It’s that time of the year again. The BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot is out, and the writers are sharing their annual articles and their annual ballots through the great Ryan Thibs. Today I’m sharing mine. On Friday, you’ll see Eric’s. So without any further ado…
Barry Bonds: He’s the best player I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen Mike Trout.
Roger Clemens: If liking the guy were critical, the Hall would have a very different look.
Curt Schilling: Take away the bloody sock. Take away the amazing playoff performance of 2001. He’s still an absolute no-brainer.
Jeff Bagwell: This is the year.
Mike Mussina: If he pitched two more years, we might be looking at 300 wins and a place inside the top-20 in pitcher WAR. Borderline players aren’t two years away from those numbers.
Tim Raines: Fingers crossed.
Ivan Rodriguez: Who’s better at the position in history? Johnny Bench and Buck Ewing. Maybe Gary Carter. Maybe Yogi Berra or Mike Piazza or Bill Dickey or Mickey Cochrane. That’s seven catchers at an absolute maximum. Pudge has to go in.
Larry Walker: There are four types of voters: (1) those who use Coors Field as an excuse not to look deeply enough into Walker’s greatness, (2) those who don’t understand that WAR and OPS+ are context neutral and mention Coors Field as an example of their insight into the game’s nuances by voting for Walker anyway, (3) those who get it and vote for Walker yet still have to mention Coors Field as if it’s their contractual obligation, and (4) those who don’t mention Coors Field.
Come to think of it, there are only three types of voters.
Edgar Martinez: There are four types of voters: (1) those who ignore nearly a half-century of baseball history and act as if designated hitter isn’t a position yet talk about it as a reason not to vote for Edgar, (2) those who don’t understand that WAR takes position into account, mention designated hitter as if it doesn’t, and discuss Edgar’s position as an example of their insight into the game’s nuances by voting for him anyway, (3) those who get it and vote for Edgar yet still have to mention designated hitter as if it’s their contractual obligation, and (4) those who don’t mention designated hitter.
Come to think of it, there are only three types of voters.
This is where it gets tough. I have just one more vote for Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Kent, and Vlad Guerrero, all of whom I think belong in the Hall. As far as I’m concerned, Manny has the best numbers. He’s the most deserving if you just look at his playing record. But I don’t think it’s just about his playing record. Sosa and Sheffield probably used performance enhancing drugs. The same is true with Bonds, Clemens, and Pudge. Manny absolutely used. He used when they were expressly banned by Major League Baseball. He used after his own Players Association negotiated their banning and suspensions for using. He got suspended. He used again. He got suspended again.
I’m of the opinion that if you do something wrong and are punished, you should have all of your rights returned to you once that punishment has ended. I think there should be a clean slate. Manny was suspended twice. You can say that he only served one of his suspensions and retired to avoid the other, but I don’t hold that against him. Manny ought to be free.
And if I could vote for fourteen guys on this ballot, Manny would get my vote. But since I can only vote for ten, I have to keep thinking about Manny.
He cheated. And I suspect he used performance enhancing drugs other than the times he was caught. I suspect his numbers aren’t totally real, though I don’t know how to adjust them. And since I don’t adjust them for anyone else, I won’t adjust his either.
I love Manny. I really do. I think my favorite live baseball moment came in Baltimore in 2008 when Manny took Chad Bradford deep for his 500th career homer. But I take my fake Hall of Fame ballot way too seriously, and Manny’s candidacy makes me uncomfortable when I compare him to other deserving players on this ballot.
Manny Ramirez won’t get my tenth vote.
That leaves Sosa, Sheffield, Kent, and Vlad. So to make the call, I’ll go to MAPES, my system for evaluating careers.
MAPES Rank at Position ========================================== Sammy Sosa 47.82 23 Gary Sheffield 48.94 20 Jeff Kent 45.15 23 Vlad Guerrero 46.79 26
One of the things that should make this process easy is that three of our contenders played the same position. To be honest though, that doesn’t help me. The difference between their positional ranks and their MAPES points is little enough that I want to look at other things. If I blindly follow my numbers, there’s no need to even write posts. I can just post numbers with a bit of context and be done with it. But that would be silly and a bit arrogant. So I have to keep digging.
One thing my numbers don’t take into consideration for hitters is playoff performance, so let’s look there.
Playoffs PA R H HR RBI BA OBP SLG Rings ================================================================ Sammy Sosa 67 8 13 2 7 .245 .403 .415 0 Gary Sheffield 202 27 40 6 19 .248 .401 .398 1 Jeff Kent 189 25 47 9 23 .276 .340 .500 0 Vlad Guerrero 188 17 45 2 20 .263 .324 .339 0
Overall, there’s not much to see here. Sheffield and Kent were very good in their only trip to the World Series. Vlad was awful in his. Sosa never went. Playoff performance won’t separate these four.
Sheffield and Vlad were better hitters than the other two, but Kent played an important defensive position passably, and Sosa was the only very good defender in the group. On one hand, I prefer the guy who played the more difficult position. On the other, I prefer the more complete player. And on my third hand, given that I trust offensive numbers more than those on defense, I should maybe take the best hitters. I’ve used too many hands, and I still don’t have an answer. Moving on…
Sheffield has no meaningful post-season hardware. The other three have one MVP each. Vlad has one that Ichiro or A-Rod or maybe Miguel Tejada deserved. Kent has one too, and I think it’s not terrible that he got it. I’d have preferred Todd Helton or Andruw Jones though. Like the others, Sosa has one that he doesn’t deserve. I’d have given his to Barry Bonds. The real truth of this paragraph is that there is no meaningful post-season hardware. In my Hall consideration, I don’t care who the BBWAA selected for their awards. Rather, I’m concerned with actual greatness.
By my count, only Sosa had a great season, one of 8+ WAR where you have a legitimate MVP case. They’re very close with All-Star type seasons. The right fielders have five each, while Kent has four. And a 2-win season represents the level of an everyday player. Sheffield wins that less important category by a decent amount. The chart below shows the total number of seasons each player had at a particular WAR level.
My Adjusted WAR 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 =============================================== Sammy Sosa 1 1 1 2 5 8 9 11 Gary Sheffield 0 0 0 3 5 8 11 16 Jeff Kent 0 0 2 2 4 5 9 13 Vlad Guerrero 0 0 1 3 5 9 10 11
There’s little that separates these guys. I can’t get one of them to stand out.
So I come back to Manny, which I said I wasn’t going to do. But I don’t like any of my other choices better than the rest.
Manny beats everyone on the list by seven MAPES points. He has two rings, more playoff homers and ribbies than everyone else combined, and a World Series MVP from 2004. Plus, he was just amazing in the 2008 playoffs when his Dodgers failed to get to the Series. In terms of seasonal WAR, he has only one 7-win season, but eight at 5+ and a dozen at 4+. There’s some real separation from all of these guys. It’s not be a little. It’s by a lot.
Manny’s company on my combined list is Ernie Banks, Sam Crawford, and Paul Molitor. The company of the other guys is, well, the other guys.
So, much to my surprise…
Manny Ramirez: He’s just about my favorite right handed hitter ever to watch swing a bat. He’s not going to make it to the Hall this year. He might not even see a second ballot. Honestly, we’ve never seen a player with Manny’s baggage considered by the BBWAA. Sure, Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for ten games, but that was a different time for steroids. MLB cared less than they seem to today. As for writers, I just don’t know. This writer is a little uncomfortable with a vote Manny. But what it comes down to is voting for the ten best players on the ballot. Manny is one of those ten. Kent, Vlad, Sosa, and Sheff aren’t.