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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Brief Dissection of the 2012 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

First off, congratulations are in order for the Baseball Hall of Fames’ newest member, Barry Larkin. His selection today caps off an excellent 19 year major league career that was spent exclusively with the Cincinnati Reds. With 86.4% of the votes, Larkin was the only player on this year’s ballot to garner the necessary 75% for enshrinement. Now that the results have been made public, I, like many other baseball fans, have some thoughts on what transpired today.

Now that I have been able to digest the ballot, I have a number of thoughts that relate to the candidates. In the interest of time I will only address the top eight vote-getters from this year, and post a few comments about each.

Barry Larkin: 86.4% of vote- I have no problem with Larkin getting in. I watched him his entire career, and at no point did I ever feel he was a Hall of Fame player. However, the numbers are there; barely, and although I find him to be a fringy Hall of Famer, he is now a Hall of Famer nonetheless.

Jack Morris: 66.7% of vote- The continued support is Morris is something I just don’t get. He was a good, but not great pitcher. His career 3.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP are not Hall of Fame worthy figures. Additionally, his career WAR of 39.3 is 137th all time for pitchers, and places him behind the likes of Bob Welch and Tom Candiotti, who both pitched within Morris’ era.

Jeff Bagwell: 56.0% of vote- Bagwell was my biggest no-brainer on the ballot. I find it inexplicable that he has received such lukewarm support thus far. You can read my full analysis on his candidacy here.

Lee Smith: 50.6% of vote- With 478 saves, Smith is third all time in major league history behind Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Even taking that into account, I believe that the Hall of Fame must get watered down even more than it has in recent years for there to be room for Smith. His 30.3 WAR is tied with Sid Fernandez, and well behind Rivera’s 49.9 mark. I think Smith is another case of a good player who many have mistaken as great since he retired.

Tim Raines: 48.7% of vote- If Jeff Bagwell was the biggest travesty on the ballot, than Raines is travesty 1A. His 3,977 career times on base are 46th all time, and ahead of such luminaries as Tony Gwynn, Nap Lajoie, and Roberto Clemente. For a .294 career hitter, who has the 5th most stolen bases in major league history, it is shocking how little Hall of Fame support Raines gets.

Alan Trammell: 36.8% of vote- Although their career numbers are very similar, Trammell is a notch below Larkin in my opinion. Jayson Stark of ESPN pointed out this past week that amongst other differences, Trammell’s career OPS was 48 points behind Larkin. It’s not a huge gap, but such things can make a big difference in these situations. Trammell will probably get in eventually, but will face an uphill battle over the next few years with so many big time candidates coming up.

Edgar Martinez: 36.5% of vote- If Lee Smith, a specialist, can get as many votes as he does, than where is the love for Martinez?  The lifelong Seattle Mariner may have played about 75% of his games at designated hitter, but his .312 career batting average and 147 OPS+, which ranks 44th all time, are great arguments that Martinez should be getting a lot more electoral love than he has. Last time I looked, DH was a position in baseball, and Martinez is the greatest of all time. He has solid credentials for eventual induction.

Fred McGriff: 23.9% of vote- If the Crime Dog had hit another seven home runs, before he retired, he may be seen as a more viable candidate. As it is, his 2,490 hits and 493 home runs are impressive totals, and when combined with his consistency and solid reputation, he may get voted in one day. He is someone I could go either way on and wouldn’t be outraged with whatever is decided.

Like every other Hall of Fame vote, 2012 didn’t necessarily have the perfect outcome. Fortunately, one of the best aspects of the game are the debates it inspires. The players who are left over from this year’s ballot will certainly inspire that as we move towards future elections. It can be tough, but when it comes to the Hall of Fame, an invisible line must exist, acting as the cut-off point, separating those who deserve to be enshrined and those who fall just short. The tug-of-war arguments we have over who are the most deserving helps determine which side of that line each player will ultimately end up.  


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