In the middle of vacation, I filled out and mailed my Hall of Fame ballot today. It’s the ninth time I’ve voted in this important election, and as usual, it’s not a duty I take lightly. I’m a liberal voter. That is, I tend to vote for a lot of guys on the ballot, knowing full well only one or two will get elected.
As I did last year, I voted for nine players this year:
Last year, Andre Dawson was the lone player elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America, being named on 77.9 percent of ballots cast. To gain election, a player must be named on at least 75 percent of ballots cast by BBWAA members. (To be able to vote, a BBWAA member must have at least 10 years of active duty in the organization.)
Rule 5 of our instructions states: “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.”
As I wrote about this time last winter, I go through a multi-layered approach each year. I value stats mostly heavily. However, it’s still called the Hall of Fame and not the Hall of Stats. That's why Jack Morris gets my vote.
I also try to talk to as many players and former players as I can about certain guys. I've asked about Morris and Bert Blyleven and Alan Trammell. These guys' peers also seem to take my questions very seriously, and all give well-reasoned answers either way. Even though broadcasters don’t vote, I try to talk with as many as I can about their opinions.
I’ll pick up last year’s copy on each guy for whom I voted and why.
The stats are certainly there. I voted for Alomar last year; my only reservation about first-ballot status was Alomar's spitting incident with the umpire. But he made amends with the umpire. Ten Gold Gloves, 12 consecutive all-star teams, four Silver Sluggers, a lifetime OBP of .371 and more than 2,700 hits seal the deal for me. Alomar was named on 73.7 percent of ballots last year.
Not the Hall of Stats: When Alomar wasn't hitting, he made sure to let you know he was helping his team in other ways. He also mastered the pop-up slide fielding method on the old AstroTurf in Toronto. He was the best second baseman of his day.
In 15 years, Bagwell put up an offensive line of .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI. He was a four-time all-star and the unanimous winner of the NL MVP award in 1994. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1991. Although he won only one Gold Glove (1994), Bagwell was the best right-handed fielding first baseman I had seen since Derrek Lee came along. Nobody could field a bunt and gun down a runner at third base quite the way Bagwell did.
Not the Hall of Stats: Along with Craig Biggio, Bagwell was the face of the Houston Astros franchise for almost his entire career. He helped make the Astros perennial contenders in the late 1990s.
How does anybody NOT vote for this guy? Record of 287-250, lifetime ERA of 3.31 and a staggering 242 complete games. Bert put up ERA-plus (with 100 being league average with adjustments for ballpark factors) figures of 158, 142, 129, 130, 151, 144, 145 and 140 during his career. He also had WHIP figures of 1.065, 1.15 and 1.17. His 3,701 strikeouts rank fifth all time. His similarity scores on baseball-reference.com put him with Hall of Famers Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Tom Seaver, Early Wynn, Fergie Jenkins, Robin Roberts, Phil Niekro and Steve Carlton. Last year, Blyleven was second in the voting, getting named on 74.2 percent of ballots. This looks to be his year, and it’s about time.
Not the Hall of Stats: Blyleven had the damndest curveball I have ever seen. Sitting behind the plate at old Comiskey Park one night while Bert was with the Rangers, I saw that curveball, and then I didn't. It completely disappeared. One contemporary of Blyleven tells the story of a hitter who talked confidently of hitting Blyleven and that curveball. What happened? Blyleven struck him out that day three times on 9 pitches, all curveballs.
Larkin came into the NL when Ozzie Smith was still all the rage. In 19 years, Barry made 12 all-star teams and won nine Silver Sluggers. In 1995, he was the NL MVP. He had a career .371 OBP, more than 2,300 hits and 198 homers.
Not the Hall of Stats: Larkin was the face of the Reds franchise for many years, winning Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig awards. His record was one of consistent excellence.
Like the DH or not, and I don't, it's part of the game, and Martinez may have been the best. He had a career hitting line of .312/.418/.515. He had an OPS of more than 1.000 five times. He turned in OPS-plus numbers of 185, 164, 166, 165, 158, 152, 157 and 160.
Not the Hall of Stats: When I think of DHs, I think of Edgar Martinez first.
Here's a contentious one, and this is my "Not the Hall of Stats" guy, even though Morris' stats are excellent. He posted three 20-win seasons, piled up 175 complete games and was the majors' winningest pitcher in the '80s. He put up ERA-plus numbers of 133, 124, 122, 127, 126 and 124. He had WHIPs of 1.167, 1.158 and 1.165. He was named to five all-star teams and made three starts. He had 11 seasons with 200-plus innings. Among pitchers baseball-reference.com cites him as similar to are Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Bob Feller and Jim Bunning.
Not the Hall of Stats: Critics say he gets votes because of one start, the 1991 Game 7 victory for the Twins over the Braves in one of the greatest World Series games of all-time. No, Morris gets votes for leading the Detroit pitching staff well before he got to Minnesota. He pitched in four ALCS and three World Series with three teams: Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays. He was a bulldog who wanted the ball. If you asked the late Sparky Anderson whom he wanted to give the ball to for an important start, he’d say Morris. Even if they do change it to the Hall of Stats, I still might vote for him.
Overshadowed in his day by Rickey Henderson, Raines ranks among the game's best leadoff hitters. He had a lifetime OBP of .385 to go along with more than 2,600 hits and 808 stolen bases. He had seven full seasons of hitting .300 or better. His stolen-base percentage of .847 is second all time among players with at least 300 attempts. He had OPS-plus figures of 151, 145, 149, 138, 135 and 131. Raines was an all-star seven straight years (1981-87).
Not the Hall of Stats: Along with Andre Dawson, he formed the identity of the Montreal Expos during their brief fling with glory. He was a feared threat on the basepaths. Although not Hall of Fame worthy itself, Raines didn't play his first game of 1987 until May 2 of that year because of the archaic collective-bargaining rules of the day. Without any spring training, he tripled on the first pitch he saw that day and went 4-for-5 with 3 runs, a walk and a game-winning grand slam.
As long as saves are a valued stat, Smith is a valid candidate. Big Lee had 478 saves, and he ranks third all time in that category. He appeared in 1,022 games over 18 seasons, making seven all-star teams. He won or shared Fireman of the Year honors four times and won Rolaids awards three times. He led the NL in saves three times and the AL once. He has similarity scores on baseball-reference.com to Hall of Famers Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers.
Not the Hall of Stats: Big Lee had a long run of consistency and looked the part while doing it. Maybe with relievers starting to get their day, Smith will get in one of these years.
Formerly the Cubs' bench coach and now holding that same job with the Diamondbacks, Trammell was overshadowed by Baltimore's Cal Ripken at the shortstop position in the American League. "Tram" had a lifetime hitting line of .285/.352/.415. He had seven seasons of batting at least .300. He had OPS numbers of .856, .851, 816, .953, .831, 826 and .885. Trammell made six all-star teams and won four Gold Gloves. He has similarity scores on baseball-reference.com to Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg and Pee Wee Reese and to Larkin.
Not the Hall of Stats: Tram played 20 seasons, all with the Tigers, and along with Lou Whitaker, he formed one of the most famous and longest-running double-play combinations in history. He was a face of the Detroit franchise and won the World Series MVP in 1984. If Ripken had not switched to shortstop from third base, Trammell would have made a lot more starts for the AL in the All-Star Game and won more Gold Gloves.