Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Hall of Fame candidates with Nationals ties (2016 version)

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Griffey was nearly unanimous. Photo via freeteam.com

Griffey was nearly unanimous. Photo via freeteam.com

Congrats to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza for their election this year.  Hopefully the high vote totals for Bagwell and Raines will lead to their election next year, where the ballot doesn’t really have any obvious candidates.  (And let me qualify: I absolutely think there’s players on next year’s ballot who deserve to be in … its just that PED stain will probably prevent them from being slam-dunk candidates.  More on that in next year’s episode of “how the Hall of Fame Ballot turns”).

This is the Class of 2016 Version of this post: first one was done after the 2014 Hall of Fame class was announced and the voting results made public, and then the next was done after the Class of 2015 was announced.

Here’s a review of every player who has Nationals ties who has appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot, along with their voting results.  This post will let you answer the trivia question, “What former Nats player has come the closest to Hall of Fame enshrinement?”  (Answer at the bottom)

We’ll work from most recent to oldest.

2016 Ballot:

Not a single Nats-connected is on the official Class of 2016 ballot.  So, really the rest of this post is just cut and pasted from last  year’s post.  But we’ve published it for a trip down memory lane.

Post-publishing update: as I suspected but didn’t have a good way to research, there’s actually quite a few guys who were *candidates* for the 2016 ballot by requirements, but who didn’t make the cut who also had connections to the Nationals.  In fact, there’s quite a few of them.  Here’s a good list, thanks to the excellent research by Bill from platoonadvantage.com.

  • Ronnie Belliard: Played pretty well for the god-awful stretch of Nationals teams from 2007-2009, posting a nifty 123 OPS+ during the middle season before getting traded away at the 2009 trade deadline for two minor leaguers who never went anywhere (Luis Garcia, Victor Garate).  Stuck with Los Angeles one more season before hanging them up at 35.  Played parts of 13 seasons in the majors but didn’t rate a spot on the ballot.
  • Jesus Colome was an important part of the Nats bullpen during the same 2007-2009 span that Belliard was involved with, getting more than 120 appearances his first two seasons before posting an 8 ERA in 2009 and getting DFA’d in July.  He got picked up the next year by Seattle and got a few appearances (hence why he’s not on the “Nats to Oblivion” lists) and, if you can believe it, is still pitching at age 37 in the independent Atlantic league as we speak.  He did manage 10 distinct years w/ MLB appearances though, so he qualified.
  • Jose Guillen came to Washington with the Expos, played one solid year in 2005, had a season-ending elbow injury in 2006, then bounced around the league for a few more years.  He was active for 14 total seasons but never made an all star game.  He hit 24 homers for the surprising 2005 Nats … and led the league in HBPs.
  • Cristian Guzman signed a somewhat controversial 4yr/$16M contract (it cost the team its 2nd round pick) that started when the team moved to Washington, was god-awful his first year, then had to have shoulder surgery to miss the entirety of 2006.  He recovered his stroke in 2007 and actually made the all-star team in 2008 (our only representative during the dark years) … which was enough to convince our idiot GM Jim Bowden to give him a 2yr/$16M extension to an aging shortstop w/ no power on the wrong side of 30.  Not surprisingly, his OPS dropped 100 points in 2009 and the team dumped him on Texas in a trade-deadline deal after he had lost his starting job to Ian Desmond, netting the Nats two RHPs (one of which Tanner Roark makes this one of the better trades ever consummated by the Nats executive staff).  Guzman played in 15 more games for Texas, batted .152 and never played again.

2015 Ballot:

  • Aaron Boone, who signed a 1yr/$1M FA contract to be a backup corner infielder with the abhorrent 2008 Nationals team.  Boone’s crowning baseball achievement was his extra innings walk-off homer that ended one of the best games in MLB history (Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS between Boston and the Yankees, ranked #6 by MLB’s panel a few years back when ranking the best 20 games of the last half century).  Ironically one of his lowest moments was just a couple months later, blowing out his ACL that subsequent winter while playing pickup basketball, costing him the entirety of the 2004 season and the trust of the  Yankees organization.  He missed 2/3rds of the 2007 season after another left knee injury and the Nats were probably his last gasp shot at extending his career at the age of 35.  He got a decent amount of playing time thanks to the fragility of Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson, somehow got another guaranteed MLB deal the following year, went 0-14 for Houston and was released.  He’s now an analyst with ESPN.  Received 2 votes on the 2015 ballot.
  • Ron Villone signed a minor league deal in 2009 and was quickly added to the Nats active roster, where he appeared in 63 games as our primary one-out lefty.   He pitched the entirety of 2010 on another minor league contract with Syracuse, posting a 6.59 ERA as a 40-year old and never earning a call-up.   In 2011 he was invited to spring training again (perhaps with the hope that he’d join the organization as a coach) but he got cut, then pitched a handful of indy league games for his home-town New Jersey indy league team, got hammered, and hung them up.   He retired having played in 15 seasons for no less than 12 different teams.  In 2012 he took a pitching coach job with the Cubs organization (one of the teams he managed NOT to play for during his career) and has been moving up their organization in that capacity since.  Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot.
  • Julian Tavarez signed a one-year deal in the beginning of 2009, started out decently but had an awful stretch that resulted in his DFA in mid July 2009.  He never threw another pitch in organized ball, abruptly retiring considering his mid-season release.  He ended a 17-year career spanning 11 different franchises.  Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot.  According to his wiki page, he now resides in a suburb of Cleveland (his original professional team) but does not list any post-career activities, baseball-related or otherwise.  Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot.

