- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
I don't have a ballot for the Hall of Fame yet -- just nine years to go -- but if I did, my ballot would include:
I've written about Raines and his embarrassing vote totals before; I'm not clear on why a tremendous base stealer who reached base more times in his career and hit for more power than Tony Gwynn can't get even a third of the voters to list him on their ballots. Blyleven is one of the 20 or so best pitchers in the history of the game but didn't earn enough wins -- which are about as relevant to an evaluation of pitching performance as hat size -- and is going to struggle to get in before his 15 years are up. McGwire isn't in largely because the voters didn't like what he said in front of Congress, and even though all we know about his use of performance-enhancing drugs is that he used a supplement that was permitted by MLB at the time, he's been branded a cheat and ostracized. Trammell has no shot to get in, but I would vote for him because he was an above-average hitting shortstop and plus defender who had the misfortune to be a close contemporary of Cal Ripken, one of the best players in the history of the game.
Roberto Alomar should waltz in on the first ballot, although I get the sense that he won't. He was, during his peak, pretty clearly seen as a Hall-bound player, the best second baseman in the game for several years and one of its best overall players, while playing on good teams (not that it should matter, but it does). He played on two World Series champions and several other playoff teams, hit well in the postseason, was a very good defender for much of his career, added a lot of value on the bases (from 1994 to 2003, he was never caught 10 times in any season and stole 227 bases against 47 times he was caught), and finished with a 116 OPS+, dragged down by a nasty, brutish and short decline phase that coincided with his trade from Cleveland to the Mets. What may be hurting his candidacy is that very phase: He flopped in a major market, and his eventual retirement came after one of the worst spring training innings I have ever personally witnessed. He also has taken hits to the intangible part of his candidacy, both legitimate (the spitting-on-the-ump incident) and illegitimate (the unproven smears in his ex-girlfriend's lawsuit). None of those things affect his value on the field to the teams that employed him, which has to be the main criterion for enshrinement. He should be in.
Edgar Martinez's case is almost as clear-cut and yet far more controversial because he spent most of his career as a DH. We should absolutely discount his statistics based on his inability to play a position, but even for a DH, Edgar was outstanding. He spent his whole career in good pitchers' parks and still managed a .418 OBP and a .933 OPS; by comparison, Frank Thomas, who should go in on the first ballot in 2013, had a .417 career OBP and .974 OPS. Martinez's career started late (he wasn't a full-timer until he was 27) and he peaked late (age 32 was his first OPS over 1.000, and his OPS was .993 or better for the next five years). But at age 41, his abilities slipped noticeably and, to his credit, he decided to hang 'em up. It left him well short of the commonly used milestone numbers for hitters -- he didn't reach 3,000 hits or 400 homers, although he's 40th all-time in walks drawn -- and he adds no value to his candidacy through glovework. I hope he gets in, but I'm not sanguine about his chances this year.
The main argument against Larkin is his relative lack of playing time. He reached 140 games played -- an arbitrary standard for a full season -- only seven times in his career, one of which was the 2002 season, which demonstrated that he shouldn't be playing every day even if he could. But he was probably the best player in the game in 1995 and followed it up with a huge 1996 season, posted an OPS+ of 116 for his career while playing a good shortstop and adding value on the bases and has the ancillary things that seem to matter to voters (an MVP, 12 All-Star appearances, some postseason time). His stats hold up very well against other shortstops in the Hall, and while his career was short (in terms of playing time) by Hall standards, it's more than long enough, with roughly 15 full seasons of plate appearances to his credit.
Returning to the holdovers, I expect Andre Dawson will get in this year on the heels of the election of the inferior Jim Rice. If Rice is in, Dawson probably belongs, but I don't think I'd be a party to it. Dawson posted a .323 career OBP, including six full seasons in which he couldn't even muster .310, while playing the majority of his games at positions (mostly right field, with a smattering of games in left and at DH) where the offensive standard is high. Yes, you will hear the argument that the value of OBP wasn't recognized during Dawson's career to the extent that it is today and that he shouldn't be penalized for it. But OBP measures how often a hitter doesn't make an out, and if you think that players, coaches and executives in the 1970s and 1980s didn't realize that making outs was bad, you are saying that people in the game in that era were, collectively, a giant box of rocks.
I didn't make Wins Above Replacement an explicit criterion on my ballot, but as it turns out, there are six hitters on the ballot right now who rank among the top 100 in baseball history in WAR, and I'd vote for all six, and no other hitters. Note that Lou Whitaker, who fell off the ballot after just one year, ranks 54th.
• The best sportswriter in the world, Joe Posnanski, runs down recent Hall candidates who were "one and done" -- they spent one year on the ballot and received a handful of votes but didn't receive enough to stick around. He leads with Whitaker.
• WEEI's Alex Speier writes about the risk of signing Roy Halladay, given how unusual it would be for a pitcher to maintain Halladay's workload through his mid-30s. I tend to agree with his caveat, though:
Of course, Halladay would seem to merit special consideration. His frame, mechanics, pitch efficiency and track record all suggest a pitcher who is freakishly durable.
He's also never had a major arm injury. If I was going to bet on any starter to throw 800 innings over the next four years, it would probably be Doc.
• Twins bonus baby Miguel Angel Sano will play under his formal name, Miguel Jean, according to MLB.com's Kelly Theiser. Within the same mailbag, she speculates that the Twins are "intrigued" by Jarrod Washburn and Rich Harden.
• MVN's Tyler Hissey points out that next winter's free-agent class is "loaded." He includes players with options for 2011, but even if you remove those names, the class still potentially includes Joe Mauer, Lance Berkman, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Halladay and Cliff Lee.
• Richard Justice wants your suggestions on how to build the 2010 Astros. Can you release the owner? He defends, in a way, GM Ed Wade and shadow GM Tal Smith, but criticism of those two men seems quite valid given their recent track record. The Astros have been expensive and poorly constructed for the past two years, and there's a long fallow period coming before the young players added by scouting director Bobby Heck and his staff can help at the big league level.
• Fangraphs' Erik Manning points out that two sets of defensive projections show some good defense for Cincinnati in 2010.
• Shawn at Squawking Baseball points out that MLB's habit of keeping its books closed allows Scott Boras to say whatever he wants about revenue sharing.
• I have never played Strat-o-Matic, but I know many of you have, so you might enjoy this NPR interview with founder Hal Richman and researcher Scott Simkus.
• You all kept the bones from your Thanksgiving turkeys, right? And made or plan to make stock from them? I've got the bones (and the neck) in a Ziploc bag in my freezer, ready to throw in a stock pot once I exhaust my current supply of chicken stock. It's one of the most indispensable ingredients for any cook, especially in winter, when soups and comfort foods are the order of the day.
Keith Law won't be a Hall of Fame voter for another nine years, but that doesn't mean he can't opine about worthy (and unworthy) candidates for next year's inductions, including Mark McGwire, Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven and Edgar Martinez.