Hypothetical 2019 Hall of Fame Ballot: Yes on Bonds and Clemens, No on Sosa and Kent

The 2019 Hall of Fame ballot was released this week, and while I will likely never be eligible to cast a real-life ballot, I can still dream. So here are my hypothetical choices for who is deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown.

Barry Bonds

I have previously written that if character is a disqualifying offense, the Hall should never have inducted Cap Anson (racist), Bud Selig (active participant in free agency collusion), and numerous others. We do not live in this world, so why are we pretending Bonds is not one of top five position players ever?

Also, Bonds reportedly started juicing in response to the attention being paid to steroid user Mark McGuire when he broke the single season home-run record. In other words, Bonds is not a user who forced others to use to keep up. He was a three-time MVP as a clean player who was pissed off that cheaters were cheapening his legacy. If baseball had nipped steroids in the bud in the mid-90’s, Bonds never juices and this candidacy is a no-brainer.

Roger Clemens

See first paragraph above.

Mike Mussina

Moose was a five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold-Glover. He was among the top six in Cy Young voting nine times. He had a career 3.68 ERA all while pitching in the AL East, consistently one of the deadliest divisions in baseball, and his 3.57 career FIP proves none of those numbers are flukes. Mussina also earned 83 career bWAR and 270 wins, so under both old and new metrics he has Hall-worthy stats. He should have been inducted years ago.

Curt Schilling

Similar argument to Mussina. He has the counting stats and the bWAR to be inducted. Yes, he may be an abhorrent person who has become a caricature, not sure why that should count that heavily against him. Any player over the 80 bWAR threshold should be in by default, absent a compelling case otherwise.

Edgar Martinez

He was mostly a designated hitter, but guess what? That is still a baseball position. Martinez had a .312/.418/.515 slash line that is borderline MVP territory. Suppose Martinez had played in the NL. Would his defense at first base have been so bad as to derail his candidacy. I doubt it. Martinez still earned 68 bWAR even after being dinged 9 dWAR for his defensive rating.

Scott Rolen

Third base is surprisingly under-represented in the Hall of Fame. For some reason, voters seem to hold them a much higher offensive standard than middle infielders (to be expected) while simultaneously giving them little credit for defensive excellence (puzzling). Rolen was a defensive stalwart who also hit .281/.364/.490 with 316 home runs. He was not Mike Schmidt, but few are.

Mariano Rivera

As a general rule, I dislike relief pitchers getting elected. A relief pitcher is, almost by definition, a failed starting pitcher. If you cannot hack the more difficult position, where you throw more innings, why should we reward you for amassing a silly statistic like saves. Rivera is the exception. His 56.3 career bWAR dwarfs all other relievers and is more in line with a starter’s total. He pitched fewer innings, but his outrageous effectiveness when he did pitch makes up for it. Rivera is also the career leader in ERA+ (205), which more than makes up for the dearth of innings.

Roy Halladay

While Halladay was dominant over a 10-year span, he was pedestrian over the remaining six years. But that peak was just good enough to get on my ballot. It includes two Cy Youngs and two more runner-up seasons. I also give Halladay extra bonus points for a career 3.38 ERA (3.39 FIP) while pitching for most of his career in the AL (against DH’s) and specifically in the AL East against some elite Yankees and Red Sox teams.

Just Missed the Cut

Larry Walker

Walker’s career slash line at Coors Field was .348/.431/.637, but it was only .278/.370/.495 on the road. If Walker had played for another franchise, I have to assume his career numbers would be far more in line with the latter slash line than the former. That would still make for a great player, just not a Hall of Famer. Todd Helton has the exact same problem, only with an inferior overall case (less defensive value and lesser career slash line).

Andruw Jones

So close, but not there. If Jones could have put up just two more great seasons after turning 30, he would have gotten my vote. To his credit, I still think Jones is more Hall-worthy than the former Cub listed below (it pains me to type that).

Manny Ramirez

Ramirez was a monster slugger for a long time with some very good teams and his is a very close call. His steroid suspension is the tipping point against voting for him. I do not disqualify based on juicing, but I will consider it within the totality of the evidence and I have to assume it added some offensive production. Remove that production and Ramirez’s candidacy looks yet weaker.

Jeff Kent

A middling infielder becomes a monster slugger in his mid-30’s during the height of the steroid era. Hmm…In fairness, even if we set that aside, Kent just does not have the overall career numbers to make this a hard choice.

Sammy Sosa

I idolized him in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. He had a monstrous peak at that time with the Cubs. He also only has 58.6 career bWAR, way less than the typical Hall of Famer. Like Kent, I really don’t need to weigh the moral issues to know he falls short.

How does your ballot look? Am I missing some who should be in or out? Comment below.

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