Each year, the Internet Baseball Writer’s Association of America (IBWAA) – not to be confused with the Baseball Writer’s of America Association (BBWAA) – holds their own Hall of Fame election. As a voting member, I take this responsibility very seriously and have spent countless hours researching this year’s ballot. Below are my explanations for the players I voted for, those I elected not to vote for and my full ballot. Send all hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- As you can see on the ballot below, the IBWAA has already elected Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina. This is my fourth year voting. I did not vote for Bonds or Clemens (more on that in a minute). I did vote for Martinez and Mussina. I applaud the IBWAA voting members for electing Martinez and Mussina, two players with obvious Hall of Fame resumes, while the BBWAA has yet to follow suit. In any event, none of that quartet appear on this ballot.
- I understand the argument that there’s not much point in having a Hall of Fame without the Home Run King (Bonds) and one of the five greatest pitchers in the history of the sport (Clemens). Based on their resumes alone, both are among the 10 greatest players in baseball history. But as a former athlete, I can’t overlook cheating. I understand those who view the Hall of Fame as a museum and choose to vote for Bonds and Clemens. In that sense, my stance has softened. But I don’t anticipate ever changing my thought process on whether I personally would vote for those credibly connected to PEDs.
- There’s lots of whataboutism in Hall of Fame discussions. “How can you not vote for Bonds and Clemens when Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Willie Mays have admitted to using different amphetamines during their careers?” Well, I didn’t vote on their Hall of Fame cases. I’m also not naive enough to think that so-called “greenies” had the same effect as designer steroids, not that cheating to a different degree should make that much of a difference morally.
- What would my ballot look like if I did vote for players connected to PEDs? Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez each would have received my vote. The same would go for Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro if they were still on the ballot. All of these players have resumes that on numbers alone would make them locks for the Hall of Fame. Miguel Tejada and Andy Pettitte, two other players with PED connections, are short of Hall of Fame worthy to me.
- Those that vote for Bonds and Clemens because they technically didn’t fail PED tests but then penalize players like Ramirez, who was suspended for failed tests, don’t make much sense to me. We can get into technicalities about when baseball actually began testing for PEDs, but these drugs were always illegal and banned by baseball much earlier than testing began. Bonds may never have failed a league-sanctioned PED test, but a failed test from him in November of 2000 was seized from BALCO. Clemens didn’t accidentally put up career seasons in his early 40s. Either you vote for all connected to PEDs with Hall of Fame resumes, or you should vote for none.
Those I Voted For
- Mariano Rivera is the easiest vote that I’ve ever cast. He’s the most dominant closer of all-time and probably could have pitched a couple more seasons than he did. He’s the only player I’m sure will be elected to the Hall of Fame this year.
- In all likelihood, Roy Halladay, beloved in both Philadelphia and Toronto, will be elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. I took a deep dive on his case earlier this month. For Doc, who spent the final four seasons of his career with the Phillies, it’s more of a matter of when than if in regards to the Hall of Fame.
- For SportsRadio 94 WIP, I penned an article earlier this offseason saying that I believed Scott Rolen was deserving of election to the Hall of Fame. The piece wasn’t written with the intention of drawing a reaction – I don’t do that. However, it stirred quite the debate. There were quite a few people – including my WIP colleague Glen Macnow – who disagreed. I got just as many messages agreeing, and whether Rolen ever gains election or not, his case deserves a harder look than some have given him thus far.
- Curt Schilling has a higher bWAR and JAWS than the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher. His 127 ERA+ is equal to the mark of Greg Maddux and tops the mark of four-time Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton. Schilling is one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever. To me, there’s no debate – he’s a Hall of Famer.
- Larry Walker has gained traction in terms of his vote totals over the past two seasons, but his Hall of Fame case has been overlooked in the very same way that I’m afraid Rolen’s will. Walker tops the average Hall of Fame right fielder in JAWS, bWAR and WAR7. He had a .313 career batting average. He won an MVP, three batting titles, seven Gold Glove Awards and was a five-time All-Star. Forget that he was already a star in Montreal before going to Colorado, an ideal place to hit. Even if there is an advantage to hitting in Coors Field, it’s a league sanctioned park. Are we going to say that any superstar that spends the bulk of his career in Colorado isn’t eligible for the Hall of Fame? If so, that’s bad news for another name on this ballot and may prove to be bad news for Nolan Arenado.
- The other Rockies name on here is Todd Helton. There will be some that just look at names on the list and vote by feel that scoff at the idea that Helton could be a Hall of Famer. I do much more extensive research than that, though my initial reaction when looking at his name – and this is rare – is to be really unsure. In the end, though, he had a WAR7 higher than the average Hall of Fame first baseman, while having a bWAR and JAWS that is just shy of the average. He finished his career with a .316 batting average, a .539 slugging percentage and a 133 OPS+, which tops the OPS+ marks posted by the aforementioned Palmeiro, Eddie Murray, Keith Hernandez and Harmon Killebrew. His 2,519 career hits top Hall of Fame first basemen Willie McCovey, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, Johnny Mize, Dan Brouthers, Jeff Bagwell and Roger Connor. Did he benefit from playing his entire career at Coors Field? Probably. Although that perhaps will even out with the fact that his peak came during the Steroid Era and that he didn’t play for a team that had a ton of success during his career.
