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Tim Kelly’s 2020 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot


12 Jul 2001: Scott Rolen of the Philadelphia Phillies in action during the Phillies 2-1 interleague loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Veteran Stadium in Philadelphia, PA. (Mandatory Credit: Icon Sports Media)

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 tsk@timkellymedia.com.

Disclaimers

  • As you can see on the ballot below, the IBWAA has already elected Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens. This is my fifth year voting. I did not vote for Bonds or Clemens.
  • 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

  • Derek Jeter is a no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer, and it’s overthinking things to suggest otherwise. Certainly, he benefited from playing for the Yankees and probably should have moved away from shortstop at some point during his career. He also slashed .310/.377/.440, racked up a staggering 3,465 hits in his career and finished with a 73.0 fWAR. There can be nuance to the discussion about Jeter’s legacy – those that suggested he was the greatest Yankee of all-time at the conclusion of his career need a history lesson. But, he’s a Hall of Famer, and it’s not close.
  • Early returns on 2020 Hall of Fame voting suggest that Scott Rolen is going to see a giant increase in his percentage of the vote in his third year on the ballot. A year ago, I took some flack for an article I wrote at SportsRadio 94 WIP suggesting that Rolen deserves to be a Hall of Famer. Things have gotten quiet this time around, perhaps because people realize that Rolen is one of the top 10 third baseman in baseball history. He tops the average Hall of Fame third baseman in bWAR, WAR7 and JAWS, not to mention he was one of the greatest fielders the sport has ever seen, winning eight Gold Glove Awards.
  • 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 he’ll get my v ote for the second consecutive year.
  • Andruw Jones is the greatest defensive player that I’ve seen not only in center field, but perhaps at any position. He didn’t stay in good enough shape to remain an effective player into his 30s, but he won 10 Gold Glove Awards between 1997 and 2007. He was a five-time All-Star. He finished his career with 434 home runs. If you still think he doesn’t have enough counting numbers to warrant election, so be it. It’s impossible, though, to make the case that Jones wasn’t a Hall of Fame caliber player at his peak, and I value peak over longevity.

Those I Didn’t Vote For

  • I respect that Bobby Abreu is seriously being weighed by some voters. It’s not fair to discount him because he was only elected to two All-Star teams. He played on a team that didn’t make the postseason during the Steroid Era. For me, he’s just not quite at that level. He falls short of the average bWAR, WAR7 and JAWS for a Hall of Fame right fielder. His defense, though he did manage to win one Gold Glove Award, largely wasn’t a positive, so he doesn’t have that to lean on either.
  • Was Cliff Lee as good or better at his peak than some players that will get serious Hall of Fame consideration or even be elected? Yes. Between 2008 and 2013, Lee posted a 38.1 fWAR, made four All-Star teams, won a Cy Young Award and became one of the better postseason pitchers the game has ever seen. But, in the end, his career was only 13 years, and outside of the aforementioned stretch, there wasn’t a ton of production. His 3.45 FIP is a reminder of just how good he was for a stretch, but he’s not going to be a Hall of Famer.
  • The aforementioned Andy Pettitte 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.
  • 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. Offensively, though, 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.

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