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Archive for January, 2022

2022 Class Hall of Fame Post

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This year begins the next 10 year cycle of arguing about the HoF merits of PED players. Photo via NYPost

Its that time of year. Its time to put our two cents in on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Past versions of this post: by ballot class: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

The 2022 class is a transitional one, where we’ll (finally) age off a number of the PED-associated players who have plagued this discussion for years, but just as a couple drop off another major one starts his 10 year cycle. Here’s one last chat about these expiring players, plus some thoughts on the players new to the 2022 ballot.

Key resources for HoF discussions:

New to the 2022 ballot: two significant names and a bunch of also-rans.

  • Alex Rodriguez: 3 MVPs, a decade and a half of getting All Star and MVP votes, 696 homers, 3100 hits, and a massive 117 bWAR figure that ranks him 16th in the history of the game. Under normal circumstances of course he’s a 1st ballot, near unanimous hall-of-famer. But A-Rod’s legacy has taken hit after hit: He was reportedly on the 2003 list, he was named prominently in Jose Canseco‘s book … but then he was the centerpiece player involved in the Biogenesis scandal, which resulted in a one-year suspension from the game in his late 30s. Despite his post-playing career reputation reclamation renaissance, which has seen him on national MLB broadcasts on ESPN’s Sunday night game of the week showing off his charm and charisma, we know BBWAA writers are not going to vote for him en-masse; my guess is that he’ll hover in the same 60% range that Bonds/Clemens have hovered in. My take on A-Rod is similar to my take on Bonds & Clemens: yes he cheated, but he’s also one of the best to ever play, so he should be enshrined.
  • David Ortiz finished his career in style, posting a ridiculous .315/.401/.620 slash line at age 40 in his farewell season, leading the league in slugging, OPS and RBI. He seemingly could still be playing the game and producing value. He was the heart of the Boston Red Sox for more than a decade and for three World Series titles, a feared slugger in the middle of the order who wreaked havoc during the post season (his career OPS in the postseason was .947, higher than his career regular season OPS). I push back on anyone who claims he has ties to PEDs, as I discussed at length in this space in 2013 and which has been corroborated by multiple national writers and the commissioner of the sport. The major knock on Ortiz is his DH-only stigma, but that really should no longer exist now that the writers have elected the likes of Edgar Martinez, Paul Molitor, and Frank Thomas. I think he’s a shoe-in but it remains to be seen if the anti-PED voters will believe he’s a cheater.
  • Mark Teixeira, native of Severna Park, probably is more famous for his massive contract than his production on the field. He signed an 8yr/$180M deal with New York, and by the end of it was a shell of his former self. But, in its first year (his age 29 season), he had his best ever season, leading the league in homers and RBIs, finishing 2nd in MVP voting and being a huge part of what has now turned out to be the last title the Yankees have won. For me; hall of very good, or perhaps “Hall of very well paid” along with players like Kevin Brown, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Jason Heyward, Barry Zito, and Mike Hampton)
  • Jimmy Rollins, longtime Phillies SS and my favorite lightning rod for discussions with my long-time Phillies friend Jason. Rollins won the 2007 NL MVP in just about the only season he ever merited league-wide recognition. My friend took this to mean he was a “shoe in” for the Hall of Fame, a claim I laughed at then and discuss now. Rollins won a handful of Gold Gloves, but was a sub-100 OPS+ hitter at the plate. He had a long, illustrious career and was a centerpiece in the 2008 WS winning team. For me, a nice player who played in the wrong era: if he played in the 70s and had this career, we’d be talking about him like we talked about Ozzie Smith.
