2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot
Geoff Young - Ducksnorts
Who Got My Vote
The knock against Blyleven is that he didn't win 300 games. However, he is in the top 10 all-time in strikeouts, games started,
and shutouts. Of the 10 most similar pitchers, according to baseball-reference.com, all but Tommy John and Jim Kaat are in
the Hall of Fame (and in my book, both of them should be).
Blyleven never was the best pitcher in his league; however, he performed at a consistently high level over the better part of a
20-year period. Blyleven cracked the 15 win mark 10 times in his career and fanned more than 200 batters in eight different
seasons. He was as effective in 1989 as he was in 1974.
The pitcher most similar to Blyleven, Don Sutton, is in the Hall of Fame. Sutton won a few more games but had a worse ERA+
(ERA compared to league average). He also spent much of his career in a favorable pitchers' environment and played for
winning teams. Had Blyleven enjoyed these same advantages, he already would be in the Hall of Fame.
The difference between Blyleven and Sutton is best exemplified by looking at their career years. In 1973, Blyleven posted a
2.52 ERA over 325 innings. His won-loss record was a meager 20-17. A year earlier, Sutton finished with a 2.08 ERA over 272
2/3 innings. His record was 19-9.
I make the comparison between these two pitchers not to belittle the efforts of Sutton but to demonstrate that if he belongs in
the Hall of Fame, then so does Blyleven. From where I sit, nearly 5000 innings of 118 ERA+ and a shade under 300 victories
are more than enough for entry into Cooperstown.
Gossage had eight brilliant seasons between 1975 and 1985 (the exceptions coming in 1976, when he was used as a
starter, and in 1984, when he was merely very good). These were followed by many more effective but not spectacular
seasons. I look at Gossage's career, and I'm not sure I see a Hall of Famer.
But then I look at the career of Rollie Fingers, who baseball-reference.com lists as his most similar player and who is in the
Hall of Fame, and I wonder if I can justify not voting for Gossage. Although Fingers notched a few more saves, Gossage
worked more games and innings, had a higher strikeout rate, and finished his career with a better ERA+. I'm not overly
enthusiastic about the choice, but if Fingers is in, I think Gossage has to be there as well.
John is similar in many respects to Bert Blyleven. The latter was more dominant, and mostly worked under less favorable
pitching conditions. But John, like Blyleven, was remarkably consistent for a very long time.
From a purely statistical standpoint, John is not as worthy a Hall of Fame candidate as Blyleven. However, there is an X factor
that pushes me to vote for John. When he blew out his elbow in 1974, it generally was assumed that his pitching career was
over. But instead, John underwent what then was experimental surgery, recovered, and spent 13 more years in the big
John won 20 games in a season just three times, but it's worth noting that all three came after his "career ending" elbow
injury. There are legitimate claims against John's candidacy, namely the lack of more than one or two brilliant seasons and
the unbelievably low strikeout rates (his single-season high in strikeouts was 138). But I'm willing to cut John considerable
slack for bouncing back from a devastating injury and helping, along with Dr. Frank Jobe, of course, pave the road to healthy
elbows for future generations of pitchers.
Smith's numbers are better than I'd remembered. They're not great, but they're pretty solid. Although he had only a few truly
dominant seasons (1983, 1990, maybe 1991), Smith deserves at least some credit for being the all-time leader in saves. He
also gets high marks for consistency, saving 25+ games in 13 straight seasons
If there is room for Rich Gossage in Cooperstown, then there has to be a spot for Smith as well. You could tell me that neither
belongs there, and I wouldn't put up a vigorous fight. But then I'd point to Rollie Fingers and throw up my hands.
Trammell had the misfortune of playing alongside Robin Yount and Cal Ripken, and then being followed by the likes of Alex
Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra, who redefined the shortstop position. When examining Trammell's career in
that light, it's easy to overlook just how good he was.
Maybe a better barometer is the career of Ozzie Smith, another contemporary. Trammell was a much better hitter (his career
OPS+ of 110 is almost identical to Smith's career best of 111 attained in 1991), although he didn't steal as many bases. In the
field, Trammell wasn't as flashy but he was a very solid defender. Smith has the advantage in range factor, but their career
fielding percentages are basically the same.
Smith beats Trammell in name recognition. But if you look at the numbers, Trammell is at least as deserving a candidate for
enshrinement as Smith and so gets my vote.
Who Didn't Get My Vote
Rick Aguilera, Doug Jones
Aguilera racked up 318 big-league saves, but didn't have more than two, maybe three seasons that could be considered
dominant. His most similar pitcher according to baseball-reference.com is Doug Jones, who also is up for Hall of Fame
consideration. Jones didn't register quite as many saves but had a better ERA and ERA+. Both of these guys were solid
relievers but neither belongs in Cooperstown.
This one was tough. At his peak, Belle was as dangerous a hitter as there was in baseball. Belle played 10 full seasons and
hit more than 20 home runs in each of them. Eight times he exceeded the 30 homer mark. Belle topped 100 RBI in each of his
final nine seasons. The only player on his list of comparables in the Hall of Fame is Hank Greenberg, although a strong case
could be made for Dick Allen. Also, many of the players most similar to Belle still are active and some may well end up in
The main argument against Belle's candidacy is his lack of longevity. Forced into retirement by injury at age 33, Belle
amassed fewer than 6000 at-bats in his career. If he had played even three more years, Belle would be an absolute lock for
the Hall of Fame. As it is, although he probably is the most compelling candidate among outfielders on this year's ballot, I
cannot quite bring myself to vote for him.
