After years and years and years of complaining about the 10-player maximum on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, the logjam is finally easing up a little bit. Sure, it’s still impossible to fit every deserving player on one ballot, but by my count, only four to six possibly deserving players would get snubbed on a full ballot. That’s an improvement. A sad, sad improvement.
This is the only correct Hall of Fame ballot, of course. At least, that’s what I’ve titled these posts throughout the years, so there’s no stopping now. I’ll be honest with you, though: I’ve never felt less confident about a ballot. You could probably change my mind with a well-crafted tweet on some players. Andy Pettitte isn’t on this fake ballot, for example, because I’m generally against a Hall of Staying Healthy, but it’s hard to finish this sentence without changing my mind.
This ballot doesn’t include Fred McGriff, for another example, even though he was one of the better hitters I’ve ever watched. I’d get mad, but then I remember this is a fake ballot, so I get fake mad instead. Harumph! How dare they limit my fake choices!
Anyway, here are those fake choices. And remember that this is the only correct ballot, he said sheepishly, looking at his feet and avoiding eye contact.
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
I’m ... pretty sure I’m out of words for these two. Here, have these old ones:
Without players like Barry Bonds, the Hall of Fame becomes the Hall of Great Players Who Didn’t Have the Opportunity to Cheat in a Very Specific Way at the Perfect Time. Not voting for players like Bonds and Roger Clemens is a punishment for an ethical decision the vast majority of Hall of Famers never got an opportunity to make. The history of the sport is overstuffed with anecdotal evidence that “By any means necessary” was the dominant philosophy of almost every era, not “Let’s play two!” Yet we’re supposed to pretend that Bonds and Clemens are somehow worse human beings than other players in the Hall, that they failed a moral test their predecessors passed.
My other argument for them is that both of them were good. Like, really good. So very good at baseball. Just put the best players in the Hall of Fame, you weirdos.
Performance-enhancing drugs are a messy subject — it is absolutely unethical to make your peers risk their health to keep up with you — but this was not the conversation we were having back in the ‘90s. Baseball was very, very into bigger, stronger, faster, because bigger, stronger, faster happened to correlate with a whole lot more money. It was wink-wink cool to do steroids back then, even if baseball couldn’t just come out and say that. They didn’t have to, what with Ken Caminiti on the cover of Baseball Weekly with Volkswagen Beetles attached to each shoulder. It was an implied cool.
Also, did you get the part where Bonds and Clemens were good? Totally good. Like, whoa.
3. Roy Halladay
His career WAR puts him in a virtual tie with Andy Pettitte, which makes him a great example for how I put a fake ballot together. Whereas Pettitte accumulated a bunch of WAR by staying healthy and active for years, Halladay was the best pitcher on the planet (or close to it) in eight different seasons.
Jim Rice’s election turned the idea of “fear” into something of a punchline when using it as criteria for a player’s Hall worthiness, but Halladay makes me want to rebrand that idea. Instead of fear, let’s try this: When he pitched against my team, all I could think was, “How in the heck are they supposed to hit this guy? How is anyone supposed to hit this guy?” This went on for about a decade.
Guys who make you think that for about a decade should go into the Hall of Fame.
4. Todd Helton
“How in the heck are they supposed to get this guy out? How is anyone supposed to get this guy out?”
Say, that line works for hitters, too. Helton will victimized in the actual voting because of Coors Field, but he has about six or seven elite seasons even after adjusting his stats and making them park-neutral, and he supplemented those seasons with Pretty Darned Okay seasons.
Plus, he gets bonus points for the whole stay-with-one-team-for-an-entire-career thing. Sorry if this is not sabermetric orthodoxy, but I’m big on bonus points.
5. Edgar Martinez
Harold Baines is going into the Hall of Fame, you know.
6. Manny Ramirez
I totally understand the voters who leave Ramirez off their ballots while voting for Bonds and Clemens. The latter two were using in an era where it was almost expected, if not encouraged, by baseball. Ramirez was busted multiple times in the Steroids Are Evil era. It almost seems like a semantical issue, but it’s a legitimate distinction.
Still, he was one of the best hitters any of us will ever watch. His defense was historically clompy, and that really screws with his WAR, but say the words out loud: One of the best hitters in baseball history. Just an absolute savant. If I’m going to pretend that Todd Helton was impossible to get out, I’m really going to go hard for Manny.
Plus, he made baseball waaaaaaaay more fun. Keep room on your ballot for players who make baseball more fun.
7. Mike Mussina
He would have been in on the first ballot if he had played in a different era. As is, he happened to play in an era where a 3.50 ERA was good enough to finish second in the Cy Young, which means that his numbers need a whole lot of context. He had a four-WAR season when his ERA was close to five, which is something that breaks our modern brains.
Mussina finished with Cy Young votes in nine different seasons, a 123 ERA+, and 270 wins, which are all pieces of evidence that should tempt stat dorks and traditionalists alike, but the most important argument, again, is the part where he was better at pitching than almost everyone who was active at the same time as him. That went on for, oh, 17 or 18 years.
As someone who followed baseball with a magnifying glass during Mussina’s career, it’s impossible to believe there is anyone who paid attention during this time who doesn’t believe he’s a Hall of Famer. Which means the people who are leaving him off weren’t paying attention and should be called out as such. Unless they’re exceptionally awful at adjusting for context and league-wide numbers. Maybe both?
8. Larry Walker
Probably as good as Vladimir Guerrero. Completely hosed by injuries, which puts him in that ambiguous Will Clark zone, but he was probably as good as Todd Helton, if not better. If I’m going for one, I’m almost required to double dip.
Again, if his name were Zoot Clamber, he would have been in five ballots ago. Let’s not punish the Larrys of the world any more than we have to.
9. Mariano Rivera
Like I would risk being the one dork who left him off. Although I was tempted so that I could fit Jeff Kent or Fred McGriff on here.
I get the whole bias against closers, who are usually less valuable to their team than just about anyone else on the roster, but Rivera was absolutely a part of baseball’s story while he was active. Also, he was a warlock, which gets bonus points in my system. Warlocks always get my vote.
10. Scott Rolen
If we’re going to look at Mike Mussina’s numbers through rose-colored glasses because of the era he played in, we have to do the same with Rolen’s, but in the opposite direction. A guy hitting .289 with 25 homers in 2001 was pretty good, but it was absolutely not that special. Rolen’s raw numbers aren’t enough. He needs something more.
Well, good thing he was one of the greatest defenders ever to play third base, then. It helps his case that third base is historically underrepresented, too, which turns him from a fringe candidate to someone worthy of a Blyleven-like push. If the nerds can get Tim Raines in the Hall, they can do the same for Rolen.
So that’s the ballot, which means there are omissions. Apologies to Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, and Fred McGriff, who probably deserve to be in. Absolutely no apologies will ever come out of my fingers for Curt Schilling, but, yes, he was probably as good as Mussina and Halladay, and a museum about baseball is probably incomplete without him. I would love the chance to stand in front of his plaque with my daughters and explain how he was excellent at sports and bad at life.
Which is something I would do with an awful lot of plaques, actually.
Starting to wonder about “humans” in general, really. They’re kind of gross.
But, anyway, this is the only correct Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for 2019. Although if my math is correct, with 14 worthy Hall of Famers and only 10 spots, there are actually 1,001 different correct ballots, but now you’re making me think too much.
No, no, this is the only correct one. It’s already in the headline, and I’m too lazy to change it. Thanks for understanding, and have a happy Argue About Baseball Online Day.