  • Carl Crawford was a speed daemon, leading the league in SBs four times while starring for an under-noticed Tampa team. He put up a 7-win season, which led to a massive $142M contract before falling apart after leaving Tampa and was out of the league at 34. He has a surprisingly high career bWAR (39.1) but is nowhere near a hall of famer. I will be surprised if he gets 5% to remain on the ballot going forward.
  • Jake Peavy‘s career was highlighted by essentially two great seasons, one of which resulted in a Cy Young. He pitched a large amount of his career in NL West parks, which led him to have a stellar-looking career ERA of 3.63, but a park-adjusted ERA+ of just 110. A long-shot to get anything other than a couple of home-town votes.
  • Justin Morneau won an MVP at age 25, nearly won another at age 27, but couldn’t really create a second half to his career after leaving Minnesota He doesn’t have near enough career numbers to rate in the HoF discussion as a first baseman.
  • Prince Fielder was a beast at the plate, hitting 50 homers in his age 23 season, but a sudden neck injury went from an annoyance to surgery to career-ending issue very quickly. Its a shame; we’ll never know how the second half of his career (when he could have DH’d primarily) would have unfolded. Even given that, I don’t believe he had enough production in his 20s to give anyone any ideas he’d double it and become a HoFame threat.
  • Joe Nathan was a long-time closer who came back from two season-long injuries to pitch into his 40s. He was a solid closer who sits 8th in all time saves and hits the ballot at a time when more and more voters view closers through the appropriate lens; that of a slightly more important reliever than the 8th inning guy. Indeed, Nathan’s two biggest WAR seasons were just 2.4 and 2.1 win seasons, which is about what Mike Trout does in the first couple months of each season.
  • Tim Lincecum: Well, what to do with Lincecum? Absolutely dominant and durable for most of his 20s, winning two Cy Youngs and leading the league in Strikeouts three times…. and then suddenly at age 28 he collapsed and became below a replacement level player. He went from a 3.7 win season to a -1.7 win season over night. This is not a Sandy Koufax case, where he was at least decent for most of his career; Lincecum was great, then awful. HIs two major awards will help keep him on the ballot but there’s no way he gets into the Hall.
  • Jonathan Papelbon, this year’s “candidate with Nats ties,” was an excellent closer for a while, retiring with really excellent numbers (2.44 ERA, 177 ERA+). He sits 10th all time in saves. He made a ton of all star teams and won a World Series in Boston. I doubt he gets enough votes to stay on the ballot going forward.
  • A.J. Pierzynski had a 19-year career as a catcher, known best for his time in Chicago perhaps. He had his best year at age 35 oddly, and stayed behind the dish to the end. He had very few career accolades and i’m somewhat surprised he’s even on the ballot.
  • Ryan Howard, another player who belongs in the “Hall of Massive contracts,” is the lowest-career bWAR player new to the ballot in 2021. He was a late bloomer, exploding onto the scene at age 25 and in short order winning a RoY, an MVP, and from age 25-29 was perhaps the most feared left handed slugger not named Barry Bonds in the NL. Then. … he fell off a cliff at age 30, going from a productive slugger who struck out a lot to a mediocre hitter who struck out a lot. I recall going to Nats-Phillies games late in his career where Howard wouldn’t have been able to hit a lefty if he had a guitar at the plate and soft-tossing Oliver Perez would come out of the pen to make him look like a little-leager seeing a curve ball for the first time. I figure he’ll get a few charity votes and move on. No crying for Howard though; he may have been out of the league at age 26 but he made more than $190M in his career.

