Have you been honing your debate skills? It’s Hall of Fame voting season and the discourse now demands your talking points. It’s really easy to dismiss the voting at this point, though — I did it back in January — and maybe the better life to live is the one that doesn’t commit any time and energy to what a museum chooses for its exhibition. On the other hand, this year’s ballot looks like a bland one, meaning Barry Bonds could finally be elected to the Hall.
Yeah, thought that might get your attention.
Here are the list of first time candidates:
- Bobby Abreu
- Josh Beckett
- Heath Bell
- Eric Chavez
- Adam Dunn
- Chone Figgins
- Rafael Furcal
- Jason Giambi
- Raul Ibanez
- Derek Jeter
- Paul Konerko
- Cliff Lee
- Carlos Pena
- Brad Penny
- J.J. Putz
- Brian Roberts
- Alfonso Soriano
- Jose Valverde
Just off the top of my head, Derek Jeter and possibly Bobby Abreu figure to be the new entries to soak up a decent chunk of votes (the electorate is in the range of 415-425 voters). with Jeter seemingly set to grab more than Abreu. But should he be?
Jay Jaffe’s JAWS shows Abreu (60 career rWAR) as having more Hall of Fame value than current Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero (50.8 peark rWAR vs. 50.3), and just 0.3 wins behind another, Dave Winfield. The average JAWS score — a reminder that it’s formulated by averaging a player’s career WAR with their 7-year peak WAR — for right fielders is 56.8. Even though Abreu’s peak falls below that average, the next 10 players just under that average is a pretty serious list:
- Tony Gwynn (55.2) [HOF]
- Dwight Evans (52.2)
- Reggie Smith (51.7)
- Ichiro Suzuki (51.5)
- Sammy Sosa (51.2)
- Dave Winfield (51.1) [HOF]
- Bobby Abreu (50.8)
- Vladimir Guerrero (50.3)
- Bobby Bonds (49.5)
- Gary Sheffield (49.3)
And this bunch precedes a trio of ancient Hall of Famer right fielers: Elmer Flick (47.3), Enos Slaughter (45.2), and Willie Keeler (45.2). Abreu is in good company.
If you’re wondering how Derek Jeter fares by a similar comparison: yeah, he’s a certified Hall of Famer. The JAWS average for shortstop is 55.0 rWAR. Jeter’s score is 57.4, 12th all-time, just trailing Alan Trammel (57.8). Only Bill Dahlen has a better JAWS score (he has a superior career WAR, too) than Jeter and isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Dahlen died 69 years ago.
So, with Jeter being a lock and Abreu being a bit of a borderline case, there would seem to be an opportunity for Bonds’ candidacy, even if we’ve already been told that the best hitter of all time (probably) doesn’t have many friends in the BBWAA or the Hall of Fame itself. Voters have a 10-vote limit. Here are the returning candidates, their 2019 vote totals, and the term of their candidacy for 2020 (players have a 10-year max eligibility):
- Barry Bonds (59.1%, 8th year)
- Roger Clemens (59.5%, 8th year)
- Todd Helton (16.5%, 2nd year)
- Andruw Jones (7.5%, 3rd year)
- Jeff Kent (18.1%, 7th year)
- Andy Pettitte (9.9%, 2nd year)
- Manny Ramirez (22.8%, 4th year)
- Scott Rolen (17.2%, 3rd year)
- Curt Schilling (60.9%, 8th year)
- Gary Sheffield (13.6%, 6th year)
- Sammy Sosa (8.5%, 8th year)
- Omar Vizquel (42.8%, 3rd year)
- Larry Walker (54.6%, 10th year)
- Billy Wagner (16.7%, 5th year)
I don’t know about you, but that looks like a soft field that could allow voters near the high-end — Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Walker — to cross the threshold. At the same time, something tells me the Hall of Fame does not want to sully Derek Jeter Weekend with the likes of Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling in attendance (Clemens might be cool with them because he and Jeter were teammates and Yankees always generate more revenue).
It’s not difficult to imagine a sample voter’s ballot looking something like this:
- Bobby Abreu
- Barry Bonds
- Roger Clemens
- Derek Jeter
- Jeff Kent
- Scott Rolen
- Curt Schilling
- Omar Vizquel (?)
- Billy Wagner
- Larry Walker
But it’s even easier to imagine protest votes, half-completed or blank ballots, and a general tone of spiting Bonds — and say what you want about the voting body, they’re clearly spiting Bonds. Curt Schilling might be one of the most loathsome human beings to have ever been paid to play baseball, but he’s a popular Hall of Fame candidate despite all that. His five-year vote percentages compared to Bonds, Clemens, and Kent show there’s a lot of support for him to make it —
Giants HoF candidates vs. competition 2015-2019
Bonds and Clemens definitely have their supporters, but Schilling looks to be more popular, with his vote totals jumping up significantly in three of the last five years and really only seeming to take a one-year hit for being a Nazi memorabilia collector.
Jeff Kent’s candidacy begins and ends with counting stats. He has a lower JAWS peak (45.6) than both Ian Kinsler (48.8) and Dustin Pedroia (47.1) and isn’t too far ahead of Ben Zobrist (42.8). Jose Altuve is already at 37.7, 34th all-time among second basemen. But Kent has 2,461 career hits, 13th all-time, sandwiching him between Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Red Schoendienst; and, more importantly, he has the most home runs of any second baseman in major league history (377). Robinson Cano (60.0 JAWS — a no-doubt Hall of Famer already, unless his failed PED test counts against him) is second all-time with 324. Rogers Hornsby is third with 301.
And the man who coined the phrase, “The money lies in the RBIs”, Kent is third all-time for second basemen with 1,518, behind Nap Lajoie and Rogers Hornsby. If there’s still a contingent of angry old baseball writers who hate The New Ways, Jeff Kent should be their candidate more than Omar Vizquel, but he’s not, which probably means this group of forgettable voters all live east of the Mississippi.
Anyway, I grow weary of Hall of Fame talk. Maybe you think Bonds loathsome jerk who’s getting what he deserves. Maybe you think the best players should be in the Hall of Fame, regardless of their memorabilia collections or home life. Whatever your stance, it’s the time of the year that will cater to it or fire you up with an opposing viewpoint. We love baseball, but let’s admit the damn thing is intent on keeping us angry most of the year. That’s why it’s the sport that best reflects America: it can be better, but chooses not to be.
If you haven’t already done so, follow Ryan Thibodaux on Twitter for up to the minute vote tracking. Every year, he and his team follows every voter and quickly snaps up any articles announcing ballots to throw into their Hall of Fame vote tracker. It’s the best part of this whole experience.