The Ins and Outs of the HOF
Baseball's Hall of Fame Induction was last weekend and it was the first time since 1997 that the Baseball Writer's Association of America didn't vote a player in. The HOF Veteran's Committee voted umpire Hank O'Day, baseball pioneer Jacob Ruppert and pre-1900's catcher Deacon White. Congratulations to those guys which got in I've never heard of, but this column isn't about them. I'm looking toward next year when there will be three first-ballot HOFers in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
First let me revisit my HOF qualifications. A player should hit two to three of these stat lines to gain entry into the Hall, because the HOF should be for the very best players to ever play, right? Three thousand hits, 1,500 runs or 1,500 RBIs or both, 500 home runs, 500 stolen bases and a .300 average. Of course there are always exceptions, as my favorite player Ozzie Smith had a dismal .262 career average, but made up for it with runs, stolen bases and the fact that he is the best defensive shortstop of all time. There are also more factors to include, but those are the main ones.
For pitchers, 300 wins is the milestone. Throw in 3,000 strikeouts and an earned-run average under 3.00 (or really close to it) and you're doing pretty good.
Maddux is doing great in that department. He has 355 wins (.610 win percentage) with a 3.16 ERA and 3,371 strikeouts. Not only does he hit the HOF statistics, Maddux has four consecutive Cy Young Awards and an all-time record 18 Gold Gloves. He amazingly only has just eight all-star nods.
Maddux' teammate for many of those years, including the 1995 World Series Championship, Glavine wasn't too bad himself. Now he didn't hit the 3,000 strikeout mark (2,607) and his 3.54 ERA may be a little higher than a HOFer should have, but his 305 wins (.600) may give him the first-ballot induction. Not that 300 wins is a given HOFer, but Glavine is also a two-time Cy Young Award winner and won 20 games in a season five times. He was also a 10-time all star.
Thomas, or the Big Hurt if you remember, is a no-doubt HOFer in my mind. The two-time MVP (1993,1994) has 521 career home runs and 1,704 RBI. Those stats should put him in right there, but if there was any question, his .301 average, .419 on-base percentage, 1,494 runs and .974 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) knocks him over the top. An OPS of .800 is good, .900 is great and 1.000 is awesome in my book and Thomas was close to awesome his whole career. For some reason, Thomas was only a five-time all star.
So those are my first-balloters. I think Glavine will have a lower percentage than Maddux and Thomas, but I do think he will surpass the 75 percent needed to gain entry. There are two guys that are also first-year eligible, but I don't see them getting in next season. Mike Mussina has 270 career wins (.638), but his 2,813 strikeouts and 3.68 ERA don't quite cut the mustard stat-wise. His six Gold Gloves will definitely help his cause, but not next year. Former Giants second-baseman Jeff Kent has excellent career numbers, but I still don't think he'll get the call his first year. Kent hit a very solid .290 and .356 OBP, knocked in 1,518 runs, scored 1,320, hit 377 home runs and 560 doubles, but he doesn't get first-ballot despite his 2000 MVP.
Now for those who were on the ballot last year and didn't make it in. Of course, let's take the players under the steroid cloud out of the equation, which would be first-ballot HOFers if not for their involvement or supposed involvement with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). That takes possibly the all-time greatest player, Barry Bonds, out, along with Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Out of the PED five-some, Clemens got the highest percentage of the vote at 37.6 percent. Palmeiro got 8.8 percent of the vote for the lowest, which still kept him on the ballot for having at least 5 percent of the vote.
It will be Jack Morris' 15th and final year on the ballot (if Veteran's Committee doesn't vote him in later) and I don't see it happening for him. He had an impressive 254 wins, but fell shy of the 3,000-strikeout mark (2,478) and his 3.90 ERA is too high. It will be "Donnie Baseball's" (Don Mattingly) 14th year on the ballot, and though his career numbers are impressive, he didn't play long enough. Yes, he played the minimum 10 years he needed to be eligible for the HOF, but he retired at the age of 34 and had over 1,000 runs and 1,000 RBI with a .307 career average. He won an MVP and nine Gold Gloves, but he doesn't get in because back problems cut his career short. It's Alan Trammell's 13th year on the ballot and his numbers just aren't enough to get him in. He received a career-high 36.8 percent vote for the HOF in 2012, but fell to 33.6 this year. He fell short in every statistical category needed and garnered only four Gold Gloves with his .285 average and 2,365 hits. He barely broke the 1,000 RBI barrier in his 20 MLB seasons and didn't do anything else HOF-worthy.
