B/R MLB Experts Fill Out 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballots

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterJanuary 2, 2014

B/R MLB Experts Fill Out 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballots

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    B/R's MLB lead writers agree: Greg Maddux is a no-brainer selection for the 2014 Hall of Fame class.
    B/R's MLB lead writers agree: Greg Maddux is a no-brainer selection for the 2014 Hall of Fame class.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Though one is obliged to acknowledge that they're all big ones, the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot really feels like the big one. Big names. Big numbers. Big accomplishments. You name it, this year's ballot has it.

    Such is life when those linked to or suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs are repeatedly denied entry. And because nobody was elected to Cooperstown in 2013, what was already a stacked ballot became even more stacked this year with new additions like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

    It's the job of the several hundred members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who have votes to pick out those deserving of entry into the Hall of Fame. But because a few more opinions can't hurt, B/R's MLB lead writers are here to chime in before the selections are announced on Wednesday, Jan. 8. (The actual enshrinement goes down on July 27.)

    Jason CataniaJoe Giglio, Jason MartinezZachary D. Rymer and Adam Wells don't have Hall of Fame votes, but each has filled out a theoretical ballot (maximum of 10 selections) and explained his choices accordingly. Read on to hear their two cents on who deserves to get into Cooperstown in 2014.

     

    Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked. 

Jason Catania's Ballot

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    Vincent Laforet/Getty Images

    Greg Maddux (1st year on ballot)

    Barry Bonds (2nd year on ballot, 36.2% in 2013)

    Roger Clemens (2nd year on ballot, 37.6% in 2013)

    Sammy Sosa (2nd year on ballot, 12.5% in 2013)

    Mark McGwire (8th year on ballot, 16.9% in 2013)

    Jeff Bagwell (4th year on ballot, 59.6% in 2013)

    Frank Thomas (1st year on ballot)

    Mike Piazza (2nd year on ballot, 57.8% in 2013)

    Tom Glavine (1st year on ballot)

    Craig Biggio (2nd year on ballot, 68.2% in 2013)

     

    I prefer to think of the Hall of Fame as a way to tell the story of Major League Baseball and its history. The point, then, is to include players who should be mentioned while weaving the tale. Otherwise, it would be like trying to read The Great Gatsby without a mention of Nick or Daisy, or like watching The Godfather sans scenes with Michael or Sonny. Not everything those characters did was just and good and moral, but they’re all essential to those works.

    Does it bother me that some of the players on my ballot have been linked—directly or indirectly—to steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs? Not really, because who am I to say which players did what and when, or, for that matter, how much any such substances might have impacted their performances? If you want to put a little note or asterisk on their plaques, so be it. I’m not a gatekeeper, but merely a storyteller who wants to make sure all the relevant characters are involved in the plot.

    All that said, this was an extremely challenging endeavor, mainly because I would have expanded beyond the maximum 10 candidates if allowed. I realize, of course, that I could have made room by omitting a few of those tied to PEDs, but a Hall without Bonds and Clemens—arguably the best hitter and pitcher ever—or even Sosa and McGwire, just seems silly at best and negligent at worst. At least to me.

    Setting aside those four, the easiest choices were Maddux (who should be unanimous), Bagwell (who should be in already), Thomas (one of the most underrated all-around great hitters) and Piazza (perhaps the best-ever with the bat at his position).

    The final two spots, which went to Glavine and Biggio, were the toughest, as I don’t see much disparity between Glavine and fellow candidates like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, or between Biggio and Alan Trammell and Jeff Kent, who also are on the ballot. (If allowed to vote for more than 10, I would have included Mussina, Schilling, Trammell and Kent, as well as Tim Raines, Rafael Palmeiro and possibly Larry Walker and Edgar Martinez.)

    Although the competition gets tight at the back end, the 10 names listed above are the best 10 on the ballot, in my opinion. That is to say, they are the 10 most significant characters from this year’s batch that need to be cast in the tale of baseball history. Without them, the story and script are simply unfinished.

Joe Giglio's Ballot

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Barry Bonds (2nd, 36.2)

    Roger Clemens (2nd, 37.6)

    Greg Maddux (1st)

    Mike Mussina (1st)

    Tom Glavine (1st)

    Curt Schilling (2nd, 38.8)

    Jeff Bagwell (4th, 59.6)

    Frank Thomas (1st)

    Mike Piazza (2nd, 57.8)

    Craig Biggio (2nd, 68.2)

     

    The 2014 Hall of Fame ballot isn't just crowded; it profiles as a collection of some of the greatest players in baseball history. Due to the restraints of the current voting standards, a maximum of 10 names are allowed on any ballot. Yet, a compelling case can be made that any reasonable voter should place a minimum of 10 names on this particular ballot.

