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2016

The 2016 Hall of Fame Ballot, Hitters

When it Raines it pours? No, no, poor Raines? Or is it salt in Raines' wounds? There's something here....

When the BBWAA Raines it pours? Poor Raines? Salt in Raines’ wounds? Hmmm….

Last time around, we spouted off (well, mostly Eric to be honest, Miller keeps things pretty sanguine) about the pitchers on the 2016 Hall of Fame election slate (mostly Mike Mussina, really). This time around we battle the befuddled BBWAA about batters on the ballot.

Garrett Anderson
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: A steely-eyed stare that might help him win the pre-fight to a knife fight.
Flaws: Aside from his quality campaigns in 2002 and 2003, he averaged only 1.1 WAR per year over his other 15 seasons.
Key question for voters: Is having covered Anderson and, presumably, having been best man at his wedding a good reason to vote for him?
Something about him I didn’t know before: He managed to put up over 2500 hits in his career. Seriously, I didn’t know that. Maybe I should be nicer to him.
Best-case scenario: That Earl Bloom, a writer from the Orange County Register who, based on his ballot, thinks that Anderson was a better player than either Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling, is a multi-billionaire who ranks Anderson among his family members as poorly as he ranks him among baseball players.
Worst-case scenario: Solo vote.

Brad Ausmus
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: He called a good game, and he’s seventh all-time on the games caught list.
Flaws: He never reached double figures in homers, his only Black Ink is in GIDP, and he made just one All-Star Game.
Key question for voters: Will anyone vote for Ausmus when there are about two dozen stronger candidates.
Something about him I didn’t know before: He trails only Pudge Rodriguez and fellow ballot first-timer Jason Kendall in catcher putouts.
Best-case scenario: Two votes.
Worst-case scenario: The Tigers stink this year too and fire him.

Jeff Bagwell
Years on ballot: 6
Strengths: He’s pretty much as valuable as Rod Carew and more qualified for a spot in the Hall than Mize, Banks, Sisler, McCovey, Greenberg, Murray, Terry, Beckley, Killebrew, Chance, Perez, Cepeda, Bottomley, and High Pockets. In other words, there are twice as many HoF first basemen who are less valuable than he was compared to those more valuable than he was.
Flaws: I don’t know. Maybe it’s a question of traction. Maybe voters are comparing him to Bonds.
Key question for voters: How can you look yourselves in the mirror?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Only Eddie Murray and Todd Helton have more career assists at first base.
Best-case scenario: We get closer to nine names per ballot than eight, enough people leave off Trevor Hoffman, and enough people put Bagwell on. He sneaks in with between 75% and 78% of the vote.
Worst-case scenario: He makes it in four years.

Barry Bonds
Years on ballot: 4
Strengths: Best hitter ever, non-Ruth category.
Flaws: Melts in your mouth, rubs into your hands.
Key question for voters: How long does purgatory last? How long can a writer pretend he’s a reporter when he ignored the steroid issue in the first place.
Something about him I didn’t know before: Is there anything we don’t know about him at this point? Well, I didn’t know he was a cousin of Reggie Jackson. Huh. That explains a lot.
Best-case scenario: He beats Clemens into the Hall.
Worst-case scenario: He enjoys the coaching life.

Luis Castillo
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: I count three All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves, and two stolen base titles. He could also draw a walk, play good defense, and avoid double plays.
Flaws: All of the rest of the stuff.
Key question for voters: Should I reject the $50 million in career earnings being enough of an honor and throw him a vote anyway?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Of the 19 nineteen players who homered as infrequently and stole as frequently as Castillo, only Bill North, Hugh Nicol, and Otis Nixon totaled fewer than Castillo’s 59 career triples. I sure do love BBFER’s Play Index.
Best-case scenario: Life-long health.
Worst-case scenario: A deserved oh-fer in the BBWAA election.

