by Julian Spivey
I’m obviously not a part of the BBWA (Baseball Writers Association of America) that has the opportunity to fill out a ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But, every year I like to fill out a mock ballot of which players I would vote for if I did have a real ballot. I don’t understand how there are members of the BBWA who aren’t filling out 10 spots on their ballot recently. There are so many worthy players on the ballot now that I had to leave some players that I think are worthy of the hall of my ballot. And, I’ll come right out and say if you’re looking for players like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens on my ballot I will never include players we know to have used performance enhancing drugs on my ballot.
Chipper Jones is without a doubt one of the 10 greatest third baseman to ever play the game. He might even be one of the five best to ever play the game. He should be a no-brainer for first ballot selection. The only thing that could keep him out is seemingly some writers leaving him off their ballots because they don’t like him as a person – and honestly writers admitting to such should lose their ballots. Jones finished his all-star career with a .303 batting average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI. He won the 1999 National League MVP, the 2008 National League batting title and was a member of the 1995 World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
Jim Thome is one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history and should also be a no-brainer first ballot hall of famer, but it doesn’t feel as if many believe him to be a no-brainer. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if he isn’t simply because he played in the steroid era and we’ve seen that affect players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell before. Yes, Thome hit 612 home runs, eighth most in baseball history, but he’s never really been one of the suspicious names you hear about. I say if there isn’t reasonable evidence that he used PEDs it’s not right to punish him.
Vladimir Guerrero is one of the purest hitters I’ve ever seen play the game of baseball. There’s also never seemingly been any PED suspicion surrounding him. I don’t understand how he wasn’t a first ballot hall of famer last year and hopefully the BBWA rights its wrong this year and inducts him. The 2004 American League MVP was a nine-time All Star that finished his career with an incredibly .318 average (again, how was he not a first ballot guy?) with 449 homers and 1,496 RBI.
I’ve contended for years that Fred McGriff is the most screwed player from baseball’s steroid era. McGriff didn’t use PEDs, which makes his terrific offensive numbers not as impressive as the astronomical numbers of those who did. And, while the BBWA punished players (rightfully so) who did use PEDs they fail to consider that numbers like the ones McGriff compiled over his career (493 homers, 1,550 RBI, .284 average) would’ve gotten him into the hall of fame had he played in any other era. It’s clear McGriff is going to fall off the ballot and that’s a travesty. But, I have high homes that the veterans committee will one day elect him to Cooperstown.
The BBWA continues to show that they don’t believe designated hitters belong in the hall of fame and that’s wrong. I’m not a fan of the DH. I wish baseball had never allowed it and wish they would abolish it, but I’m not going to let my feelings toward the DH keep one of the best pure hitters of his era out of the hall of fame. I do believe Martinez is a borderline hall of famer, but he’ll appear on my ballot nonetheless. A .312 career average with two batting titles, 1,200-plus RBI and more than 2,000 career hits is enough for me. If Martinez ever makes the hall he’ll have to wait for a veteran’s committee.
Mike Mussina never won a Cy Young Award, given to a league’s best pitcher, and I believe it’s the one thing that’s keeping him out of the hall of fame thus far. I don’t believe that’s right. There’s only so many Cy Young and MVP awards to go around and Mussina pitched in the same league as Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez for his career. Mussina’s 270-153 career record and 3.68 ERA are good enough for me, not to forget he’s one of the best defensive players ever at his position with seven Gold Gloves.
The BBWA has always had something against closers. Trevor Hoffman retired with the most saves in baseball history and the primary job of a closer is to nail down saves. Arguably Mariano Rivera, who will obviously be a first ballot hall of famer when he’s eligible, was the only better player at the closer position in the history of baseball than Hoffman. Let him in.
Jeff Kent has more home runs than any second baseman in the history of Major League Baseball. He hit 377 in his career. Kent also had a very good .290 career batting average and almost 2,500 career hits. He also won the 2000 National League MVP and was a five-time all-star. For the second base position these seem like obvious hall of fame numbers. Yet, he’s never come close to being inducted in many years on the ballot. Why? The era he played in. People just don’t trust that he did it clean, especially because his career seemed to get off to a slow start and he didn’t really become the slugger he did until he teamed with notorious PED user Barry Bonds in San Francisco. But, I’m a fan of innocent until proven guilty and there just isn’t enough for me to keep Kent out of Cooperstown.
Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel
Here’s where my most controversial decisions come in. I’m not 100 percent sure that I believe Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel are hall of famers. They are two players that may fall more into the “very good” instead of “legendary” category. But, I don’t believe either should fall off the hall of fame ballot in their first year of eligibility, and I believe there’s a chance either one of them or both will. That’s why I would use a spot for them over say Curt Schilling who won’t fall off the ballot. Jones and Vizquel have some offensive numbers that say “yeah, put him in the hall,” but mostly they should be considered for the hall of fame because they are two of the greatest defensive players to ever play the game. Jones won 10 gold gloves in center field and is one of only six outfielders to win 10 or more Gold Gloves (the other five are either in the hall or will be). Vizquel won 11 gold gloves, which is second to only Ozzie Smith all-time among shortstops. Smith made the hall of fame essentially only on defense – so why not Vizquel?