In 2004 George Bush ran for re-election against the Democratic nominee, John Kerry. As most are, it was a contentious campaign. And there was one particular jab made quite frequently by the Republican side, one that shocked me by sticking. Kerry was labeled as a flip-flopper, someone who changed his view on issues. In contrast, Bush didn’t change his view, I suppose. To me, someone who doesn’t ever change their minds doesn’t really think. See, I’m not right about everything today. And neither are you. If we don’t change our minds about some things, it means we stopped thinking, stopped learning.
I’m not making an argument about Bush or about Kerry. I’m simply saying that particular criticism of Kerry should not have stuck.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as a flip-flopper. Oh, there is. Read on.
Unlike some followers of Ryan Thibs’ Hall Tracker, an absolutely indispensable link at this time of the baseball season, I think members of the BBWAA are doing a pretty good job. Collectively, they’re struggling to elect as many as they should, but there are tons of reasonable ballots. When trying to identify the worst ballot of the year, one should probably wait until they’re all in. I won’t do that. See, I knew the worst one when it came out. And there’s almost no ballot that could possibly exist that would be worse in my mind.
It’s not the ridiculous Steven Marcus ballot with just Vlad and Hoffman on it. It’s not Tony Massarotti’s ballot, which includes just Bonds, Clemens, Edgar, Manny, and Pudge. It’s not the idiotic Rick Morrissey ballot with only Hoffman, Raines, Schilling, and Walker on it. It’s not the Bagwell, Hoffman, Raines ballot of Bob Padecky. It’s not even the annual Juan Vene fiasco that includes Vlad, McGriff, Raines, Pudge, and Smith this year.
The worst ballot of the year, pretty unbelievably to me, is a ten-man ballot. It was, I assume blindly, constructed by the moronic George Willis of the New York Post.
(So the word “moronic” made it through two drafts of this post. If I’m being fair, Willis isn’t moronic. He’s almost certainly a better writer than I am, even though he seems to cover a lot of boxing and combat sports. At worst, it’s his ballot selections that are moronic. And I’m a petulant child).
Here are the ten names Willis included.
Any ballot that includes Bagwell and Raines seems like it should be at least okay, and on the surface, this ballot isn’t miserable. I wouldn’t vote for Posada, and I think support for McGriff and Smith is misplaced. I also wouldn’t get Vlad or Sheffield on my ballot, especially if my ballot has room for PED users – like Sheffield.
Here are the real problems:
- There are four players who he supported a year ago who he no longer supports (Bonds, Clemens, Hoffman, and Schilling). And there are four who he didn’t support last year who he supports now (Bagwell, Edgar, Mussina, and Smith). This is the flip-flopping. On eight guys in one year!
- There are only four players on the ballot who he’s supported in consecutive seasons (Kent, McGriff, Raines, and Sheffield). That’s a stunning quartet as the only four to garner consistent support from a writer. But perhaps you shouldn’t be stunned by Willis. In 2015 he didn’t vote for any of Kent, McGriff, or Raines. So the only person on the ballot who he’s supported for three years running is Gary Sheffield. Maybe they’re chums?
- Willis is clearly fine with steroid use. We know this since he’s voted for the aforementioned Sheffield. There’s absolutely no sense in withdrawing your support for Bonds or Clemens if you support other steroid users. They’re the best two players on the ballot, clearly. And if you’re okay with PED users, you must support those two. I think I read something about how a friend convinced him that Bonds and Clemens did irreparable harm to the game. How?!? And how are you just learning this nearly a decade after they stopped playing baseball?
- The Hoffman/Smith flip-flop makes sense in isolation, I guess. He likes Hoffman, but he thinks he’ll be able to vote for him next season. He knows Smith will be off the ballot, so throwing a vote in his direction is gallant. Willis needs to take his ballot more seriously, not throw support at someone just because.
- The Schilling/Mussina flip-flop does make some sense given the current political climate behind Schilling (tune in Monday for Eric’s take on the issue). I don’t know how he can justify not supporting Mussina a year ago though. And surprise, he doesn’t explain. He doesn’t explain any of his ballot, at least not that I could see.
- Vlad is a first-timer on his ballot, but Manny isn’t on his ballot. Manny was a better player than Vlad. Manny had a higher OBP, a higher SLG, a higher OPS+, more homers, more runs, more runs batted in, more WAR, more All-Star Games, more rings, and more dominant post-season performance. There’s no way to justify Vlad over Manny if you support PED users. Manny was clearly a more valuable player. Willis supports PED users and still voted for Vlad over Manny.
- Somehow Jorge Posada is on his ballot, but Ivan Rodriguez isn’t.
Pudge Posada ============================================= BA .296 .273 OBP .334 .374 SLG .464 .474 OPS+ 106 121 H 2844 1664 R 1354 900 HR 311 275 RBI 1332 1065 ASG 14 5 GG 13 0 WAR 68.4 42.7
Rate stats say Posada was a better hitter. But that’s in part because he was relieved of his job because he wasn’t a good enough defender. I-Rod is probably the best defensive catcher ever. He hung on for an extra 1000 hits and 700 R+RBI because he was a good hitter with a great glove and arm. Posada is closer to Pudge’s greatness than he is to mine and yours, but only by a little. Take away his seasons in 2002 and 2003, and he’s closer in value to what we put up than he is to Pudge. Truly, this is a terrible decision.
It’s hard to suggest that any one ballot is worse that all others, especially when one writer included just Guerrero and Hoffman. But a ballot where its submitter changed his mind on eight returners without explanation and voted for an inferior corner outfielder and an inferior catcher without explanation merits that distinction.
I’m opposed to taking away someone’s right to vote for the Hall if they’re qualified by rule, but I’m tempted to make an exception in Willis’ case. Then again, maybe he’ll flip or flop his way to a better ballot next year.