It’s finally a new year which means it’s time to talk about the Hall of Fame. It’s the only exciting MLB news to talk about at the moment with the lockout still in progress, and the two sides not seeming to want to work towards a deal. We have been deprived of any offseason signings or trades since the beginning of December, so hopefully, the Hall of Fame discourse does a little to quench everyone’s excruciating thirst for some Major League Baseball.
Nobody made it into the Hall of Fame in 2021 by way of the BBWAA writer’s ballot. There was still a ceremony held since it was postponed in 2020, but nevertheless, it’s been two years since we’ve had a new player elected by the BBWAA.
This year’s ballot is a very interesting one. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens who are heavily associated with the steroid era and suspected of using are both in their final year of being on the ballot along with the controversial Curt Schilling who wanted to be taken off the ballot this year. Joining those guys are first-year hopefuls Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz who also have steroid ties of different degrees.
It certainly is a tough year to be a BBWAA voter. It’s possible this year due to the major differences in opinion with all the writers that nobody makes it in again. That is the most likely outcome. However, there are many deserving players on this ballot who deserve to make it in.
Here’s what my ballot would look like if I had one this year:
I’ll start with the guys who I think should have no argument against them whether you’re a “big hall” person, a “small hall” person, someone who doesn’t believe steroid users should get in, or otherwise.
Scott Rolen was a great hitter who was extremely consistent at the plate year after year. He finished his career with a .281/.364/.490 slash line and a 122 wRC+ after 17 years in the big leagues. He was never one of the greatest hitters in the league, but he always produced.
The traditional writer sees his numbers and they don’t see any major milestones. He barely passed 2,000 hits and 300 home runs which are great, but not as impressive as many players in the Hall before him. The thing that puts him over the threshold is that he was an extraordinary defender.
There aren’t many great defensive stats from when he played, but defensive runs saved (DRS) is enough to tell the story. He had 114 DRS above average over his career. This stat wasn’t even being kept until 2002, so six years of his career aren’t even included in the number. He was consistently great with his bat and his glove, and that makes him deserving of being in the Hall of Fame.
There isn’t nearly as much traction behind Andruw Jones as I think he deserves. To put it simply, he is the best defensive centerfielder of all time. Nobody has ever covered the position better than he did over his career. If I told you that the greatest defensive player at their position all time also had 434 home runs, you would probably agree with me that whoever that person is deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. That person is Andruw Jones.
Todd Helton had a career slash line of .316/.414/.539 through 17 years in the majors. There have only been 19 players in all of major league history to play over 1,000 career games and finish with a batting average of .300 or more, an on-base percentage of .400 or more, and a slugging percentage of .500 or more. Todd Helton is one of those players.
Yes, he did play in Colorado his entire career, but there have been many hitters who spend a long time in Colorado and don’t even come close to that. Larry Walker, a member of the Hall of Fame is the only other one to do so. Todd Helton should be in as well.
Now, moving on to the more controversial players I would vote for:
Barry Bonds is the all-time leader in home runs with 762 and walks with 2,558. I believe he is the best outfielder to ever play the game of baseball. He was a great defender, and he was the best hitter of all time. Of course, comes the argument that he took steroids.
For me, I think of the MLB Hall of Fame as a museum that is supposed to tell the story of the entire history of Major League Baseball. You cannot tell that story without the steroid era. You cannot tell that story without the person who hit more home runs than anyone else ever did. Bonds is a big part of the story of baseball and his 162.7 career rWAR (fourth-best all-time) is more than defensible.
It is almost the exact same argument for Roger Clemens that it is Barry Bonds. The only difference of course is that Clemens was a pitcher. He is eighth in career rWAR (139.2), being the only other modern player along with Bonds to break into the top ten. He pitched until he was 44 and finished with a career ERA of 3.12 along with 4,672 strikeouts which is third all-time. He is one of the top five pitchers in history and should be voted into the Hall of Fame in his last year on the ballot.
It’s a little more of a tough argument to make for Alex Rodriguez. He was suspended for taking steroids twice in his career. With Bonds and Clemens, the use of steroids was being ignored across the league and so many players were doing it at that time. Rodriguez served a full-season suspension for it.
However, he does seem to be liked more by the public than Bonds is. A-Rod as a player has an argument for the best infielder to ever play the game. He finished his career with 117.5 rWAR and was four home runs shy of 700. If you’re a voter who is willing to allow steroid guys into the Hall, A-Rod is at least as deserving as any of them.
Manny Ramirez was an internationally loved player who always had as much fun playing the game as you can. His game never peaked as high as some of the other players on this ballot, but he was a great player for a long time, accumulating nine seasons of over four fWAR. Ramirez is in the same conversation as Rodriguez when it comes to steroids. He was suspended late in his career for steroid use. To let other players who used steroids in the Hall of Fame and not Ramirez would be inconsistent. He put up numbers deserving of making it in.
For me, Sammy Sosa is deserving to be in the Hall of Fame because of his extreme peak. He was a part of saving the game of baseball with the home run race in 1998 when him and Mark McGwire hit 66 and 70 home runs respectively. He also had a 9.9 fWAR season and finished with 60.1 fWAR over his career. Sosa tested positive for steroids in 2003 when he voluntarily tested. Players who tested positive were not punished, but his name was revealed as someone who did.
David Ortiz was another player who tested positive in 2003 during the voluntary tests, but he continued the rest of his career and never was suspended for steroid use. He retired after the 2016 season and finished with a 51 fWAR.
There isn’t much precedent for designated hitters making it into the Hall of Fame. Edgar Martinez is the name that comes to mind, and Ortiz doesn’t necessarily live up to that, but he is still one of the best designated hitters of all time. If he doesn’t make it in, then it will be extremely tough for any DH after him to make it in. Designated hitters need to be compared to other designated hitters when it comes to the conversation of the Hall of Fame.
Billy Wagner is finally a break from the players who were associated with steroids. As relief pitchers go, Billy Wagner was one of the best. He finished his career with an ERA+ of 187 and a win probability added of 28.4, both great numbers for a relief pitcher. Just like a DH should be compared to a DH, a relief pitcher should be compared to other relief pitchers when it comes to the Hall of Fame. Billy Wagner is a Hall of Fame pitcher.
There are almost always at least ten deserving players on every year’s ballot. In 2022 I believe there are more, but because of the voting restrictions, I didn’t list any more. Players I would vote for if it were allowed to cast as many votes as you wanted are Gary Sheffield and Bobby Abreu.
I think the ten I chose are the most deserving this year, though. I hope that they all somehow make it in at some point, but it is likely that we don’t see anyone elected this year on the BBWAA ballot. Regardless, to even be on the ballot is a great honor that 99 percent of Major League Baseball players don’t get to experience.