Mike Silva’s 2015 Hall-of-Fame Ballot

Mike Piazza – You won’t find me citing unfounded accusations by Reggie Jefferson or anger about back acne. Piazza ranks fifth in Wins Above Replacement for those who spent 75% of their career wearing the tools of ignorance. That’s higher than current members of the Hall like Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella and Bill Dickey. If you examine his career from 1993-2007 he is twelfth in WAR during that period. Don’t forget he has the most home runs by anyone behind the plate. The only ding you can put on him is alleged steroid accusations that wouldn’t hold up in a freshman year law class at your local community college.

Pedro Martinez – This really is a no-brainer. Should go in unanimously, but that is nearly impossible with the BBWAA (Maybe Saint Jeter will change that). You have to take notice anyone 100+ games over .500, but Martinez might be the best pitcher of all-time. He has the Highest ERA+ of anyone currently in the HOF or on the ballot. His 2000 season (18 wins, 1.74 ERA), adjusted for league and era, is better than Gibson in ’68, Gooden in ’85, Koufax in ’66 and himself in 1999! Health and the era of bullpens prevented Pedro from ranking higher in wins.

Randy Johnson – Has the magic number of wins (303), 5 Cy Young Awards, including four in row. His run started in 1995 till about 2004 when he won 165 games and pitched to a 2.70 ERA in two hitters ballparks (Seattle, Arizona). All accomplished during one of the greatest offensive eras in the game’s history. Funny, we ding Piazza on innuendo, but RJ did his Hall-of-Fame work north of thirty. He even admitted in a Sports Illustrated article a few years back that he may have taken supplements that are now considered illegal today.

Roger Clemens – Personally, I find Roger Clemens to be a narcissistic bully. That doesn’t nor should it factor into whether he is a Hall-of-Famer. You don’t want to count his career post steroids circa 1997-onward? Then look at Clemens career in Boston: 192 wins, 3 Cy Young Awards and an MVP. No one in either league had more wins or WAR during that time. Only Greg Maddux had a lower ERA. The Boston version of Clemens is better than Smoltz and Schilling. Not to mention current Hall members like Catfish Hunter, Don Drysdale and Dennis Eckersley.

Barry Bonds – Same deal as Clemens where you can split his career into two. Assuming he started taking PED’s after the ’98 home run chase, Bonds career looks as follows:

Pre ’99 – 411 HR, 445 SB, .966 OPS, 3 MVPs and 4 Gold Gloves.

Post’98 – 351 HRs, 69 SB, 1.217 OPS and 4 consecutive MVP seasons.

He was a top-10 player all-time before steroids, and he became the best all-time after. I can argue the per-steroid Bonds was a more complete player. Either way, you can’t leave him out unless you take moral position on PEDs.

Edgar Martinez– It might take the BBWAA some time to appreciate the designated hitter, just like they needed some time to warm up to relievers. His production from 1995 to 2003 is right up there with all the all-time greats. Even the move to spacious Safeco Field didn’t slow him down. There is one site that evaluates him based on an award called POP (Premium Offensive Player). A POP season is one in which the player has a BA over .300, OBP over .400, SLG over .500. Martinez has eight POP seasons for his career- more than Mickey Mantle. Every player with eight or more POP seasons is in the Hall of Fame, with the exception of Barry Bonds, who is not eligible as of this writing. Martinez is also one of five players who have had more walks than strikeouts (with at least 1200 or more of each) while hitting .300. The others are Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Aaron, and Chipper Jones.

Mark McGwire – For the first-timers to my work I will repeat my position on steroids. Unlike many members of the BBWAA, I don’t get offended by the use of PEDs during the 90s. Perhaps it was because this is the generation in which I “cut my teeth” in learning the game, but more likely because there never has been definitive scientific proof as to the cause and effect. Both pitchers and hitters were using drugs that were not against the rules of the game. We all know that McGwire is currently tenth all-time in home runs with 583, but his numbers are comparable to other Hall of Fame first basemen such as Harmon Killebrew, Ernie Banks, and Willie McCovey. We have racists, tax cheats, drunks, and spit ballers in the Hall, so there is no reason why we can’t honor someone that used enhancements that were not outlawed at the time. What really puts me over the top with Big Mac is that his at-bats from 1995-2000 were an “event” like no other in the history of the game. Not even Barry Bonds garnered that much interest across all 30 big league ballparks.

Jeff Bagwell – is one of the few players that spent his entire career in one city and produced Hall of Fame quality numbers during that period. He spent a large portion of his career playing in the pitcher friendly Astrodome where he produced an OPS of .996. How can you argue with a career that yielded 449 homers, 202 stolen bases, and .948 OPS? Bill James said in 2001 that Bagwell is the fourth best first basemen of all time. High praise for someone that plays a position known for offense. Personally, I think only Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx are better offensive players at the position. If I am going to support Gil Hodges on the Golden Era ballot, I have to support other first basemen such as McGwire and Bagwell.

Tim Raines– He is one of the individuals that I examine every year. Part of me believes he doesn’t have enough Hall worthy seasons (I count 9 out of 23). The presence of Rickey Henderson in the eighties sometimes overshadows Raines who was his National League counterpart. He had speed and hit for power and average. His 13 years in Montreal were impressive, and he tacked on in Chicago and New York. If he didn’t chase a ring as a part time player with the Yankees I suspect he might have collected 3,000 hits. For his career he had over 2,600 hits, 808 stolen bases, and a career OPS of .810. Time to recognize “Henderson lite” and put him in the Hall. If you added 400 more hits and subtracted 400 walks this wouldn’t be a debate because he would have the magic number of 3,000.
Gary Sheffield – Yes he was unlikeable, didn’t have a true position and can’t be identified by a single team. Sheffield, however, is ranked in the Top 50 of current Hall-of-Famers or those on the ballot with a 140 OPS+. Over 500 homers and a career .907 OPS probably won’t be enough because of the aforementioned issues, and his lack of award-winning hardware.