Both Tavarez and Villone belong to the infamous “From Nationals to Oblivion” club, a topic we revisit on an annual basis.

Note: it is not entirely clear to me why Villone and Tavarez were not actually ON the 2015 ballot; both seem to have the qualifications (10 years of experience and 5 years retired) and both were on previous versions of the “anticipated ballot” at baseball-reference.com, but neither showed up on BBWAA’s official ballot for this year.  Pete Kerzel did a post reviewing “Nats connected” 2015 ballot members when the ballot came out in Nov 2014 and only mentioned Boone.  I include them here since it seems to me they *should* be on the ballot and I’m not sure why they were not (unless someone is passing judgement on the “quality” of HoFame ballot members).  Are they pushed to subsequent ballots for some reason?  If anyone has insight i’d love to know.

2014 Ballot:

  • Paul Lo Duca: one of Bowden’s more infamous signings; he went from our opening day catcher in the 2008 season to being released by August 1st.  The highlight of his tenure here was having his name being revealed in the Mitchell Report just a couple days after signing with us.  After his release, he signed on to finish out the season with Florida, took a year off and attempted a come back in 2010 (signing a ML contract with Colorado but never appearing above AAA).   Hard to believe this guy was a 4-time all-star.  Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.

2013 Ballot:

  • Royce Clayton; signed a contract to be the Nats shortstop during the lean Jim Bowden years, and then was included in the Mega swap of players that headed to Cincinnati in the 2006 season.  He hung around for one more season in 2007 as a backup short stop and retired afterwards.  Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.
  • Mike Stanton was picked up in mid 2005 after being released by the Yankees, and he pitched well enough for the Nats that he was able to fetch a couple of low-level prospects in a late September move to Boston (who was looking for some late season bullpen cover).  The team then re-signed Stanton for 2006, and flipped him again mid-season, this time to the Giants for Shairon Martis.  Stanton toiled a one more season before hanging them up after 2007.   Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.

2012 Ballot:

  • Vinny Castilla: signed a two year deal to join the Nats, timed with their inaugural season in Washington, but was traded to Colorado for SP Brian Lawrence when it became apparent that Ryan Zimmerman was set to man the hot corner in DC for the next decade or so.  Played one more season and retired after 2006.  Received Six (6) Hall-of-fame votes.

2011 Ballot:

  • Carlos Baerga: signed a one year deal as a 36-yr old to join the Nats in their inaugural season and serve as a backup infielder.   Hit .253 in part-time duty and hung ’em up after a 14-year career that can be well described as “journey-man.”   He was an integral part of the early 90s Cleveland Indians as their starting 2nd baseman and a 3-time all-star, and ended up playing on 6 major league teams and spent parts one season in Korea.  Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.

So, thus far the Nats greatest Hall of Fame achievement is Vinny Castilla receiving 6 sympathy votes.  I’m sure this will change when Pudge hits the ballot next year (2017 class ballot).  Stay tuned!

6 Responses to 'Hall of Fame candidates with Nationals ties (2016 version)'

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  1. Hall of Fame votes fascinate me. The level of debate generated by this every year is amazing given how easy/frequently is seems that voters change their votes on certain players. For example, I’ve heard a lot of discussion that Bagwell, Raines and Hoffman got so close this year that they’re shoo-ins to make it in the next 1-2 years. Why?!?! Who is the moral authority that says they are not HOFers this year, but they are next year? I’m sure some will use the rule of 10 (which is dumb too) explanation but it’s got to be more than that.

    Second, who are the insane BBWAA voters that are voting for Clemens but not Bonds?!?! How are their vote totals not identical? It would seem to be that you either ignore the PED narrative and recognize that they are among the elite players of their time (arguably the greatest pitcher and the greatest hitter), or you don’t vote for either.

