Washington, December 16, 2013 — In just under a month, the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be revealed. Every year starts new debates and rekindles old ones about who should make it, who was not good enough, and who should not qualify due to reasons other than the stats themselves, such as PEDs. This year presents quite a problem for the baseball writers. Last year not a single player was voted into the Hall of Fame, creating a logjam of deserving candidates this year.
Many good candidates may not make it in for several years which could create a domino effect on the voting for years to come. This alone is not enough reason to vote for ten players just to clear the way for future candidates, but it is a telling sign of what future candidates may be subjected to over the next decade or so.
Out of all the candidates, these ten were most deserving, although there were a couple more that probably should be in, there is not enough room on a ballot since a writer is only allowed to vote for ten players. As a disclaimer, there is no player listed here who had ties to PEDs. Although one can never know how much PEDs truly affected the game and the numbers that were put up, one thing to be sure of is that it negatively affected the integrity of baseball and left a stain on this wonderful sport. One cannot in good conscience vote for any player who took part in the steroid culture of baseball. With that said, here is your Hall of Fame class of 2014.
Jeff Bagwell: Bagwell should have been in the Hall on his first try. One of the best first basemen of all time, the former Rookie of the Year and NL MVP retired with 449 home runs and an OPS+ of 149. His career slash line was an incredible .297/.408/.540 to go with 1,517 runs scored in his career and another 1,529 runs driven in. Bagwell even stole 202 bases. His career WAR was 79.5, meaning he was almost 80 wins better than a replacement first baseman.
There have been some allegations that his numbers may not be legitimate because of the era in which he played. If this is one’s logic, then one would not be able to vote for any player from the steroid era. This conclusion should be rejected as should this chain of reasoning. There is certainly a reason to not vote for players with PED ties, but Bagwell has never been tied with any of it, and unless he is, it is only guilt by association, which is certainly unfair to Jeff Bagwell.
Craig Biggio: Possibly one of the most underrated players of all time, Biggio scored over 1,844 runs in his career and hit 668 doubles, more than any right handed batter in history. Along with his 291 home runs and 55 triples, Biggio retired with 1,014 extra base hits, 4,711 total bases, and a slash line of .281/.363/.433. Biggio stole 414 bases with a 77% success rate.
Craig Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits, along with a career WAR of 64.9. These numbers are already impressive, but even more so coming from a second baseman. Biggio led the league in HBP five times leading to a total of 285 over his career, the most ever by any player who began his career in the 20th century, and only two behind the all-time leader, Hughie Jennings. He should have been inducted last year, his first on the ballot, but will most likely make it this year.
Greg Maddux: A winner of 355 games in his career to go along with a WAR of 104.6, which is good for seventh all time amongst pitchers. He won the Cy Young award four years in a row and went to eight All Star games. Maddux led the league in ERA four times and ERA+ five times. Greg Maddux is one of the best control pitchers of all time with only 999 walks in 5,008 1/3 innings, and one of only four pitchers with over 3,000 strikeouts and less than 1,000 walks.
It is difficult to name an important pitching statistic in which Maddux has not led the league at one time or another in his career. It would take too long to name how many times he has led in each category, so to just name the categories Maddux has led in any particular year include Wins, winning %, ERA, ERA+, games started, complete games, shutouts, innings pitched, batters faced, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, BB/9, SO/BB. If there ever is a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame, it very well could be Greg Maddux.
Tom Glavine: Probably one of the last pitchers to ever win at least 300 games in a career. Glavine was a two time Cy Young Award winner, and a ten time All Star. In an era of offense, Tom Glavine was not always dominant, but he was consistently one of the top five or ten pitchers in the league for just about his entire career with a 3.54 ERA in over 4,413 1/3 innings.
Tom Glavine averaged 220 innings per year and rarely missed a start. Glavine’s excellence and consistency led to a career WAR of 74.0. Should make it on the first ballot, but could be overshadowed by his former rotation mate in Atlanta, the afore mentioned Greg Maddux.
Edgar Martinez: Martinez was not able to compile amazing stats in his career due to not being a starter until the age of 27, but made the best of the time he did have with a slash line of .312/.418/.515. Edgar Martinez was a two time batting champion and led the league in OBP three times. He was a dominant offensive player with an OPS+ over 150 for seven straight years retiring with an excellent OPS+ of 147. Martinez also led the league in doubles twice, and runs and RBIs once a piece.
With a career WAR of 68.3, Martinez is far and away the best DH in the history of the position. Many writers are reluctant to vote Martinez into the Hall of Fame due to primarily playing DH for most of his career. While there is a legitimate discussion to be had on the merits of the position’s existence, the position exists whether the writers like it or not, and Martinez should not be punished for that fact. There was a time when pitchers completed almost all their games come hell or high water and relievers were simply looked at as pitchers who could not cut it as starters. No one would have even thought of voting a reliever into the Hall of Fame. That all changed in 1985 when Hoyt Wilhelm was voted into the Hall, followed by Rollie Fingers in 1992, Dennis Eckersley in 2004, Bruce Sutter in 2006, and Rich Gossage in 2008.
