Later today MLB will announce the players that have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Though many are deserving, it very well likely could be a repeat of what we’ve seen in the past where just a fraction of those are actually enshrined.
It’s times like these where the Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker becomes invaluable. Though only about half of the total votes have been made public, it has allowed us to see which players have a chance of getting in and which are stuck on the outside. Thus far, it appears as though Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are shoo-ins as both have nearly 90% of the public vote, while Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, and Ivan Rodriguez are all at or just shy of the required 75%.
For Bagwell, he’s struggled in the past due to (to me, unfair) steroid accusations. Sporting a unique crouching batting stance, the first baseman hit .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs over his career entirely spent with the Houston Astros. As for Raines, his possible induction is related to the sands emptying from his hourglass as this is his final year on the ballot. Many have argued that Raines was underappreciated as he walked in nearly 13% of his plate appearances and stole over 800 bases (fifth-best in major league history) with an 84.7% success rate (best for players with 400+ attempts) while hitting .294/.385/.425. His detractors point out that Raines was merely a compiler that benefited from playing in four separate decades (1979 to 2002), but his supporters feel that one of the best basestealers in history belongs in the Hall of Fame, especially one that also had a knack for getting on base.
As for the other three that are within shouting distance of enshrinement, Vladimir Guerrero was one of the most feared hitters of his generation. A man that swung at almost literally everything (including hitting this pitch on a bounce), he somehow managed to strike out in just 10% of his plate appearances while hitting .318/.379/.553 with 449 career home runs. He also had an impressive streak of 12 consecutive seasons batting over .300 and 13 of 14 in his career (he only hit worse than .290 in a season in his 27-plate appearance debut in 1996). As if his contributions at the plate weren’t enough, Guerrero also had one of the most dangerous outfield arms in baseball as he tallied 10+ outfield assists in eight consecutive seasons.
Trevor Hoffman’s candidacy primarily lives and dies with one statistic: saves. Armed with a deadly change-up (sometimes called a palmball), Hoffman briefly held the record for most career saves with 601 until Mariano Rivera broke it just a few years later. Hoffman finished with a 2.87 ERA in his career while pitching primarily through the Steroid Era and was a very successful pitcher even though very few would call him “dominant” like Billy Wagner.
Whereas Hoffman and Guerrero are just shy of reaching the coveted 75% among the public ballots, Ivan Rodriguez currently has enough to watch his plaque get hung in Cooperstown. “Pudge” was one of the best catchers in MLB history as he was the complete package. It was his defense that will always be remembered as he threw out a stunning 46% of basestealers, but he also was a solid hitter with a career .296/.334/.464 triple-slash. With this being his first year on the ballot, even if he isn’t elected this year, he should be a certain lock sometime within his remaining nine years of eligibility.
As for the snubs, there are still plenty this time around. The Hall of Fame tracker shows that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and Curt Schilling are most likely going to fall short this year. For most of them, they suffer from the specter of steroids whereas Martinez’s argument is that his career as a designated hitter did not contribute defensively, while Mussina’s 3.68 ERA appears to be anything but elite, even though he pitched in the vaunted AL East and his career ERA- was 82 (so his ERA was 18% above league average for his career). To me, Bonds was possibly the best hitter in major league history, Clemens was a dominant starting pitcher, and Schilling also was an elite pitcher in his career.
Now that I’ve spent about 700 words writing about the background of who should be in and who’s getting snubbed... I don’t actually care. This isn’t me going rogue; I actually warned myjah about this before I even started this post. The main reason is from my last paragraph. I see so many elite players that aren’t in the Hall of Fame that it’s hard for me to take it seriously. Barry Bonds isn’t in. Roger Clemens isn’t in. Pete Rose isn’t in. I could go on and on. The point of a Hall of Fame in my eyes is to honor the best players in the sport. Currently, the best overall hitter and best hitter by average aren’t in for various transgressions in their respective lifetimes. Steroids are still used as an argument to keep the best from being in the Hall, even though I believe a) virtually everyone used them, b) players are already in the Hall that used in the past, and c) it’s basically a witchhunt where you were accused of using just because you had a certain look or acted a certain way.
Toss in that voters have to play a game of sorts when casting their votes. I can vote for 10 players, but there might be a player that I want to keep on the ballot so I must vote for him. This guy always gave me a quote when I needed one for my postgame report, so I’ll toss him a vote. These two guys are shoo-ins so I don’t need to vote for them. That player is a certain Hall of Famer, but he wasn’t good enough to deserve to get in on his first year of eligibility. I’m going to protest this entire charade so I’m not going to check any boxes, but I’m going to mail it in anyway. There are so many dumb games that voters play when casting a ballot that I find it meaningless. Every year the new players are announced and I think, “Oh, that’s nice that those guys got in” and “It’s too bad those players were snubbed.” I think about it for many a minute or two and then I move on from there. The idea of who gets into the Hall of Fame and who doesn’t feels like a fantasy that was important to me as a child, but as an adult I no longer need an award determined by hundreds of people to tell me who was among the very best and who wasn’t.
How about you? How do you feel about the potential Hall of Famers? Any particular players that may be elected that you feel aren’t deserving or are there any snubs that should be remedied?