    Before arriving at B/R, I put together a yearly mock ballot on a personal blog. As one would imagine, those votes didn't count. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit to removing one player, Tim Raines, from past ballots. He's a Hall of Famer, but 11th on a list of 10 in 2014. Joining Raines as players that deserve long consideration on a less crowded ballot: Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker and Jeff Kent.

    Of the names on this ballot, three of the most prolific stars in history are present. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux are three of just 31 players to ever amass 100-plus rWAR (Baseball-Reference.com WAR) during their respective storied careers. If Maddux doesn't receive 100 percent of the vote, it's a travesty. Obviously, Bonds and Clemens are still on the ballot due to the cloud of performance-enhancing drugs hanging over their careers, but feelings on PEDs shouldn't change their standing as all-time greats.

    The remaining seven names on this list (Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio) are not quite the slam-dunk decisions of the top three, but are very deserving nevertheless.

    Despite the gaudy 300-win total for Glavine, a case can be made that Mussina (better rWAR) and Schilling (superior ERA+) were more prolific pitchers. Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher ever. Biggio owns the 12th-best rWAR in the history of second basemen. Thomas and Bagwell, respectively, were two of the best offensive first basemen ever, including a 1994 season that featured dueling MVP campaigns and a combined WAR of 14.5 in a strike-shortened season.

    In particular, Bagwell's candidacy is the most compelling on this ballot. Logically, he shouldn't be listed at all. Not because he's undeserving, but rather because the prolific former Houston Astros star should have already been enshrined in Cooperstown. Entering his fourth year on the ballot, Bagwell hasn't yet cracked the 60-percent voting mark by the BBWAA. Despite a career WAR of 79.5, five-tool ability as a first baseman and a 1994 MVP award, Bagwell hasn't been considered a no-brainer in the collective thoughts of voters.

    Unfortunately for Bagwell and baseball fans interested in the best players finding their way to Cooperstown, a ridiculous and unsubstantiated rumor of steroid abuse has stained Bagwell's more-than-stellar body of work. In the midst of an explanation column in the Boston Globe, respected HOF voter Dan Shaughnessy wrote this about his view on PED users:

    I don’t vote for the PED guys, so it’s easy to say no to Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, and Palmeiro. They have positive tests and/or admissions and/or multiple appearances in the Mitchell Report. Piazza and Bagwell have none of that. They just don’t look right.

    Outside of rumors without any real substance, a legitimate case can't be made against Bagwell's enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Bill James, in his 2001 edition of the New Historical Baseball Abstract, listed Bagwell as one of the four best first basemen of all time. Until someone, without using baseless and nonsensical accusations, can dispute that, Bagwell belongs in Cooperstown.

    A trip to Cooperstown in July should double as a trip down memory lane for a dynamic era of individual talent across the sport. It's up to the BBWAA to make sure that happens.

Jason Martinez's Ballot

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    Tom Hauck/Getty Images

    Jeff Bagwell (4th, 59.6)

    Craig Biggio (2nd, 68.2)

    Barry Bonds (2nd, 36.2)

    Roger Clemens (2nd, 37.6)

    Tom Glavine (1st)

    Jeff Kent (1st)

    Greg Maddux (1st)

    Edgar Martinez (5th, 35.9)

    Mike Piazza (2nd, 57.8)

    Frank Thomas (1st)

     

    To me, a Hall of Famer has to have been one of the best players in the game for at least a five-to-seven-year span. It would also help greatly if he were at least “very good” for much longer.

    For Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, his period of greatness was relatively short—he won three Cy Young Awards and an NL MVP over a four-year span—but he was so dominant that it didn’t matter that he wasn’t as good early in his career and retired after his age-30 season.

    Another Hall of Famer, Warren Spahn, won just one Cy Young Award and never had a K/9 over 6 during his career. Still, he won 350 games over an 18-year span when he was consistently one of the better pitchers in baseball.

    All 10 players on my ballot exhibited greatness over at least a 14-year span. In addition, all were elite superstars for a long period of time.