- Billy Wagner is sixth all-time in saves at 422. He made seven All-Star teams in 16 seasons. His 187 ERA+ is third all-time among closers, trailing only Rivera and Craig Kimbrel, who is on a Hall of Fame trajectory. Though he has less total saves than Hall of Famers Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith – he also had less opportunities – he was perhaps more dominant, with a lower ERA and FIP than both. I’m not sure Smith should have been voted into the Hall of Fame. Hoffman’s longevity made him a Hall of Famer in my mind. But perhaps we’ve been too strict on relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame. Wagner was one of the most accomplished closers ever, which is why for the first time, he’s gained my vote.
Those I Didn’t Vote For
- Andruw Jones is the greatest fielding center fielder that I’ve ever seen. His 46.5 WAR7 gives you an idea of how well-rounded of a player Jones was at his peak. In addition to winning 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards (1998-2007), Jones set the single-season Braves home run record in 2005 with 51 home runs. Mind you, this is a franchise that has employed Eddie Matthews, Hank Aaron and Chipper Jones. All of these things outlined explain why I had such a difficult time not voting for Jones, who went from a skinny young outfielder in the late 1990s to one that pudged out considerably a decade later. His peak was Hall of Fame worthy. But he finished his career with a .254 batting average and his lack of being a valuable player at any point outside his peak puts him on the outside looking in for me, though he’s someone I promise to take a hard look at each year.
- Roy Oswalt finished his career with a 3.36 ERA, a 3.37 FIP, an ERA title, an NLCS MVP and three All-Star Game appearances. His career was only 13 years, all but eliminating him from this discussion. It is interesting, though, that he blows away Jack Morris, a member of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, in terms of career ERA and FIP. He pitched five less seasons and wasn’t a part of the same consistent team success, but Oswalt was one of the game’s very best arms during his prime. He just falls short in this discussion.
- The aforementioned Andy Pettitte, who was Oswalt’s teammate in Houston from 2004-2006, won five World Series titles with the New York Yankees. It was hard to turn on a playoff series during the late 1990s and into the 2000s and not see a close-up on Pettitte’s five o’clock shadow. Still, Pettitte falls considerably short in terms of bWAR, WAR7 and JAWS when compared to the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher. His 3.85 ERA and 3.74 FIP don’t bail him out. Putting aside his admission of using PEDs, he would fall short of gaining my vote. His production would put him into the Hall of Very Good.
- I can’t overstate how kind Omar Vizquel was to me when I got the chance to interview him when I was first trying to break into online sports media. He is one of the greatest fielding shortstops ever and had remarkable longevity given how quickly many great fielders decline, but offensively, he falls considerably short of the production that Nomar Garciaparra, Jimmy Rollins and Troy Tulowitzki put up at their peaks, and none of that trio would receive my vote.
- Winning a league MVP at the height of the Steroid Era when you’re teammates with Barry Bonds is an amazing accomplishment. But Jeff Kent falls considerably short in terms of career bWAR, WAR7 and JAWS when compared to the average Hall of Fame second baseman. He’s someone whose case I give a hard look every year, but to me he falls into the category that both Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler will: he had some Hall of Fame seasons, but the career as a whole is a bit short.
- Though 500 home runs – at least if the feat was accomplished without the assistance of PEDS – was once seen as locking you into the Hall of Fame, I’m not sure I feel that way. If Carlos Delgado had hit 27 more home runs in his career, would he be a Hall of Famer? To me, no. Fred McGriff finished his career seven home runs away from 500, with many pointing to the strike shortened 1994 season as the reason he didn’t reach the mark. Even if he had hit seven more home runs, WAR7 suggests that his peak was comparable to Will Clark or Mark Teixeira, two very good, non Hall of Fame caliber players. Both peak performance and longevity matter to me, which is why JAWS is such a valuable tool (McGriff’s JAWS is 44.7, while the average Hall of Fame first baseman has a 54.7 JAWS). But of the two, peak dominance is the tie-breaker for me. And while McGriff was an All-Star caliber player at his peak, he comes up a bit short in terms of having been a Hall of Fame caliber dominant player.
- Lance Berkman was an excellent offensive player, largely for the Houston Astros. People do forget how effective he was for the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, twice extending Game 6 of the World Series, one of the most iconic games in baseball history. But while he finished his career with a remarkable .406 on-base percentage, he wasn’t an effective fielder (at multiple different positions) for the bulk of his career. His offensive numbers aren’t so dominant that they put him over the top, though it is encouraging to see people really giving his case a hard look.
- Though his brief tenure with the Phillies wasn’t memorable, Michael Young finished his career with a .300 batting average and was a seven-time All-Star. However, he falls well short on just about all advanced ways at evaluating the Hall of Fame: bWAR, WAR7, JAWS, Black Ink, Grey Ink. When you couple in that despite winning a Gold Glove Award he finished his career with -82 defensive runs saved, he’s likely to fall off the ballot. 2,375 hits in 14 seasons is pretty impressive, though.