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My Unqualified Hall of Fame Ballot

A casual fan's take on baseball's elite.

Photo by Taylor Rooney on Unsplash

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not a baseball writer. I am not, and probably will never be a member of the BBWAA. At best, I am a casual baseball fan. That being said, I have become obsessed with the art of selecting baseball's Hall of Famers. The debates are endless. The ballot shaming is in full swing. There are so many factors and stats and points of principle to sift through that you could argue most anyone should at least get a vote. So, it got me thinking. Who would I tick off if I had a vote? After weeks of crunching the numbers (and opening up dozens of Baseball Reference tabs at a time), I have a ballot that I am confident to defend.

The Obvious Picks

These guys are getting in the Hall of Fame this year. Hands down. I can't fight it and they deserve it.

Mariano Rivera

Even the most hardcore Yankee hater can admit that Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer. He's the all-time saves leader. He defines the role of a closer. He was the best at what he did. Period. I don't think anyone should be bullied into making him a unanimous pick, but I don't have an argument against voting for him.

Edgar Martinez

He was really close the last time around and there is no sign that the momentum he has earned will crater. I don't say that to take away his credentials for Cooperstown. Martinez was the best designated hitter in the position’s infancy and cemented the DH’s legitimacy. And regardless of position, Edgar is a sabermetrician's fantasy. Plus, I think any player with a career .312/.418/.515 batting line should at least be in consideration for the Hall. The fact that it took this long to gain steam is reprehensible.

The Biased Picks

I decided that I will cop to all my biases early on in my ballot. I'm a proud Canadian, watching baseball in a hockey obsessed nation. Any Canadian that played baseball was my idol and anyone willing to play in the Great White North got my unflinching respect. And naturally, with the Expos out of the picture and living an hour outside of Toronto, I am a loyal Blue Jays fan. Now, all of that doesn't discount these players worth. Vernon Wells is one of my favourite all-time Blue Jays players, but I understand that he's not a Hall of Famer. But don't fight me on Roy Halladay! 

Photo by Christy Au-Yeung on Unsplash

Roy Halladay
He was the best pitcher of his time. Being able to watch him pitch at Rogers Centre was a near spiritual experience. Would a couple extra years of dominance help his case? Sure. But he dominated for years on non-competitive Jays teams, won a Cy Young Award in each league, led the league in complete games on multiple occasions and had a no-hitter..in the postseason! I could go on. I told you not to fight me! It will just be a shame to not have him with us to share the glory.

Larry Walker
As a young kid learning to play baseball, I looked up to Larry Walker so much for the way he played the game and the success he had. The Maple Ridge, BC native excelled at every aspect of the game and epitomized the five-tool player. It's a shame he gets the anti-Coors Field bias used against him. He succeeded in Montreal early in his career and St. Louis at its twilight. Maybe, oh I don't know, he's just a talented dude? His numbers are pretty similar to Edgar Martinez’s, his trophy shelf is fully stocked and he has a decent amount of black ink on his resume. Even if he wasn't a Canadian, I would probably still vote for him.

The Numbers Pick

These guys are what I call my numbers picks. No bias. No strategy. No drama. Just great all-around players who have the careers worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Mike Mussina

I was skeptical about picking Mussina at first, concerned that maybe he was just a number compiler or benefitting from Yankee bias. But considering that he played his entire career in the hardest division in baseball, what he accomplished is nothing short of amazing. With the 300 win club more or less tapped out, Mussina’s 270 is quite high in the next tier. And don’t forget his seven Gold Glove awards at the most overlooked defensive position in baseball. There are definitely better pitchers in the Hall, but 17 consistent seasons as an elite, top-of-the-rotation player has to be acknowledged.

Todd Helton

Another victim of anti-Coors bias, Helton’s WAR and JAWS numbers suggest that he is well in line with other Hall of Fame first basemen. For a stretch between 1998-2004, there were few better hitters, sporting an amazing 1.053 OPS. Throw in three Gold Gloves, five All Star Games and many MVP votes during that time and he seems like a no-brainer. Sure, he tapered off quite a bit after that. But I always had respect for the guy for being able to reinvent himself and remain a productive part of the Rockies lineup despite his power not being what it used to be. Sure he played better at home, but don't most ballplayers? We will never know what kind of player he would've been outside of Denver, but, based solely on the numbers, he deserves a spot.

Curt Schilling

Let me be clear, I hate Curt Schilling’s politics. And I'm pretty sure he will devote a least a bit of his Hall of Fame acceptance speech to some kind of bonkers political statement. Trust me, I tried to stay away. But you can't argue with this guys numbers! He's got an incredible amount of black ink and the three seasons with 300 K's alone has my vote. Throw in his stellar post-season performance and you can't deny that this guy was an consummate clutch workhorse.

The Pity Pick

Fred McGriff

We gotta throw the Crime Dog a bone! I'm starting to think that enough voters are giving Fred McGriff pity votes that he might actually make it. I get that he might be a borderline Hall of Famer, but it's a shame that he hasn't gotten more love from voters. There's something to be said for someone who can consistently produce over a long period of time and McGriff was generally locked in for 30 HR and 100 RBI a season for well over a decade. It's silly to think that being 7 home runs shy of the 500 club or playing for multiple teams over your career could cost you a spot in Cooperstown.

The Controversial Picks

Last but not least, we tackle the thorny issue of steroids. There is no rulebook for how to deal with this and I completely understand all viewpoints on the topic. People who want to keep the Hall clean are admirable, but probably too late. I have decided to treat these things on a case-by-case basis. Some borderline players on this year’s ballot got knocked off for me because of their associations to PEDs (Pettitte, Sheffield, Tejada). To me, context is key. Which performance enhancer was the player accused of taking? How long into his career did they start taking them? Did they ever fail a test? There's a lot of things to unpack there, but you can't ignore this era of baseball and the greatness it produced.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens

Their careers have one glaring similarity: a Hall of Fame calibre period without alleged steroid use. Bonds didn't start using until ‘98, when Sosa and McGwire began to eclipse him. His early career in Pittsburgh had him on track for Hall of Fame consideration anyway. It's also widely believed that Clemens didn't start with PEDs until his time in Toronto. By then, he had a decade long track record in Boston that had him well on his way to Cooperstown. Frankly, I think voters are mostly peeved that these guys still insult their intelligence by denying ever having using performance enhancing drugs. Tragically, these guys didn't need steroids and got caught up in a dirty era of baseball. They are still arguably the best hitter and pitcher of their era, if not all-time, and deserve a place in baseball's highest order.

******

This year’s ballot was honestly really hard to whittle down. There are several guys that deserve consideration, but just didn't quite make the cut for me. A lot of voters have made impassioned cases for guys like Omar Vizquel, Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, Scott Rolen and Lance Berkman that briefly had me second guessing. Hopefully, those guys get enough votes to live another day. But, if I had a vote, I could sleep at night with this ballot (but thank God I don't).

(P.S. who wants to bet that Rick Ankiel gets at least one vote? Just for the inspiring story of a pitcher that succumbed to injuries, only to come back as a pretty productive hitter. And then have the cajones to try to make a comeback as a pitcher again! There's gotta be a least a janitor's closet in Cooperstown for a great story like that.)

Sean Leamen
Sean Leamen

An aspiring adult male.

I like to learn about random things. Delve deep into worlds I don't understand. Find beauty in darkness, and vice versa.

My interests include Canadian politics, world news, alternative music and all things comedic.

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