2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot
Travis Nelson -
Boy of Summer

If Travis Nelson had a Hall of Fame Ballot...

In the Yard:

ALBERT BELLE: Belle will have a lot more trouble convincing the baseball writers of his Cooperstown worthiness than he
does convincing me, mostly because he never threw a baseball atone of my co-workers.  Belle was nothing if not surly, but
that shouldn't factor into whether or not he gets a plaque in the national Baseball Hall of Fame.  He was consistently one of the
best hitters in the league for a decade and he should have gotten more support in the MVP voting. He was every bit as good as
Frank Thomas in 1994 and Juan Gonzalez in 1996, and he was better than Mo Vaughn (or anyone else, for that matter) in
1995, but lost votes due to his contentious nature and fiery relationship with the news media.  A degenerative hip condition
ended his career at age 33, but Kirby Puckett suffered the same fate due to glaucoma, and the BBWAA let him in on his first
attempt.    

BERT "Be Home" BLYLEVEN: Besides having one of the best Bermanisms ever, this guy was a heck of a good pitcher.
Blyleven’s ERA was better than the league and park-adjusted average in 16 of the 18 seasons in which he pitched enough to
qualify for the ERA title. The man started pitching in the majors at age 19, and for a decade he averaged well over than 200
innings per season and had an ERA at least 8% better than the adjusted league average every year.  In 1980, at age 29, his
3.82 ERA was about 5% below average, but then he didn't have another below average adjusted ERA in a season in which he
was healthy until age 37.  For his career, his adjusted ERA  of 118 (18% better than average) is better than Hall of Famers
Robin Roberts, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Early Wynn, Pud Galvin, Mickey Welch,
Eppa Rixey, Red Ruffing, Burleigh Grimes, Waite Hoyt, Jim Bunning, Herb Pennock, Catfish Hunter, Rube Marquard, Dennis
Eckersly, Jesse Haines, Chief Bender, and Jack Chesbro, and is equal to that of Hall of Famers Ted Lyons, Vic Willis and
Warren Spahn.  Red Faber, Bob Lemon and Rollie Fingers, at 19% above average, were statistically indistinguishable from
Blyleven in this regard.  Did you get that?  
When it came to preventing runs, a pitcher's foremost responsibility, Blyleven was as
good as or better than 28 of the 60 pitchers who are already enshrined in Cooperstown.
 (I excluded Babe Ruth, John Ward
and Bobby Wallace, who were mostly enshrined for accomplishments other than pitching.)   

Only twelve guys faced more batters in their careers, and they’re all in the Hall. Only four have ever struck out more of them,
and they will all be in the Hall. In the 20th century, only Tommy John, who had the benefit of good teams and pitchers’ parks,
has more wins and is not or will not likely be in the Hall, and he’s only got
one more win.  With the benefit of hindsight and new
tools for evaluating players, we now know that Blyleven's career Wins totals and non-adjusted ERA suffered due to his
circumstances, not his talent.  Put Blyleven on the Los Angeles Dodgers for most of his career and he wins 300+ games with
an ERA under 3.00 and the BBWAA carries him into Cooperstown on their shoulders, like Sean Astin in "
Rudy".  Instead,
having pitched in Minnesota and Cleveland for much of his career, he gets his case pled by a bunch of numbers geeks with no
mainstream credibility, like Rick Moranis in "
Ghostbusters II".  

RICH GOSSAGE: Gossage's closest comparison is Rollie Fingers, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992, his third year
of eligibility.  Goose had fewer saves than Rollie, but there was more than a 20-game difference in their won/lost records (+10
wins, -11 losses). He pitched more innings, allowed fewer hits, struck out batters more often, allowed homers less often, and
had a better adjusted ERA (relative to the league) for his career. Goose was on nine All-Star teams to Fingers' seven. Both led
their league in saves 3 times, finished among the top 10 in the MVP voting twice (Fingers won it, with the Cy Young, in 1981).
Fingers was among the top ten in Cy Young voting four times to Goose's 5 times. Rollie did win four Rolaids Relief awards to
Goose's one, but this is a kind of contrived award anyway, based simply on statistics rather than value, and statistics that can
be manipulated.

