Friday, January 1, 2016

If Studious Metsimus Had a 2016 Hall of Fame Vote...

On Wednesday, January 6, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be calling those players deemed worthy of entrance into its hallowed halls.  This year, there are 32 players on the ballot, including 15 first-timers.

The 2015 Hall of Fame class featured Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.  Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines were only players that did not earn enshrinement last year but still had their names checked off on more than half the ballots submitted, with Piazza missing his call by just 28 votes.

Piazza remains on the ballot this year, as do former Mets Jeff Kent and Gary Sheffield.  Other players who have worn blue and orange in Flushing and are eligible this year for the first time are Mike Hampton, Luis Castillo and Billy Wagner - otherwise known as the school chaser, the ball dropper and the interview shocker.  Most of the former Mets on the ballot this year should not expect to earn a plaque in Cooperstown this year, but a certain cereal connoisseur should finally make the cut this year, as does a Kid who put baseball on the map in the Pacific Northwest.

This is the sixth year that the Studious Metsimus staff is casting a Hall of Fame vote that will be rejected by Cooperstown and not taken seriously by HOF ballot collector Ryan Thibs (@notmrtibbs on Twitter).  Who's making the cut on our ballot that will still need 75% of the votes cast by legitimate baseball writers and Murray Chass?  Let's begin with the players I'd vote for who are first-timers and the ones I hadn't voted for before but have since changed my mind on them.

Mike Piazza failed to be a world champion, but succeeded at eating the breakfast of champions.

Ken Griffey Jr.

The Kid may have saved baseball in Seattle.  And that's not hyperbole.  Prior to Griffey's arrival as a 19-year-old rookie in 1989, the Mariners (established 1977) had never finished above .500 or higher than fourth place in the seven-team American League West division.  In Griffey's third season in Seattle, the team posted its first winning record.  Two years later, they finished above .500 again.  Finally, in 1995, the Mariners won their first division title.

Griffey's home run and RBI totals increased or remained the same in each of his first five seasons.  By the time he was 23, he compiled his first 40-HR season.  He then averaged 52 HR, 142 RBI and 19 stolen bases per season from 1996 to 1999.  By the time he was 30, he had already collected 320 doubles, 398 homers, 1,152 RBI, 1,063 runs scored, 167 stolen bases and was batting just a shade under .300.  Along the way, he made ten All-Star teams, won ten Gold Gloves, brought home seven Silver Slugger awards, finished in the top ten in MVP voting seven times and won the 1997 A.L. MVP award.  Then he turned 30, and injuries started to kick in.

In 2000, his first season in Cincinnati, he still had a Griffey-like year, hitting 40 HR and racking up 118 RBI.  But over his next ten seasons, he averaged just 99 games played per year.  Still, during those final ten injury-plagued seasons (including a second stint in Seattle in 2009 and 2010), Griffey averaged 32 homers and 93 RBI per every 162 games played.

He retired in 2010 with phenomenal numbers across the board.  Griffey had 630 homers, 524 doubles, 1,836 RBI and 1,662 runs scored.  He is one of six players in baseball history with 600+ HR, 500+ doubles, 1,800+ RBI and 1,600+ runs scored, joining Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.  His lifetime 83.8 WAR is higher than the WAR posted by Pete Rose, Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Joe DiMaggio, Willie McCovey and Roberto Clemente, to name a few fairly decent players.

In other words, Ken Griffey Jr. is a Hall of Famer.  No doubt about it.

Ken Griffey Jr. was at the bottom of this pile, but my, oh my, he'll scale the Hall of Fame mountain this year.  (AP Photo)

Tim Raines

This is a player I never voted for the last five times I had this unrecognized vote.  But after careful review, I now believe Raines is a Hall of Famer.

No one questions that Raines was the National League's best leadoff hitter during his prime.  Even fewer people doubt that he was the second-best No. 1 hitter of his generation after Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson.  So why isn't Raines already in the Hall?

His drug use in the 1980s may have turned off some voters.  It also might have hurt his case that he played his finest seasons in Montreal, a franchise that has won one postseason series in its 47 years of existence.  But let's look at some undeniable facts about Raines's career.

Tim Raines stole 808 bases - the fifth highest total in the history of the game.  But he can only steal second base when he's standing on first, and his 713 extra-base hits (including 170 homers) kept his stolen base totals lower than they could have been had he just been a singles hitter.

Raines reached base 3,977 times (47th-highest total in MLB history), which included 1,330 walks (37th all-time).  He had 2,605 hits despite spending the last six years of his career in a part-time role.  He led the league in batting average once, on-base percentage once, runs scored twice, doubles once and stolen bases four times.  He also was a seven-time All-Star, won a Silver Slugger award (even though he wasn't known for his slugging) and received MVP votes in seven seasons.

Nine players in major league history had at least one season with 50+ XBH and 70+ SB.  Only three of those players accomplished the feat more than once.  Two of those three players were Ty Cobb and Rickey Henderson, who each did it twice and are both in the Hall of Fame.  The other player is Tim Raines, who had four such seasons, or as many as Cobb and Henderson had combined.

It's long overdue, but I finally believe Tim Raines should be in the Hall of Fame.

Photo by Getty Images.  Stadium by Shea.

Griffey and Raines are the two players I would vote in that I had never voted for before.  I'm allowed a total of ten players on my vote if my vote actually counted.  So my other players are Piazza (duh), Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Jeff Kent and Edgar Martinez - who has the designated hitter award named after him but has been penalized by Hall of Fame voters for years because he was phenomenal at the job people get that award for.

That leaves two unused votes.  Eventually I think I would vote for players such as Trevor Hoffman (601 saves), Billy Wagner (422 saves, 2.53 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.9 K/9 IP), Mike Mussina (270 wins, 82.7 WAR - 24th highest for a pitcher) and Gary Sheffield (1,003 extra-base hits, 253 stolen bases, 1,676 RBI, 1,636 runs scored, 1,475 walks), but I'm holding out for a year in which I have fewer worthy candidates to choose from.  Or whenever I get Murray Chass's vote.  At least I don't have acne in my brain like he does.

If Mike Piazza gets in this year (like he should), Chass will need to pop someone else's Hall of Fame bubble.

No comments: