Who belongs in the Hall? Rosenthal’s ballot & top snubs
In an accompanying column, I explained the process behind my Hall of Fame selections, and that I do not vote for certain players who were strongly linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
Here is a more detailed look at my 10 choices and five non-PED snubs that, in my view, warrant explanation. In some cases, I’m recycling comments from previous years.
Jeff Bagwell: Don’t tell me that Bagwell flunks the “eye test” – suspicion alone is not enough to justify a “no” vote. Bagwell’s career .408 on-base percentage, .540 slugging percentage, defense at first base, baserunning and leadership are more than enough to justify a “yes.”
Craig Biggio: My favorite thing about Biggio is that he played more than 250 games at three different up-the-middle positions (1,989 at second, 428 at catcher and 255 in center field). In 1998, at roughly the midpoint of his career, Bill James described him as one of the five greatest second basemen of all time. That might have been an exaggeration, but Biggio is the only player in history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs.
Tom Glavine: His five 20-win seasons and 305 career victories amount to classic old-school credentials. Some of Glavine’s advanced metrics are less flattering – his career 118 ERA-plus, for example, is the same as that of Hiroki Kuroda and C.J. Wilson. Still, he was a left-hander with immense savvy, and all of his quality innings and seasons add up to a Hall of Fame career. Glavine, MVP of the 1995 World Series, wasn’t too shabby in the postseason, either.
Greg Maddux: Forgive me, sabermetricians, but my favorite Maddux accomplishment is his record 17 straight seasons with at least 15 wins – a testament to his consistency, durability and sheer excellence. Maddux, lacking a 95-mph fastball, was the pre-eminent pitching artist of his generation. He won four straight Cy Young awards from 1992 to ’95, not to mention 18 Gold Gloves, a record for any player at any position.
Edgar Martinez: I know, he was mostly a DH. But what a DH, maybe the best ever, and one of the best right-handed hitters of his era, period. Since World War II only Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Frank Thomas have finished their careers with OBPs higher than Martinez’s .418.
Mike Mussina: A pitcher whose candidacy should benefit from the context that advanced metrics provide. Never mind that Mussina’s first 20-win season came in the 18th and final year of his career; his other statistics are all the more impressive considering that he pitched in a hitter-friendly era, an offensively robust division and during his 10 years in Baltimore, a park that was often favorable to hitters. He had some big postseason moments for the Orioles and Yankees, too.
Mike Piazza: As with Bagwell, mere suspicion of PED use is not enough for me to withhold a vote. Piazza was the top offensive catcher of his generation and one of the best of all time. Yes, he struggled to throw out opposing base stealers, but that deficiency pales in comparison to what he achieved as a hitter. He received 57.8 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot, a good sign.
Tim Raines: His time will come; voters eventually will grasp that Raines is closer to Rickey Henderson than many realize. Henderson had the higher OBP (.401-.385), but Raines had the higher SLG (.425-.419). Raines also had the highest stolen-base percentage in history among players with 500 or more steals.
Curt Schilling: You can complain that his peak was too fragmented, or that his 216 wins are not enough. But Schilling met every other measure of dominance, ranking 15th all time in strikeouts and first in strikeout-to-walk ratio, post-1900. He also led three teams to World Series titles, finishing with a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts.
Frank Thomas: The Joey Votto of his day, combining plate discipline with power; Thomas’ .419 career on-base percentage and .555 slugging mark were almost identical to Votto’s current .419 and .541 marks. Thomas spent more games as a designated hitter (1,310) than as a first baseman (972), but he won back-to-back MVPs in 1993-94 and was a Top 10 finisher seven other times.
Fred McGriff: First time I have not voted for him, and only because my ballot got too crowded. Seven more home runs would have elevated McGriff to 500, making him more of an obvious call. Voters need to look closer: McGriff’s career OPS-plus was higher than that of Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray.
Jack Morris: I’ve often wondered if I would cave if a player was close to 75 percent but I had not voted for him previously; it’s a vote for the Hall of Fame, not the US presidency, and I would not want to be the one voter who kept a player out if so many of my colleagues deemed him worthy.
Morris, who received 67.7 percent of the vote last year, presents such a challenge, but I can’t get past his 3.90 ERA, which would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall. His supporters say he “pitched to the score,” but sorry, that doesn’t fully explain why his career ERA-plus barely rates above league average.
I do not mean to diminish Morris; he had a terrific career. Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, in which Morris went 10 innings for the Twins to beat the Braves, was one of the best sporting events I have witnessed. My concern is that electing him would lower the standards of the Hall, enhancing a number of fringe candidacies.
Lee Smith: I also voted for him previously, and still believe that many voters are too quick to dismiss closers. Yes, the save statistic is dubious, but Smith was the all-time leader in that category when he retired. He also was durable, as evidenced by his streak of 60 or more appearances in 12 straight seasons.
Alan Trammell: The last player for whom I withdrew support this year, and only grudgingly. It bothers me greatly that Trammell fares so poorly in the voting. He was the American League version of Barry Larkin, overshadowed by a more celebrated shortstop (Cal Ripken Jr. in Trammell’s case, Ozzie Smith in Larkin’s), but worthy of Cooperstown in his own right.
Larry Walker: Imagine if he had stayed healthy. Walker was a fantastic hitter, excellent defender and savvy base-runner, but he averaged just 126 games over his first 13 full seasons. That, to me, is more troublesome than the effect that Coors Field had on his career. Walker had an otherworldly 1.174 OPS at home during his 10 seasons with the Rockies, and a healthy .899 OPS on the road.
My thanks to Jay Jaffe of SI.com, whose JAWS series helped frame my thoughts.