By this logic, the writers are saying that a closer who generally pitches 100 innings, more often times less, a year is more valuable than a DH who plays every day. No one is criticizing Mariano Rivera’s Hall of Fame candidacy because he does not hit. That was not his job. His job was to get outs. Edgar Martinez was paid to hit. And he did that quite well.
Mike Mussina: Never the best pitcher in any particular year, but always in the conversation. Finished in the top six of CY Young award voting nine different times. Mussina won 270 games in his career, and probably could have stuck around a few more years to get to 300. Instead, he retired on his own terms and on one of the best years of his career finally winning 20 games. Owning an impressive career WAR of 82.7, Mussina was consistently near the top of many statistical pitching categories. He twice led the league in games started, as well as leading once each in wins, winning %, shutouts, and innings pitched. Mike Mussina probably will not get voted in this year, or maybe for a few years, but it would be a shame for him to get overlooked completely.
Tim Raines: This is an extremely underrated ballplayer who should have been voted into the Hall years ago. Raines was one of the greatest leadoff hitters ever. Unfortunately, he was the second best leadoff hitter of his era, which has seemingly hurt his chances of making the Hall of Fame. Raines stole 808 bases in his career with a tremendous success rate of over 84%. He scored 1,571 runs in his career, and had excellent plate discipline drawing 1,330 walks and striking out only 966 times. Raines led the league in stolen bases four years in a row, twice led in runs scored, and also led the league in doubles one year.
One of his best years was 1986, when Tim Raines led the league in both OBP and batting average. Raines retired with a 68.4 career WAR and a slash line of .294/.385/.425. Unfortunately, Raines was always judged for the fact that he was not Rickey Henderson, which is too bad because he was an elite player and deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Curt Schilling: Since he retired, Curt Schilling has been seen as a borderline Hall of Fame candidate who might get voted in due to his stellar playoff record. There is a strong case to be made that Schilling’s regular season work already makes him a Hall of Famer and that his post season excellence is simply icing on the cake. While Schilling never won the Cy Young, he came in second three times. Much has been made of his low win total of 216, but if sabermetrics has taught fans anything, it is that a pitcher’s win total is not a good indication of his value to the team. Schilling is one of only 16 pitchers to record 3,000 strikeouts in his career and out of those 16 he has the best strikeout to walk ratio, leading the league in that category five times in his career. Along with his fantastic control, Schilling was also a workhorse. He led the league in complete games four different seasons with 15 in 1998 and eight in two other years. Schilling also led the league in innings pitched twice, batters faced twice and games started three times.
Efficiency was also part of Schilling’s game, as he led the league in WHIP twice, fewest walks in nine innings twice, and once in hits per nine innings. Schilling retired with a career WAR of 80.7. The Hall of Fame candidacy of Curt Schilling provides fans with an interesting case study of how sabermetrics have advanced in the minds of the baseball writers. According to advanced metrics, Schilling was an excellent pitcher despite the picture that more traditional stats paint. While there are a few pitchers who should go in before him, Schilling is still one of the best pitchers on the ballot, and certainly better than say, Jack Morris.
Frank Thomas: The Big Hurt probably had a chance to be ranked among the top five hitters of all time after the first half of his career. Unfortunately, injuries and age caught up with him and he was robbed of that chance. Despite this, he was still one of the best hitters of his era, and deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Thomas retired with an incredible slash line of .301/.419/.555 and a career 156 OPS+. He led the league in OBP four times, walks four times, OPS four times, OPS+ three times, and intentional walks twice. Thomas also led the league in games played, runs, doubles, batting average, slugging percentage, and sac flies once a piece. His career stats scream video game numbers.
Thomas scored 14,94 runs, walked 1,667 times to 1,397 strikeouts, knocked in 1,704 RBIs, and had 1,028 extra base hits, including 521 home runs tying him with the legend, Ted Williams. In his first eight seasons, Thomas owned a staggering 182 OPS+, which means he was 82% better than the average hitter. He was also a five time All Star, and finished in the top ten in MVP voting nine different years including two back to back MVP seasons in 1993 and 1994. Thomas, like Bagwell, played in the steroid era which could hurt his Hall of Fame chances. Also like Bagwell, there has never been anything to link the Big Hurt to PEDs, so voting him in first ballot should be a no-brainer.
Alan Trammell: Trammell never was amazing at anything, but he was great at everything. With a slash line of .285/.352/.415, his numbers are not eye popping, but as a shortstop they did not need to be. Trammell was about as dependable as you could get with the glove retiring with four Gold Gloves and a dWAR of 22.0. Speaking of dependability, Trammell could do a bit of everything. He was patient at the plate, walking almost as much as he struckout (850-874), and even stole 236 bases. Trammell finished his career with a WAR of 70.3.
Alan Trammell’s timing and luck with the Hall of Fame voting has been lousy due to the fact that he was not eligible for enshrinement until 2002 during which baseball was in the midst of one of the highest levels of offense it had ever seen, making Trammell’s numbers look mediocre compared with the shortstops of that era. Although deserving, Trammell has a long way to go to get voted in with his best showing in 2012 getting 36.8% of the vote. Having only a few years left, Trammell is unfortunately a long shot at best.
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