My 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: Part 1
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America turned in their final ballots for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 on Tuesday. Results will be announced January 8 with those receiving 75.0% or more of the votes heading to Cooperstown for enshrinement in July.
Although I don’t have an official vote (yet…), that can’t stop me from putting together my own ballot of Hall of Famers. Since these players put together some of the best baseball careers ever, I don’t want to limit myself too much in the numbers I present. So, this will be Part 1 of my HoF ballot, with just the shoo-ins listed today. But before I reveal my ballot, I feel I should go through my thought process on who belongs in the Hall of Fame.
1) I will not vote for anyone who has been caught using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). I understand that many HoFers used in the past, but there’s not much we can do about that now. In this era, we know who used, and can punish them for illegally inflating their statistics.
2) I look at both traditional stats and sabermetrics, and find merit and flaws in both schools of baseball thought. I also consider All-Star Game appearances, playoff and World Series appearances, as well as World Series titles.
3) Closers and designated hitters belong in the Hall. The point of baseball is to win, and these guys–however flawed their positions’ descriptions are–were used in those specific roles to win games. If they were among the best closers or DHs in their era, they should absolutely be considered.
4) “First-ballot” Hall of Famers mean something to me. These are the best of the best of the best, and selecting someone as a first-ballot HoFer is one final way to distinguish who the upper echelon of baseball players and Hall of Famers really were.
With that out of the way, on to the specifics. 36 players appeared on the ballot this year, with Jack Morris the only one to be on the ballot for his 15th and final chance at the Hall. To me, there were four surefire Hall of Famers on the ballot, and eight more that I had to narrow down to six to fulfill the 10-player limit.
As a side note before I begin, for anyone interested, The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective took an interesting look at the “average” Hall of Famer at each position (minus pitcher). That should give you some kind of perspective as to who deserves to be in the Hall this year.
So, without further ado, I present my four surefire picks for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
1) Greg Maddux
Without a doubt, Maddux deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. For so many years, he was simply one of the best. Maddux won 15 or more games 17 years in a row, and won 13 or more in 20 of his 22 full seasons. In 1995, Maddux posted a 19-2 record with a 1.63 ERA, 181 strikeouts to just 26 walks, and allowed just 39 runs in 28 starts.
In the field, there were none better. Maddux won 18 Gold Glove awards, including 13 straight from 1990 through 2002.
Maddux made eight All-Star Games, finished in the top 5 of the NL MVP voting twice, and won 4 consecutive Cy Young awards from 1992 through 1995.
Although he only won one World Series ring (1995), he made the playoffs 13 times throughout his career, posting a 11-14 record with a 3.27 ERA in 35 appearances.
For his career, Maddux finished with 355 wins–good for 8th all-time–a 3.16 ERA, and 3,371 strikeouts. Maddux is also one of just ten pitchers ever with more than 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts.
A few brief paragraphs here cannot do Greg Maddux justice for his Hall of Fame credentials. He was one of the best pitchers to ever play the game.
2) Craig Biggio
What was there not to like about Craig Biggio? He played all 20 of his seasons with the Houston Astros, playing five different positions throughout this career. He was the epitome of scrappiness (as evidenced by his trademark dirty batting helmet), and played both hard and well everyday.
No matter where Biggio was in the lineup, he produced. He got on base at the top of the order, drawing over 1,100 walks in his career and sits in second place all-time for getting hit by pitches (285). He hit 291 home runs for his career, which ranks third among second basemen all-time. Most notably, Biggio collected 3,060 hits in his lifetime, joining an exclusive club of just 27 others to reach the 3,000 hit plateau.
His best season came in 1997, when Biggio hit .309, with his highest on-base percentage of his career (.415). Biggio hit 22 home runs that season and drove in 81 RBIs, while scoring a league- and career-high 146 runs. He collected 191 hits that year, played in all 162 games, made his sixth All-Star team, finished fourth in NL MVP voting, posted a 9.4 Wins Above Replacement, and led the Astros to their first playoff appearance since 1986.
Biggio made the playoffs six times with the Astros, including their only World Series appearance in 2005 (a loss to the White Sox). Overall, he made seven All-Star teams, won four Gold Gloves, and five Silver Sluggers. He received 68.2% of the vote in his first year on the ballot last year, and shouldn’t have a problem reaching the 75.0% mark this year.
3. Frank Thomas
Frank Thomas, a.k.a. “The Big Hurt,” was a monster for the Chicago White Sox in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Thomas had an advanced eye at the plate, and hit for a high average while still knocking 521 balls out of the park.
For his career, Thomas hit .301 with a .419 on-base percentage, including more walks (1,667) than strikeouts (1,397). Thomas slugged 521 homers, tying him for 18th all-time with Willie McCovey and Ted Williams. His 1,704 RBis rank 22nd all-time, ahead of other notable Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson (1,702), Ernie Banks (1,636), and Mike Schmidt (1,595).
Thomas’ best year came in the strike-shortened year of 1994, in which he was on pace for 54 home runs, 144 RBIs, 202 hits, and 152 runs–all of which would have been career highs. Even though he only played 113 games that year, Thomas still put up 38 homers, 101 RBIs, a .353 batting average, and a remarkable .487 on-base percentage. The Big Hurt won his second consecutive AL MVP award that season.
Overall, Thomas made five All-Star teams, finished in the top 10 in MVP voting nine times, won four Silver Slugger Awards, and even won the 1997 batting crown. Although he only made the playoffs in three of his 19 seasons, Thomas was a constant threat in the middle of the lineup for his entire career.
4. Tom Glavine
Another member of the Braves’ amazing starting rotation of the 1990’s, Glavine was often overshadowed by the dominance of Greg Maddux. As a result, Glavine rather quietly collected 305 career victories over 22 years.
Glavine’s best numbers came in his 1991 Cy Young winning season, in which he amassed a league-high 20 wins, an ERA of 2.55, and led the NL in Wins Above Replacement with 9.3. He struck out a career-high 192 while only walking 75, and helped lead the Braves to their first World Series appearance in Atlanta.
In 1995, Glavine got his only World Series ring, helping the Braves defeat the Cleveland Indians. Glavine’s performance (2-0, 1.29 ERA) earned him the World Series MVP award.
Glavine was also a terrific fielder who once again got overshadowed by Maddux. He finished with a perfect fielding percentage six times, including three years straight from 2000-2002. Advanced statistics like Range Factor/9 innings puts him 33rd all-time among pitchers, and his 262 putouts also rank 33rd all-time.
Overall, Glavine made 12 playoff appearances, including five World Series appearances. He made 10 All-Star teams, finished in the top 3 in NL Cy Young Award voting six times (including wins in 1991 and 1998), and even won four Silver Slugger awards for his work at the plate. Glavine led the National League in wins five times, including each year from 1991-1993. While he never won an ERA crown, Glavine placed in the top 10 on eight different occasions.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that Glavine went on the disabled list twice in his 22-year career–both times in his final season at age 42. Without a doubt, Glavine should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer this year.