David Eckstein
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: There was that World Series MVP he won in 2006 when he drove in four of the fifteen runs the Cardinals scored in the Series. Hey, someone had to win it.
Flaws: He wasn’t very good at either hitting or fielding, so he wasn’t very good at baseball.
Key question for voters: How can I twist the Hall’s character clause into a moronic vote for this guy?
Something about him I didn’t know before: That no dictionary anywhere has yet put his picture next to the word “gritty.” I just assumed otherwise.
Best-case scenario: The cynic in me says 5% and a second ballot. That can’t happen, right? (Eric adds: “Enjoys forever the notoriety achieved from the many rants at “Fire Joe Morgan!”)
Worst-case scenario: Worst case? How bad can it be when a guy with so little talent takes $20 million out of the game of baseball through little other than working really, really hard?

Jim Edmonds
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: He’s one of the 10-15 best center fielders ever.
Flaws: He’s not close to the level of another centerfielder on this ballot. And when people think of his position, they think of Mays, Mantle, Cobb, and DiMaggio. He’s not close to any of those guys either. He also played at a time of huge HR totals, yet he hit only 393 of them.
Key question for voters: Will you look beyond the superficial and give a player relatively equal to Duke Snider in career value a second year on the ballot.
Something about him I didn’t know before: His nickname was “Jimmy Baseball”. Really?
Best-case scenario: 10% (and I might be pushing it).
Worst-case scenario: Another awful one-and-done like fellow centerfielders Kenny Lofton and Jimmy Wynn.

Nomar Garciaparra
Years on ballot: 2
Strengths: That shirtless SI cover, being great all but one year from 1997–2003, and being included in the holy trinity of shortstops with A-Rod and Jeter.
Flaws: He was worth 3 WAR over the last six years of his career.
Key question for voters: After being nice to him once, is it really necessary a second time?
Something about him I didn’t know before: I guess I once knew this and forgot, but in 2005 Nomar saved two women from drowning. Okay, give him a vote.
Best-case scenario: Another year on the ballot.
Worst-case scenario: He still goes home to Mia Hamm. There is no worst case.

Troy Glaus
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: He and Eric Chavez and Adrian Beltre and Scott Rolen and Egardo Alfonzo and Aramis Ramirez and Fernando Tatis were once a bumper crop of outstanding young third basemen. That was like 1998.
Flaws: Like Chavez, Tatis, and Alfonzo, he ended up with a relatively short career despite some nice highlights. Unlike Beltre and Rolen, he’s not a Hall-caliber player. The less said about Ramirez the better.
Key question for voters: Did I miss his name on the ballot?
Something about him I didn’t know before: I can go from Troy Glaus to the Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869 in nine steps. Can you whittle it down to eight or even seven???

  1. In his rookie year, Glaus played alongside Charlie O’Brien.
  2. In O’Brien’s rookie year, he played with Tommy John.
  3. In his rookie year, TJ played beside Early Wynn.
  4. In Wynn’s rookie year he was a teammate of Ossie Bluege.
  5. In Bluege’s rookie year, he was a teammate of Donie Bush.
  6. Bush, in turn, was a rookie alongside Bill Donovan.
  7. When he was a greenhorn, Donovan played in front of Tom Brown.
  8. In Brown’s rookie year, he played with Amos Booth.
  9. Booth’s rookie year was 1876, the NL’s first year, and a teammate of his with Cincinnati was Charlie Gould, a member of the famed 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.
    Best-case scenario: Yawwwwwwn. Oh, I’m sorry, we’re voting for people? How about this Glaus guy? I remember him from the World Series one year. Ah, why not.
    Worst-case scenario:

Here lies an Anaheim third baseman,
who candidacy ended while still nascent,
a bronze plaque cannot be got
whether by one vote or by naught.

Ken Griffey, Jr.
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: Ken Griffey was one of the most beautiful players ever to watch at work. He has an MVP, a dozen All-Star games, and ten Gold Gloves. An argument can be made that he was a better player than Joe DiMaggio.
Flaws: In the last ten years of his career, he was worth a total of 7.5 WAR. So if you’re 25 years old right now, maybe you don’t appreciate just how great Griffey was.
Key question for voters: How can you leave him off your ballot?
Something about him I didn’t know before: As a teenager, he attempted suicide. Wow, what the world would have been robbed of!
Best-case scenario: Unanimous?
Worst-case scenario: Maybe his speech won’t go as he hopes.