I think that there are probably two main reasons that Goose is not yet in the Hall. Rob Neyer has argued that in the time it took
Rollie Fingers to retire and then to be elected to the HoF, the status of the Save, as a statistic, changed. People like Tony
LaRussa started using pitchers like Dennis Eckersly and Lee Smith specifically for the purpose of getting saves, and pretty
soon, Goose's 310 didn't look so impressive anymore. Lee Smith (478), Trevor Hoffman (436), John Franco (424), Dennis
Eckersly (390), Mariano Rivera (379), Jeff Reardon (367) Randy Myers (347), John Wetteland (330), Roberto Hernandez and
Troy Percival (324), Jose Mesa (319), Rick Aguilera (318), Robb Nen (314), Tom Henke (311), Jeff Montgomery (304), Doug
Jones (303), and Bruce Sutter (300) all have 300 or more saves now, and I guess it just looks bad to elect a guy who has only
eight more saves than Doug Jones.

Rollie and Goose were approximately contemporaries, with mostly overlapping careers, though Fingers ('68-'85) started
sooner and retired sooner than Gossage ('72-94), but if Goose had retired two years earlier, he would have had a 2.93 ERA
instead of 3.01, and the memory of him as one of the premier stoppers would have been fresher in the voters' minds when
voting time arrived. Instead, he stayed a little longer than some of the BBWAA might have liked, pitching into his 22nd season,
and still effectively I might add, with an ERA below the league average when the strike hit in 1994. I guess the baseball writers
want their favorite players to ride off into the sunset as soon as their skills begin to diminish a little, thinking that if you can't be
The Stopper you should just stop. It's ironic that the same men who don't elect people like Ron Guidry for not pitching long
enough also punish people like Gossage and Bert Blyleven for pitching so long.

ALAN TRAMMELL: Trammell's a tough one.  He was a six-time All-Star, won four Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers and a
World Series, but he never led his league in any significant offensive category, and his only real MVP bid (1987) happened in a
year in which George Bell hit 47 homers, back when that was a rarity.  He got MVP votes here and there six other times, but
never finished higher than 7th overall in any season.  He was also overshadowed by Cal Ripken for most of his career, and
had the misfortune of playing most of his career in the 1980's, an era in which offense was generally down.  

More advanced measures, like the Bill James' Win Shares and the Wins Above Replacement (WARP1-WARP3) variations
used by Baseball Prospectus, can tell us more than the straight numbers can, which is why I use them.  Baseball Prospectus
ranks the existing HoF shortstops this way, in terms of career WARP1 (in-season Wins Above Replacement Position):

Player (years)                  WARP1   WARP3  Win Shares
Honus Wagner (1897-1917)        237.6   185.6     655
Cal Ripken (1981-2001)          130.8   138.6     419
Robin Yount (1974-1993)         113.1   127.7     423
Ozzie Smith (1978-1996)         123.3   123.7     326
Arky Vaughan (1932-1948)        132.8   123.0     356
Bill Dahlen (1891-1911)         171.9   120.9     393
Barry Larkin (1986-2004)        111.3   118.1     314
Alan Trammell (1977-1996)       101.2   117.6     318
Luke Appling (1930-1950)        126.2   117.3     378
Ernie Banks (1953-1971)         116.2   114.9     332
George Davis (1890-1909)        156.5   111.3     398
Bobby Wallace (1894-1918)       152.6   105.7     345
Joe Cronin (1926-1945)          116.5   102.9     333
Dave Concepcion (1970-1988)     104.4   101.0     269
Lou Boudreau (1938-1952)        104.1    99.8     277
Pee Wee Reese (1940-1958)       100.2    99.5     314
Joe Sewell (1920-1933)          102.9    87.4     277
Rabbit Maranville (1912-1935)   131.0    85.8     302
Luis Aparicio (1956-1973)        89.5    84.8     293
Joe Tinker (1902-1916)          118.1    77.6     258
John Ward (1878-1894)           124.9    77.0     409
Dave Bancroft (1915-1930)       111.1    76.9     269
Phil Rizzuto (1941-1956)         73.6    73.4     231
Hughie Jennings (1891-1918)      93.2    70.8     214
Travis Jackson (1922-1936)       75.4    57.6    211

As you can see, Trammell compares favorably with many of the current shortstops in Cooperstown (though some of these
players, most notably Banks, Yount, and especially Ward, contributed more effectively and/or more often at positions other than
shortstop).   Bill James Ranked him 9th among shortstops all-time in his New Historical Baseball Abstract (2001), with the
acknowledgement that A-Rod, Jeter and/or Nomar might eventually crack the top ten.  Even so, that put Trammell ahead of
everyone on this list (not to mention everyone else in history) except Wagner, Vaughan, Ripken, Yount, Banks, Larkin, Smith
and Cronin.  When you consider that Yount (CF) and Banks (1B) actually played more games at another position in their
careers than they did at short, Trammell looks even better.  Flashy?  Usually not, but consistently good for 20 years, and
sometimes great, has got to count for something.   

