The Kids In The (Baseball) Hall – 2015 Edition

With the Baseball Hall of Fame announcement for the Class of 2015 right around the corner, it seems only fitting that, as PTB’s resident baseball scribe, I should share my selections*. But first, a couple of caveats.

*No, I do not have an actual BBWAA membership. Scott and Justin … Get on that, wouldya?

One, I’m not going to stress out about PEDs. The Hall already has made distinctions noting the usage of these now-banned substances, so I’ll abide by that and vote regardless of any PED shadow that is cast on candidates. If the candidate’s playing record deems them worthy, they’re in.

Two, players are not listed in any sort of order.

Three, I’ll stick to the 10-player limit that the BBWAA imposes on its voters. Now, I know a few writers decided to abstain from voting to “make a statement” about that rule, so perhaps it will change. But, the way I see it, the 10-player rule wasn’t a problem until the ballot backlog became a problem because the writers decided they were all the “gatekeepers of history” as well as “morality police.” Allow me to get this off my chest, just in case any of them are reading.

YOU IDIOTS! YOU’RE WRITERS! YOU’RE NOT SUPERIOR! GET OVER YOURSELVES!

(clears virtual throat, adjusts virtual collar and straightens virtual tie)

Okay, now then…

Martinez at his peak with the Boston Red Sox.
Martinez at his peak with the Boston Red Sox.

Pedro Martinez, 1st year on ballot

Years active: 1992 – 2009

Teams: L.A. Dodgers, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, N.Y. Mets, Philadelphia Phillies

Key stats: 219-100 W/L; 2.93 ERA; 2827.1 IP; 3,154 K; 1.054 WHIP

Probably the easiest choice. Pedro was flat-out dominant during a period of unbridled offense. His peak, from 1997 thru 2003, all rank among the top 20 offensive seasons in baseball history.* Teams scored between 4.62 and 5.14 runs per game during this stretch and hit more than one home run per contest.

*I used MLB averages in on-base plus slugging percentage for this determination. The year 2000 (.782) ranks third all-time, while 1999 (.778) is fourth, right behind the No. 2 spot of 1930 (.790) and the absolutely bonkers 1894 (.814).

What was Pedro doing? Oh, just compiling a 2.20 ERA, 213 ERA+, a WHIP of 0.94, allowing 0.6 homers per nine innings, and striking out 1,761 over 1,408 innings. Other-worldly stuff.

For his career, the diminutive Dominican won three Cy Young Awards, posted a record of 219-100 with a 2.93 ERA. He struck out 3,154 over 2,827.1 innings.

Once again, easy choice.

Arguably the most dominant left-hander of all-time.
Arguably the most dominant left-hander of all-time.

Randy Johnson, 1st year on ballot

Years active: 1988 – 2009

Teams: Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants

Key stats: 303-166 W/L; 3.29 ERA; 4,875 K in 4,135.1 innings

On the surface, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez couldn’t be more different.

Martinez was just 5-11 while Johnson towered over the world at 6-10. Pedro’s from the Dominican Republic, while Randy hails from Walnut Creek, California, a suburb of San Francisco. Pedro threw right-handed, RJ was a lefty. “Petey” could get you out with a change-up that danced, while the “Big Unit” threw a slider that killed. Pedro takes two steps forward, Randy takes three steps back, but they go together because ….

(Oh, geez, why am I referencing Paula Abdul and an animated cat?)

Anyway, the point is that these two seemingly opposite human beings were both dominant when it came to pitching. And they’re both easy selections here.

Johnson spent the first few years of his career figuring out how the hell a guy his size was supposed to control all those long, loose, gangly limbs. Once it figured it out, though, the results were incredible.

He posted an 18-2 record in 1995 with a league-best 294 strikeouts and a 2.48 ERA, helping the Seattle Mariners to their first-ever playoff berth.

From there, the “Big Unit” continued to dominate, racking up a 164-72 record over the next decade with four different teams. Just to put Johnson in perspective during this time, his 2,748 strikeouts in the years 1996 thru 2005 would rank 22nd all-time!