Mark Grudzielanek
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: One Gold Glove, one All-Star squad, and a 1997 doubles title. He was a decent second baseman and a passable shortstop. There’s value in that.
Flaws: His career post-season line is .188/.225/.224 in 91 trips to the plate. Also, other baseball-related things.
Key question for voters: If spelling counted and I had to write his name rather than just check a box next to it, could I possibly vote for him?
Something about him I didn’t know before: If Wikipedia is to be trusted, he holds the record by recording a hit in 35 consecutive home games in 1999. That’s kinda cool.
Best-case scenario: A vote.
Worst-case scenario: Donald Trump becomes President.

Jason Kendall
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: Lots of catchery goodness and for a little while was an outstanding hitter for a backstop.
Flaws: But after that little while was over, he stunk like the padding of his facemask after a 19-inning game in mid-August heat and humidity.
Key question for voters: Was he the new Tony Pena?
Something about him I didn’t know before: He was about 40 times more valuable than his ballplaying father. Barry Bonds can’t say that!
Best-case scenario: A gold watch.
Worst-case scenario: He gets as many votes as Dad did.

Jeff Kent
Years on ballot: 3
Strengths: He’s a second baseman who posted 20+ homers twelve times. His overall value is quite similar to that of Hall of Famers Bobby Doerr and Billy Herman.
Flaws: He retired at the wrong time, and he’s on an incredibly crowded ballot. Though Kent is in the Hall of Miller and Eric, he wouldn’t get a vote from either of us this year unless we were trying to game the ballot in some way. Bonds-Clemens-Piazza-Bagwell-Raines-Schilling-Mussina-Walker-Edmonds-Kent. I suppose that’s an okay ballot. Except then you’re the jerk who left off Griffey.
Key question for voters: Can you find the space to begin to help Kent build momentum?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Eight second basemen ever have 1000 runs score, 1000 RBI, and 200 home runs. Kent is one. The other seven are in the Hall or should be: Rogers Hornsby, Craig Biggio, Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, Lou Whitaker, Bobby Doerr, and Roberto Alomar.
Best-case scenario: Reaching 20% would be nice.
Worst-case scenario: He remains lost in the shuffle for eight more ballots and never gets enough love for a Veterans Committee to elect him.

Mike Lowell
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: When I met him in 2010, I think, he was willing to talk to me about his injury problems. He’s a really nice guy. Also, he’ll always have the 2007 World Series MVP.
Flaws: None as far as I can see. Did I mention that he talked to me when he didn’t have to? And that he won a ring in Boston? He seems pretty flawless from here.
Key question for voters: If a guy who just called him “flawless” doesn’t think he’s among the two dozen best on this ballot, how can I reconcile voting for him? (Eric’s wife, Vicki, sees “flawless” a little differently and has on several occasions wondered whether Lowell would have a certain dapper Clooneyesque charm were he to don a smoking jacket.)
Something about him I didn’t know before: Nothing. I’m pretty sure we’re best friends.
Best-case scenario: His actual best friend has a ballot, so he gets one vote.
Worst-case scenario: He’ll always have 2007.

Edgar Martinez
Years on ballot: 7
Strengths: He’s one of the best right-handed hitters ever. If we list him as a 3B, the defensive position he played most, he likely ranks higher than Jimmy Collins. And he certainly ranks higher than Pie Traynor, George Kell, and Freddie Lindstrom.
Flaws: He wasn’t a 3B. He was a DH. And for many, that’s an unforgivable flaw.
Key question for voters: When will you wake up and realize it’s not 1972 anymore, and Designated Hitter is a position?
Something about him I didn’t know before: He’s one of the very few actual designated hitters ever, at least in terms of guys who have seen significant time at the position. Of all players in history who have played more than 50% of their games at DH, only Edgar, Frank Thomas, David Ortiz, Harold Baines, Don Baylor, Travis Hafner, Cliff Johnson, Hal McRae, and Billy Butler can claim career totals of both 400 runs and 400 runs batted in.
Best-case scenario: He reaches 40% and begins to build some real momentum toward his last three years of eligibility.
Worst-case scenario: He remains in the 20s and has no shot until another group gets to review his credentials. By the time they do, DH will have been a position for over half a century. Maybe that’ll be long enough.

