If I Had an MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

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As the title suggests, I do not have one, but boy if I was a voting member of the Baseball writers club or whatever they call themselves, I would be a small Hall kind of guy. I would reserve the Hall of Fame for players that I felt were truly worthy of enshrinement, leaving out the borderline guys for the so-called "Hall of the Very Good".

That said, I do have plenty of players that I would cast my vote for in this year's election. I do not hold PED use against players, nor do I refuse to vote for guys who were designated hitters. The most that any one writer can vote for is 10 players, so let's take a look at how I would be voting.

Barry Bonds

Man, have I ever changed my tune on this one. I used to hate Bonds. I couldn't stand his personality, his obvious disdain for the writers, his arrogance and especially his obvious PED usage. Hell, this man took more PEDs than Jose Canseco probably, and that's saying something. His girlfriend wrote about it in a book she did, claiming that Bonds did horse-sized steroids in an effort to catch up to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who he apparently was very jealous of.

And while I still think he's an asshole, I would vote for him in a heartbeat. Why the change in logic? Well, for one thing, we don't know for sure who cheated and who did not in the appropriately named Steroid Era. And no, I don't want to see them erect a separate wing for steroid users.

Look, players in all eras cheated in one way or another. Of course, the level of cheating that Bonds did was allegedly far worse, and I absolutely HATE that he owns the home run record, but it is what it is, and no one can go back in time and change reality of what transpired. So, without knowing who did and who did not—and believe me, if you saw that 2003 list like I did, you would be shocked at a few of the names on there—either all of them should get in (who have the numbers, that is) or none of them.

Meanwhile, it's too late to vote none of them in, for there already are steroid users in the Hall, so I'd vote the worthy ones in. On that note, I've come full circle and have done a 180 degree about face over the years.

The other thing about Bonds is the man was a Hall of Famer even before he bulked up like the jolly green giant. He was simply the best ballplayer I've ever seen (Willie Mays was old and doddering when I saw him). He had speed, great outfield defense, and was a terrific hitter and even had power before his head ballooned like a watermelon.

Roger Clemens

Clemons is another dickhead, but if I'm going to vote in Bonds, then I have to cast a ballot for this guy as well. One of the greatest pitchers of all time, I shouldn't have to spend much time presenting the reasons why he is Hall-worthy; that's why I devoted so much space to the Bonds discussion, since the basis of that mostly applies here as well.

I don't think there are many (if any) people who think Clemens pitching wasn't great; instead, many want to keep him out because he cheated. Well, as I explained above, I'm letting the cheaters in, so Clemens has to be in too.

Chipper Jones

This switch-hitter was one of the finest third basemen in MLB history. He played for a lot of winning Braves teams, and while their trio of Hall of Fame starters had a lot to do with that winning, he was also a big part of it as well. He finished in the top 12 in MVP voting an amazing nine times (winning in 1999).

Jones, a switch-hitter, finished just a stone's throw shy of 500 career homers, and had an OBP of .401. In one 12 year stretch, he hit at least 25 homers in 10 of those seasons. He was the model of consistency. He led the league in hitting in 2008 with a .364 batting average. If a career slash line of .303/.401/.529 isn't Hall-worthy, then I don't know what is.

Heck, he played almost another complete season just in the postseason, with more than 400 plate appearances over 12 years of postseason ball. His career OBP in the postseason matched his regular season numbers, at .409.

The one knock against him is that he wasn't a great defensive player. FanGraphs has him as a career -36.9 WAR on defense. But he seemed to have two really bad defensive seasons, in 2001 and 2003; otherwise he was almost even across the totality of his other seasons combined.

Jim Thome

Thome was a big ol' country boy who seemed to have a large frame but not a lot of muscle tone and definition. What I'm trying to say is he doesn't have that classic steroid user body, something that makes his 612 career home runs even that much more impressive.

With an OPS around 1.000, the only possible knock against him is that he played mostly 1B and DH (some 3B), so he was not a standout defensive player. But he was one of the all-time good guys in a clubhouse, with many players having sung his praise for the contributions he made to team chemistry.

He hit .276, but, like Chipper, was another hitter with a penchant for getting on base, to the tune of a .402 OBP. And keep in mind that during the era he played in, few baseball people were focusing on OBP like they are today, so he instinctively understood the value of taking a walk if a pitcher won't throw you strikes.

