2017 IBWAA Hall Of Fame Vote: The Strong Character Crew

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.

Yankees News: Harper/Harvey 2019 is an Absolute Lock

Last week, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports wrote an article where he discussed how the Yankees recent frugal nature is part of a very calculated plan on their part to change their operating model in order to maximize profitability after years of being penalized by the league’s revenue sharing policy/luxury tax. He further speculated that while they are revising their operating model, they are simultaneously prioritizing future money to ultimately pursue Bryce Harper when he is a free agent in 2019.

I thought it was a great piece that clearly explained why the Yankees have been deliberately avoiding free agent spending this offseason, and why they will likely avoid long term financial commitments to players in the near future. However, no offense to Jeff Passan, but I think we can do a little more than speculate that the Yankees might pursue Bryce Harper in 2019. Anybody following New York Yankee baseball over the last 22 years knows that the Yankees will do whatever is necessary to ensure they are in a position to not only acquire Bryce Harper in 2019 but also to acquire Matt Harvey. Right now, I have more confidence betting on the Yankees signing Harvey and Harper in 2019 than placing a bet on any specific team to win the 2016 World Series. How do I know they will end up with Harvey and Harper? Because between 1994 and 2016, the Yankees have consistently ensured that their roster includes arguably the best position player and pitcher by making the necessary acquisitions roughly every 3 to 4 years. In fact, they specifically went out and acquired arguably the “best” position player or pitcher 9 times in the last 22 years.

First, let me preface this by saying I am not trying to make any statement about the correlation between the Yankees acquiring star players and winning World Series Championships. In no way am I trying to belittle the value of the precious “Core 4”. The Core 4 is the main reason for the Yankees run of success between 1996 and 2001. Second, let me define what I mean by “arguably the best position player and pitcher”. All the robot computers these days value players based on Wins Above Replacement aka WAR. So that’s what I’m going to use (as defined by Baseball-Reference.com) to value the position players and pitchers the Yankees have had on their rosters over the 22 year timeframe. And when I say “arguably”, I’m going to operate under the assumption that an argument can be made that any player finishing in the Top 5 for WAR in a single season is the “best” in the league. If you refuse to accept this premise then stop reading.


Pitchers- In the strike shortened 1994 season, the Yankees had no position players or pitchers finishing in the top 10 for WAR. In 1994, David Cone finished with a 6.8 WAR while playing for Kansas City which was good enough for 2nd in baseball behind only Greg Maddux. So what did the Yankees do? They traded for Cone midseason in 1995 and he finished 3rd that year with a WAR of 6.4. The Yankees did not have a top 10 WAR pitcher in the 1996 season but still managed to win the World Series with a staff that included Cone and Andy Pettitte. However, in 1997 Pettitte went on to finish 3rd with a WAR of 8.4.

Position Players– Between 1994 and 1997 there were no Yankee position players in the Top 5 for WAR. However Chuck Knoblauch finished 5th in 1995 with a WAR of 6.7 and 4th in 1996 with a WAR of 8.6. In 1997 he only finished 8th with a 6.7 WAR but his three year body of work combined with the lack of Yankee position players in the Top 5 during that span, was enough for the Yankees to trade for him after the 1997 season.

So between 1994 and the end of the 1997 season, the Yankees acquired one of the top position players and pitchers in the game to add to their “Core 4”.


Pitchers-  In 1998 after winning the World Series, the Yankees had no Top 10 WAR pitchers in their rotation. So what did they do? They went out and traded for Roger Clemens who finished number 1 in 1997 with a WAR of 11.9 (2nd place went to Pedro Martinez at 9) and number 2 in 1998 with a WAR of 8.2 (behind Kevin Brown at number 1 with 8.6). Unfortunately, Clemens did not crack the Top 10 for WAR between 1999 and 2000.

Position Players- As mentioned above, no Yankees position players finished in the Top 5 for WAR between 1995 and 1997. When Chuck Knoblauch was brought in for the 1998 season he represented one of the top performing position players in that 1995-1997 timeframe. However, it turned out that between 1998 and 2000 the Yankees did not need to go outside their organization to have arguably the best position player in the league. Derek Jeter finished fourth in WAR in 1998 with 7.5 (A-Rod was number 1 with 8.5 WAR) and he finished number 1 in 1999 with a WAR of 8.0. In 2000 however they had no position players in the Top 10.


Pitchers- After Clemens failed to crack the Top 10 in WAR between 1999 and 2000, the Yankees once again decided to bring in one of the game’s best starting pitchers. In 2000, Mike Mussina finished 6th in the league in WAR. He finished behind Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Greg Maddux, and Brad Radke. Now I do realize that a 6th place finish does not meet my qualifications of “arguably the best”. That being said, at the time the Yankees signed Mussina he had finished in the Top 10 for CY Young voting 7 of the 9 seasons he played in Baltimore and was Top 5 for 5 of those 9 seasons. He also had 5 All-Star appearances. Not to mention the fact that in his first season as a Yankee in 2001 he finished 3rd in WAR with 7.1 wins. Based on that, I think he’s close enough to meet the criteria.