Fred McGriff
Years on ballot: 7
Strengths: He’s as clean as Ken Griffey, Jr., which is to say that Murray Chass never saw him with his shirt off. Really though, word is that he’s clean, and that’s a good thing. Ten seasons of 30+ homers doesn’t hurt either. His career is a decent amount like Orlando Cepeda’s, so eventual enshrinement is very possible.
Flaws: See the Orlando Cepeda comparison above. McGriff wasn’t ever great. He was very good for about five years, and he had another six or seven when he was useful. That’s not enough to get into the Hall in my book.
Key question for voters: Just because PED use is a disqualifier, do you really think lack of PED use qualifies someone for the Hall. If so, get my plaque ready!
Something about him I didn’t know before: Among first basemen, only Rafael Palmeiro, Jimmie Foxx, and Eddie Murray beat him in runs, homers, ribbies, and walks.
Best-case scenario: Getting back near 20% seems possible, I guess.
Worst-case scenario: He could fall under 10% and maybe even fall off the ballot in a couple of years if the right combination of voters is purged.

Mark McGwire
Years on ballot: 10
Strengths: Roundtrippers. Walks. That is all. But, boy, there are lots of each….
Flaws: We’re not here to talk about the past.
Key question for voters: McGwire has been a uniformed hitting coach for several years. He’s come clean about the sports drugs. Does that buy him a little more leeway?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Among players with Hall-level or nearly Hall-level credentials, McGwire has the third lowest ratio of hits to strikeouts (1.019) after Reggie (0.995) and Jim Thome (0.914). If you guessed that among players with 3,000 or more PAs in the expansion era Rob Deer had the lowest ratio (0.605) and Nellie Fox the highest (11.029), tell someone to go buy you a beer. Also, and this is just to needle New Yorkers, Derek Jeter struck out more times than Mark McGwire. (Ducks!)
Best-case scenario: Some incarnation of the Veterans Committee elects him someday.
Worst-case scenario: They don’t.

Mike Piazza
Years on ballot: 4
Strengths: He’s only the best hitting catcher ever. That’s all. Very reasonable people can think he had a better career than Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, and Gabby Hartnett. If we learned more about pitch framing or game-calling, perhaps we might think even more highly of him.
Flaws: It takes catchers some time. He may or may not have had bacne. He never won an MVP trophy.
Key question for voters: Why did I listen to Murray Chass? Why? Why? Why?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Piazza is one of only five catchers to homer 40 times in a season, the second to do it twice, and the first catcher to do so for two different teams.
Best-case scenario: 90%.
Worst-case scenario: I don’t think there’s a worst case. I think he’s getting in this year. And 75% and 85% look exactly the same on a plaque.

Tim Raines
Years on ballot: 9
Strengths: He made seven All-Star teams, has a batting title, and is fifth in career steals. He also had a better career than about ten Hal of Fame left fielders.
Flaws: He wasn’t as good as Rickey Henderson, and was never the stolen base king or producer of 3000 hits like Lou Brock. His real flaw might be when he hit the ballot. Candidates like Raines need time to make sense to voters. His Black Ink and Gray Ink are behind the average hall of Famer. And more than a quarter of his value was on the bases. Since he retired when he did rather than after the 1999 season, he’s not going to get 15 years on the ballot. Basically, none of his greatest flaws are his fault. Unless you’re upset that he wasn’t a home run hitter, or something.
Key question for voters: Do you understand what creates value in a baseball player?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Left fielders with 2500 hits, 1500 runs, 1200 walks, and 200 steals include Rains, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, and Jesse Burkett.
Best-case scenario: Raines really could get over 2/3 this time. If he does, and if he gets the typical bump in the final year, we may be looking at someone who delivers a speech in 2017.
Worst-case scenario: He fails to get 60% and even with the bump he has to wait for the Expansion Era folks to review his case.

