Hall of Fame: Reaction to the Vote and Looking Ahead
As is the case with any election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame vote, there is reaction and thoughts as we look ahead to the next ballot.
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The BBWAA has rules for the election and it’s something that a handful of writers continue to ignore with every vote placed for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. It’s listed under #5 in the rules:
"Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
This rule cannot be made any clearer and yet I’ll read articles from prominent national writers that surprise me. Take this one from ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Stark is one who voted for both Bonds and Clemens. I had no problem with his article until I reached this heading: Magic numbers aren’t what they used to be. I’m sorry but I have to completely disagree with that sentiment. Those numbers are still magical numbers. It’s just that some of the players who achieved those milestones happened to have played by tainting their stats through performance-enhancing drugs.
The first paragraph Stark writes is as follows:
"If there had been any doubt before this that the magic Hall of Fame numbers of yesteryear — 3,000 hits, 300 wins, 500 homers, even 600 homers — were no longer the meaningful guideposts of old, this election sure sealed that deal."
This is where I ought to bring up the fact that neither Phil Niekro or Don Sutton got in on the first ballot when they went into Cooperstown in the late 1990s. Niekro, who retired with over 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts, needed five ballots to get elected. Sutton also retired with over 300 wins and 3500 strikeouts yet he also needed five ballots. It should be noted that Sutton was less than ten votes shy of getting in on his fourth ballot.
The idea that these milestone achievements sealed the deal went out the window in the late 1990s rather than in 2015. That’s not to say that we don’t admire players who reach those achievements. We do admire them but only when they play the game the right way. Alex Rodriguez is not walking through the door at Cooperstown unless he’s paying his own admission. The same goes for the aforementioned Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, and Sosa.
Instead of voting for a Bonds or Clemens, why not vote for someone like Alan Trammell? His only crime was being the second best shortstop of his era. David Schoenfield makes the argument for his induction on the SweetSpot blog. Trammell may very well be the most underrated player of all time. He’s one of six shortstops with six seasons of 6+ WAR as Schoenfield notes and the BBWAA isn’t really giving him a fair look on their ballots.
With the four inductees along with Don Mattingly not on the 2016 ballot, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina should benefit the most with the number of votes that were freed up. Outside of Ken Griffey, Jr., there’s no other first ballot Hall of Famer on there but the case can be made for both Trevor Hoffman and Jim Edmonds. Hoffman’s case is different than Lee Smith in that he finished with over 600 saves rather than under 500 saves. Other players that stand to benefit include both Jeff Kent and Larry Walker.
And to Ken Rosenthal, I could not have said it better myself! His post-election column is a must-read and stresses just how robbed Tim Raines is of those extra years on the ballot.
We’re a year away from the 2016 election announcement but there will be plenty of debate come December.