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What Is The Hall of Fame, Anyway?

This past weekend the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced the selection of six new members via the Golder Days Era Committee and separately the Early Baseball Era Committee. The committee names are a bit nonsensical, which is kind of how I feel about the entire Hall of Fame selection process. This is before we even get to the selection of players on the ballot to be voted on by the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

My big question is what is the purpose of the hall of fame anyway? Is it a museum to show the history of the game, or is it a shrine to honor only the most celebrated within the history of the sport? This question is a fundamental one that must be answered in order to clarify how were are to perceive the institution. Rule #5 in the voting rules which governs the method of selection is the most troubling one. The rule states “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played”.

This clause is so ambiguous it nearly has no meaning. Playing ability I can understand. It gets very nebulous quickly when discussions turn to integrity, sportsmanship, and character. In a game that was segregated until 1947, what does integrity mean? Does a pitcher who throws at batters show good sportsmanship? Does a player who abuses his wife display good character? There are players who are currently on the ballot who fall short of each of these criteria.

The other major American sports have a much cleaner process than baseball does. Football uses a selection committee. The football selection committee is comprised of a media member from each NFL city, and 17 at-large selectors from the active media or people intricately involved with pro football. 80% is required for induction via a simple yes or no vote. Basketball uses two screening committees. One for North America and one for women’s candidates. The North American candidates require 7 of 9 votes for induction and for women it is 5 of 7 votes. Then the candidates who receive the requisite number of votes are passed to the Honors Committee where 18 of 24 votes are needed for induction.

There is much less room for games and agendas using the other voting process. Unlike baseball voting, there aren’t going to be blank ballots submitted or hidden agendas among the voting body. The baseball writers have only voted in one player unanimously, which is a mockery of the whole process. There is no logical measure by which Ken Griffey Jr. or Derek Jeter should not have been named on every ballot. The Hall of Fame has changed the rules to make it messy. A ballot that limits the voters to ten choices is by design going to ensure worthy candidates are excluded.

Having said that, let’s look at who would get my vote if I were allowed to cast my ballot this year. There are some guys I consider no-brainer selections, and some I had to think about. Let’s start with my no-brainer guys. I am not going to try to guess who was a steroid user and who wasn’t. There are guys in the Hall of Fame already who were steroid users, and this is not mentioning Ty Cobb if we want to look at the character of those enshrined. If the player wasn’t suspended, then officially he is clean. As I said on the Dingers and K’s podcast last week, we can all think O.J. Simpson is a murderer, but according to the court of law, he is innocent.
One note, I will omit Curt Schilling as he has asked to be removed from consideration.

Barry Bonds: .298/.444/.607 triple-slash line, on top of being the all-time home run leader with 762. He scored 2227 runs, drove in 1996, and even has 514 stolen bases. A seven-time MVP and 14-time all-star. His career fWAR of 164.4 helps make this one is as simple as it gets.

Roger Clemens: A career record of 354-184, a 3.12 ERA, with 4672 strikeouts. He has two pitching triple crowns (wins, ERA, strikeouts). His bWAR of 138.7 makes the Rocket worthy of enshrinement.

Alex Rodriguez: .295/.380/.550 triple-slash line. 696 home runs, 2021 runs scored, 2086 runs driven in, and 329 steals. A three-time MVP, and a 14-time all-star. A-Rod finished with a bWAR of 117.5.

Manny Ramirez: .312/.411/.585 triple-slash line. 555 home runs, 1544 runs scored, and 1831 RBI. Manny was a 12-time all-star and 2-time World Series MVP. He was one of the feared hitters of his generation.

David Ortiz: .286/.380/.552 triple-slash line. 541 homers, 1419 runs, and 1786 runs batted in. Big Papi was a 10-time all-star, as well as ALCS and World Series MVP. His candidacy is hurt by his status as Designated Hitter, but he and Manny Ramirez were the heart of the Red Sox World Series championships.

Gary Sheffield: .292/.393/.514 triple-slash line. Sheff hit 509 bombs, scored 1636 times, and drove in 1676. He was a 9-time all-star and a World Series champion in 1997. His bWAR of 60.5 makes him worthy.

Sammy Sosa: .273/.344/.534 triple-slash line. Sammy finished with 609 home runs, 1475 runs scored, and he tallied 1667 RBI. He was the MVP in 1998. A bWAR of 58.6 will do. Sammy and Mark McGwire kept baseball relevant during their home run race.

These three guys are on my questionable list. They might be great players, but something is lacking for me. For example, they never led the league in any major statistical category. However, they still warrant consideration for induction.

Scott Rolen: .281/.364/.490 triple-slash line. He hit 316 homers, scored 1211 times, and brought home 1287. His 8 Gold Glove awards put him over the top for induction to me. His 70.1 bWAR is surprisingly higher than Sosa, Sheffield, and Manny Ramirez. Defense counts for a lot.

Andruw Jones: .254/.337/.486 triple-slash line isn’t otherworldly. His 10 Gold Glove awards are the reason he is on the list. He was good until he turned 30, and then the magic went away. A 62.7 bWAR means he is another defense-first candidate.

I considered guys like Jeff Kent and Torii Hunter, but they didn’t quite make it for me. Andy Pettitte and Billy Wagner were a couple of pitchers who just missed for me.

Outside of the players I listed, I am extremely happy Buck O’Neil was selected. It was long overdue.

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