Tough ballot, this year.
I mean, last few years I've wanted to write posts like these in advance because I've been eager to cover the umpteen nominees added to the ballot, because so many players from my youth are immediately worthy of HOF nomination. In working on this, there was maybe one name that was a lock, and a bunch more than I put on here to use up space.
There are six names on my unofficial ballot this year. I understand you can go up to ten. I don't think I could find 4 other guys that were HOF worthy on here. There are players I adore, like Soriano, Cliff Lee, Konerko and Raul Ibanez, but they're not Hall of Famers. And then there are players with great stats who are either A.) steroid abusers like Bonds and Clemens, or B.) pieces of human garbage like Kent and Schilling. A lot of people on here just don't fit for me, and I say this after Ted Simmons gained entry despite me not really thinking he was worthy.
But, nevertheless, here's my hastily-minimized 2020 Hall of Fame ballot.
Like last year, diciest call goes first. It surprised me that Abreu had the 2nd-highest career WAR of any newcomer to the ballot. So I looked further and, as it turns out, aside from being a fun little player, Bobby Abreu is a pretty formidable statistical athlete, sort of in the same way that a seemingly one-sided player like Mike Mussina twisted so many stats last year. Over 8.5 seasons in Philadelphia, Abreu averaged a 5.7 WAR. From 1998 to 2009, Abreu topped 150 hits every season. Abreu topped 100 RBIs 8 times without striking out over 150. Abreu also is third on the ballot in stolen bases, behind only Barry Bonds and Omar Vizquel. Bottom line is that despite his career tail-off post-2009, Abreu is the second-most qualified player on the ballot among newbies, and is one of the few people who seem likely to stay on the ballot into next year. Not sure how well he'll do on this year's ballot, but he's definitely a more complex player than people give him credit for.
Team of Induction: Philadelphia Phillies
Odds of 2020 Induction: 10 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 8 to 1
I don't think I have a great deal to explain here, but still, let's go over some basics: 3000 hits, including league-leading numbers in two seasons, one of which he held when he was 38. Career .310 average and .817 OPS. Career 72.4 WAR, which was cool til Trout skipped over it. 5 World Series rings, 14 ASG appearances, a WS MVP, and the love and respect of every Yankee fan. He's in. It's a fact.
Team of Induction: New York Yankees
Odds of 2020 Induction: Even
Odds of Eventual Induction: Certain
Yep, I'm still pushing for Rolen. Was last year, and even though support has grown from another ballot squatter, I still am. Scott Rolen's biggest detraction is that he was never a STAR per se. And yet despite that, he still has a World Series ring, 8 gold gloves, 7 ASG nods, 5 100+ RBI seasons and 316 home runs. And his .855 OPS is bigger than Jeter's, nbd. What made him so important was his infield corner ability, and his defensive ability in general at 3rd, while also being a multi-dimensional player with hitting ability. Rolen was a valuable part of the 2000s Cardinals, and if Pujols and Molina are both locks for the HOF when they retire, Rolen deserves a ton more support because he was always right there with them.
Team of Induction: St. Louis Cardinals
Odds of 2020 Induction: 7 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 4 to 1
I echo an earlier sentiment- there's definitely been some HOF love for the 1990s Indians, as Jim Thome and Eddie Murray are in, so leaving out Vizquel because he was never the most apt offensive ballplayer is an insult to Luis Aparicio. Vizquel was impressive because of how quick he could be, how impressive his fielding could be even well into his forties, and how even as he would be upstaged on the marquee by Griffey, Thome, Ramirez, Hafner, Bonds and the like, he would still probably be the most talented ballplayer on the field. Vizquel still came within 200 of 3000 hits, and stole 4 more bases than Bobby Abreu, so even if he's still gonna get boosted this year because of his defense, and his 11 gold gloves, he's still a bit more well-rounded than most people think. He's probably not in this year, but he deserves eventual recognition.
Team of Induction: Cleveland Indians
Odds of 2020 Induction: 5 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 3 to 1
Another long shot, but I've come around on this guy. Maybe because Mo and Hoffman have come and gone from this ballot, but I feel like the 'WE'RE GONNA BREAK ALL THE RECORDS AND LAST FOREVER' reliever has spoiled the regular old 'I'm gonna be good in the ninth for 15 years' reliever that's gotten in no trouble for the last 30 years. Rich Gossage and Bruce Sutter took some time, but they found the traction eventually because of pure, unadulterated dominance. And that's what Billy Wagner had, which I can say with confidence after seeing him pitch the ninth a few times in Philadelphia. Wagner had that sort of lights-out scariness that not a lot of modern relievers (save for maybe Craig Kimbrel) seem to have anymore. Maybe after Lee Smith got in we remembered how easy it was for big strong guys to just intimidate batters in the ninth, but only for that moment. Wagner got 422 saves in 16 seasons, ended with a 2.31 career ERA, and managed to, like Mike Mussina, absolutely come to life in his final season, with a 1.43 ERA, 37-save year with Atlanta. We may have to wait a while to vote in another legendary reliever (K-Rod will turn some heads in a few years), so for now...I hope Billy Wagner finds a crowd.
Team of Induction: Houston Astros
Odds of 2020 Induction: 12 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: 6 to 1
Last year, I predicted that with the departure of Edgar Martinez from the ballot, that Mike Mussina would take his place as the fringe favorite of stat-twisty voters. Of course, Moose got in too. That leaves Larry Walker, a different kind of Canadian staple, whose insane batting numbers have sat on this ballot for 10 years, and are only now beginning to delight voters. My dad has the opinion that Walker belongs in the 'Hall of very good', but...he also thought this about Ted Simmons and Harold Baines, and Walker was better than both of them. Walker has an MVP with Colorado, and led them to several big years in the 90s, hitting 258 homers in Coors Field- regardless of the air quality, you have to admit that some human ability had to go into that. He also has a career .313 average, a career .965 OPS, topped 100 RBIs 5 times, and never let his batting WAR figure drop below 0 after his 1989 rookie year. Walker deserves to be in there alongside Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell and Ken Griffey, and he also deserves to be the first-ever Colorado Rockie in the HOF.
Team of Induction: Colorado Rockies
Odds of 2020 Induction: 2 to 1
Odds of Eventual Induction: Even
So, that's my ballot. Not much, but it's something. Let's see how right I am.