Breaking Down the 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 2: The Newcomers

Image of Expo Pedro Martinez

The time of election is drawing nearer, and baseball junkies are growing nuts with anticipation. What presents will Santa Selig leave under the tree for us on his way out the –

You know what? I can’t continue that metaphor. The visual image is just too…I can’t guys. I’m sorry I brought it up.

This is Part II of a three part series looking at the Hall of Fame ballot. (For those who missed Part I, you can find it here.) Part I dealt with the holdovers for the ballot. In this part, we’re taking a look at all of the new players making their first appearance before the writers. It should be noted that most of these guys are going to disappear unceremoniously from the ballot without further discussion – that’s just the way this thing works. Remember that only Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent lingered from last year. Given how crowded and stacked the ballot is, this has caused players who might be worthy of further discussion to drop off…and I feel like it will do the same for a few guys this year. This is giving further credence to the dangerous belief that “if you’re not a first ballot Hall of Famer, you’re not a Hall of Famer”. Because of this, guys like Kenny Lofton get their appearance and disappear – possibly because there’s no room to vote for them. (I’ll go over a proposed solution to the problem in Part III.)

Without further adieu, here are the newcomers. If I don’t have a lot to say about somebody, I’ll breeze right on through, in an effort to achieve some kind of brevity.

Aaron Boone

boone-fists-raised

It’s time once again for that annual Addison Recorder traditional feature “Holy Shit, you guys! _______ is on the Hall of Fame ballot!” Past recipients of this hallowed and prestigious honor have included Woody Williams and Jacque Jones. It’s my belief that last year, somebody was so overwhelmed by their receiving this award that they blindly voted for Jacque Jones. Such is the influence of the “Holy Shit, you guys! ________ is on the Hall of Fame ballot” bump. Anyway, time for the 2015 edition of “Holy Shit, you guys! _______ is on the Hall of Fame ballot!”

Holy Shit, you guys! Aaron Boone is on the Hall of Fame ballot!

I feel bad carping this award so early in the post, but it really applies the most to Boone – he’s easily the least accomplished of all the players on the ballot – tied for lowest WAR, fewest hits, second fewest home runs, second lowest OPS+ (a new metric designed to show a player’s offensive worth when taking disparate eras and ballparks into account). Really, Boone had a rough career. He had a few good years in Cincinnati while playing for his father, Bob Boone, but was never quite what Reds fans wanted him to be. The cries of nepotism were deafening. However, he grew to be a favored part of the team, and when he was traded to the Yankees in 2003, he shed tears for leaving the only team he’d ever known. Of course, he does go down in baseball lore for his walk-off home run to beat the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS, and for tearing his leg up playing pick-up basketball, which led to A-Rod joining the Yankees. So there’s that – knowing you were replaced by one of the best hitters of the modern game. That’s kind of like making the Hall of Fame. Kind of.

Verdict: Nope

Brian Giles

briangiles1

Giles might be an interesting case…in another year. Or another world. A steady and reliable contributor to some terrible Pirates teams right around the turn of the century (a phrase I’m taking back for the 2000’s), he also played for those bad San Diego teams that made the playoffs in ’05 and ’06 because somebody from the NL West had to. Oh, and he was a role player for the ’97 Indians! Basically, he strung together a few really good years, put up great rate stats for several more years, and finished as a valuable player. He’s definitely in the Hall of Really Good…but not the Hall of Fame.

Verdict: Nope

Carlos Delgado

mlb_g_delgado_576

Yo quiero Carlos!

Delgado is probably a victim of old school thinking and new school thinking. A fearsome slugger for the Toronto Blue Jays for many years, he played the updated version of Fred McGriff – steady counting stats, steady defense, only a few years of leading the league in any categories and receiving MVP votes. Part of his problem was that he played in Toronto, and was thus excluded from a good deal of national baseball discussion. Another problem was that he played in the Steroid Era, and thus was overshadowed by a lot of other chemically enhanced sluggers. (There’s no evidence/rumors/reason to believe that Delgado used steroids, by the way.) Shoot, he even missed Toronto’s two World Series wins in 1992 and 1993 by a year or so. He ended up with 473 homers due to a painful hip injury that cut short his tenure, in spite of posting a .271/.353/.521 slash line the year before with good counting stats. Because he fell short of 500 home runs, and because nothing else about his numbers immediately pops out, I don’t think Delgado will be sticking around on the ballot. Which is a shame – I feel like there’s something to his career that needs to be talked about a little bit more.

