Advertisement
  1. Rays

Getting into baseball’s Hall of Fame is hard. Voting isn’t easy either.

With the announcement coming Wednesday, here are some of the biggest issues that were considered.
Spoiler alert: Here's Marc Topkin's Hall of Fame ballot. Agree with him?
Published Jan. 23, 2018
Updated Jan. 23, 2018

First, let's make this clear:

Voting for the Hall of Fame is truly a cool thing. An honor. A privilege. A labor of love, from putting an X next to names of obvious choices, such as Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, to spending hours of research and internal debate on tougher, calls such as Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina.

So the whining that follows, and any hissing and moaning by colleagues near and far, is not to be misconstrued as feeling burdened. Or wanting to give up the task.

That said, the voting process is not as enjoyable as it used to be.

Limits on ballot size and player tenure, not-so-subtle pressures (looking at you, Joe Morgan), the social media scrutiny — actually, the scrutiny is fine — but the reactionary venom, the "You're an idiot" (or worse) mentality for disagreeing, has led some qualifying 10-year Baseball Writers' Association of America members to give up their vote, in protest or acquiescence.

But we soldier on.

With voting capped at 10 players, with candidacy now limited to 10 years on the ballot (down from 15), with so much more data and ways — valid and not so much — to apply it, the decisions become more vexing.

My ballot, and those of four other voting Tampa Bay Times staffers, are included here for your review and — yes — feedback. Here are five of the issues faced in filling it out:

RELATED: Bagwell, Raines, Ivan Rodriguez make Baseball Hall of Fame IN 2017

The steroid guys

One problem (for some of us) is determining who they are. And what to do with them. Some refuse to vote for any, even if they are just rumored to have used. Others vote openly for all with no regard. Spoiler: There is no right answer here.

My admittedly squiggly line is that I won't vote for anyone who failed a test. Thus, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens get my X, Manny Ramirez — maybe the best right-handed hitter of our time — does not. Nor does Sammy Sosa, as much for getting caught with a corked bat as his overall career minus the curious spike.

Not sure that's the best plan, but I also know I'm not smart enough to calculate (speculate?) what percentage of a player's totals were related to whatever he may have used.

Consider my thinking convoluted? How about this: One national writer votes for Bonds but not Clemens based on what career point he thinks Bonds started using.

Overall, though, support for Bonds and Clemens has been rising. Their year may be coming.

Edgar

Or, more accurately, the DH debate.

Edgar Martinez was a really, really good hitter whose averages and metrics — .312 batting, .933 OPS, 147 OPS+ (ballpark adjusted) — measure up well, but whose counting stats — 2,247 hits, 309 homers, 1,261 RBIs — don't.

Nor did MVP votes during his 18-year Mariners career, with only two top-10 finishes.

But the bigger issue is how he compiled them, with 72 percent of his plate appearances (and games started) as a DH.

So in nearly three-fourths of his games he was only on the field for 5 percent of the action, four or five at-bats. Didn't help his team by playing the field and — relevant to some degree — didn't have to deal with the wear and tear of doing so.

I realize Frank Thomas (56 percent of his plate appearances as a DH) and Paul Molitor (44 percent) are in, and that David Ortiz (88 percent) will be a further test of this view. But for me, for now, "part-time" players aren't worthy.

Closing time

Having said that, how can I vote for a closer, who typically only gets, at most, three outs? Easily — with Xs next to Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner this year, and previously Lee Smith.

A DH has no control over the situation he performs in, potentially going days without coming to the plate in a meaningful situation. Closers usually are tasked with getting the final, or, more so now, the toughest, outs of the game. Is the save rule flawed? Certainly. Are saves over-valued? Sure. But the players who do their jobs by absolutely dominating at the most critical times deserve to be rewarded, with glory and Fame.

Mussina/Schilling

Generally considered the next-best starters after the Pedro Martinez/Greg Maddux led-group that has gone in, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling can be viewed as somewhat similar and vastly different. Mussina was more successful over more regular-season innings (270-153, 3.68) spending all 18 years in the rugged AL East during peak offensive times. Schilling was only 216-146, 3.46, but had flashier strikeout numbers plus dazzling and bloody dramatic postseason performances, with the three rings to show for it. Neither won a Cy Young.

Just like there is no right answer on the steroids debate, there is a question of how much Schilling's post-career politics and controversial social commentary factor in. (There's that nebulous character clause again).

Having looked at both annually, to me there is a clear difference. I used my final open spot this year to cast my first vote for Mussina.

The Tampa guys

There are fair questions about Gary Sheffield and steroids, based on his admitted use of "the cream" and "the clear," and that costs him some votes. But he never failed a test and gets my vote based on the tangible numbers (509 homers, 2,689 hits, .907 OPS) and intangible of being universally feared by pitchers.

The biggest question about Fred McGriff is how much more support he'd have if he hit seven more measly homers to get to 500.

At 493, and never having hit more than 37 in a season, he tends to get lumped into that very-good-but-not-great category, lauded for his consistency (seven straight 30-homer seasons) and applauded for doing it the right way, which is thinly veiled code for not being connected in any way to PEDs. It's my vote, and that's good enough for me.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

How our writers voted

Marc Topkin (Times baseball writer)
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Vladimir Guerrero
Trevor Hoffman
Chipper Jones
Fred McGriff
Mike Mussina
Gary Sheffield
Jim Thome
Billy Wagner

Martin Fennelly (Times sports columnist)
Vladimir Guerrero
Trevor Hoffman
Chipper Jones
Edgar Martinez
Fred McGriff
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling
Gary Sheffield
Jim Thome
Larry Walker

Roger Mooney (Times sports reporter)
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Vladimir Guerrero
Trevor Hoffman
Chipper Jones
Edgar Martinez
Fred McGriff
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling
Jim Thome

John Romano (Times metro columnist)*
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Vladimir Guerrero
Trevor Hoffman
Chipper Jones
Edgar Martinez
Mike Mussina
Manny Ramirez
Curt Schilling
Jim Thome

Joe Smith (Times hockey writer)*
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Vladimir Guerrero
Trevor Hoffman
Chipper Jones
Edgar Martinez
Fred McGriff
Mike Mussina
Scott Rolen
Jim Thome

*Previously covered baseball

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

    Advertisement
    Advertisement
    Advertisement