Without question, the most prestigious Hall of Fame in all of sports is the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The Hall of Fames for the other major sports pale in comparison to what baseball has in Cooperstown. Even Forbes has the Baseball Hall of Fame ranked as their number one Hall of Fame in all of sports. Being America’s pastime, of course Baseball’s Hall of Fame would not be matched by the other sports.
First Ballot Hall of Famers?
This year is a great ballot with plenty of questions. The biggest of all these questions has to be: Will Derek Jeter be unanimous? His teammate of 19 years, Mariano Rivera, was the first unanimous Hall of Famer in the history of baseball jut last year. Derek Jeter will absolutely go down as one of the biggest names the sport has ever known. Should he go down as one of the greatest players the game has ever known though?
Jay Jaffe’s JAWS sabermetric puts Jeter as only the 12th most Hall of Fame worthy shortstop of all time. Accounting for only WAR, Jeter is still only the 10th best shortstop in that category. He is undoubtedly a first ballot Hall of Famer, but thinking Jeter is unanimous is crazy. If you believe Jeter is unanimous, you are basing his individual Hall of Fame induction on the accomplishments of his team.
The Yankees of the 90s, led by Jeter, were a dynasty. There is no doubting that he was the backbone of that team, but baseball is the one sport where you cannot completely change the outcome of a game by yourself. You cannot carry a team to a World Series.
My argument is that Ken Griffey Jr. was by all accounts, a better baseball player than Derek Jeter, and he was not unanimously voted into the Hall. I’m not saying Derek Jeter isn’t a first ballot Hall of Famer, because he absolutely is. I am here to tell you that he should not be unanimous based on the success of his team. He should be right around 94-96% based on his individual accomplishments, plus the success of the team.
Abreu was as consistent of a guy as you will find in right field. During his peak (1998-2009) his average never dropped below .283. He walked 100 times in eight straight seasons putting up and OPS over .900 in all but three of those eight seasons. His WAR of 60 puts him right on par with plenty of other RF Hall of Famers. He is ahead of guys like Vladimir Guererro, Sam Rice, and Harold Baines. He is also just behind the likes of Dave Winfield and Tony Gwynn. Abreu is also 19th all-time in WAR for RFs and he is 20th in the JAWS sabermetric.
Abreu’s biggest obstacle seems to be the other players on the ballot, and where those guys are on their timelines. As deserving as he may be, Abreu may have to wait 1-3 years to actually get in. I see him at 60-65% this year which bodes well for him over the next couple of years.
Steroids Era=No Hall of Fame?
No matter who gets inducted every year, Bonds and Clemens seem to grab some, or most of the headlines. Well over the last few years the negative connotation that goes with the steroid users has subsided. At the same time, percentages for both Bonds and Clemens have substantially increased. Last year Bonds received 59.1 % of the vote while Clemens received 59.5%.
Heading into their 8th year on the ballot I think we see another considerable increase in both of those numbers. I don’t think this is the year they get it, but it is coming. People can say all they want that steroids ruined the game and that both of these guys should be banned. Well the truth of the matter is that steroids or not, these guys dominated the game of baseball for a long time.
Barry Bonds has a career WAR of 162.8 which is almost 40 wins higher than any left fielder in the history of baseball. (That list includes Ted Williams) His WAR7 are the highest in MLB history for a left fielder and of course, he holds one of the most famous records in all of sports. Of all the players in the top 15 WAR for LFs, Bonds is the only one not in the Hall of Fame.
Roger Clemens is in a similar scenario. He is third in all time WAR for pitchers behind two legends: Walter Johnson and Cy Young. Clemens is third on the all time strike out list behind only Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, both Hall of Famers. He is ninth in career ERA+ and he is also third in the JAWS sabermetric that determines Hall of Fame worthiness. Of the top 25 pitchers in WAR, Clemens is the only one not in the Hall of Fame.
At this point if these two won’t get into the Hall of Fame then they should be taken off of the ballot because it is ridiculous! Baseball has not banned either of them and the Baseball Writers’Association of America voters are holding a grudge against these guys. There were plenty of steroid users who did not put up the numbers that Bonds and Clemens did. These guys deserve to be in and I estimate that they both will be by their 10th year on the ballot.
Best of the Rest
Along with Bonds and Clemens, there were two other players who received over 50% of the votes: Curt Schilling and Larry Walker. Schilling got 60.9% of the vote in his seventh year on the ballot, while Walker got 54.6% of the vote.
Schilling’s Hall of Fame Case
Schilling will probably get in this year. That stat I mentioned above about the top 25 pitchers in WAR in baseball history? Schilling is number 26. Schilling was great during his run in the league. A lot of it was overshadowed by bad teams he played on.(Except the 93 Phillies) During his run with the Phillies, the Braves dominated the NL East and the Phillies, other than 1993, never finished better than third in that division. Schilling was never the problem though.
Schilling was a six time All Star who finished second in the Cy Young voting three different times. He even finished top 10 in the MVP voting two separate times as well.
He will forever be remembered for his 2001 World Series Performance and then of course, the Bloody Sock game. (it’s quite ironic that Schilling has a sock in the HoF but he himself cannot get in) He should be remembered for much more than that though.
Curt schilling should be remembered for his 12 year run of ERAs under 4 during the steroid era. He should be remembered for being one of the toughest pitchers to ever touch a baseball. He deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Walker’s Hall of Fame Case
Larry Walker was in a very similar situation that Mike Trout currently finds himself in. Walker played Major League Baseball for 17 years and made the playoffs exactly…1 time. He was a superstar, but he was always overlooked because of bad teams. Who knows what would have happened in 1994 with the Expos in first place before the strike. That was Walker’s last season in Montreal before he joined Colorado and saw his numbers skyrocket.
Walker became a consistent .350 hitter for a span of 5-6 years. He also won an MVP while finishing top 20 a couple of other times. Walker was a 5-time All Star and a 7-time Gold Glove Winner. He won three batting titles in four years and the one year he didn’t, he was hurt.
Walker was a superstar and he was one of the best players in an era loaded with superstars. He did all of this without ever being linked to steroids. That is something in itself and it deserves to be rewarded with everything he was able to accomplish during his outstanding career.
Omar Vizquel is heading into his third year on the ballot and with almost 43% of the vote last year, he will probably get enshrined at some point.
There were plenty of guys in the teens last year and it will be interesting to see if any of them make a jump, or fall of the wagon.
Who Gets In?
Derek Jeter & Curt Schilling
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