So, of all the new-to-the-ballot players, I’d vote for A-Rod and Ortiz. I don’t believe Ortiz actually tested positive for anything, ever, and I’m not in the “never vote for a cheater” camp for transformative players like A-Rod (and Bonds, and Clemens … see below)


As for returning candidates, i’ll leverage a lot of what I wrote last year, but with some new information available to us I’ve changed my virtual mind on a couple of candidates in particular. These are ordered by the % of votes they got last year.

Quick reasoning in order of the above:

  • Curt Schilling can go f*ck himself. I’m sorry, but he was nearly at the point of personal reprehensibility BEFORE the events of January 6th that his candidacy should have been torpedoed (as well described in Jay Jaffe‘s HoF post for a partial list of his social media “takes” before he tweeted broad support for the insurrection. I’m at the point now with Schilling that I can no longer possibly support him, even though I think he merits induction based on his career. If you think that’s incongruous with my support of PED users, so be it. Schilling himself asked off the ballot after the backlash last January, to which the Hall said no, probably to ensure one last cycle of stories about why he didn’t make it. I predict he loses 10% of his support from last year’s 71% and heads deeper into Qanon and MAGA right wing media.
  • Clemens and Bonds are two of the best players ever to play, regardless of later-in-their-career PED transgressions (alleged or otherwise). You can cut both their careers off at the point where they both allegedly used and they’re still HoFamers. However, they’ve remained right in the 61% range for years now with little movement and the electorate has clearly made up their minds. Plus, I think the LAST thing Cooperstown wants is to give either guy a mike for a 45-minute diatribe on the way they’ve been treated, since both players basically continue to deny any culpability to this day. It remains amazing to me, and will going forward, that a 7-time MVP and a 7-time Cy Young winner will not be enshrined.
  • Scott Rolen is an interesting player whose value was much more about his defense than his offense. Interestingly the Hall has no problem electing top-end defensive short stops who couldn’t hit (see Ozzie Smith or Luis Aparicio) but seem to struggle when presented with an equally dominant defensive 3B who actually could hit. That’s Rolen to at. He was at 53% last year; does he have enough star power to move up? Probably a few percentage points.
  • Omar Vizquel was a mediocre hitter who played forever and nearly got to 3,000 hits. He was a solid defender yes, but I’m kind of at a loss as to why voters are giving him so much credence while Rolon struggles. And that was before he was accused of both Domestic Violence AND sexual harassment claims while he was managing. Geeze. I sense his candidacy is permanently done.
  • Billy Wagner: has better numbers than nearly any other inducted reliever. If you have any relievers in the hall, you’d need to consider Wagner (and as long as we’re having that conversation, say hello to Tom Henke). Of course, that’s not the way the world works, so he will continue to languish as the last stand of “closers” to be considered before the sport moves completely away from them (honestly; think about it right now; could you name last year’s Saves leaders? Did you know without looking it up that the MLB leader in saves was Mark Melancon? None other than a Nats hired gun from the ill-fated 2016 season?
  • Todd Helton was better than you remember. He had a season once where he hit .357 AND hit 42 homers. Just look past the fact that he was once arrested for DUI while buying lottery tickets. Lottery tickets! For a player who made $156M in his career. I think he’s permanently suffering from Colorado-syndrome, and if he had played some of his career at sea level maybe we’re having another conversation.
  • Gary Sheffield is a borderline candidate but was nearly as feared as Ramirez was at the plate. Has stronger PED usage allegations than others. He was, unfortunately, a “difficult” player to deal with both for club and media, which has probably led to his tepid support amongst the writers who couldn’t stand covering him. That kind of stuff shouldn’t matter, but it does. I”d support him, but a lot of writers will not. Hence why he’s in the 40% range and not the 60% range like Bonds/Clemens.
  • Andruw Jones was, for the first 10 years of his career, discussed as perhaps being the second coming of Willie Mays before getting hurt and getting run out of the game by the time he was 35. Despite playing just 11 full seasons he had 434 career homers and 10 straight gold gloves in Center. I think voters have just forgotten how good he was. Keith Law had a great post at the Athletic this week about just why Jones is hall-worthy, an interesting analysis that was worth reading. In an interesting Nats-related twist, Jones’ son (also named “Andruw Jones”) is a high school senior this year and is projected to go in the top 10 of the draft, right around where the Nats find themselves picking. Could we be looking at Andruw Jones junior?
  • Jeff Kent is a polarizing figure, both while he played and on the ballot. He’s a borderline guy and his voting totals have indicated that. By all accounts hew as nearly as big of a d*ck to reporters as Bonds was while both played in SF; wow, that must have been an awesome clubhouse to cover as a beat reporter.
  • Manny Ramirez was perhaps the most feared RH hitter for a decade in this league and has career numbers that put him in the top 25 hitters ever to play. Again, less interested in PED transgressions at the end of his career than I am with the bulk of his accomplishments. I realize I’m in the minority here, but I’d support him.
  • Sammy Sosa: too hard to make a case that he reinvented himself as a home run hitter completely thanks to artificial mechanisms. He was a 36–40 homer guy then he suddenly rips off seasons of 66, 63, 50 and 64. I will say though, i do “buy” his corked bat explanation once I read that the league confiscated all his other bats and found no other cork. His post-season career has not aged well; he appeared on the excellent ESPN documentary “Long Gone Summer” about the homer chase, and looked like he’d had more cosmetic surgery than Kaitlin Jenner.
  • Pettitte lead the league in wins in the 90s (much like Morris did in the 80s) but is recognized similarly to Mark Buehrle; a lefty 3rd or 4th starter for most of his career who stayed healthy and accumulated wins and strikeouts, but was rarely even the best hurler on his own team. Both are Hall of very good, not Cooperstown.
  • Torii Hunter had a surprisingly solid, quiet career. Great defender, great teammate. Not enough to make the hall, and i’m kind of surprised he even stuck around for a 2nd year on the ballot.
  • Bobby Abreu: good but not transcendent. Frankly i;m amazed at the support he’s getting so far on the bbhof tracker.
  • Tim Hudson; highest JAWS of any of the 2021 new candidates, nearly the highest total career WAR. He certainly had enough time in the sun, playing for multiple playoff teams in his career (7 seasons pitching in the playoffs). Was frequently in Cy Young talks, but never really came close to winning one. Given that, he barely made it to the 5% threshold to stay on the ballot.

Summary:

Returning Ballot Candidates
Here’s how I’d vote my imaginary ballot. Amazingly, i find myself struggling to get to 10 players.

  • Yes on Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez
  • A more tepid Yes on Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield,
  • Hard No on Curt Schilling, Omar Vizquel,
  • Pass on Billy Wagner, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Tim Hudson, and all other new 2022 ballot names.

Totally understand if you’ve got Hall of Fame fatigue and move on. 🙂

Written by Todd Boss

January 3rd, 2022 at 10:02 am

Posted in Awards,Hall of Fame