Gary Sheffield – Yes he was unlikeable, didn’t have a true position and can’t be identified by a single team. Sheffield, however, is ranked in the Top 50 of current Hall-of-Famers or those on the ballot with a 140 OPS+. Over 500 homers and a career .907 OPS probably won’t be enough because of the aforementioned issues, and his lack of award-winning hardware.

Noticeable Exceptions

Craig Biggio – When the BBWAA elected not to put Rafael Palmeiro into the Hall all “trigger accomplishments” like 3,000 hits went out the window. With advancements in nutrition and players staying healthier into their late 30s and 40s, compilers will become a larger part of the conversation. Give him credit for switching from catcher to centerfield to second base, and becoming a Gold Glover at the position. I count 2 or 3 Hall-of-Fame seasons in the mid-to-late nineties surrounded by a lot of very good. Sorry that doesn’t cut it for me.

John Smoltz – No, I am not going to reward Smoltz for pitching with Maddux and Glavine. He may have pitched two of the best postseason games I have seen (Game 7 of the ’91 World Series and Game 5 ‘96 World Series) and put up one of the best bullpen years this side of Eckersley (1.12 ERA and 45 saves in 2003), but that isn’t enough. Smoltz has 2013 wins but lacks the sustained period of dominance as a starter or reliever. His early years in the Braves rotation were good, not great. He was injured during his emergence as a top starter in the late 90s. Bobby Cox sent him to the bullpen in 2002, and as soon as you can say “Dennis Eckersley” he was back in the rotation in 2005. He’s borderline, and I won’t gripe about him going in the Hall as there are comps to Smoltz already enshrined, but I can argue that Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Jack Morris and Dennis Martinez are just as deserving– none of which are currently inducted, much less on first ballot.

Curt Schilling – Wow, where do I start? If you subscribe to “big moments” getting someone into the Hall-of-Fame, then he is more worthy than Smoltz. Last I looked, however, that was the exact argument that many made for not electing Jack Morris. Schilling was awesome from 2001-2004, but prior to that he was very good. See what I said about Mussina, Pettitte, Morris and Dennis Martinez when discussing John Smoltz.
Mike Mussina – A very tough call, but needed to be left out on this loaded ballot. Averaged 16 wins a season, and if he compiled another 30 he would be a lock. Doesn’t get any style points for awards, joined the Yanks after their dynasty and just didn’t stand out during an era of the Braves big three, Pedro, Maddux and the Unit. I hope he stays on enough ballots so I can reconsider in the coming year. Really solid, but nothing “great” about him.
Jeff Kent – The defense is where he takes a hit. From 1998 to 2002 Kent averaged 29 HRs, 114 RBI and .926 OPS at second base. Unlike Robbie Alomar and Ryne Sandberg, he was never known for his glove. I believe he’s a borderline candidate, but right now I need more time to simmer on this. As of now, no go.

Sammy Sosa – Here is where you will ding me. You vote for McGwire, Bonds and Clemens but not Sosa? In my opinion, Sosa was a one dimensional player. You can argue that he was the same as Mark McGwire, but MM drew people to ballparks like no one else. Sosa was Robin to McGwire’s Batman during the home run craze of the mid-90s. Sheffield was a more complete and consistent player across his career than Sosa.

Alan Trammell – I could make more of an argument for Trammell who might have been the best shortstop on both sides of the ball from 1983-1988. His best season was ’87 (28/105/.343), but that was the year of the “juiced ball,” and Trammell would decline offensively after age 30. During a 20 year career he did compile some great total numbers, but lacks the sustained period of success that I believe warrant Hall-of- Fame consideration.

Larry Walker – His career numbers are definitely Hall worthy (.313 average, 383 homers, 1231 RBI, .965 OPS), but a majority of it was produced in the rarefied air of Coors Field (career OPS of 1.172). Is penalizing Walker for Coors Field unfair? Perhaps, especially since I didn’t do the same for McGwire regarding PED’s, but I know the impact of Colorado statistically, while PEDs are hard to quantify.

Don Mattingly – It’s his 15th and final season on the ballot. From ’84 – ’87 he was Jeff Bagwell when he averaged 30 HRs, 121 RBI, .941 OPS, and 155 OPS+. The MVP award and 9 Gold Gloves help his case, but the period of dominance is just not there. Yankees fans love Donnie Baseball and I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the Yankees version of Gil Hodges down the road. Also, if you put Donnie Baseball in then you need to seriously reconsider Keith Hernandez.

Lee Smith – Saves are cheap and overrated. Unless you had a crazy dominant period like Eckersley or the consistency of Mariano Rivera, it’s not a Hall-of-Fame discussion.
Fred McGriff – Falls into the very good category with other outstanding first basemen of his era (1987-2004) such as Palmeiro, Olerud, Mo Vaughn and Andres Galarraga. Like Mussina, very good and consistent but not great.

Carlos Delgado – Might go down as an overlooked offensive player in an era with a ton of offense. There is a case for Delgado (473 homers, .929 OPS), but like McGriff he falls into similar numbers with other good offensive first basemen of his era (1994-2009).

Nomar Garciaparra – Arguably better than Derek Jeter from 1997 to 2003 where he averaged 24 HRs, 93 RBI and a .325 BA . The historic 2004 season was great for the Red Sox, but not for Nomar who was traded to Chicago and never played a full season after.

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About Michael J. Silva

Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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