Gary Sheffield
Years on ballot: 2
Strengths: 500 homers, a strong case of The Fear.
Flaws: A lot of that fear was of his personality. Or of the ball being hit near him. Also, Balco.
Key question for voters: Does bat speed really equal Fear? What does 500 homers mean nowadays?
Something about him I didn’t know before: He’s a player agent now.
Best-case scenario: Hangs around for a few more cracks at a plaque, which he probably deserves (the plaque that is).
Worst-case scenario: Haters will hate.

Sammy Sosa
Years on ballot: 4
Strengths: Homers! (And a really good glove.)
Flaws: There’s not a lot of depth to his career. Sosa is really a strongly peak-oriented candidate. The homers are spread out somewhat, but the real value is contained in six seasons. Outside that, he’s not the sort who a career-minded voter might gravitate to, especially on a deep ballot.
Key question for voters: Is there any credible evidence about Sammy and steroids, or is his “testimony” in DC enough evidence to convict?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Was traded for both Fred Manrique and Jerry Hairston. Or if you prefer, for both Harold Baines and George Bell.
Best-case scenario: He doesn’t fall off the ballot.
Worst-case scenario: No hablo Ingles.

Mike Sweeney
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: He made five All-Star teams from 2000–2005.
Flaws: He only reached 110 games five times in his career, and his career WAR isn’t among the 1000 best in history.
Key question for voters: Why is he even on the ballot?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Mike Sweeney caught over 200 games, which is more than an eighth of his career. Of all players who spent an eighth of their career behind the plate, only Mike Piazza, Joe Torre, and Gabby Hartnett top Sweeney in each of the triple crown categories.
Best-case scenario: Someone tosses him a vote.
Worst-case scenario: They don’t.

Alan Trammell
Years on ballot: 15
Strengths: He’s bound to get that last-ballot bounce!!!
Flaws: He’s the 15th best shortstop ever instead of like the very best or something?
Key question for voters: WTF?!?!?!?!?!
Something about him I didn’t know before: In 1977 in the minors, Trammell hit 19 triples…but only 9 doubles and 3 homers!
Best-case scenario: We won’t have to witness the shamefest of Hall voters who elected Barry Larkin with damn near the same stats falling over themselves to forget Alan Trammell. Guys, are you OK? You know, in the head?
Worst-case scenario: The VC doesn’t elect him in 2017 along with Jack Morris.

Larry Walker
Years on ballot: 6
Strengths: An outstanding hitter, an outstanding base runner, an outstanding outfielder, and an arm that had been surgically replaced with a Harris Gunworks M-96.
Flaws: Staying on the field was not quite his specialty. Coors Field probably hurts him in many voters’ eyes. “Booger.” Also, the terrible epidemic in our country of anti-Canadian bigotry.
Key question for voters: Do I vote for Walker, Edgar, or Tram?
Something about him I didn’t know before: Walker’s twitter account is @Cdnmooselips33. Mooselips, huh?
Best-case scenario: A shallow class of newbies allows Walker to pick up some of the votes he’s lost to the deep, deep ballots of 2014 and 2015. Trevor Hoffman is elected in 2016, clearing a path, Vlad Guerrero makes it in 2017, and Walker has three more years to build up a case en route to the VC.
Worst-case scenario: He makes few if any gains.

Randy Winn
Years on ballot: 1
Strengths: His last name makes him sound good, and he has more career WAR than Mike Sweeney.
Flaws: Most everything else.
Key question for voters: Why? Just why?
Something about him I didn’t know before: He’s the only person in history to play in the same outfield as Barry Bonds and the same backcourt as Steve Nash (I think).
Best-case scenario: We won’t accidentally delete this section from our Hall hitter analysis.
Worst-case scenario: You’ll have stopped reading already.

And that’s all the gang. Watch for the real results to mirror our preferences exactly as 10 of our dudes are enshrined en masse in upstate New York this summer. Bank on it!

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