Former Cardinal closer Lee Smith also had a career-high 50.6 percent voting percentage in 2012, but fell to 47.8 this year. Next year will be his 12th season on the ballot and I'm pretty surprised he's still on the ballot. Yes, he was once the all-time saves leader (478) and led the league in saves four times, but he had a losing record (71-92) and he was a reliever. And then there's Edgar Martinez, the career (pretty much) designated hitter. Don't get me wrong, Martinez was a very, very good hitter (.312 avg. and .418 OBP), but his numbers just don't add up. He didn't hit the 1,500 mark in runs and RBI, and his 2,247 career hits doesn't come close to the 3,000 benchmark. And though he played third base his first few seasons in the majors, he became a full-time DH in 1995 and didn't come close to a Gold Glove. So no, he doesn't get in.
There are two players on the ballot who aren't in yet, but I expect them to get in eventually – Larry Walker and Tim Raines. It will be Walker's fourth season on the ballot, and though 22.9 percent is the highest for this masher in 2012, I don't think you can ignore what he did on the field. He came pretty darn close to my expectations with 1,355 runs and 1,311 RBI, he hit 383 homers and 471 doubles, and though he only had 2,160 career hits, his .313 career average and .400 OBP is pretty good. He also had a career .965 OPS and gathered seven Gold Gloves in the outfield. I understand why he's not in yet, but I think it's only a matter of time. I also understand why Raines isn't in yet, but he is definitely gaining steam. It will be Raines' seventh year on the ballot, and after beginning 2008 at 24.3 percent, he had a career-high 52.2 percentage this past year. I just think it's a matter of time. Other than HOFer Rickey Henderson, Raines was the premier leadoff man in major league baseball in the '80s. Henderson was in the AL and Raines in the NL with Montreal, and I think the reason Raines isn't in right now is he pretty much tapered off before his prime ever hit, unfortunately. Raines was an all star seven years straight beginning his rookie season and didn't get selected to the game the next 12 seasons. But, his 1,571 runs and 808 stolen bases will get him in soon. He had 2,605 hits, 430 doubles, 170 home runs and 980 RBI, which isn't bad for a career leadoff man. He also had a good .294 average and really good .385 OBP, so he should get the call eventually.
Now for the players that aren't in yet and should be. Craig Biggio (2nd), Jeff Bagwell (4th), Mike Piazza (2nd), Curt Schilling (2nd) and Fred McGriff (5th). Granted it's only Biggio, Schilling and Piazza's second year to be on the ballot, and I'm actually glad they didn't get in on the first try, but they will get in. I want to believe Biggio didn't get in because he wore that elbow guard, but that guard did propel him to being second all-time in hit by pitches (285). Biggio, who led the class this past year at 68.2 percent, also had 3,060 hits and 1,844 runs, and despite a .281 average and .363 OBP, he will get in. Now I'm not saying Schilling will get in this year, but I think his 3,116 strikeouts will get him in eventually. Schilling won 216 games with a .597 win percentage, and a 3.46 ERA, was a six-time all star and came in second in Cy Young Award voting three times, to his teammate Randy Johnson twice. Schilling has also won three world series with an 11-2 career postseason record with a 2.23 ERA. He's in. Piazza may be the best-hitting catcher to ever play the game. No, he wasn't good defensively, but his offense more than made up for his defense. Piazza is a .308 career hitter with a .377 OBP, knocked in 1,335 runs, scored 1,048 and being the all-time leader in home runs (427) for catchers.
And finally, the guys that have been on the ballot more than two years, aren't in and should be.
Former Astros' first baseman Jeff Bagwell didn't hit the 500-home run barrier, but he got awfully close with 449. Bagwell had a .297 career average and a .408 OBP, which is definitely HOF-caliber. And, in 15 seasons with the Astros, Bagwell knocked in 1,529 RBIs and scored 1,517 runs. How he was only a four-time all star is beyond me. He also won the MVP in the strike-shortened season of 1994 when he had ridiculous numbers. In 110 games, Bagwell hit .368 with 39 home runs and 116 RBIs. He also scored 104 runs and had an 0PS of 1.201.
Last, but definitely not least, is the Crime Dog Fred McGriff. Maybe not a first balloter, but McGriff only got 20.7 percent of the vote this year after getting 23.9 last season. He was just seven home runs short of the 500 mark, but he had a .284 career average, not bad for a power hitter, and a .377 career OBP. He had 2,490 hits, 1,349 runs and 1,550 RBIs. Only a five-time all star, McGriff was about as consistent as you get. He hit at least 20 home runs in 15 of his 19 seasons, including 11 consecutive. Two of the seasons he didn't hit at least 20 were his last two seasons when he combined for 113 games. One of those seasons was his first year when he had five total plate appearances and the other one was when he hit 19 home runs in 1998. He also had 10 years with at least 30 home runs.
Well, there it is. That's my Hall of Fame rundown for next year. Hope to see you at the ceremony in Cooperstown next year.