Edgar Martinez

The main reason that many writers refuse to vote for Edgar is that he was a full-time designated hitter. But face it—that's a position that is here to stay and, like it or not (I like it), the NL will probably adopt it as well someday. If a player was a great hitter, and Edgar certainly was, he belongs in the Hall.

I mean, there are lousy defenders in the Hall, right? So what's the difference between enshrining a poor defender vs. a guy who didn't play defense at all? At least he didn't hurt his team that way. Offensively, he was one of the best hitters of all time, folks.

The man hit .312 or his career, and had an OBP of .418. And while he wasn't a prodigious home run threat, he did manage to club more than 300 of them out of the park over his 18 year career, including eight seasons of 20 or more bombs. He led the league in hitting twice, 1992 and 1995,

Nine times he had an OPS greater than .900. He was just a hitter, that's true. But man, what a hitter he was!

Vladimir Guerrero

Another great hitter with even more power than Edgar, Guerrero had an unorthodox approach at the plate and he would swing at almost anything. But he had terrific bat speed and made a lot of contact. Incredibly, despite slugging almost 450 homers, he never once struck out 100 times in a season!

Compare that to many of today's players, who hit homers but often swing from their heels and strike out a ton. This guy made tons of contact and was a definite force at the plate over his 16 seasons in the majors. He was a career .318 hitter with a .553 slugging percentage.

For those who care about such things, he had 100 or more RBI in 10 seasons. He hit 30+ home runs in eight seasons. I bet you didn't realize he once stole 40 bases (although he did lead the league with 20 caught stealing attempts!). In six seasons he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting, winning it in 2004.

Again, here is another guy whose defense won't win him any awards, with a FanGraphs career defensive WAR of -115. But he's certainly one of the great hitters of his era and he gets my vote.

Manny Ramirez

Now here is a guy that not only failed a drug test, he practically made a clown of himself in the process. But if I'm gong to be fair and vote for players based on their numbers and not take steroids into account, then Manny belongs.

One of the best right-handed hitters ever, Ramirez is another guy who was a defensive liability. And yes, his mind seemed to wander sometimes, leaving lots of baseball people scratching their heads and leading to the "Manny being Manny" phrase.

555 homers, and 12 seasons of 100+ RBI (again, for those that still count RBI), combined with a .312 BA and .411 OBP does it for me. Yes, he cheated, but so did most in his era. Previous generations of players took amphetamines, or "greenies" like candy, and you can't tell me that wasn't performance-enhancing, because it was.

He had nine years with an OPS greater than 1.000, and he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight consecutive years (1998-2005, although he never won).

Gary Sheffield

He blamed Bonds for his steroid use. Nevertheless, once again, if we are allowing juicers in the Hall, then he certainly belongs. More than 500 homers and a slash line of .292/.393/.514 was great. Yes, he did play 22 years and was a stat-accumulator, but in his case those stats were fantastic.

He hit better than .300 in 10 seasons, winning the batting title in 1992. He also had an OBP better than .400 10 times. And he's another hitter who never struck out 100 times in a season. For his career, he had more walks than Ks and by a considerable margin.

Although he never won, he finished in the top 10 of MVP voting six times, finishing second in 2004. While his defense stunk, he did play the middle infield for several seasons prior to switching to the outfield. He gets my vote.

 

Just Missed

Mike Mussina: That 3.68 ERA falls short, but he did pitch in the steroid era. He had five top-6 Cy Young finishes.

Andruw Jones: In his prime, he was as good as anybody. One of the greatest defensive centerfielders I have ever seen. But his prime was too short.

Sammy Sosa: I admit that as a Cubs fan, I just can't get over his me-first attitude and how awful of a teammate he was. And unlike Bonds, he was not a good hitter or fielder before he bulked up.

Omar Vizquel:  He was probably the second-best defensive shortstop in my lifetime, but he was still far short of Ozzie Smith defensively and he wasn't good at the plate.

Larry Walker: Career too short and numbers inflated by Coors Field. Still, that .313/.400/.565 slash line was pretty damn good.

Fred McGriff: Almost 500 homers, just missed.

 

Final Word: Oh, and by the way, I would also do my best to get Pete Rose in the Hall. A scumbag of a person perhaps, but a terrific ballplayer.

 

Follow me on Twitter @BobWarja

 

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