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I grew up in the failing brass mill town that is Waterbury, CT. I started watching baseball in 1976. The first game I ever watched, (and no, I don’t know why I still recall this), featured the New York Mets, for whom Nino Espinosa was the starting pitcher. I remember that the other team was the Pirates and while I don’t recall who their pitcher was, I do recall that he took Espinosa deep, which my father told me was exceedingly unusual, and probably didn’t bode well for Nino. The Mets lost that game and any chance to have me as a fan, because 6-year-olds don’t follow losers.
Instead, I started following the Yankees, mostly because we had a black-and-white TV and no cable, but we still got WPIX, channel 11, and they had lots of Yankee games, and the 1976 Yankees won a lot of the games that I watched. Also black-and-white TV enhanced their classic pinstripe uniforms; if we’d had a color TV I’d have been an Astros fan, because if there’s one thing that 6-year olds are more than a bunch of miserable bandwaggoners it is idiots distracted by bright colors.
As a younger fan who didn’t pay much attention to things like whether a player was any good, my favorite players were Mickey Rivers, because he had a really cool batting stance, (although he wasn’t all that great), Roy White, because once he hit a home-run that took Yazstremski’s glove into the stands with it, (White was a good player, although his best years were largely behind him when I caught up with him), and Graig Nettles, who played 3B like a stud and hit a lot of home runs.
Nettles was a damn good player. Even in black-and-white.
As I got older and started to actually pay attention to what was going on during the game, my favorite player became, and remains, Don Mattingly. Mattingly played 1B for the Yankees during some bleak goddamn years. 1982-1995, to be precise. From 1984-1989 Mattingly may have been the best player in baseball. He never hit below .303, won one batting title hitting .343 and might have won another when he hit .352 and finished second to Boggs, who sat the last game out because he’s a bitch. Mattingly averaged 27 home runs and 114 RBI during that time. He won one MVP and finished second another time, only because a then non-steroid using Roger Clemens won 24 games with a sub-2.50 ERA. I don’t know what Mattingly’s WAR was, nor do I care. He also won a bunch of Gold Gloves, and was pretty much the only reason to watch the Yankees during this time. I loved Don Mattingly. Don Mattingly was an outstanding player for 6 years. If I had a Hall of Fame vote you would think I would vote him in on my first ballot, and you would be very, very wrong.
Sorry, my impatient friends.
This howling mob of soon-to-be-arrested British warriors brings us to my point. It’s that time of year when Hall of Fame ballots start getting released, and the 2019 Hall of Fame class will be announced on January 22nd. Here’s the list of players eligible for election, via the BBWAA. We will, for the purposes of brevity, ignore the travesty that is the Veterans Committee, which exists primarily to get decent players that Tony LaRussa likes into the Hall, whether they deserve it or, especially, if they do not.
To get in a player needs to get 75% of the votes from the eligible voters, which this year means you need 309 votes. This guy, Ryan Thibodaux, does a simply outstanding job compiling the ballots that are publicized before the final reveal, and is well worth a follow if you’re huge nerd like me. If, however, you do follow him, be prepared for some of the most rage-inducing arguments you will ever see, as every dork with a calculator and a Bill James fetish demands that each ballot name ten players, (the maximum each writer can vote for), and that two of those players be Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen, even though neither of those players belongs in the Hall unless they buy a ticket.
Opinions, of course, are subjective, except for mine, which is objectively true. And my opinion is that the Hall of Fame should be goddamn hard to get in to. Damn near impossible. When a player gets in they give a speech, and more often they not they cry. And they damn well should, because being elected to the Hall of Fame means that you are the best of the best of the best to ever play the hardest game there is. Babe Ruth. Ty Cobb. Willie Mays. Lou Gehrig. Mickey Mantle. Ted Williams. Bob Gibson. Stan Musial. Tom Seaver. Ken Griffey, Jr. You hear those names and you think baseball. You know who those men are and what role they played, unless you don’t like baseball, in which case you stopped reading this about three paragraphs ago. But even then, if I mention those names to you, with the exception of maybe Bob Gibson, (and that’s really your fault), you know who I’m talking about.
I think that the standard for getting into the Hall of Fame should be just that: this player transcended baseball. He was so damn good that the dumbest fan of the dumbest NFL team, (it’s the Bills), would, albeit momentarily, lose the blank look in his eyes, wipe the drool from his mouth and say, “Oh, yeah, Griffey! Played for the Mariners! Man, he was good!”, and then go back to setting up a picnic table so that he could pile-drive his wife through it.
With that far-too-long intro out of the way here is the correct ballot for the 2019 Hall of Fame class:
- Edgar Martinez. Originally my vote here was no. Martinez was a great hitter, but didn’t even own a glove. Baseball involves fielding. You don’t field you could fuck right off this ballot. After further research, however, I have come around to the position that baseball has decreed that the DH is a position and therefore players who are, shall we say, “limited” to the DH, need to be recognized. Martinez is probably the best DH ever, excluding certain chemistry set products from the greater Boston area, and therefore I am, albeit reluctantly, voting Martinez to the Hall of Fame.
