This is my second post identifying the players I voted for on my Internet Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot.
The IBWAA votes every December for its Baseball Hall of Fame and the rules are very similar to those of the BBWAA. A player requires 75% of the vote to be elected into the Hall of Fame by the IBWAA, and the main difference is IBWAA voters can select up to 15 candidates on their ballot.
I voted for 12 players in total on my 2017 ballot. The first post focused on the players I voted for that were linked to steroid allegations or other character issues (i.e. the juiceheads and jerks). This post focuses on the remaining players that I included on my 2017 ballot. The five players below competed during the steroid era but managed to avoid any links to steroid use. They all compiled incredibly impressive baseball resumes over their respective careers, and I feel in the end their numbers are worthy of Cooperstown.
Vlad The Impaler
Vladimir Guerrero hit 449 homers, 2,590 hits, 1,496 RBIs, and a ridiculous career slash line of .318/.379/.553. He even stole 181 bases. He never struck out more than 95 times. He had a cannon for an arm in right field, but the advanced metrics don’t love his defense which explains why he’s ranked 125th all time in position player WAR (59.3). But Vlad is 85th all time in hits and his .931 OPS ranks 34th. He was a perennial All-Star, Silver Slugger, and he also won an MVP award. I’ll never forget his incredible ability to hit absurd “bad balls” pitched way out of the strike zone. His top 10 player comp list has four Hall of Famers and at least three possible future Hall of Famers in Jeff Bagwell, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Beltran. Larry Walker is also considered a direct comp. Vlad may wind up being one of those Hall-worthy players that doesn’t get in on the first ballot, but if that happens it’ll be a result of the BBWAA 10 player ballot limit. His numbers are certainly worthy of a spot in the Hall.
The Coors Effect
Larry Walker hit 383 homers, 2,160 hits, 1,311 RBIs, and a career slash line of .313/.400/.565. His MVP season in 1997 was bananas: .366/.452/.720 with 46 doubles, 49 home runs, 130 RBI, 33 steals. Walker was also a defensive stud in right field, winning 7 Gold Gloves over his career. The elite combo of bat and defense explains why he ranks 56th all time in position player WAR (72.6). His Hall of Fame case is hurt by his injury-filled career. He played over 150 games in a single season only once. His HOF case is also hurt by the Coors Field effect. He hit .380 at Coors in his career and .280 on the road. His top 10 player comp list has four Hall of Famers and Miguel Cabrera (his HOF chances look great). His career numbers are also comparable to those of Vlad Guerrero. I personally had a hard time making a case for one player and not the other. Ultimately, I think Walker did enough with the glove and the bat during his playing days to warrant entry into the Hall. Clearly the BBWAA doesn’t feel the same way since they’ve failed to vote him in for six years now.
The Moose Is Loose
Mike Mussina had 270 career wins (ranked 33rd), a 3.68 ERA, and 2,813 Ks (ranked 19th). His 3.58 K/BB ratio ranks 22nd all time. During his career he was pretty much a lock for 15 wins and 200+ innings pitched every year. He never won a Cy Young award but he won 7 Gold Gloves and his pitcher WAR of 82.7 ranks 24th all time. Everyone ahead of him in the WAR rankings is a Hall of Famer (other than Clemens). He pitched his entire career in the American League East during the height of the steroid era. The guy belongs in the Hall.
The ‘Reliever Bias’ Guys
Only five former relievers have been elected into the Hall of Fame, and we haven’t seen a reliever voted into the Hall that spent almost his entire career pitching in the 9th inning. The HOF reliever bias will dissipate as more relievers become eligible. Mariano Rivera will certainly be a first ballot Hall of Famer once he is eligible, but for some reason I constantly hear people comparing other relievers to Mo as if he’s some sort of Hall of Fame baseline. Comparing Hoffman and Wagner to Mo, is like comparing a hitter to Babe Ruth. It’s an insane comparison and unfair to these other dominant bullpen arms.
I think the numbers reflect that Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner are two of the most dominant relievers in the history of the sport and are deserving of a place in Cooperstown. Hoffman had 601 saves and is second to Mariano Rivera. He had a 2.87 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and an extremely impressive 9.4 K/9. He received MVP votes in five different seasons and Cy Young votes in four seasons (including two second place finishes). He failed to get in last year, but he had over 60% of the vote in 2016 so it’s very likely he’ll be elected this year.
Billy Wagner had 422 saves (6th all time), a 2.31 ERA, and 1,196 strikeouts in 903 innings. His 11.9 K/9 is higher than any reliever currently in the Hall of Fame. He was a seven time All-Star, he received MVP votes in two seasons, and he was 4th in the Cy Young voting in 1999. In his prime I would argue Wagner was more dominant than Hoffman, but he obviously didn’t rack up the innings/saves totals of Mo/Hoffman. His brief playoff resume was terrible (10.03 ERA in 11.2 innings). I’ll never forget when he got crushed in the 2006 NLCS for the Mets, but his brief lousy playoff performance is not a valid reason to deny him entry into the Hall. I think it’s time for Cooperstown to open its doors to more relievers as they become eligible and that requires Hall of Fame voters like me to open our hearts to the men of the pen.