Overall, Johnson won 303 games, good for 22nd all-time, fittingly sandwiched between two other fantastic southpaws: Lefty Grove (23rd with 300 wins) and Tom Glavine (21st with 305 wins).

He’s second all-time with 4,875 strikeouts, a four-time ERA champion, nine-team MLB strikeout king, and is second all-time with five Cy Young Awards (1995, 1999-2002).

He’s ugly as all get-out, but he’s still a Hall of Famer.

Biggio is one of a few modern-era guys to spend his entire career with one team.
Biggio is one of a few modern-era guys to spend his entire career with one team.

Craig Biggio, 3rd year on ballot

Years active: 1988 – 2007

Teams: Houston Astros

Key stats: .281/.363/.433; 2,850 games played (16th all-time); 3,060 hits; 1,844 runs scored; 668 doubles; 1,175 RBIs; 414 stolen bases

Biggio, the longtime second baseman of the Houston Astros, never won an MVP. He never played for a World Series winner. He hung around a couple of years too long.

But he’s still a shoo-in for Cooperstown.

Over his 20-year career, Biggio was arguably the dominant second baseman of his era.* He led the National League in doubles three times (1994, 1998, 1999), runs scored twice (1995, 1997), won four Gold Gloves, and ended up with over 3,000 hits.

*Okay, you could put him behind Roberto Alomar, but that’s not a bad name to be stuck behind.

Biggio probably isn’t the strongest position player candidate on this list, but he’s certainly worthy of induction among the greatest second sackers of all time.

I know Biggio started out as a catcher and saw some time in centerfield and left field during the first and last few years of his career, but the bulk of his number came at the keystone, so that’s the lens I’ll use here.

For his career, Biggio had 3,060 hits, 1,844 runs scored, 668 doubles, 291 home runs, and 1,175 RBIs. That’s 21st all-time in hits, 15th all-time in runs, fifth in doubles.

Looking at the list of Hall of Fame second sackers, here’s where each of those stats would rank. First in runs and doubles, second in home runs, third in hits, and eighth in RBIs. No doubt these numbers rank him among the best ever at the position, and overall, one of the all-time greats anywhere on the diamond.

Piazza, shown here preparing to eat a baseball.
Piazza, shown here preparing to eat a baseball.

Mike Piazza, 3rd year on ballot

Years active: 1992 – 2007

Teams: L.A. Dodgers, Florida Marlins, N.Y. Mets, San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s

Key stats: .308/.377/.545/.922; 427 HR; 1,335 RBIs; 2,127 hits; 1,048 runs scored; 1993 Rookie of the Year

The best-hitting catcher of all-time, bar none.

Before Piazza, the greatest offensive catcher was Johnny Bench, and Yogi Berra before him, and Mickey Cochrane prior to Yogi. Before Cochrane, the idea of a catcher who could hit wasn’t really significant. Hell, you have to go all the way back to Deacon White, Buck Ewing, and King Kelly in the 1880s to find decent-hitting backstops that came before Cochrane.

He was not the best defensive catcher, but he must’ve been good enough to catch 1,912 games. Piazza was better than his reputation suggests. Behind the plate, metrics show that he was between 20 and 70 runs better than an average catcher, while he had a 3.81 catcher’s ERA. Meaning that, the hurlers he caught posted that number, significantly better than the 4.34 ERA his backups put up catching the same guys.

However, Piazza didn’t make his case with the glove anyway.

He’s first all-time in home runs for catchers (427), fourth in RBIs (1,335), seventh in runs scored (1,048), and seventh in hits (2,127).

He is third among qualified backstops in batting average (.308), fifth in on-base percentage (.377), and first in slugging, a comfy 54-point lead over second-place … Javy Lopez??? Yep, Javy Lopez. Piazza leads .545 to .491 in slugging.

