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Why Mike Piazza is my Hall of Fame hope

Mike Coppola

If you're under an Internet-baseball rock, you might not know about Baseball Think Factory's Hall of Fame Ballot gizmo. Every time a writer publishes a column explaining his or her Hall of Fame ballot, it gets added to the tally. The goal is to predict what will happen this month because we're impatient.

So far, after 101 ballots (about 18 percent of the total), here's who is likely to make the Hall:

Greg Maddux
Tom Glavine
Frank Thomas
Craig Biggio

Biggio is close, on 80 percent of the ballots. The other three are not. They're going in.

If you're wondering how closely the gizmo predicts reality, it was perfect in 2012 and perfect in 2011 when it came to the actual inductees. It's a pretty good sample and generally reliable, but there's a still a margin for error.

Gizmo's prediction for 2013 ballot Actual 2013 ballot Difference
Biggio 70.1 68.2 1.9
Piazza 60.3 57.8 2.5
Raines 59.8 52.2 7.6
Bagwell 59.3 59.6 -0.3
Morris 59.3 67.7 -8.4
Bonds 45.4 36.2 9.2
Clemens 44.3 37.6 6.7
Schilling 39.2 38.8 0.4
L. Smith 38.1 47.8 -9.7
Trammell 37.6 33.6 4
E. Martinez 35.6 35.9 -0.3
McGriff 20.1 20.7 -0.6
D. Murphy 18.6 18.6 0
L. Walker 16.5 21.6 -5.1
McGwire 14.4 16.9 -2.5
Sosa 13.4 12.5 0.9
Palmeiro 12.9 8.8 4.1
Mattingly 8.8 13.2 -4.4

I'm guessing the Lee Smith and Jack Morris voters stopped covering baseball decades ago, so they're less apt to write about their ballot, which gums things up for the Gizmo just a bit.

Still, three certainties, one likely, and a couple of close calls. Those close calls would be, according to the Gizmo:

  • Mike Piazza (72.3% of announced ballots so far)
  • Jeff Bagwell (65.3%)
  • Jack Morris (62.4%)

Morris is probably out and off the ballot, though he did better than his predicted numbers last year. Bagwell is probably going to wait another year, at least.

This brings us to Piazza, who is a curious case. He's never been busted for steroids, but he's suffered in the voting because of amateur gumshoes and dermatologists. The odd part is that you can make an argument against him without that stuff -- his defense was that rough. Piazza would almost certainly be the best catcher excluded, but when it comes to career WAR, he's below Lou Whitaker, Larry Walker, Bobby Grich, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Kenny Lofton, Graig Nettles, Dwight Evans, Buddy Bell, Willie Randolph, Reggie Smith, Sal Bando, Ken Boyer, Andruw Jones, Willie Davis, and Keith Hernandez. Some of those are causes célèbre, but most of them aren't. Piazza wouldn't be the worst omission, not even close, according to WAR.

Of course, I get the sneaking suspicion that using WAR to evaluate catchers is like using soundtrack sales to evaluate movies. I'm guessing in a few years, we'll all laugh at ourselves for even trying it. I'm not excited about catcher-defense stats, not as they currently stand, so there's no way I would keep Piazza off my ballot if I had one.

But I would listen to impassioned arguments about how much Piazza cost his team behind the plate, and how that puts him below the threshold. And I would consider them. He's almost a borderline candidate for me, which is something that would surprise the absolute heck out of 2005 Grant.

He's also my new cause célèbre, my one wish for the 2014 Hall of Fame class. C'mon, Mike Piazza. Get those extra votes, Mike. I'm overlooking the hair and Pert Plus commercials and Dodgers taint, and I'm your biggest fan. Cross your fingers and hope for a "Piazza party," ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ahem.

Those two points aren't mutually exclusive, even if they appear to be at first glance. No, Piazza is my jam right now because here's the ballot next year even if he and the other four make it:

Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Curt Schilling
Mike Mussina
Jeff Bagwell
Rafael Palmeiro
Larry Walker
Tim Raines
Mark McGwire
Edgar Martinez
Alan Trammell
Sammy Sosa
Fred McGriff
Jeff Kent
Randy Johnson
John Smoltz
Pedro Martinez
Gary Sheffield
Carlos Delgado

Ludicrous. I'd vote for 13 of them without a second thought, which means that three no-doubt, yessiree, obvious Hall of Famers would get shafted. The bigger concern, though, is that guys I'm pretty sure about -- Larry Walker, Jeff Kent -- could fall off the ballot because of the crowded ballot.

Piazza making it would help prevent that. Even if it helps just a little bit, it's a good thing. So lemme put on a shirt that's nothing but a giant Piazza face. Slap the Fathead on my living room wall. Piazza! Piazza! Gooooo, Piazza!

Great, now I need to take a shower. But I'll keep my shampoo and conditioner separate, thank you. When you know Tim Raines and Alan Trammell aren't getting in this year, though, your only hope should be that they aren't Lou Whitaker'd next year. Piazza making room would help.

Get Piazza in this year, you ninnies. And if it weren't Jack Morris's last year on the ballot, I'd be rooting for him, too. That's how whacked this logjam is. Let's get this ballot thinned out. There's no time for nuance. Luckily, there isn't much needed right now.