I’m not a 10-year veteran of the BBWAA, but as a blogger who likes to make his opinion heard I’ve participated in three mock votes for the 2012 Hall of Fame election, including one right here at FanSided.
As an outspoken advocate of voting transparency in Hall of Fame elections, I figured I ought to reveal who I checked off on my ballot and why. My vote might not count for anything tangible, but nonetheless I’m happy—nay, eager—to share my selections.
There are three players whose names I checked without a moment’s hesitation: Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, and Tim Raines. With 449 home runs and a .948 career OPS Bagwell should have been a no-questions-asked first-ballot Hall of Famer. With five seasons of 7.0 fWAR or higher there’s no doubt his peak was good enough, and with 83.9 career wins above replacement no one can say he didn’t sustain his greatness long enough to merit enshrinement.
Unless you’re a radical small-Haller, the only rationale for keeping Bagwell out is the possibility that he used performance-enhancing drugs. But there’s no evidence at all that he used; if he did, it might not have been illegal when he did; and even if he’d been caught and suspended he’d still have my vote.
Designated hitters should be held to a higher standard for the Hall of Fame, but Martinez absolutely met it. Among players with at least 8,500 plate appearances, Martinez ranks 20th with a 148 wRC+, putting him on par with Alex Rodriguez and ahead of names like Mike Schmidt (146), Willie McCovey (145), Jim Thome (145), and Reggie Jackson (139). Any further questions?
As for Raines, the case for him has been fleshed out far too well for me to be able to add anything substantive to the conversation. He’s underappreciated because his value came from plate discipline and quality (not quantity) of stolen base attempts, but his 134 career wRC+ compares favorably with Ken Griffey Jr. (133) and Rod Carew (132). Six seasons of better than 6.0 fWAR and a career total of over 70? I’m sold.
Nor did I have to think too hard before checking off Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. Given the long history of Hall of Famers using PEDs (Willie Mays’ “red juice,” Mickey Mantle’s “greenies,” Pud Galvin’s…you don’t want to go there), being bad people (don’t forget, Ty Cobb stabbed a guy), and even being caught cheating (Gaylord Perry), I can’t rationalize judging a player’s Cooperstown credentials based on anything but their on-field production. And in that light, McGwire and Palmeiro are both easy yeses.
In the next tier are a pair of deserving shortstops: Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell. I’m not as bullish on Larkin as others seem to be, but I still think he’s worthy. It’s not easy for a shortstop to have eight seasons with over 5.0 fWAR, even if he was never one of the best few players in the game (his 1995 MVP award should have gone to Barry Bonds or Greg Maddux). I also have tremendous respect for any player who walks more than he strikes out in his career.
Trammell’s prime was even better than Larkin’s. He wasn’t an elite player for as long as Larkin, but he had at least six great years and was a solid player for more than a decade. Larkin’s getting all the love this year, but if I had to pick just one, I’d probably go with Trammell. Luckily, I didn’t have to choose.
With three potential picks left, I then used one on Larry Walker, who may be the most underrated player on the ballot. His 1997 season was the stuff of legends. At least offensively the same could be said for his 1998, 1999, and 2001 campaigns, even after accounting for Coors Field. A friendly stadium alone can’t give a player over 70 career WAR.
I used another of my remaining choices on Fred McGriff. If he had hit seven more home runs and was on the ballot in a different MLB environment, he’d be a no-doubter. Unfortunately, he’s stuck at 493 career dingers, and while his power numbers looked great relative to the league in his prime, he’s now being compared to the first basemen of the modern era. “By the standards of history [McGriff] was a strong Hall of Fame candidate,” Joe Posnanski writes. “Trouble is: History has changed.” I judged him by his peers and gave him my vote.
Finally, I used my 10th vote on Lee Smith. I’m definitely not one to defend the integrity of the save, but at the very least it’s telling that Smith was the best fireman of his era. Even for a reliever a 3.03 ERA is impressive over 18 seasons. And he wasn’t just a one-inning specialty guy, as evidenced by the 103.1 innings of 1.65 ERA ball he threw in 1983. Thirty rWAR is a fantastic achievement for a reliever, and fWAR has him as the third-best reliever since 1974, behind only Mariano Rivera and Goose Gossage. It’s not a slam-dunk case, but it’s enough for me to give Smith my vote.
So my ballot in each of the three votes I took part in went as follows: Bagwell, Larkin, Martinez, McGriff, McGwire, Palmeiro, Raines, Smith, Trammell, Walker. What do you think?