Verdict: Nope

Cliff Floyd

Image of Cliff Floyd

I always mix up Cliff Floyd and Carl Everett – until I remember that Carl Everett didn’t believe dinosaurs were real. Cliff Floyd, as far as I’m told, harbors no such illusions.

Verdict: Nope

Darin Erstad

darin erstad

He played a nice center field for the Anaheim Angels, including their title win in 2002, and somehow had an 8.3 WAR season in 2000. He won 3 Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. His was a nice career. He also has a lower OPS+ score than Aaron Boone. If somebody votes for Erstad, I’ll eat my shorts.

Verdict: Uh-uh.

Eddie Guardado

His nickname while serving as an extremely consistent closer for the successful Minnesota Twins teams of the 2000’s was “Everyday Eddie”. I feel like that would be a terrible porn star name. Also, I feel like Eddie Guardado would make for a terrible porn star. Just a hunch, you guys.

Verdict; Nope.

Gary Sheffield

Image of Gary Sheffield

He had one of the most violent swings in baseball history, less a swing and more a coiled serpent ready to strike. He slugged 500+ home runs, was a consistent and durable hitter, and was a consistently terrible defender. He was also incredibly outspoken during his entire career, holding grudges with just about everybody and anybody he could. Owners who didn’t pay him enough. Managers who treated him poorly. Players who didn’t go all out to win. He was accused of purposefully blowing plays after receiving errors he didn’t think he’d earned – that claim is false by the way, Sheffield never blew plays in the majors. He was accused of steroid use, becoming involved with Barry Bonds and the BALCO case in 2003. (It should be noted that he was apparently duped by Bonds into trying a few steroids, and that he stopped using them when he learned what they actually were. According to court testimony, he wasn’t that impressed because he hadn’t done any better hitting the ball while taking them than he had without.

Sheffield is a really polarizing candidate. His traditional stats say “yes”, but the writers who would lean on those numbers won’t vote for him because of his steroid connections. Meanwhile, his sabermetric numbers say “no”, but those writers are starting to question how big of a role defense should play in tempering what would nominally be fantastic numbers. In short, there’s too many questions about Sheffield to determine if he should go in or not. Rather than err on the side of caution, I would vote yes just so that he stays on the ballot and can be debated a little longer – one year is too quick for this unequivocally talented player.

Verdict: Mulligan

Jason Schmidt

jason schmidt

Schmidt could’ve been an ace pitcher, and was one for a brief moment in 2002/2003 for the San Francisco Giants. Then his body gave out, a sad story that happens to all too many players. Regardless, he had a fine career and made quite a lot of money plying his trade. Nobody feel bad for the guy. (Well, actually, looking at that facial hair….yeah, go ahead and feel for him.)

Verdict: Nope

Jermaine Dye

jermaine dye

Dye bounced around four teams in his career, sticking with three of them for extended stays. He was on the ’96 Braves team that lost to the Yankees. He played with Johnny Damon for the Kansas City Royals in the late 90’s. He joined the Moneyball movement in Oakland via trade. He won a ring with the White Sox in 2005. He was oft injured, and while he didn’t exactly have a Forrest Gump style career, he did see a lot of the great moments of baseball in the early 21st century, so that’s pretty cool.

Verdict: Nope

John Smoltz

Image of John Smoltz

The third part of the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz trio that helped lead the Braves to 14 consecutive division titles, the longest tenured player of that trifecta, and the most interesting case. In one corner, you have Maddux, one of the top five pitchers of all time. In another corner, you have Glavine, the durable southpaw who went out and gave his all every time. In the third corner, you have Smoltz, who probably had the filthiest stuff of the three, with a vicious split-fingered fastball. Alas, he got hurt during his career – and then used the recovery time to become the most dominant closer in the game for three years before returning to the rotation. His numbered stats aren’t as good as Glavine and Maddux – mostly because of his various times struggling through injuries and because he spent three years racking up 150 saves. At the same time, he did strike out 3000 batters, something only 15 other pitchers have done. Of those sixteen total (counting Smoltz-y), eleven are in the Hall of Fame. The other five are on this ballot. One of them (Clemens) won’t be getting in, one of them (Schilling) has a bit of a climb, and the other two are coming up shortly. Smoltz deserves it, yet his is the weakest first ballot election case of the three likely candidates this year. I’ll be watching closely for him on election day.