There are some boneheaded, unfounded, unsupported ideas that Piazza used PEDs. With zero actual evidence to support that claim, there’s no reason at all to deny Mike Piazza, the former 62nd-round draft choice, his spot among the immortals.

Hideous uniform aside, Jeff Bagwell's a Hall of Famer.
Hideous uniform aside, Jeff Bagwell’s a Hall of Famer.

Jeff Bagwell, 5th year on ballot

Years active: 1991 – 2005

Teams: Houston Astros

Key stats: .297/.408/.540/.948; 2,314 H; 449 HR; 1,529 RBI; 1994 MVP; 1991 Rookie of the Year

Bagwell’s case has been muddied by PED accusations, much like Piazza’s. Both cases are pretty much baseless, and it seems shameful to me (and others) that these accusations are so carelessly tossed about.

It’s really a shame that the so-called “professionals” that have voting privilege continue to waste it on the McCarthyism that plagues the candidacies of both Bagwell and Piazza.

“He played with known user Ken Caminiti! He must’ve used!”

Ugh.

“He had big forearms and hit a bunch of home runs! He must’ve used!”

Blech.

“He had back acne and was sometimes surly! Mood swings! He must’ve used!”

*Eye roll*

So, the “evidence” here against Bagwell and Piazza amounts to this:

Bagwell had a friend who had drug issues. He grew as he aged. He was a strong athlete in an athletically-demanding profession.

Piazza had a skin problem often caused by profuse sweating and wearing stuff like chest protectors, and was quiet around writers sometimes.

Gee, what compelling evidence.

Sigh.

Anyway, Jeff Bagwell is among the greatest first basemen of all time. Typically, we think of first base as the position of the broken.

It’s the Island of Misfit Toys for ballplayers.

Guy can’t throw? Stick him at first. Can’t run? Take some grounders at first. Bad fielder? Well, playing first should cover that.

Bagwell, though, was different. He was a good fielder, a third baseman that shifted to first because of Caminiti’s presence on the Astros. He stole 220 bases, good for 23rd all-time among first basemen, including eight straight years with double-digits.

And the man could hit. A .297 batting average with a .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage. He’s 21st all-time with his .948 slugging percentage, seventh among MLB first-basemen.

Bagwell was a gifted player and perhaps a World Series win, or a more nationally-known franchise, would’ve made him a Hall of Famer already.*

But, he gets my vote here, and will continue to do so.

*Imagine Bagwell’s numbers if he’d never gotten traded away from the Boston Red Sox. His swing was custom-built to destroy the Green Monster.

He's smiling! (Sorta.) It's a Christmas Miracle!
He’s smiling! (Sorta.) It’s a Christmas Miracle!

Barry Bonds, 3rd year on ballot

Years active: 1986 – 2007

Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants

Key stats: .298/.444/.607/1.051; 762 HR; 1,996 RBIs; 514 SB; 2,558 BB; 688 IBB; 7-time MVP winner (1990, 1992, 1993, 2001-2004)

Jackass.

Malcontent.

Primadonna.

Total jerk.

Lying, cheating, scum who sucked a lot of joy out of the game of baseball.

Arrogant, unlikable, rotten human being.

Barry Bonds is all of these things.

Driven.

Fiercely competitive.

Amazing talent.

Home run champ.

One of the most dangerous hitters ever.

Great all-around baseball talent.

He’s all these things too, which is why he makes my list.

"The Rocket" in his Yankee gear. He ain't no Pedro!
“The Rocket” in his Yankee gear. He ain’t no Pedro!

Roger Clemens, 3rd year on ballot

Years active: 1984 – 2007

Teams: Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Houston Astros

Key stats: 354-184 W/L; Ninth all-time in wins; 3.12 ERA over 4,916.2 IP; 4,672 K; Third all-time in Ks; 7-time Cy Young winner

Jackass.

Malcontent.

Primadonna.

Total jerk.

Lying, cheating, scum who sucked a lot of joy out of the game of baseball.

Arrogant, unlikable, rotten human being.

