Hall of Fame Ballots and Battles


If you’re looking for a way to make the Royals relevant in this year’s Hall of Fame voting, here’s a quick primer of players eligible with ties to the Royals:

And that’s it. So let’s just say that no former Royal is going to make it this year.

FanSided has conducted our own vote among MLB division writers and Lewie Polis from Wahoo’s on First (or Cleveland Indians site) compiled the votes. We voted in two ways. First, we followed the BBWAA’s standard of voting for a maximum of 10 players on the ballot, electing those who received 75% or more of the vote. Second, we voted with no restrictions on the number of players we could vote for.

Sept 28, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Florida Marlins former catcher Mike Piazza against the Washington Nationals at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

FanSided elected two playersJeff Bagwell (79.6%) and Mike Piazza (77.6%) – in the standard voting. When expanding the maximum allowed, Craig Biggio, Tim Raines and Roger Clemens all made it past 75%. The Bagwell and Piazza election is pretty liberal relative to what it seems like will happen when results are announced on Wednesday afternoon. Currently, based on the ballots that BBWAA voters have made public, no player is on his way to the 75% threshold.

Similarly, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (of which Kings of Kauffman is a member), conducted a vote. Bagwell was the only elected player in that case.

If you’re interested in my individual ballot (if I were able to vote for the Hall of Fame), here it is:

Noticeably absent is Jack Morris, who has had his case debated year after year. Both FanSided and the BBA’s votes put Morris in the 30s. The BBWAA votes so far (according to the same information from Baseball Think Factory) have Morris at around 63.6% with over 20% of the potential ballots made public in columns.

What’s becoming interesting for me in Hall of Fame votes is the inclusion of players whose career I’ve seen in their entirety. I started really following baseball in 1988 when I was turning eight years old. In past elections, players like Ferguson Jenkins or Jim Rice would be players that I may have just barely seen play, and if so, in their twilight. I don’t have memories of Rice or Jenkins or many older players. But I saw Bagwell play. I saw the majority of Bonds’s career. I saw most of Biggio’s career. To me, despite it being a little different than my usual means of player evaluation, I know it when I see it.

July 16, 2011; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Twins former pitcher Bert Blyleven talks to the fans during his jersey retirement ceremony before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

This is similar to my view of the “ace” pitcher versus a “number one” pitcher. If there’s a question about if someone belongs, then they don’t. That’s my opinion on the Hall as well. As the rules are now, a player can hang out on the ballot for up to fifteen years if they get just 5% of the vote. What ends up happening is the questionable players like Rice and Bert Blyleven get in almost by hanging on long enough. Writers vote for them to keep them around until they decide that they’re a Hall of Famer. To me, it seems like Blyleven’s case doesn’t really change from 2005 when Blyleven only got 40.8% of the vote and 2011 when he finally made it in. Not to pile on Blyleven – he’s just an example – but if it takes that long to convince people you’re a Hall of Famer, you probably don’t really belong. I say give them five years to vote a player in. Expand the number of players someone can vote for, but limit the amount of time a player can be on a ballot.

This logjam of worthy players is just going to get worse. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr and more are coming up for the vote soon, too. Then what? If there are more than ten worthy players now, what happens when you add five more? Nevermind that some of the writers with a BBWAA ballot haven’t covered baseball since the strike – the 1981 strike, that is.

I usually don’t think a lot about the Hall. It’s a great tribute to a lot of great players and a celebration of the game. It caps off the legacy of the best in the game’s history. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s not important, but I think the voting behind it makes the process confusing. Since submitting my mock ballot, I’ve thought more about who I’d vote for if I really did have a vote and I’d amend it a bit.

Performance enhancers are a key source of this year’s controversy. Bagwell and Piazza haven’t had formal charges against them for using PEDs and any claims against them are anecdotal at best. But that suspicion has held them down in the writers’ votes so far. I’d keep Bagwell in without question. Biggio should make it this year, and the only reason he doesn’t is because some writers want to be clever and only let the absolute best in the game get in on a first ballot. Raines is solid both by the eye test and in the stat book and is highly underrated. I’d keep him, too. Trammell, Martinez and Schilling I lean towards yes.

The key figures in the PED debate (and the highest profile cases in this year’s class) are Bonds and Clemens. Of course they are. Bonds is baseball’s home run leader and Clemens is a seven-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the most dominant pitchers ever. And I’d vote both of them in.

Here’s my thinking: first, neither have been banned by baseball for any of the accusations. Both have been investigated and tried and no accusations stuck. I understand the reason there’s a lot of controversy but until baseball prohibits them from the ballot, then they’re eligible to be voted in, and they should be. Bonds was the best player in the game before any hint of PED allegations came up. Clemens was the best pitcher before coming under suspicion. While with the Red Sox from 1984 to 1996, Clemens won 192 games, right around the same number as Rube Waddell and Dazzy Vance. He struck out 2590 batters, a figure that would rank him 25th all time and more than Warren Spahn and Bob Feller. These numbers are before he went to Toronto and before it’s believed he started being mixed up with PEDs.

August 25, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Sugar Land Skeeters pitcher Roger Clemens (21) warms up before a game against the Bridgeport Bluefish at Constellation Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Bonds’s timeline starts to link him to PEDs around 2000. After 1999, he’d already surpassed 2000 hits and had 445 homers. He’d already won three MVP awards and eight Gold Gloves by that time and his career high in homers in a season was 46 in 1993. If you omit his single-season record 73 in 2001, his next highest homer total was 49 (achieved at age 35) when he retired. That’s not outrageous when compared to two other greats that he could be compared to – Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Mays hit 52 homers when he was 34 years old, a career high. At his peak, he was a great bet for 35 or more homers every year up until he turned 35 years old. Aaron hit his career high 47 home runs in 1971 at age 37.

Obviously, there’s no PED question about Aaron or Mays (and I’m not suggesting there should be). Bonds could have retired in 2000 and been a Hall of Famer. There’s been no conviction for Bonds or Clemens and no admission. I’m not naive to overlook the circumstantial evidence and the accusations. Documents have said that Bonds has tested positive, though they didn’t hold up in court.

McGwire has admitted to using and Rafael Palmeiro has tested positive, so in revising my ballot, I’d take McGwire off of mine. There’s the line in the sand. Test positive or admit and you’re out of the running. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on that, and it’s clear than many won’t. Many of the old-school writers, the ones who’ve covered the sport for decades, will vote the suspected players out.

*Complicating everything is my personal belief that Bonds and Clemens did use, though I don’t know why they would. I’m not saying it’s a simple issue and I understand how there would be confusion over my voting for them. I understand if you don’t want them in, but I see them as among the best ever and think they would have been with or without whatever they may or may not have used. I don’t, for instance, think that Sammy Sosa would have his numbers without a little help.

The controversy has brought up near-hagiography among some writers who want to proclaim the sacredness of the Hall. That ignores the alcoholics, the violent players, the segregationists, the amphetamine users, and other unsavory types. Some will clutch their pearls and fall on the fainting couch at the thought of putting Bonds or Clemens in, and that’s fine. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion and it’s a complicated set of issues in a passionate sport. There should be difference of opinion. It’s not a perfect game, and the players inducted aren’t saints. It’s a record of the game and its best players, warts and all.