On The Fence:

ANDRE DAWSON: Piled up some impressive counting stats because he hung around for 21 seasons, but his tepid .323
career OBP says a lot more about his value that his 438 homers.  

TOMMY JOHN: Two-hundred eighty-eight wins and a surgery named for you, but not much else.  He pitched for good teams for
a long time (26 seasons), but his career ERA was only about 11% better than the league.  He's better than some pitchers in
the Hall, but not really "great" enough for my tastes.   

JACK MORRIS: Not as good as Kaat, Blyleven or John, despite what Jayson Stark may tell you.  His 3.90 ERA would be the
highest in Cooperstown, and his 254 wins were padded by playing for such good teams. More on Morris
here, if you're
interested.

DALE MURPHY: Two MVP awards and almost 400 homers, but he had a few too many seasons in which he hit about .230 to
be called a Hall of Famer in my book.  Four or five years of greatness surrounded by 13 years of mediocrity don't do it for me.  

DAVE PARKER: Ironically, parker's home run total and career OBP are both 339, neither of which is high enough to put him
along side Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams, in my book, or even Dave Winfield and Monte Irvin, for that matter.  

JIM RICE: Got too much help from his home ballpark.  I understand that he was very good, but being young enough not to have
seen him play, I have to look at the stats.  And when I go to Baseball-Reference.com and look objectively at his numbers, I can
admit that they're very good, but only borderline for a Hall of Famer.  But then I can also visit Retrosheet.com and see his
home/road splits and realize that he was helped a LOT by Fenway Park throughout his career. He hit .320/.374/.546 at home
but only .277/.330/.459 on the road. I can’t vote for him for the same reason I wouldn’t vote for Andres Galarraga (a better fielder
with similar career numbers) or Larry Walker (a better fielder with better numbers). Their parks helped them too much. Plain
as that.  

LEE SMITH: Man, 478 saves sure sounds like a lot.  Heck, 478 of
anything sure sounds like a lot, you know?  But being the
"Show Up in the Ninth Inning" guy for two decades will do that for you.  Smith was certainly good at what he did, but with a
couple of decades of experience and hindsight, we can now see that
it's just not that difficult to save 30-40 games per season.  
Chad Cordero, Bob Wickman, Jose Mesa, Jeff Shaw, Antonio Alfonseca, Bryan Harvey, Jeff Russell and Bobby Thigpen have
all led their league in saves at one point or another.  It's not such a big deal.  Doing it pretty consistently for 20 years is
noteworthy, but not Hall-worthy, in my mind.  


The Knothole Gang (outside, looking in):

BRUCE SUTTER: Sutter had the Closer's job back when it was a lot harder, but he didn't have the longevity of Lee Smith, and
wasn't as great for as long as Goose.  He only pitched for 12 seasons, and in four of them, his ERA was considerably below
the league average.  The last two seasons of his career saw him pitch a combined 64 innings with an ERA around 4.50, back
when the National League was pitching around the 3.80 mark.  That means he had only eight seasons in which he was
actually good, and probably only five or six "great" ones.  Just not enough.  

DAVE CONCEPCION: He was better than you think, mostly because of his defense, but not good enough to justify  
enshrinement in Cooperstown.  In his day, he was probably the best shortstop in the NL, but there really wasn't a lot of
competition for that title in the '70s.  His career adjusted OPS was 12% below league average, and his glove just couldn't
compensate for that.   

RICK AGUILERA: His adjusted ERA was 17% better than the league for his 16-year career, and he racked up 318 saves.  In
other words, his credentials are either indistinguishable from or worse than those of Tom Henke, Doug Jones, Roberto
Hernandez, Troy Percival, Robb Nen and probably several others who've pitched in the last two decades.   

