Each year, the BBWAA votes on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot, and seems to please about no one. In recent years, the Internet Baseball Writers Association (IBWAA) of America has gained traction with their #swatthevote campaign, as they also hold their own Hall of Fame voting, often producing different results than that of the BBWAA.
The IBWAA was founded and managed by Howard Cole of FORBES. In addition to people like me that are voting members, some nationally known baseball writers and personalities, such as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and MLB Network's Brian Kenny, are also voting members. The IBWAA, I believe, has the perfect mix of veteran baseball minds and progressive thinkers that give their voting great credibility.
Below is the 2017 ballot, with first year players marked with an asterisk and my votes marked with an X:
- I have not voted for players substantively connected to PEDs in the past, and I will continue that this year. Look, I grew up in the Steroid Era, I understand those who think it is crazy that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens aren't in a museum celebrating baseball history. But regardless of what point in their careers they did it at, they cheated. I've spoken with enough disgruntled former and current players - and the former athlete in me also agrees - that I just can't justify voting for players who cheated.
- Also, while I don't think doctoring baseballs or taking "greenies" is even close to equivalent to the advantage gained by PEDs, I didn't vote on the Hall of Fame candidacies of any of those players. I vote on this era and am not concerned with any perceived hypocrisy of those who have voted on the Hall of Fame for decades now.
- As I wrote this past summer, if I was going to vote for those connected to PEDs, I would vote for all that I think are Hall of Fame worthy. I wouldn't just vote for Bonds and Clemens because PEDs took them from being Hall of Famers prior to juicing to among the 10 best players in the history of the sport. I wouldn't hold failed tests against players like Manny Ramirez, but allow Bonds and Clemens in because they didn't technically fail an MLB issued tests. I wouldn't reward those who took PEDs before they were technically banned, but then ban those who were accused of using PEDs after the league officially banned them. Those arguments are silly. First of all, a failed test from Bonds was seized from BALCO. Secondly, if you cheat, you cheat. It doesn't matter when you did it or if you did it for your entire career - you cheated.
- In a world where I was going to vote for players connected to PEDs, the following players are who I would vote for: Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez, Sammy Sosa and Gary Sheffield.
- Larry Walker won an MVP, three batting titles, seven Gold Glove Awards and was an All-Star seven times. Career slash of .313/.400./565. He has a higher WAR 7 and JAWS than average HOF RF. For the life of me, I can't understand why he hasn't been voted into HOF.
- Nine players in the history of baseball have 600 home runs. One of them is Jim Thome. Six of those players haven't been connected to PEDs, one of which is Thome. He's a no-doubt-about-it first ballot Hall of Famer.
- Speaking of no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers, I spent some of the early years of my life living in Atlanta, during the greatest run in Braves history. I have spent all of the rest in Pennsylvania, meaning that I've seen every key moment of Chipper Jones' career. There's a case for him being one of the five best third baseman in the history of the sport. He's certainly one of the five best switch-hitters of all-time.
- While we're talking about the Braves, Andruw Jones' career, as great as it was at points, is sort of a sad story. He was the greatest fielding center fielder that I've ever seen, having won 10 Gold Glove Awards. He made five All-Star games, and hit 50 home runs in a season. Unfortunately, he didn't stay in good shape, which caused a premature end to his career, and probably cost him a chance to be in the Hall of Fame. Though his advanced numbers are better than some Hall of Fame center fielders, his WAR and JAWS are both shy of the average Hall of Fame center fielder. I won't blame anyone for voting for Jones, he was definitely Hall of Fame caliber good at his peak, I just think he falls a bit short.
- I wrote an extended piece on why I believe Scott Rolen is a Hall of Famer. Here's the short case: he's got a better bWAR, WAR 7 and JAWS than the average Hall of Fame third baseman. He also is one of the five best fielding third baseman ever. He's not going to get in this year, but hopefully he remains on the ballot long enough for his case to gain traction.
- I understand the argument that saves are a flawed stat. But Trevor Hoffman is one of two players in history with over 600 saves. No one besides him and Mariano Rivera even has 500. I rarely used the longevity argument, but his advanced numbers are good enough that when you couple them with his tremendous longevity, I think he's worthy of induction.
- Think what you will about Curt Schilling's political and social views, they have nothing to do with baseball. Since it isn't an election year, he's been a little more low-key this year, which may help him. For whatever reason, his case based solely on his career has been overlooked by lazy voters. By a fair amount, he has a better bWAR than the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher and has a better JAWS as well. He's also one of the five best postseason pitchers ever. Not reaching the postseason much shouldn't be held against players like Hoffman, but if you did reach the game's biggest stage and had a ton of success there, you should be rewarded for it. Schilling's postseason success should be the cherry on top for what's been a Hall of Fame career. (Though I'm not sure he actually believes this, Schilling did say himself that he doesn't believe he's a Hall of Famer.)
- Mike Mussina, who was part of some pretty impressive postseason runs himself, has a similar case as Schilling, at least from a production standpoint. The average bWAR for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher is 73.9 - Mussina had a career bWAR of 83.0. Like Schilling, his WAR 7 falls a bit short of the average Hall of Fame pitcher, but he also tops the average Hall of Famer. Mussina has some voters that weren't fans of him personally, who have elected not to give his case a proper look. That's very wrong.
- I had the pleasure of interviewing Omar Vizquel when I was first trying to become a journalist. He's a tremendous person, and one of the greatest fielding shortstops of all-time. Unfortunately, I think his offensive numbers and advanced metrics fall short of being Hall of Fame worthy. His WAR, WAR 7 and JAWS all fall short of contemporaries Jimmy Rollins, Miguel Tejada and Nomar Garciaparra, none of whom I would to vote for.
- I joined John Stolnis on The Felske Files earlier this year, where we discussed players who had Hall of Fame potential careers derailed by injuries. One of the players that we discussed was Johan Santana. Had injuries not cost him the final few years of his career, he would have been a pretty sure bet to get into the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, he falls short, despite his dominant peak.