Clark's age 23 through 25 seasons are Hall of Fame worthy. Unfortunately, he would have needed to sustain those levels for
another 10 years to merit serious consideration. As it stands, like his contemporary, Don Mattingly, Clark was merely a very
good player whose career was cut short by injuries.
This is where Ozzie Smith's inclusion in the Hall of Fame starts to cause problems. Concepcion was Smith without the back
flips. I realize I voted for Rich Gossage partly on the basis of his favorable comparison to Rollie Fingers, but I just can't bring
myself to give Concepcion the nod. Maybe I'm being inconsistent; I guess I'll have to live with that.
I know Dawson has more than 2700 career hits. I know he has more than 400 home runs. I know that when he was healthy,
he was one of the best I've ever seen.
That said, I cannot bring myself to support a guy who spent most of his career on a corner outfield spot and posted a.323 on-
base percentage. Of the 10 most similar players according to baseball-reference.com, five are in the Hall of Fame. On the one
hand, Dawson arguably is as deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame as is Tony Perez. On the other, a pretty strong case could
be made for Dwight Evans ahead of Dawson, and Evans isn't in there either.
In his 1987 MVP season, Dawson didn't break a 900 OPS despite hitting 49 home runs. This, too, in a year in which the league
OPS was 770. Dawson's OPS+ in 1987 was an unremarkable 129. To put that into perspective, consider that Chad Tracy's
OPS+ in 2005 was 131 — hardly a season for the ages. I like the way Dawson played the game, and I enjoyed watching him,
but I cannot in good conscience call him a Hall of Fame player.
Gary DiSarcina, Alex Fernández, Gary Gaetti, Ozzie Guillen, Gregg Jefferies, Willie McGee, Hal Morris, Walt Weiss
Like Pete Rose and me, these guys can pay to get into the Hall of Fame.
Garvey never once in his career slugged .500 in a single season. Among the 10 most similar players to Garvey, only Orlando
Cepeda is in the Hall of Fame. Will Clark's case for enshrinement isn't real strong, but it's better than Garvey's.
Gooden was such a dominant force when he burst onto the scene in 1984 that it's hard to believe that he's not a serious
candidate for the Hall of Fame. On the field, everything you think now about Roger Clemens applied equally to Gooden.
Unfortunately, an extremely heavy workload at a young age, along with substance abuse problems, reduced Gooden to a
league average pitcher by age 23. He didn't win 200 games, and he barely struck out 2000 batters. I don't know that I've seen
many better than Gooden at his peak, but there is no way he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Hershiser probably has a better claim to Hall of Fame admission than does Gooden; however, when you consider the extreme
pitchers' park in which he played the majority of his career, he only had three seasons that truly stand out among the rest.
Hershiser was a fine pitcher who had some great moments but he is not a Hall of Famer.
Mattingly is a slightly inferior version of Will Clark who had the good fortune to play his entire career in New York and was
extremely visible in the eyes of the East Coast media. If he'd spent most of his career in places like Toronto and Seattle, you
would call him Jon Olerud and not give his Hall of Fame candidacy a second thought.
Morris won a lot of games (254) and is remembered for a few classic post-season moments but he wasn't a dominant pitcher
in any sense of the word. His best ERA+ was 133, and that came in his first full season. (As a point of reference, Tim Hudson
has a career ERA+ of 136.)
Morris is basically Dennis Martinez without so many peaks and valleys. He's the Brad Radke of his era — a fine pitcher but not
someone you put in the Hall of Fame.
Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Jim Rice
It probably isn't fair to lump these three together, but I do so to make a point. All three were very, very good players in their day,
but all were flawed. Murphy had a terrific stretch from 1982 to 1987, but never was really productive after age 31. Parker
maintained a high level longer than Murphy, and if it weren't for injuries and substance abuse issues, he'd probably be a
worthy candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Rice falls somewhere between the other two. He had three great seasons in the late 70s, followed by several more very good
ones. Like Murphy, if Rice had been able to maintain any kind of production for even a few more years, he'd have gotten my
vote. But this is not the "Hall of the Very, Very Good," and all three fall short of the requirements for enshrinement in
Cooperstown in my book.
Sutter had higher peaks than just about any other reliever on this year's ballot. His 1977 season is one for the ages, and his
1979 and 1984 were pretty special as well. Yes, the closer role has changed since his day; yes, he helped pioneer the split-
fingered fastball. But at the end of the day, he's basically a slightly better version of Lee Smith without Smith's consistency and
longevity — a very good pitcher, but not a Hall of Famer.
Wetteland is a better version of Bruce Sutter whose career ended at age 33 due to injuries. His 1993 in Montreal was about as
good as you'll ever see, and his 1997 and 1998 with the Rangers were also outstanding. I'd forgotten just how good Wetteland
was when healthy. He's sort of the Albert Belle of closers.