For those who want a busy election, our 47th ballot, our 2007 version is right for you. There were fifteen first-timers on this ballot, the most since we moved to annual elections after 1976. And it wasn’t a bunch of riff raff either. Four of those newbies and one very surprising backlogger will be inducted today. We have an iron man, a hit machine, an underrated star pitcher, a guy who didn’t want to talk about the past, and the greatest utility player ever.
But first, let’s get to some numbers. The five men we elected today bring our Hall of Miller and Eric total to 185 of the greatest players in history. Thus, there are only 30 remaining who will be inducted through the 2015 season. With only 80 players remaining to review, that means a full 37.5% of those remaining up for consideration will eventually become HoMErs.
Here’s how we voted in 2007.
Miller Eric 1 Cal Ripken Cal Ripken 2 Tony Gwynn Tony Gwynn 3 David Cone David Cone 4 Mark McGwire Mark McGwire 5 Pud Galvin Tony Phillips 6 Tony Phillips
The Class of 2007
Cal Ripken: Baseball’s Iron Man was so much more than that. Yes, he played in an unimaginable 2632 consecutive games. But he also won a Rookie of the Year, a pair of Gold Gloves, and a pair of MVPs in addition to his 19 times as an All-Star. Among shortstops, he was the game’s most prolific home run hitter and the AL’s top double play producer. Many would rank him as the second best ever at his position behind Honus Wagner. Others might knock him as low as seven or eight. But wherever he lands on that list, Cal’s a guy with an impressive eight seasons of All-Star play and ten more averaging over 3 WAR. Congratulations to baseball’s Iron Man.
Tony Gwynn: There’s little doubt that Mr. Padre, the guy who Sports Illustrated called the best hitter since Ted Williams, is one of the greatest hitters ever. He won eight NL batting titles, five Gold Gloves, and made fifteen All-Star games. He won also seven hit titles on the way to 3000+ in his career and was the NL’s best player in 1987 when Andre Dawson’s 49 homers got him the MVP Award. Gwynn didn’t draw too many walks or play very good defense, but his bat made him one of the 14-18 best RF ever – 13 seasons of 3+ WAR helped see to that. Gwynn made great contact and could also run, at least when he was younger and slimmer. In fact, only Tris Speaker had more hits and more steals to go with fewer strikeouts.
David Cone: This five-time All-Star and 1994 AL Cy Young was shipped around a lot for such an elite pitcher, moving seven times in his big league career. While on the move, he won a couple of strikeout titles and a wins title on his way to 194 total. Much more impressive than the wins were the components that went into each of his starts. A big fastball combined with an impressive slider and, later in his career, a splitter to keep hitters off balance. Cone really was outstanding – five seasons worth 6+ WAR and two others reaching the All-Star level. He’s only of only 30 pitchers ever who could claim seven seasons of All-Star-level performance. His career is comparable to that of Rube Waddell or Dazzy Vance in quality. It’s more like Luis Tiant or Dave Steib in shape. And it’s the shape for which he’s been ignored. In spite of a perfect game and five World Series rings, the BBWAA looked at his win total, and Cone garnered just 21 votes on his one and only ballot.
Mark McGwire: Now here’s a controversial pick. By now you know our view on PEDs. And you might also know that Big Mac hit 583 homers, including 70 in 1998 and led the league four times. He also led in SLG four times, OBP and BB twice, and RBI once. This 12-time All-Star may represent a bit of an ethical conundrum for some. Unlike Bonds or Clemens, he hadn’t made his HoME case before using. But we’re judging what happened on the field. When McGwire hit 70, he played like an MVP. Five other times, he played like an All-Star. And he was close two times beyond that. At an incredibly crowded position, Mark McGwire is about the last one in, barely besting Will Clark and likely John Olerud because he had more great/good years than the other two.
Tony Phillips: We’ve talked ourselves into Tony Phillips. How can a guy with just 50.8 WAR by BBREF make it? First there’s the adjustments that take his 1994 and 1995 seasons upward, and they were good years. Then there’s the fielding. Phillips by BBREF is a good fielder. By DRA he’s an excellent fielder. When we bring them together, it makes enough difference to push him up near the borderline at second base. The final piece of the puzzle is thinking through what his versatility means. Perhaps Phillips is absolutely unique in all of history, but he may be fairly close. A switch hitter who can play every non-catcher position at least at an average level and several well above it who also plays every day and is willing to play anywhere, any time, any game. Pete Rose switch hit and played all over the place. But Pete Rose was below average in the field and tended to start at one position a year. Same for Killebrew only more so. It’s the in-season utility, made possible by superior defensive ability, that makes Phillips so different. And if you reason through, you see that he’s bringing his teams a value that’s got to be a few runs or more a year by allowing them to literally platoon at any of eight positions (including DH). That means that in any given contest, his team likely gains the platoon advantage with at least two hitters. It may also gain a defensive advantage by not playing other guys out of position since Phillips can play them all. Given how close Phillips already is to the likes of Billy Herman, this last point about his versatility allows us to pull the lever on a player who we’d have never guessed would have ended up in the HoME.
There’s been a big change this election. Miller has abandoned his vote for Sal Bando, at least temporarily. It’s quite close between him and Heinie Groh at the position and him and Roy White in the era. Even if he wins the former, he may not win the latter, and such a loss could keep him from HoME status.
Pud Galvin: It’s not like his backlog competition is so great. I’m looking at overall contribution here – over 6000 innings.
That’ll conclude the 2007 vote. Please to visit our Honorees page to see the plaques of those elected and to see plenty more information about the HoME.