    I’m of the opinion that they are HOFers. I like to debunk the argument of “what do I tell my son when he asks why suspected cheaters are in the HOF?” with “what do I tell my son when he asks why the all-time HR leader is not in the HOF?” (Or the all-time hits leader FWIW) The answer is the same, you have an intelligent discussion on the HISTORY of the game both good and bad. Teachable moment.

    Rant over.

    MG

    7 Jan 16 at 11:29 am

  2. I’ve stopped writing the same “Here’s my fake Hall of Fame Ballot” posts because, well, why bother? Here’s what I don’t get: why are there people at this point who still, after all these years, get worked up about this? Why do people write 2500 words on the 10 versus 15 year limit, or the 10 ballot limit, or the character clause? I dunno.

    Every year we have the same arguments, every year I get less and less interested in the debate.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jan 16 at 11:43 am

  3. I’m thrilled that the blatant juicers are not getting in any time soon.

    What could be done is to set up a ‘Scumbag Wing’ off to the side. That way, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose can get in along with the juicers and that would end the discussion.

    If you have kids, you want to be able to say a players stats are reasonably authentic.

    Mark L

    7 Jan 16 at 3:49 pm

  4. Well, so long D-Span. Was a very strong player for the team, and seemed like a solid guy. I think that he’ll go down as one of Rizzo’s better trades. He’ll be missed but I am glad that he got paid. Hoping Desi can pull a rabbit out of his hat too. Getting a little worried for him.

    But thinking of Desi and JZ, both of whom in retrospect seemed to have made bad decisions turning down Rizzo’s extensions (JZ’s because he got the same money but two years later and he took a big risk to get there), it makes me realize how difficult it is to evaluate GMs. For instance, those were Rizzo’s first choices. It didn’t happen, and it ultimately led to his second choices, namely the Scherzer signing and the Ross/Turner trade. We’re pretty happy with that situation now, but how do you evaluate the guy when he wasn’t able to execute on his first choice? Good recovery actions, certainly, but lucky?

    Another example is Sandy Alderson last year – Cespedes was brilliant for them, even at the high prospect cost. But he was acknowledged to be their third choice, after Gomez and Upton. It got them to the WS, so sure, great job. But was it more luck than skill? What would have happened if he was able to do the thing that he really wanted to do?

    I guess its too hard to go very far down that path, because you wind up speculating about alternate universes, but its interesting to argue about over a beer.

    Wally

    8 Jan 16 at 6:35 am

  5. HOF: no time to elaborate right now, but here’s one of the big issues in brief. I’ll preface it by saying that I think some of the PED guys will get in. I have very mixed feelings about it, but some were truly the among the best players in the game’s history. That leads directly to my point, though: who would get in, unequivocally, whether they used or not? I’d say Bonds, Clemens, and ARod, and Piazza and Pudge (both never named) for their ranks among the catchers. That’s it for the slam dunks. If you knock 15-20% off the career production of guys like McGwire, Sosa, and Manny, they become Fred McGriff, very borderline.

    Meanwhile, I think Clemens’ outsized totals, particularly in wins, are hurting guys like Schilling and Mussina, who would compare a lot more favorably if Clemens were more in the 250-275 win total range after an unenhanced career regression. Clemens was better at his peak, but those guys would compare more favorably overall.

    We’ll see. Piazza is the first suspected (very, very loosely) guy to get in, probably opening the door for Bagwell. I don’t think Pudge will be a first-ballot guy, but he’ll get in as well. So the slippery slop will start slipping.

    KW

    8 Jan 16 at 8:54 am

  6. Span: I would have liked to have him back at that contact. I feared he (and Boras) would want at least four years at $12M+ per. You have to think that the Nats’ medical staff (err, FORMER medical staff) knew Span’s situation and risks better than anyone, though.

    We keep hearing Parra for the Nats, who would be available for a lot less, but he is a substandard centerfielder, and his career year at the plate fell apart when he reached Charm City. I’d trust Taylor as a starter a lot more than I would Parra, and I don’t really trust Taylor!

    Anyway, good luck to Span, who was a key cog during his time with the Nats, and a brilliant move by Rizzo. Remember, at the time, the options on the market were Michael Bourn and B. J. Upton, both of whom got outsized contracts and produced nothing close to what Span did. One even had to change his name and enter the witness protection program. Sometimes the second or third options turn out to be the best ones after all. (We’re looking at you, Daniel Murphy.)

    KW

    8 Jan 16 at 9:06 am

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