JOHN WETTELAND & DOUG JONES: Three hundred or more saves just aren't a big deal.  These guys both had nice careers,
and Wetteland at least had the "Most Feared Closer" tag for a while in the mid-nineties, but I just don't think relief pitchers
these days have a hard enough job to get into Cooperstown unless they're really spectacular at it or have lots of post-season
success.  Mariano Rivera's post-season accomplishments and tougher job (two-inning saves and such) will give him an edge
when he's eligible, if he amasses 450-500 saves.  But that's a big
IF.  

WILL CLARK & DON MATTINGLY: Very similar career numbers, in almost every respect.  Donnie Baseball, on talent alone,
ranks #12 on Bill James' all-time list of first basemen in the
Abstract, but talent alone doesn't get you into Cooperstown.  
Mattingly was great when he played, but just didn't play long enough, or often enough when he was playing, to amass the kind
of stats that the Writers like to see.  He hit .307 for his career, but Frank Thomas has the same career batting average, higher
percentages in OBP and SLG, more than twice as many homers (448 to 222), and is still playing.  So if The Big Hurt isn't even
a lock for the Hall, the Donnie shouldn't even be in the discussion.  

Clark makes #14 on James' list, again, more on talent than stats, and just didn't have the kind of productivity, durability and
longevity you like to see from a Hall of Famer.

STEVE GARVEY: Garvey was good, but not great, for a long time.  Playing half his games in Chavez Ravine hurt his stats, but
even with adjustments, his career OPS is only 16% better than the league.  Compare that to Mattingly's 29% and Clark's 38%,
and Garvey's not even in the same category.  Plus, his defensive stats (the record errorless streak and such) have more to do
with his being afraid to throw the ball than they do with any sort of actual prowess at first base defense.

GARY GAETTI: A "power" hitter who cracked 30 homers only three times in 20 seasons?  An "RBI man" who knocked in 100+
runs only twice?  Hit .300 once?  Never scored 100 runs?  I don't think so.  

DWIGHT GOODEN: Lotsa heat, but lotsa problems.  Drugs and taxes and what-not robbed him (and us) of what could have
been a Hall of Fame career, so that he ended up with "only" 194 wins, the same as David Cone, who also won't get my vote
when he's eligible in a few years.    

OREL HERSHISHER: Led the NL in innings pitched every year from 1987-89, and it basically killed his arm.  Pitched only 25
innings in 1990, had shoulder surgery and pitched only 112 innings in 1991.  Came back to be a decent
LAIM pitcher for
several more years, but the magic (and the consecutive scoreless innings) were clearly in the past.  Nice Career, but not
enough.  

GREGG JEFFERIES: Came up with the Mets at age 19, the youngest player in the majors, and hit .342 for St. Louis in 1994,
but never did much else.  Retired at age 32, and his most comparable player (as listed on Baseball-Reference.com) is Joe
Randa.  'Nuff said.  

ALEX FERNANDEZ: Went 107-87 over ten years in the majors, and only pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title in seven of
them.  Broke into the majors at age 20, but was washed up by 30.   

WILLIE MCGEE: Won a couple of batting titles, but didn't do much else.  His MVP Award in 1985 probably should have gone to
Pedro Guererro or Dale Murphy, maybe Dwight Gooden.  For a "table-setter" type of player, he only scored 100 runs once.   

HAL MORRIS: Hit for average (.304 career BA) but not power, and didn't walk much.  Lack of health (and talent) limited him to
about 4000 at-bats over 13 seasons, or just over 300 per year.  

OZZIE GUILLEN: An impatient slap hitter whose speed left him after age 26 or 27.  His defense and ability to make contact
kept him in the majors until age 36.  Winning a few more World Series titles as the skipper of the good ship Pale Hose might
get him into Cooperstown as a manager, but his career OPS, less than 70% of the league average, will keep him out as a
player.  

WALT WEISS: Won a Rookie of the Year Award in 1988 from a
really weak field and helped the Bash Brothers' Athletics teams
to a World Series title in 1989, but that's about all he has going for him.  Learned a little patience in the thin air of Colorado
later in his career, but never hit for power or average, and defense only takes you so far.  

GARY DiSARCINA: See
Guillen, Ozzie.  Except for that part about managing.  And speed.  And playing until age 36.