Verdict: Yes

Nomar Garciaparra

Image of Nomar Garciaparra

Poor Nomar. He was possibly the best all around hitter of the early trinity of shortstops – Jeter, Rodriguez, and Nomar. His 7-year peak is right around the average Hall of Fame shortstop. However, injuries took a devastating toll on the guy – causing him to be traded in 2004. Right before the big World Series push that was originally Nomar’s fated destiny. Seriously, people thought he would be the one to lift the drought of titles from the Red Sox. Baseball is a cruel game, a game of inches, and a game of heartbreaks. Every year, twenty-nine hearts are broken. Nomar’s was broken in 2004. He had one more good year, but was never the same player again.

Now, does he belong in the Hall of Fame? That’s a good question, and depends on how much stock you put in those great seven years versus the entirety of his career. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets votes, or even enough votes to linger on the ballot. Personally, I’m inclined to say “no”, if only because while his peaks were good, they weren’t eye poppingly good. (Which I suppose says something even in the Steroid Era, but is still my standard). If those are your stats, you need to stick around a bit longer. If you’re only going to have five or six good years, those years had better be Koufax-esque.

Verdict: Nope

Pedro Martinez

Pedro-Martinez-02

Speaking of Koufax-esque…

On the surface, Pedro’s numbers are fantastic. Below that, they’re fantastic. Sure, he didn’t get to 300 wins, but in that light, it’s actually a good thing. See, Pedro is fantastic – and he’s going in first ballot unless the collective body of writers takes a dump on themselves. His ’99 and ’00 seasons are among the best individual years in baseball history. Until he lost one game in his last season, he had won 219 games to 99 games – go back and check how many pitchers failed to lose 100 games while winning HALF that many. His stats are just bonkers. Remember how I said your peak should be Koufax-esque if you’re only going to have a seven year peak? Pedro surpassed Koufax’s peak in the minds of many. Statistically, there is no reason to not vote for Pedro. As for the 300 games, if Pedro gets in on his first ballot, it might signal a relaxation of the belief that the only pitchers who get in should have 300 wins or more – something that’s nigh impossible for most in today’s game. By letting Pedro in, there might be a groundswell for players like Schilling and Mussina in years to come, as well as Roy Halladay down the road.

Verdict: Yes. Vote for Pedro.

Randy Johnson

Randy-Johnson1

Jonah Keri does a pretty good job summing up why Randy Johnson is the best left handed pitcher of all time – and I’m inclined to agree with him. So I’ll just drop this video here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orI26C05udY&feature=player_detailpage#t=8

That has nothing to do with his Hall of Fame case. But it sure is cool to watch. (stop watching after about twenty seconds, because…well, life is sad)

Verdict: Yes.

Rich Aurilia

His middle name is Santo. Also, his appearance marks the complete appearance of the 2002 San Francisco Giants (minus 3B David Bell) World Series team on the Hall of Fame ballot. Their opponents, the Anaheim Angels, have not yet reached this point, in part because so many of their players were so young when the Series was played (think David Eckstein/Adam Kennedy/Garrett Anderson/etc.). That Giants team, with JT Snow, Benito Santiago, Bonds, Reggie Sanders, Schmidt, etc. was old. Don’t know why that interested me as much as it did, but I just thought I’d share. Oh, and Aurilia’s not getting in,

Verdict: Nope

Tony Clark

Tony-Clark

He is the current President of the MLB Players Association, so he’s easily the most accomplished President of that body. However, his career leaves much to be inspired.

Verdict: Nope

Tom Gordon

tom gordon

Think of him as John Smoltz lite, only without the domineering starter credentials/Cy Young award/Braves dynasty legacy. He did have a pretty good career, alternating between starter and reliever early on before settling into a role as a fireball-chucking closer. His sabermetric stats are skewed because of his time as a starter, but if Gordon were to receive a vote or two, I wouldn’t be offended. He did get a Stephen King book named after him. Also, his nickname is “Flash”, which is a much better porn star name than “Everyday Eddie”.

Verdict: Nope

Troy Percival

troy percival

I’ll “close” this out (pun) by talking about the Angels closer. His name was Troy. He did not have a nickname. Apparently, he was unhittable and filthy in the video game that came out in 2002. (I think it was MLB2K or something like that…) Anyway, he’s not getting in. Not without a nickname.

Verdict: Nope

There you have it! Come back next week for Part III, where I reveal who I voted for!

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the original founders of the Addison Recorder. He writes about baseball, movies, and music, among other topics. He resides in a hole in the ground near Wrigley Field.

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