshrined.
Okay, now to the ballot.
Of the returning group, the ones who I said I would have voted for last year were McGwire, Raines, Trammell, Bagwell, Palmerio, Edgar, McGriff, and Murphy. The first four are basically easy calls for me; the latter four I've bounced back and forth on. I also looked at Bernie Williams and Larry Walker, and for me they both came up just short.
This year? Well, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens don't need a whole lot of thought. That's two. I think both Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio are pretty easy ones, also. That makes four. Needing a bit more thought? We have Curt Schilling, Kenny Lofton, Sammy Sosa. Clearly under, for me, are David Wells, Steve Finley, and Julio Franco...I would have loved it if Franco made it, but he didn't.
Pausing...that means I have eight clear votes, four I would have supported last year, and three to think about for this year. So seven guys for two spots.
McGriff is the easiest toss-out. He's really not up to the level of the others, and was probably an overly generous call...he also has plenty of time remaining, so no reason to rush a vote on him. Dale Murphy, on the other hand, is in his last shot at it. So if I do think he should go in, there's a solid reason to include him this time.
The new guys on the bubble?
Schilling comes out as a very safe vote in baseball-reference's WAR. He has ten league top-ten finishes in ERA+ and adjusted pitching runs; never the league leader, but an astonishing 16th ever in career adjusted pitching runs. And, yes, postseason counts, and so add to that another 133 IP of 2.33 ERA, or basically half a Cy Young season against top teams. Even if you just count that the same as regular season innings, that's a big deal. The more I look, the more he's an easy yes.
Kenny Lofton also scores surprisingly high on WAR, a very deserving ~65 wins. He only has three top-10 years in WAR, however, although one of those is a league-best...but that's in a short year, 1994. This is also one where, for whatever reasons, the WAR system seems to reward him more than others; BP's WARP has him at ~56 wins (compare Rock Raines: ~66 wins by WAR, but ~70 by WARP. Lofton also doesn't help himself much with postseason: 438 PAs, 315 OBP/352 SLG, although a lot of that comes well past his prime, and nothing wrong with 34/6 SB/CS ratio. I do think that Hall tends to underrate CFs, for whatever that's worth. Basically, he's on the bubble for me. This year, that means voting against...although if I did have a vote, I might be tempted to support him just to keep him on the ballot, at least if I really thought he deserved it.
Sammy Sosa? About 55 WAR, a bit better in WARP. Sosa was washed up really early, basically contributing nothing after his age 35 season; Lofton was still a helpful player at 40. On the other hand, Sosa's lifetime cumulative stats are helped, but his averages are hurt, because he had four mediocre seasons in the majors before he figured it out at age 24 (with his late peak starting not until age 29). I'm thinking he's a bubble guy, too.
So: add Schilling to my easy group above, which gets me to 9: Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Biggio, McGwire, Raines, Trammell, Bagwell, Piazza. Instead of ranking the others, I think a bit of strategic voting would be in order if I had a real ballot. Of those in my larger list, I have Palmiero as a somewhat clear HOFer who only got 12.6% of the vote last time; Murphy in his last year; and Lofton, at risk of joining the Lou Whitaker one-and-out club. So it should be one of those three, which drops Edgar Martinez off and punts a decision on Sosa to a year with more spots on the ballot. Hmmm...I think this is where I could get three different answer if I wrote this on three different days. Today, I think I'm going to say that if I had a ballot, I'd put Rafael Palmiero in that 10th spot.
I should say one more thing before I quit for the year...Jack Morris is probably going to go into the HOF on this ballot. Just an amazing travesty. Here's how bad it is. Not only would it be a bad joke to support Morris and leave Schilling off your ballot, but there's not even any reasonable argument for Morris over David Wells. Morris, lifetime, has 15 more "Wins" than Wells but with a worse W/L%. Morris had about an extra season plus of IP and a lower ERA, but he pitched in a much more favorable era, so his ERA+ is worse. But you know where the real difference is? Morris was a much worse postseason pitcher -- 7-4 W/L record, with a 3.80 ERA, while Wells turned in a 10-5 W/L and a 3.17 ERA (note: yeah, I'm not really paying any attention to the W/L stuff at all, but the Morris supporters are).
At any rate, that's my group. Alas, things are only going to get worse next year, assuming that the writers haven't come to their sense in time to avoid the real train wreck then. I do think that everyone is going to eventually get in, but unless the writers sober up real soon, it's going to take some really ugly Vet Committee stuff to make it work.