    Two of them, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, are an admitted and alleged steroid user, respectively, although we can only speculate as to when they started (if Clemens actually did) and how long it lasted. Bonds says he unknowingly took steroids, while Clemens has denied allegations since being included in the Mitchell Report, which was released in December 2007.

    But even if we took Bonds’ ages 22-30 seasons and just assumed that he retired and never played another game, he’d be an easy choice, in my opinion, because of his three MVP awards and an average of 31 homers and 34 stolen bases over that span.

    And even if we erased Clemens’ last nine seasons, in which he won 121 games and won two Cy Young Awards, he’s still one of the best pitchers of all time with 233 wins, a 2.95 ERA, five Cy Young Awards and an MVP award over a 15-year period.

    As for the others, it’s an easy call for me. Jeff Bagwell had a .951 OPS with an average of 32 HR, 35 2B and 108 RBI over a 14-year period. His longtime teammate, Craig Biggio, had an .815 OPS with an average of 16 homers, 37 2B and 22 SB over a 16-year span. He was an All-Star catcher in the first year of that period and a multiple Gold Glove winner after moving to second base.

    Greg Maddux was nearly unhittable during his four consecutive Cy Young Award seasons and one of the best pitchers in the game for nearly 20 seasons. If Maddux was Koufax-like with his period of dominance, Glavine earns the Spahn comparison for being very good for a long period. He had a 3.43 ERA over a 19-year period and surpassed the 300-win plateau.

    Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas, two of the premier right-handed sluggers of all time, averaged 30 homers per season over a 14- and 17-year span, respectively. 

    While Edgar Martinez will always be a question mark as a full-time designated hitter, he hit over .300 in 10 full seasons and had a .957 OPS over a 14-year span. Jeff Kent, on the other hand, would be a bigger question mark had he been a first baseman or corner outfielder. But an .866 OPS with an average of 24 homers, 34 doubles and 94 runs batted in over a 15-year period puts him in the class of the greatest second basemen ever.

Zachary D. Rymer's Ballot

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    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Barry Bonds (2nd, 36.2)

    Roger Clemens (2nd, 37.6)

    Greg Maddux (1st)

    Frank Thomas (1st)

    Jeff Bagwell (4th, 59.6)

    Mike Piazza (2nd, 57.8)

    Tim Raines (7th, 52.2)

    Craig Biggio (2nd, 68.2)

    Tom Glavine (1st)

    Mike Mussina (1st)

     

    We know for a fact that Barry Bonds used steroids. Knowingly? Unknowingly? Whatever. They entered his body, and the numbers he put up at the end of his career suggest pretty strongly that they helped.

    That's not a deal breaker for me, though. Bonds could have retired in 1998 with over 400 homers, over 400 stolen bases and a 164 OPS+. He didn't need the juice to be a Cooperstown-level player. Even before the muscles came, he had established himself as one of the most talented players in MLB history.

    As for Roger Clemens, we indeed don't know for a fact that he juiced. You therefore have to be a conspiracy theorist to want him kept out of Cooperstown, as it's definitely not a matter of his numbers. According to Baseball-Reference.com WAR, "Rocket" is the second-best pitcher ever. Based on FanGraphs WAR, he's the best. Until something concrete on Clemens emerges, he belongs just as much, if not more, as Bonds does.

    The next three on my ballot thankfully require less justification. Greg Maddux is, at worst, a top-10 pitcher statistically, and maybe the greatest true pitcher baseball has ever known. Frank Thomas' 156 OPS+ ties him for seventh best among members of the 500 Home Run Club. In the eyes of both fWAR and rWAR, Jeff Bagwell is a top-10 all-time first baseman. 

    Regarding Mike Piazza and Tim Raines, some might hold the former's admission that he briefly used androstenedione against him. But he did so at a time when it was allowed in baseball and legal outside of baseball. Look past that, and you see that Piazza has easily the best OPS+ of any catcher in history (as well as more homers). Raines, meanwhile, is one of only three players in history with a career OBP of .385, 2,600 hits and 800 stolen bases. The others are Rickey Henderson and Ty Cobb.

    On a related note, only Craig Biggio and Henderson own at least 250 homers and 400 stolen bases among members of the 3,000 Hit Club. And while I'm lukewarm on Tom Glavine, he does own more innings pitched than all but six other lefties and has a better ERA+ (118) than Steve Carlton (115). Glavine may have been a compiler, but he was a darn good one.

