Top Of The First
Happy New Year everybody. This week’s Hall of Fame induction announcement is grabbing all of the headlines so I’ll delve into that a little more. I’ll include my sample ballot — though I do not have a vote — and I will state my case as to why I believe Sammy Sosa is worthy of induction.
Hall of Fame – Who Gets In (and Who Doesn’t)
Ken Griffey Jr is still a unanimous choice as far as verified ballots are concerned. Ryan Thibs is tracking the BBWAA ballots and with 158 present and accounted for, the Mariners/Reds centerfielder has been named on every single ballot thus far. There were 549 ballots cast in 2015. Candidates must be named on 75 percent of ballots submitted to gain election. If Thibs’ calculations hold serve, the following players would be inducted this year, marking the third consecutive year that at least three players have been elected, an historical first:
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Mike Piazza
- Jeff Bagwell
- Tim Raines
I have a problem with the way votes are cast and tabulated for induction. It pains me further when baseball writers feel the need to explain their ballots. Jon Paul Morosi spent a good ten minutes on MLB TV yesterday explaining his thought process regarding his 2016 ballot.
To me, if a writer has to untangle his stream of consciousness for the benefit of others it’s still not really untangled. I feel these individuals are merely convincing themselves as to why they voted for certain players and didn’t vote for others. That lacks confidence. Morosi tried to explain why he didn’t vote for Mike Piazza with one of the arguments being that he felt Pizza would get enough votes for induction regardless.
His final reason for excluding Piazza was simple mathematics. In other words, there were other players whose candidacy was more urgent — namely Alan Trammmel, Tim Raines and Edgar Martinez — all fine candidates and at least two of them Hall of Fame worthy.
Trammell is in his final year on the ballot. Raines is in his next-to-last. Martinez has only three tries remaining after this year because of recent action by the Hall which shortened the eligibility period from 15 years to 10. He therefore prioritized those three players over Piazza.
But he also prioritized Larry Walker over Mike Piazza. Last year Walker was included on only 11.8% of all ballots submitted. He still has eligibility. And this is where my problem lies.
A voter who purposely refuses to vote for a better player whose candidacy he deems statistically warranted is doing a disservice to the election process, whatever the reason. I don’t mean to single Morosi out because other writers are guilty of far greater infractions — both present and historically — Murray Chass being a standout example.
The bottom line is that the Hall Of Fame means less and less to me if the players inducted are included or excluded based on a whole lot of ambiguity, incomplete or inconsistent information, or a forced agenda.
And, for the record, it is a travesty that Pete Rose is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in my opinion.
My 2016 Sample Ballot
- Jeff Bagwell
- Barry Bonds
- Roger Clemens
- Ken Griffey, Jr.
- Trevor Hoffman
- Mark McGwire
- Mike Mussina
- Mike Piazza
- Tim Raines
- Sammy Sosa
Did I Really Pick Sammy Sosa?
I fully understand that he did most of his damage in a relatively small portion of his career. I further understand that those who refuse to vote for Sosa cite reasons that include everything from his off-putting personality to the corked bat incident to his alleged PED-induced statistical jump (he tested positive — reportedly — only in 2003).
The Hall of Fame is full of infamy as it is. Ty Cobb is a great example. Tris Speaker is another. Cap Anson may have been the most racist ballplayer ever. Gaylord Perry supposedly doctored nearly every baseball he ever threw.
If you point to Sosa’s career WAR (58.7), there are others in the Hall of Fame worth fewer wins against replacement over the course of their careers: Willie Stargell (57.5), Jim Rice (47.4), Tony Perez (53.9), Luis Aparicio (55.7), and Orlando Cepeda (50.3). Cepeda spent ten months in prison for drug smuggling, by the way.
Seven All-Star Game appearances (including two snubs), an MVP Award and six top-ten finishes, 609 home runs, 1,475 runs, 1,667 RBIs, 234 stolen bases, a career BA of .273, and a career OPS of .878 all say Sammy Sosa belongs in the Hall of Fame if I had a vote.
He did test positive for steroids in 2003. So did 103 other players, many of them unnamed. Steroid users have been — and will be — elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cheaters, gamblers, racists, drug users and possibly even a murderer have been — and will be — inducted into the Hall of Fame. Drawing a line of integrity in the sand is therefore a tenuous stance, at best.
Nobody knows who was really clean and who wasn’t. Sosa will never get in, but he is a Hall of Famer in my book because you simply can’t isolate him from a field of other “known cheaters,” “maybes,” and “I don’t knows.”
Fact, Fiction, Truth, Or Rumor
The Sporting News lists the 25 best baseball players not in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
A recent Peter Gammons article leans on Jay Jaffe and Bill James as architects of how the Hall of Fame voting process should play out. It’s a must read.
Wendy Thurm of the New York Times thinks that every player on the ballot — cheater, non-cheater or suspected cheater — should be elected.
Doug Fister is sifting through a couple of one- and two-year offers. I think he would be a great for for the Cubs, but better options for him surely exist elsewhere.
Jay Bruce may be the next victim in the Cincinnati Reds roster purge.
Edwin Jackson looks to be headed to Miami on a big-league contract. The Cubs are still paying his 2016 salary so he’ll likely accept a minimal salary from the Marlins.
Bucky Veil was the first rookie to appear in a modern Major League World Series, and was the first relief pitcher utilized in a World Series game. I just started reading the book “Bucky: A Story of Baseball in the Deadfall Era” and it is fascinating. If you are into historical aspects of the game I give it a five-star recommendation.
Zach Bernard of Baseball Essential would like to see a reconciliation between the Cubs front office, Sammy Sosa, and, of course, Cubs fans.
Bottom Of The Ninth
Remember the Budweiser Real Men Of Genius ad campaign? Those ads were always a part of Cubs radio broadcasts and I loved every single one. Dave Bickler of Survivor sang the vocals over each genius narrative. You can listen to all of them right here if you want to relive a nice part of Cubs broadcasts past.
Yes, baseball is right around the corner. Just ask Mr. Baseball Designated Hitter. What’s it like to be a professional baseball player that doesn’t even need a fielding glove, Mr. On-The-Bench-A-Lot? Fielding, throwing, and running are overrated anyway.
Could this is a veiled stab at Edgar Martinez? He’s not on my ballot.