- Mike Mussina. Yes. I’ll be accused of being a biased Yankee fan, so to be clear Mussina should go in as an Oriole, for whom he had his greatest success. He won 270 games, and he did it as baseball moved away from the starter going 7+ innings. I’m not sure you can say he invented the knuckle curve, but he sure as hell popularized it. Never won the Cy Young, but came close only to lose to guys like Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.
- Roger Clemens. Clemens is the greatest pitcher of my generation and several others, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he cheated his ass off for the last 9-11 years of his career. He was probably a Hall of Famer based only on what he did for the Red Sox, (seriously, check those stats again), but I’m one of those unctuous pricks who believes that you shouldn’t get in the Hall if you cheated, so Clemens is a no for me. I will say, however, that Bud Selig was elected in 2017, and he was the commissioner who closed his eyes real tight and ignored the rampant steroid abuse in baseball, so if someone wanted to take the position that Selig’s election opened up the Hall to everyone with a needle in their ass I wouldn’t argue.
- Barry Bonds. See Clemens, Roger, and then switch “pitcher” to “hitter” and “Red Sox” to “Pirates” and it’s the same thing.
- Curt Schilling. Fuck no. Forcing anyone to sit in the hot summer sun and listen to a Schilling acceptance speech, probably in the original Prussian, is a goddamn war crime and I will not be a part of it. Also, take a look at his stats some time. After a pretty mediocre start to his career he takes off after 1996. It’s plausible that he finally “learned to pitch”; for me I simply don’t trust anyone from that era with that kind of leap in their statistics. Might be completely unfair but given all of the credibility Schilling burns virtually every time he opens his mouth he’s got very little room to complain.
- Omar Vizquel. No. This is where that stats crowd starts to get pushy. Vizquel was a phenomenal fielder, no doubt about it. One of the best all-time. He also played 23(!) seasons and hit 80 home runs. He averaged 125 hits a year, (admittedly totaling 2877), and averaged .272 a year. If I’m reluctant to vote for Edgar Martinez because he couldn’t catch a cold, I can’t vote for a guy who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Vizquel is also a perfect illustration of my argument that you need to transcend baseball to warrant election. His stats compare with Ozzie Smith, who is in the Hall of Fame and with whom I have no problem, but if you say “Ozzie Smith” to someone they probably know who you’re talking about and if you do the same with Vizquel they probably won’t. It may not be fair, but we’re talking about the Hall of Fame and Vizquel, for me, fails the “Fame” part of that.
- Larry Walker. No. Walker is close, but to me he doesn’t have the historical impact that I want to see in a Hall of Famer and he benefited from playing in Coors Field and still didn’t get 400 home runs or come anywhere near 3,000 hits. For me he’s one of those guys who gets left out because he’s a great player, but not a transcendent player. No one said this was going to be easy.
- Fred McGriff. Yes. I have a soft spot for Fred, because he came up with the Yankees, Steinbrenner traded him to the Blue Jays for Tom Dodd and Dale Murray, (Who? No one knows.), and then he proceeded to hit 493 HRs, bat .282 and drive in 1,550 runs over the next 18 years. Never touched with any steroid rumors and probably lost some MVP votes because of all the guys who were taking them. I’m frankly surprised he’s done as poorly as he has over the years. His career was consistent from start to finish, it was excellent from start to finish, and it should be rewarded.
- Manny Ramirez. No. He failed not one but two PED tests after baseball initiated testing, so God knows what he was doing before. The best right-handed hitter I’ve ever seen and I’d love to listen to his induction speech because I’m not sure he can read, but it’s a no from me.
- Jeff Kent. No. Kent’s another one who has the stats but who just doesn’t do it for me. Great offensive numbers, not a great fielder. For me though, it’s not a question of whether you can tell baseball’s story without Jeff Kent, it’s that you definitely will tell baseball’s story without Jeff Kent.
- Gary Sheffield. No. PEDs.
- Billy Wagner. No. I’m not a big fan of relievers not named Eckersley getting into the Hall of Fame. Wagner was one of the best relievers but not quite good enough to overcome my bias. Probably more my fault than his, but let Billy fill out his own goddamn ballot and then we’ll talk. Another guy I wouldn’t argue with someone else voting for, but I’m a smug elitist, (who just spelled “elitist” wrong three times), and I’m not voting for him.
- Scott Rolen. I hate Scott Rolen, not because of anything he did, but because his case for the Hall of Fame is going to make me quote Colin Fucking Cowherd. “It’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good.” Guh. Oh god, that hurt. Classic case of a stopped clock being right twice a day, although Colin can probably only pull it off once. Rolen was a very good 3B, occasionally even great, but he’s not an all-timer. Won Rookie of the Year and then never led the league in anything, (despite very good stats pretty much every year), and never finishing above 4th in the MVP voting, and that high only once. Rolen gets a lot of love from the Brian Kenny types who will argue you to death about this guy’s WAR and that guys OPS+ and why all these numbers mean both should get in the Hall of Fame, along with 12 others, to which my response is that if you have to dig that deep into the numbers to justify their election they probably don’t deserve it. You don’t need to do it with Mike Schmidt, you don’t need to do it for Brooks Robinson, and you do with Scott Rolen. For me, that makes him a no.