Roger Clemens is all of these things.

Driven.

Fiercely competitive.

Amazing talent.

One of the most greatest pitchers ever.

Great all-around baseball talent.

He’s all these things too, which is why he makes my list.

The Greatest Expo of All Time?
The Greatest Expo of All Time?

Tim Raines, 8th year on ballot

Years active: 1979 – 2002

Teams: Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins

Key stats: .294/.385/.425; 2,805 H; 170 HR; 808 SB; 1,330 BB; 70 or more SB six times (1981 – 1986)

Raines suffers quite a bit from playing his best in Montreal, a city that just was not cut out for baseball. It also hurt that, as good as Raines was, he was often overshadowed by the greatest leadoff hitter ever, Rickey Henderson.

Raines was no Rickey — no one was — but he was Rickey Lite in much the same way that Kenny Lofton was in the mid-to-late 90s.

No shame in being runner-up to the best after all.

Raines was at his peak in the early 80s, swiping 70+ bases six consecutive seasons, while hitting .310 with an .844 OPS between 1981 and 1987, including a batting title (.334) in 1986. He did everything Rickey did, hitting for both average and power, while getting on base and turning singles into doubles (and beyond) with his exceptional base-running.

During the latter half of his career, Raines settled into a part-time role and he was never a dominant name after the age of 28.

However, his career totals still rank him as one of the forgotten greats. It’s time we remembered that Raines was a five-tool, Hall-worthy star.

The best shortstop Motown ever saw.
The best shortstop Motown ever saw.

Alan Trammell, 14th year on ballot

Years active: 1977 – 1996

Teams: Detroit Tigers

Key stats: .285/.352/.415; 2,365 hits; 1,231 runs scored; 412 doubles; 1,003 RBIs; four-time Glove winner

Okay, so a slight homer pick here, as I grew up with Trammell as the anchor of the Detroit Tigers, my “home-state” team.

But, let’s do a comparison or two here. (It’s a bit cliché, but indulge me, if you would.)

Player A: .285/.352/.415; 2,293 G; 1,231 R; 2,365 H; 412 2B; 185 HR; 1,003 RBI; 236 SB

Player B: . 295/.371/.444; 2,180 G; 1,329 R; 2,340 H; 441 2B; 198 HR; 960 RBI; 379 SB

Player C: .285/.344/.452; 2,164 G; 1,318 R; 2,386 H; 403 2B; 282 HR; 1,061 RBI; 344 SB

Okay, so if you paid attention to the “key stats” above, you know that Player A is Trammell.

Players B & C?

Both Hall of Famers.

Before I reveal those two identities, consider this: Trammell’s not in the Hall of Fame for, in my view, three reasons.

1. He never won an MVP award. Players B & C each won one. (Although he did win a World Series, the same number as our two mystery guests combined.)

2. He was overshadowed during his career offensively by Cal Ripken, Jr., and defensively by Ozzie Smith. Arguably, Trammell was the second-best shortstop on both sides of the ball during the majority of his career.

3. He was overshadowed when he came onto the Hall of Fame ballot in 2001, it was the heyday of offensive-minded shortstops with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada, and Nomar Garciaparra all putting up monster numbers that reshaped the position in the eyes of many. Of course, that’s largely an anomaly and shortstops who hit like Trammell are few and far between.

On that subject, check this out:

Trammell’s career: 2,293 games; 1,231 runs; 2,365 hits; 412 2B; 185 HR

Jeter, thru 2,295 games: 1,685 runs; 2,926 hits; 468 2B; 234 HR

Now, Jeter’s stronger in every category, but when you consider the era of offense (1995-2009) that Jeter put up those numbers in, it’s not a stretch to say the two were comparable up to that point in their careers.

Of course, Jeter went on to add another 452 games — five more seasons — to his career totals, but I think it shows a massive oversight that Trammell’s not taken his rightful spot yet.

Oh, and Players B & C?

Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Ryne Sandberg.

Trammell’s definitely in their company. At least he should be.