    At the end, I found myself weighing Mike Mussina against Curt Schilling for the final spot on my ballot. The latter is a deserving candidate with a 127 career ERA+ and an all-time great 4.38 career K/BB ratio, not to mention a lifetime 2.23 postseason ERA. But Mussina was no slouch with a 123 ERA+ and 3.58 K/BB of his own, and he pitched roughly 300 more innings than Schilling. Thus, the nod in Moose's favor.

    Of the 10 guys on my ballot, I figure only Maddux is a lock to make it in this year. Here's hoping it doesn't come to that, however. The last thing a 2015 ballot set to include Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield needs is more holdovers.

Adam Wells' Ballot

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Barry Bonds (2nd, 36.2)

    Roger Clemens (2nd, 37.6)

    Tim Raines (7th, 52.2)

    Jeff Bagwell (4th, 59.6)

    Craig Biggio (2nd, 68.2)

    Mike Piazza (2nd, 57.8)

    Frank Thomas (1st)

    Edgar Martinez (5th, 35.9)

    Mike Mussina (1st)

    Greg Maddux (1st)

     

    It will never happen for reasons we are all aware of, but the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot warrants very serious consideration for at least 12 players (Tom Glavine and Larry Walker being the two I left off who required serious debate). The locks for this class, to me, are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Frank Thomas.

    Bonds is, in my opinion, the greatest player in the history of the sport. A Hall of Fame without him is a joke. Clemens and Maddux are the two greatest pitchers, based on length of dominance, from the last generation. Clemens led the league in ERA+ eight times, ERA seven times, strikeouts five times and has more hardware than any pitcher in baseball history.

    The average ERA in 1995 was 4.45; Maddux's season total was 1.63. Next time you think about Clayton Kershaw's 2013 season being impressive, keep in mind he did it when the average ERA was 3.87. 

    Thomas and Bagwell seem like they should go into the Hall together. They were two of the best hitters from the last era, ranking 19th and 36th in career OPS+, respectively. This is Bagwell's fourth appearance on the ballot, with no reasonable explanation given for why he hasn't made it thus far. 

    Biggio has the mythical 3,000 hits that older voters look for, but keep in mind that this is a player whose career OPS+ of 112 is tied with Cal Ripken. It's not like he was just a guy who compiled numbers to ensure a trip to Cooperstown. 

    Tim Raines' only crime was playing in an era when Rickey Henderson was the best leadoff hitter in baseball. He belongs in the Hall of Fame, though some will knock him for the latter part of his career when playing more than 100 games was a struggle. 

    Mike Piazza and Edgar Martinez don't offer much in the way of defense, but their offensive contributions can't be overstated. Piazza had at least 32 home runs nine times in a 10-year span, including every year from 1995-2002. His lowest on-base percentage during that time was .359 and he never slugged less than .544. 

    Martinez's credentials don't get nearly the credit they deserve. He had seven consecutive seasons with a .300/.400/.500 slash line. By comparison, David Ortiz, generally acknowledged as the greatest DH in history, has just two such seasons with that slash line. 

    The longtime Seattle DH has a career OPS+ of 147, four points higher than Alex Rodriguez's career mark. No one knows what to do with a player who didn't add value on defense, but Martinez is a special hitter whose career peak lasted longer than some might realize. 

    I imagine that Mike Mussina over Tom Glavine will generate some hate because Glavine has two Cy Young Awards and more than 300 wins. If you are still judging pitchers by wins, go away. There is no argument that Glavine having 35 more wins than Mussina made him a better pitcher. 

    As for the hardware, I would argue that the second of Glavine's Cy Young Awards in 1998 was more a product of winning 20 games than anything else. Kevin Brown was the best pitcher in the NL that year, but "only" had 18 wins. 

    Going by FanGraphs' Career Wins Above Replacement, Mussina (82.5) dwarfed Glavine (64.3). Mussina had a lower Fielding Independent ERA (3.57 to 3.95), meaning he was better at the things he had direct control over, excluding the defense behind him. 

    Keep in mind, Mussina also spent his entire career in the American League East, a better run-scoring environment, while Glavine pitched in the National League East. Factoring all that in, this race wasn't really close. But Glavine will get in because of the 300 wins, while Mussina will have to wait for a less crowded ballot before he gets the call. 

    As you can see, the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot is an embarrassment of riches. I could keep going on arguing cases for a number of players I didn't even have room to include. Given all this talent, we can rest assured there will be a ceremony to honor at least one player in Cooperstown this year after the debacle that was 2013.