The second half of my hypothetical Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is where most of the debate will come, I suspect – especially since I left off a guy that got over 50 percent of the votes in 2014. My final five are:
Craig Biggio – He fell just a couple of votes short last season, but certainly deserves to be in. The 3,060 hits he compiled alone are grounds for automatic selection to the HOF. With the exception of speed numbers (stolen bases and triples), Biggio’s numbers are equal to or better than Joe Morgan, who’s already in the Hall of Fame. He had 500 more hits, 200 more doubles, more homers, and more RBI than Morgan. He also batted ten points higher. Morgan has him in OBP, but the previous comparisons alone tell you Biggio belongs in the HOF.
Mike Piazza – Here’s another guy who had PED whispers – yet he seems to get more consideration than Bonds and Clemens. There is no arguing the fact the Piazza is the best hitting catcher in the history of the game. The 1993 NL Rookie of the Year, Piazza was a 12-time All-Star who had 427 career homers and batter .308. The only current HOF catcher with more hits than Piazza is Carlton Fisk – whose career lasted eight years longer.
Tim Raines – Outside of Rickey Henderson, he’s the best leadoff hitter I ever saw play. I think he was as good or better than Lou Brock, who is also in the Hall of Fame. Raines had 808 career steals, which is fifth all-time (the top four are all in the HOF). He hit a solid .294 in his career and won the NL batting title in 1986. He was a seven-time All-Star and stole 40 or more bases 11 times. I wonder if all the moving around in the latter part of his career (five teams in his final six seasons) is what has hurt his candidacy.
Curt Schilling – Look up “winner” in the dictionary and you’ll likely find Schilling’s picture there. He had 216 career wins, 3,116 strikeouts (15th all-time), and a strike out to walk ratio that is second best all-time. He was a six-time All-Star. He never won a Cy Young, but finished second three times. He won twenty games three times – amazingly, all of those were in the final six years of his career. All that aside, he may be the best “big game” pitcher ever. He was 11-2 in post-season play, including a 4-1 mark in the World Series, with a 2.23 ERA and a WHIP of 0.96. Whether you believe the tale of “The Bloody Sock Game” or not, his playoff numbers don’t lie.
Alan Trammell – I put him on my ballot ahead of a couple of others for one reason – he belongs to be in the HOF and his time on the ballot is running out. Trammell was a GREAT shortstop. If you compare his numbers with Barry Larkin (a first-ballot HOFer) you’ll see Trammell compares more than favorably. Larkin hit a few points higher and stole more bases, but the averages of the two men over 162 games are very close. Frankly, I also think Trammell was a better fielder, though he won four Gold Gloves to Larkin’s three – very close. I just feel like one of the better shortstops in modern times is being shuffled aside because of some gaudy offensive numbers by other players.
There you have it. Yes, I left off Jeff Bagwell, another player with PED whispers that will eventually get in – but if the writers are going to vote people like him and Piazza in, how can they draw a line and say they’re “clean,” but Clemens and Bonds are less clean. Without definitive proof the members of the BBWAA have are appointing themselves judge, jury, and executioner.
Mike Mussina (a guy I think will get in eventually), and Edgar Martinez (another guy that probably deserves it) also warranted strong consideration. I think some worthy players are going to be left out unless the BBWAA increases the number of players that can be included on the ballot from the current ten to, say, twelve. I think that is even more important now that the Hall of Fame has reduced the number of years a player can be on the ballot from fifteen to ten.
I think Pedro and Randy Johnson are automatic selections for this year, and I think Biggio will also get in. I think Smoltz should, but the BBWAA hasn’t elected four players in one class in the last fifty years. In fact, they’ve only done it three times in 75 years. Smoltz and the rest of us will just have to wait and see what the decision is on January 6.