Position Players- In 2001, Jason Giambi finished 3rd with a WAR of 9.2 only behind Bonds and Sosa. And of course the Yankees signed Giambi for the 2002 season. In 2002, Giambi finished 4th in WAR with 7.1. Unfortunately he fell off in 2003 and 2004 missing the Top 10 entirely. But don’t worry because in 2002 A-Rod, while playing in Texas, finished second in WAR behind Barry Bonds and third in 2003 behind Pujols and Bonds. And I am guessing you know what happens next.


Position Players– In 2004 the Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez to continue meeting their unspoken organizational mandate to have arguably the best player in the league on their roster. Unfortunately in 2004, A-Rod only finished 8th in WAR but in 2005 he topped the charts with his WAR of 9.4. In 2006 however he dropped out of the Top 10.

Pitchers- By 2004 Clemens had left the Yankees for Houston and Mussina was no longer a perennial top performer. So in 2004 the Yankees went out and traded for 40 year old Randy Johnson. Why? Why trade for a 40 year old pitcher? Well because between age 35 and 40 he was arguably the best pitcher in the league. In 2002 he had the number 1 WAR of 10.9 which was 2.2 wins higher than Curt Schilling at number 2.  In 2004 he was number 2 with a WAR of 8.5 but only behind Johan Santana who had a nearly identical WAR of 8.6. So the Yankees acquired Johnson for the 2005 season. He only finished 8th in WAR for 2005 and never lived up to expectations as an old man in New York. Luckily for the Yankees, in 2006 Chien-Ming Wang finished 4th in WAR with 6.0 wins. However his success was short lived due to injuries.


Position Players– In 2007, the Yankees still had the best position player in A-Rod  who finished number 1  in WAR at 9.4 (Cano came in at 10 at 6.7). However, in 2008 A-Rod plummeted to 10th with a WAR of 6.8. So what did the Yankees do? They signed Mark Teixeira who in 2008 had finished third in overall WAR behind Pujols and Utley.

Pitchers- In 2007 and 2008 the Yankees had no pitchers in the Top 10 for WAR. However, CC Sabathia, while with the Indians, finished 4th in 2007 with a 6.3 WAR that was nearly identical to the leader Roy Oswalt at 6.7. In 2008, Sabathia had a WAR of 6.8 and finished 5th but only 0.3 wins behind Johan Santana in 2nd place. So clearly the gap between the 5th and 2nd place finishers was minimal. The leader Tim Lincecum finished with a 7.9 WAR. So in 2009 the Yankees signed CC Sabathia to lead the staff.

The acquisition of Sabathia and Teixeira coincided with a World Championship in 2009.


Position Players– Between 2010 and 2013, the Yankees once again did not need to trade or sign the best position player in the game because they already had him in Robinson Cano. Cano in 2010 finished 3rd in WAR with 8.1 wins (behind Josh Hamilton at 1 with 8.7). In 2012 Cano was 2nd at 8.5 and in 2013 Cano finished 4th at 7.8.

Pitchers- Unfortunately for the Yankees, between 2010 and 2013 Sabathia did not perform at quite the level the Yankees had expected. In 2011 he did finish 4th with a WAR of 7.5. However no Yankees finished in the Top 5 in 2010, 2012, or 2013.


Since 2013, the Yankees have seemingly refused to acquire the position player or pitcher that qualifies as “arguably the best”. This was most evident when the Yankees refused to retain Robinson Cano. It can be explained to some degree by the death of George Steinbrenner and the loss of his passion to win at all costs. But the primary cause is attributable to what Jeff Passan discussed in his article. Due to the penalties associated with revenue sharing and the luxury tax, the Yankees have absolutely been forced to adjust their operating model to ensure maximum profitability. In order to get back in a sound fiscal position, the Yankees are waiting for existing long term commitments to come off the books in 2016 and 2017, while simultaneously refusing to sign any new players to long term deals. Their lack of long term commitments this offseason shows that they are clearly putting that plan into motion.

However, if the last 22 years have taught us anything, Brian Cashman’s plan for postseason success remains a constant: Ensure your roster contains arguably the best pitcher and position player in the sport and adjust every 3 years. Unfortunately, due to the constraints imposed by revenue sharing, Cashman and Yankees fans are going to have to wait 3 more years until 2019 before he can restart the next “cycle of winning”. After 5 World Series wins and 2 other appearances in the last 22 years, forgive me if I don’t shed a tear.