- Sammy Sosa. No. PEDs, a corked bat incident and he’s a total fucking weirdo these days.
- Andruw Jones. Another favorite of the advanced stats crowd. My gripe with these people is that they seem determined to come up with some mathematical formula that, if a player meets the requirements, he’s in. No one goes to a museum to see the results of an equation!! They go to see the T-Rex statute, the woolly mammoth exhibit, the sex cha…(just me? OK, never mind), the things they can’t see anywhere else. Andruw Jones had some great years but no one’s going to the Hall of Fame to see his plaque. He hit a lot of HRs, had a lot of RBIs, (a stat that I still find meaningful), but also hit .254 lifetime and I’m sorry, that’s not getting you into my Hall of Fame. That’s right, I just bought it. Biggio, pack your shit, you’re gone.
- Mariano Rivera. Fuck yes. Are you kidding? Rivera is a no-doubter. That reliever bias? Right out the fucking window for Rivera. The best reliever of all time. Dominant in the regular season. Even better in the post-season. There is literally no argument against his being elected to the Hall of Fame, to the point that many people are thinking that Rivera will be the one to get 100% of the vote, killing what might be the dumbest tradition in sports, not voting for a clearly qualified candidate just because Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth never got 100%, back when black guys couldn’t vote or play baseball. I could make a legitimate argument that he’s the only player who should get in this year, but even I’m not quite that elitist. Seriously, anyone able to vote for the Hall of Fame who doesn’t vote for Rivera should be tarred, feathered, run out of town, and then horsewhipped.
- Roy Halladay. Yes. Halladay had a short career, and originally I thought that I would not vote for him. Go ahead and look at his stats again. Those black numbers? They mean he led the league in that category for that season. It is a rare goddamn baseball card that looks like that. If the ink were red it would look like my law school thesis, so long as the red numbers were accompanied by a lot of comments like “What the fuck are you talking about?”, “That isn’t even the law in the Amazon basin!”, and “How do you remember to breathe in and out?” In 10 years Halladay won 2 Cy Youngs and was as dominant as any pitcher ever. That’s good enough for me.
- Todd Helton. No. He had one really great year and everything else he did is tainted by playing in the thin air of Colorado.
- Andy Pettite. The stats say yes, the admitted use of HGH says no.
- Lance Berkman. No. I’ve seen people arguing vociferously that he should be in. These people are morons.
- Roy Oswalt. No. Ryan Thibodaux received a ballot that actually included Oswalt, and my quite justified suspicion was that Mrs. Oswalt filled it out.
- Miguel Tejada. No. PEDs. Frankly even with them he didn’t play long enough at a high enough level to warrant the Hall of Fame.
- Kevin Youkilis. Fuck off.
- Placido Polanco. Nooooooooope!
- Derek Lowe. If we’re talking about crushing beers I’d give this serious consideration but otherwise, nice career, earned his money, off you go.
- Freddy Garcia. Not even if it were the Venezuelan Hall of Fame. Mostly because Ugueth Urbina would’ve burned it down by now.
- Vernon Wells. No. Not even interesting enough to say more than that.
- Ted Lily. Turns out Ted spent two years with the Yankees and I had no idea who he was, so that’s a hard no. He did make over $80 million playing baseball, so he’ll be OK.
- Travis Hafner. The Norse god of donkeys. No.
- Jason Bay. I would vote for him just because he stole a shit-ton of money from the Red Sox and Mets, and I’m always in favor of that, but otherwise he’s not even remotely qualified for even this many words about his candidacy.
- Michael Young. I remember Young because I kept drafting him in fantasy baseball for a few years, and he never quite got it done. Mostly because of all the other stiffs I’d draft. Not his fault, but he’s still not Hall of Fame material.
- Jon Garland. Even the White Sox fanboy blogger, (believe me, I’m as surprised as you), says no.
- Darren Oliver. I’m not even sure who this is. No.
- Juan Pierre. Pierre stole nearly 700 bases and hit .295 over a 14-year career, so some stats nerd is going to tell you that he at least deserves consideration for the Hall of Fame. That nerd should immediately be shoved into a locker. I’ll move over if need be.
- Rick Ankiel. Two things about Ankiel. First, back in the very early KSK days there was a fairly funny kommenter with the handle “Future Mrs. Rick Ankiel.” She disappeared, but I always wondered if she got her wish. Second, Ankiel was a Cardinals pitching prospect with a lot of promise until he absolutely blew up and threw something like five wild pitches in one inning, during the post-season, and walked a bunch of guys. He never recovered, but didn’t give up, went down to the minors and reinvented himself as an outfielder good enough to play a few years of major league ball and make more than $12 million. Good for him. But I’m still not voting for him unless he can prove that he married a kommenter.
Have at me in the comments, but know that you are very, very wrong.