MLB Hall of Fame: Final thoughts on the 2017 class

As we all know by now, the 2017 MLB Hall of Fame inductees have been announced. I don’t take issues with a single one of them. I was always a fan of Jeff Bagwell, it was nearly impossible not to love Tim Raines, and despite the fact that Ivan Rodriguez had huge question marks surrounding him, his defense since he was a 17 year old minor leaguer was undeniable.

So, what about the rest of the ballot? That’s really where there are some question marks.

As you know, I am a member of the IBWAA who conducts their own votes annually, and as always, I share those votes and why I did it. For the record, I have no issue with players from the Steroid Era getting into the Hall of Fame, which is why I voted for both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens the past two seasons. My primary reasons are two-fold.

  • The ring leader, Bud Selig, is now in the Hall of Fame. Selig and MLB wanted the Mitchell Report, the results of the Mitchell Report were that everyone shares the blame, including the commissioner, and now said commissioner is in the Hall of Fame.
  • The problem with assuming that there were good guys during the Steroid Era is short-sighted. How many times did you hear about Derek Jeter failing a drug test? What about Ken Griffey, Jr? Or Chipper Jones? Here’s the better question you have to ask. How many time did you hear about players PASSING a drug test? We have no idea of who was tested or who wasn’t, so if we are going to label the entire Era the Steroid Era, you can’t pick or choose. Everyone did it (at least let’s just assume). They were very much part of the game, a part of the game that no one seemed to mind when it was happening, even though we saw guys in front of our faces grow from bean poles to giants (some were literally Giants).

But that is my opinion. Others have their own, and it is just a justifiable as mine. It will be an ongoing debate for a few more years, but we are that much closer to the day it will be forgotten.

Jose Canseco agrees.

Anyway, let’s get back to it.

Who is the best of the rest?

Bonds and Clemens have seen their stock rise each year, and now at their highest percentages ever, they are a year, maybe two away. The problem for them will be to get enough to come around by next season because there are a few sure-fire guys on the list (Chipper Jones and Jim Thome come to mind). The fact that Trevor Hoffman fell one percent short shows he will be a threat to them as well.

And yes, I believe Trevor Hoffman belongs in the Hall of Fame. Much like I believe Ray Guy belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame. No matter how menial the job may seem to the spectator, Hoffman did it better than all but one person (and Mariano Rivera, one of the most likable players in history, will also get in). Mo and Hoffman’s numbers are insane, and I have said it before and I’ll say it again. As the more specialized bullpens become, and closers becoming interchangeable parts, NO ONE will ever come close to the numbers they put up.

Valdimir Guerrero is a no-brainer. He will likely get the four-percent of votes he needed this year by next season. He is one of those “example” guys some old-timey baseball writers use, you know, the guys who feel it’s their moral obligation to hold up the age-old numbers that are required for enshrinement. Valddy was a beast, but the fact is he didn’t have 3,000 hits or 500 home runs. It takes the voters some time to get over that (not me, I voted for him).

Now the real fun begins. If I believe that Hoffman and Rivera belong in the Hall of Fame because they were the best ever at their jobs, shouldn’t that mean I believe Edgar Martinez belongs in the Hall of Fame?

Yup.

He took the DH to a new level, but he doesn’t have “the numbers”. Some will argue that had he not been a DH his career wouldn’t have been as long because a lump of coal played better defense than he did. So what? Everyone wants David Ortiz in the Hall of Fame and he wouldn’t have even come near the ball that made Bill Buckner the goat that Big Papi’s legendary home runs would finally come to atone.

Martinez was a smart hitter with a pretty swing and led the league in good categories, like OPS and on base percentage, that showed just how valuable a player he was. Compared to some of the players that have gotten in the past several years, he deserves his time.

Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling. As far as I’m concerned Schilling will never get in because of what he has done to himself in the public eye, but I’m pretty much over this coalition that believes Schilling is a no-brainer Hall of Famer and Moose is not. Why?

Let’s line up the numbers:

216-146, 3.46 ERA, 1.137 WHIP, 3116 strikeouts and an 80.7 WAR (according to Baseball Reference)

270-153, 3.68 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 2813 strikeouts and an 82.7 WAR

You can hardly differentiate the two, can you? Schilling was the top and Mussina was the bottom, and here’s the thing. Schilling played 20 years, Moose only 18. Had he those two years, he’s a 300-game winner.

Most people point to Schilling’s post season numbers, which are brilliant (not bloody brilliant mind you… see what I did there?) but then that opens up the Andy Pettitte conversation and that’s a whole other can of worms.

Here’s the thing. How do you judge pitching? You simply can’t hold the 300 wins barrier as the bench mark any longer, because there aren’t many pitchers who go deep enough into games anymore to ever reach that mark again. So, what’s the bench mark? What determines a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher?

I don’t know, and I think that is what is ultimately holding players like Moose and Schilling out of the Hall of Fame. Until we can all figure out that answer, I think they will be on the outside looking in.

Which brings us to the Crime Dog. Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer. No, he doesn’t have 500 home runs, nor does he have 3,000 hits, but man he was a beast. I’m personally exhausted from trying to defend my stance on the subject the past few years, so allow me to point to my friend and fellow Rome Braves beat writer, Josh Brown. He made two compelling cases for McGriff. The first one came before the 2017 results and the second came after Bagwell, a player who put up pretty similar numbers, earned the call. Go ahead, let’s look:

Bagwell: .297/.408/.540, 2,314 hits, 449 home runs, 1,401 RBI, .948 OPS

McGriff: .284/.377/.509, 2,490 hits, 493 home runs, 1,550 RBI, .886 OPS

Now, hear me out. If you are one of these “It’s not the Hall of Very Good” people (which I admittedly was several years ago) and don’t feel either should be in the Hall of Fame, I am perfectly ok with that. Their numbers, in relation to the all-time greats of the game, don’t exactly measure up. If you have this vision that the Hall of Fame should only be for the Mickey Mantles and the Willie Mays of the world, then I am a-ok with that.

But the reality is that it is not. Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame. Andre Dawson is in the Hall of Fame. If these players are in — whether you agree with it or not — they have become a certain standard. How do you keep a player who has better numbers out of the Hall of Fame? Because of his era? Let me tell you something. You take Babe Ruth out of his era, we have no idea what kind of player he was. He was hitting more home runs than entire teams, don’t act like his numbers weren’t a bit inflated (don’t go trolling me. I think Babe Ruth is the most important athlete to ever play the game, and what he could do on the mound and at the plate was ridiculous. I’m just saying you have to wonder what his numbers would have been if he had to face a pitcher like himself more of the time).

The end result of all of this is that next year’s ballot will have even more question marks. But, hey, isn’t that what we as baseball fans live for?

(Side note: I’m torn on the Jeff Kent vote. So torn that I am working up a separate article on whether or not he is a Hall of Famer. Stay tuned!)

One thought on “MLB Hall of Fame: Final thoughts on the 2017 class”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s