I’ve gone on ad infinitum about joining the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, and I’m proud to be a member of such an august body. Each year the IBWAA asks its members to vote for inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame. More than anything, I think it’s an opportunity to share thinking on the class eligible for inclusion in Cooperstown.
IBWAA allows its members 15 votes instead of the ten allowed by the BBWAA. The internet writers have acted differently than the print guys, and as a result they’ve created a sort of parallel Hall. In the IBWAA, Barry Larkin is not in the HOF, but Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio are.
That said, these are the ten players I voted for about a month ago:
Tim Raines was a great combination of a high on-base percentage and speed that helped the Expos, White Sox and Yankees score runs and win. Raines finished with a career .385 OBP, stole 808 bases, and six time scored more than 100 runs in a season. He was a six time all star. He has 66.4 WAR, slightly a (Fangraphs) and Jay Jaffe rates him above the average Hall of Famer in both career and peak values. He should be in the Hall.
Alan Trammell is one of my favorite players not in the Hall of Fame. He had the bad fortune to begin playing after Robin Yount, and before Cal Ripken, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. He was an anchor on the really good Tigers teams of the 1980’s, and he went on to have a 20 year career with Detroit. After his playing days were over he was the unfortunate manager who was sacrificed as the Tigers were stripped to historically bad loss levels before being rebuilt to their current prominence in the American League Central. Trammell was a very good player–not as good as Yount, Ripken or A-Rod, but better than Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and 2012 inductee Barry Larkin. Jaffe rates him above the average Hall of Fame shortstop, and he gets my vote.
Edgar Martinez was the best DH ever, arguably the greatest Mariner ever. He came to the league late, foolishly kept in the minors by the M’s until his age 27 season. He was an average third baseman until he tore his hamstrings at an exhibition game in Vancouver’s BC Place, and became a full time designated hitter. He won two batting titles and five silver sluggers. Edgar was a seven time All Star. He finished with a .312/.418/.515 slash line and a career OPS+ of 147. But he’s a DH, an argument that many have used against him in their voting. Jaffe rates him above HOF 3rd basemen, all corner infielders and just plain hitters for career and peak WAR numbers. Though he lacks the counting stats many voters look for in their voting, he should be in the Hall of Fame.
Pedro Martinez was one of the most electrifying pitchers I ever saw. He owned the Seattle Mariners. They’d see him maybe twice a year. He might give up a run on four hits, while the Red Sox pounded whichever luckless Mariner was on the mound. It was sad. Pedro was a great pitcher, that threw in an age when scoring was way up. Though he had only 217 wins, he won three Cy Young Awards, led the league in ERA five times, in strikeouts three times, in WHIP six times (in 2000 with a .737!!), in ERA+ five times (each over 200,) and FIP five times. Old stats or new stats, Pedro ruled. With 87.1 WAR, Martinez easily surpasses average HOF pitchers. He was a great one and it is an honor to vote for him.
Randy Johnson was an amazing pitcher. He was always fun to watch in the Kingdome. I remember seeing him as a younger pitcher struggling with his control and he could really turn a game into a major walkfest. But in 1993 he really turned it on and simply became one of the best pitchers in baseball. Tough to see him walk in 1998 and I don’t think I forgave him for seemingly tanking his season until his trade to the Astros until a couple years ago. 303 wins, five Cy Youngs, the highest K/9 ration in history (10.6.) No hitters, a perfect game, 2nd all time in strikeouts; please. There can be no doubt. I don’t suppose he’ll enter Cooperstown as a Mariner.
John Smoltz was one of the Atlanta Big Three pitchers with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox that dominated the National League East from 1995-2007. Smoltz has 217 career wins, shy of the 300 mark voters like to see, but he also earned 154 career saves when he surrendered his starting role to become the Braves closer for three years 2002-4. Smoltz won the Cy Young in 1996, pitched in eight All-Star games and his 3,084 strikeouts ranks 16th on the all time list. He was a great post-season pitcher with 15-4 record. Advanced stats don’t love Smoltz. He ranks below average starting HOF pitchers in WAR, partly because of his years moonlighting as a reliever. Jaffe believes Smoltz to be Hall-worthy but a consensus will have to be created for his election. I don’t need any extra convincing, and have a hard time believing Atlanta would have been so successful without his contribution.
Mike Mussina pitched for 10 years with the Baltimore Orioles and eight years with the Yankees and became one of the more consistently nasty pitchers in the American League. He won 270 games. Though he was not a flame-thrower a la Johnson, Smoltz, and Martinez he threw hard enough to be effective and had great control. He didn’t win a Cy Young Award, but was in the top 6 for votes nine times and he appeared in five All-Star games. Fangraphs shows Mussina with 82.5 WAR, higher than the career WAR for a Hall of Famer, but his peak WAR is somewhat less. A number of writers have held his lack of 20 win seasons against him. I believe he was a remarkably consistent, hard nosed competitor for the Orioles and Yankees.
I had to hold my nose to vote for Curt Schilling due to his recent outbursts of stupid Christian, conservative blather on social media. He’s an example of one of those not particularly nice people who belong in the Hall of Fame. Though Schilling only has 216 wins, he also pitched for some fairly wretched Phillies teams early in his career, and had some serious injury problems. Schilling really blossomed after his trade to the Diamondbacks, and then on to Boston where his “bloody sock” is forever enshrined in Red Sox Nation memory. Schilling pitched in six All Star games, struck out 3,116 (15th best all-time) and had a formidable 11-3 record in post-season games. He earned 83.2 career WAR, well above the average for HOF starting pitchers. Come in Curt, but be sure to be on your best behavior.
Barry Larkin elected to the Major League Hall of Fame in 2012, not quite sure why his face is pressed up against the glass for the IBWAA, but I’m doing my part to shoo him in through the door.
Jeff Bagwell was a wonderful first baseman for the Astros who has been wrongfully tainted with steroid rumors without any kind of evidence convict him. That’s terrible. I am quite steroid averse, but refuse to accuse an entire generation of players just for the time they played in. Bagwell had a slash of .297/.408/.540. He was Rookie of the Year in 1991 and won an MVP in 1994. Bagwell appeared in four All-Star Games and won three Silver Sluggers. An oddity for a first baseman, Bagwell was a combination of speed and power, with 449 home runs and 202 stolen bases. Bagwell’ 80.2 WAR is well above average first basemen in the Hall both for career and peak values. He should definitely be joining teammate Biggio in Cooperstown, er, the parallel Cooperstown.
A quick word about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. It is clear to me there is a current among many voters to argue in favor of their inclusion because their career statistics were sufficient to gain them Hall entry before their steroid use. At least at the present time, I am immune to this argument. They could be right, it simply doesn’t matter to me. To vote for them knowing this simply legitimizes a behavior that changed the sport for a decade or more. Bonds and Clemens have their money, they have their records intact, I will not condone their behavior by suggesting their behavior was moral and ethical. What signal does that send to the next crop of ballplayer tempted by some new way around the rules? No.