Birds fly. Fish swim. Edgar hit. It's that simple.
Birds fly. Fish swim. Edgar hit. It’s that simple.

Edgar Martinez, 6th year on ballot

Years active: 1987 – 2004

Teams: Seattle Mariners

Key stats: .312/.418/.515; 1,219 R; 2,247 H; 514 2B; 309 HR; 1,261 RBI

Okay, so let’s get it out of the way.

Most guys in the Hall of Fame are in because they are AMAZING hitters, right? Most of them were pretty good on defense, but let’s not pretend that Frank Thomas, or Paul Molitor, or even Babe freakin’ Ruth were standouts with the leather.

Edgar Martinez was one of the all-time great hitters.

Cut the “DH isn’t a real position” argument. The DH was born in 1973. It’s older than I am; and probably older than most of you that are out there reading this. It’s a position. It’s here to stay. Give it up.

Anyway, Edgar may not have the overall counting stats that many of the greats do. But, he was inexplicably kept in the minors until he was 26 years old, spending 7 full seasons riding the minor-league bus.

All he did in the trenches was hit .300/.412/.439 in 681 games, scoring 378 runs with an incredible 254-446 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The man was born ready to hit in the Big Leagues. And when he arrived, he smoked the ball, as the stats above indicate.

Should he be kept out of the Hall because of his organization’s folly? I really don’t think so.

As I noted at the start of this piece, I’m a small-Hall guy, but if you’re not going to have the best DH ever enshrined, then why bother?

Now, there are three names I wanted to make my ballot, but I chose to exclude them. John Smoltz, Mike Mussina, and Curt Schilling.

I left them off because of my inclusions of Bonds, Clemens, Raines, Trammell, and Martinez. It wouldn’t be any sort of bother to switch three of those names out, but the reality of it is that without the PED cloud, Bonds and Clemens are no-brainers, while Raines and Trammell have waited long enough, and Edgar’s a personal favorite.

Besides, Smoltz is in his first year on the ballot, while Mussina’s in his second, and Schilling is in his third. All three have plenty of time to be inducted, which I believe they all should be. Really, they are remarkably similar pitchers, but for a few differences in roles, teams, and perceptions.

44885ff3_davisSchilling d79f7a98_davisMussina bf321b07_davisSmoltz
Years Active 1988 – 2007 1991 – 2008 1988 – 2009
W/L 216 – 146 270 – 153 213 – 155
ERA 3.46 3.68 3.33
IP 3,261.0 3,562.2 3,473.0
K 2,998 3,460 3,074
WHIP 1.137 1.192 1.176
BB 711 785 1,010
SV 22 0 154
Postseason 12 series over 5 years; 11-2; 2.23 ERA; 120 K in 133.1 IP 16 series over 9 years; 7-8; 3.42 ERA; 145 K in 139.2 IP 25 series over 14 years; 15-4; 2.67 ERA; 199 K in 209 IP
Misc. 2001 World Series co-MVP; 3 2nd-place Cy Young finishes; 3 World Series rings (2001, 2004, 2007) Seven Gold Gloves; 9 Top 6 Cy Young finishes 1996 Cy Young Award; 4 Top 7 finishes; 1995 World Series ring

Schilling’s got the hype, the star-power, and the “Bloody Sock” legend; Smoltz has the duality of success as a starter and reliever, the coattail effect of his longtime manager and two teammates inducted last year, and a strong postseason pedigree; while Mussina has none of those things and just quietly put up a strikingly similar career to both.

As such, I really couldn’t find room to vote for one without the other two, and since I needed all 10 spots for other players, and these three are all early-on in this eligibility, they’ll have to wait until next year.

The good news is, we only have to wait until Tuesday.

Author: Joel Barnhart

A big-time baseball nerd, Joel is currently teaching English as a Second Language in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to his MLB passion, he enjoys good whiskey, good music, good movies, and good friends. He is currently engaged in an ongoing 12-year online debate over the merits of bubble wrap.