Tuesday, January 10, 2017

If Studious Metsimus Had a 2017 Hall of Fame Vote...

On Wednesday, January 18, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the names of the former players who will be receiving the ultimate individual honor in the sport.  These players will join former commissioner Bud Selig and general manager John Schuerholz, who was the architect of the 1980s Kansas City Royals and 1990s Atlanta Braves.  Both men were elected into the Hall of Fame by the Today's Game committee.

Last year's Hall of Fame class included Mike Piazza, who became the second player with a Mets cap on his plaque, and Ken Griffey Jr., who was named on 99.3% of the ballots, which broke the record of the first player with a Mets cap on his plaque.  Three players came within 34 votes of joining Piazza and Griffey in 2016, as Jeff Bagwell (71.6% of the votes), Tim Raines (69.8%) and Trevor Hoffman (67.3%) were forced to live by the old Brooklyn Dodgers mantra, "Wait 'til next year!"

This year, there are 19 players who are on the ballot for the first time, including two former Mets (Melvin Mora, Mike Cameron) and one former Met-killer (Pat Burrell).  Neither of those three players are expected to garner the 5% voter support needed to remain on the ballot in 2018.  But there are several players who will.  And some of those players might even approach the magic 75% threshold required for election.

According to Hall of Fame ballot tracker Ryan Thibodaux, approximately 435 writers will be submitting ballots this year.  It would have been 436 had Major League Baseball recognized the Studious Metsimus vote.  (We would've gotten a vote, too, if it wasn't for that meddling requirement of being a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.)

But just because our vote is unofficial doesn't mean you can't officially like or dislike our opinions.  There are ten players on our imaginary ballot.  Let's start with the ones who are on the ballot for the first time.

Baseball Mecca.  (Photo courtesy of the Cooperstown/Otsego County website)

 Vladimir Guerrero

He didn't reach 3,000 hits.  He didn't hit 500 homers.  He didn't collect 1,000 extra-base hits.  He didn't score 1,500 runs, nor did he drive in that amount.  And he somehow never won a Gold Glove.  None of that matters.  Because Vladimir Guerrero is definitely a Hall of Famer.

Guerrero played only 14 full seasons in the major leagues.  (He played a total of 99 games between the 1996 and 1997 campaigns.)  But he was a feared player both at the plate and in the field.  Guerrero never batted lower than .290 in any of his full seasons and was a .300 hitter in 11 of the 12 years he qualified for the batting title, becoming one of just 30 players to have that many .300 campaigns.  Although he never won a batting title, Guerrero had four years with 200+ hits, leading the league in safeties in 2002.  Guerrero also had eight seasons with 30+ homers and an incredible ten years with 100+ RBI, making him one of only 18 players to have double digit seasons with triple digit RBIs.  In addition, Vlad was a nine-time All-Star and eight-time Silver Slugger recipient.

Opposing pitchers feared facing Guerrero, as evidenced by the five seasons in which he was the league leader in intentional walks.  Only Barry Bonds (12 times) and Wade Boggs (six times) led the league in intentional passes more often.  Guerrero was walked intentionally 250 times - the fifth highest total in major league history.

It wasn't just moundsmen who hated to face him; opposing base runners were afraid to run on Guerrero as well.  Guerrero had 126 outfield assists, leading the league in 2002 and 2004.  He could have thrown out many more runners, but they got the memo later in his career and stopped trying to run on his cannon.

And in case you thought it's just me singing his praises, in 2004, Guerrero won the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award.  Nice, right?  Well, that season was one of a dozen years in which the right fielder received MVP votes.  That's just about every year he played in the big leagues, meaning Guerrero was recognized as one of the best players in the game for nearly the entirety of his career.

2,590 hits.  477 doubles.  449 homers.  181 stolen bases.  1,328 runs scored.  1,496 runs batted in.  A .318 lifetime batting average.  A .553 career slugging percentage.  Never striking out 100 times in a season.  Two 30 homer/30 steal seasons.  Lots of accolades.  Lots of respect.

Without question, Vladimir Guerrero is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Vlad the Impaler prepares to bludgeon another opposing pitcher. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Ivan Rodriguez

The first catcher nicknamed "Pudge" is already in the Hall of Fame, as Carlton Fisk was inducted in 2000.  The second backstop with that moniker had a career that may have been even better than his pudgy predecessor.  Let's look at some key numbers.

  • Pudge I:  2,356 hits, 421 doubles, 376 HR, 1,330 RBI, 1,276 runs scored, 128 SB
  • Pudge II:  2,844 hits, 572 doubles, 311 HR, 1,332 RBI, 1,354 runs scored, 127 SB

Their RBI and stolen base totals are nearly identical and Fisk had more homers.  But Rodriguez scored more runs and had many more hits and doubles.  And then there's the defense.

Fisk won a Gold Glove once.  Once.  Rodriguez won 13 of those suckers, which is more golden hardware than any player in baseball history not named Brooks Robinson, Greg Maddux or Jim Kaat.  In fact, Rodriguez ranks eighth all-time in defensive WAR, regardless of position.  None of the seven guys in front of him were catchers.  That means - according to that little dWAR stat - Rodriguez is the greatest defensive catcher of all-time.

Throw in his seven Silver Slugger Awards (only Mike Piazza had more as a catcher; I mean Hall of Famer Mike Piazza), his 14 All-Star Game selections (the same as Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, two more than Piazza and three more than Fisk), his two World Series appearances, his 1999 A.L. MVP Award, his Steve Bartman-assisted 2003 NLCS MVP Award and that shiny ring he earned for winning the whole shebang with the Marlins ... Need we say more?

Pudge II will join Pudge I in the hallowed Hall.

Everything's bigger in Texas.  Especially the mighty roar of Ivan Rodriguez.  (Eric Gay/AP)

So, Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez would get my votes of the 19 first-timers on the ballot.  (Sorry, Pat Burrell.)  That leaves up to eight players I can vote for on my unrecognized ballot.  And those exceptional eight are:

  • Edgar Martinez: (Slashed .312/.418/.515 and has an award named after him.  A frickin' award!)
  • Tim Raines: (Because the "Ace of Stats", Ryan Spaeder, would be very pleased.)
  • Jeff Bagwell: (15 years, 1,500 runs, 1,500 RBI.  You average 100 runs/100 RBI, you're in the Hall.)
  • Trevor Hoffman: (Hell's Bells, he had a lot of saves!  And also that 2.87 lifetime ERA.)
  • Curt Schilling: (That K/BB ratio.  That 80+ WAR.  Those postseason performances.)
  • Mike Mussina: (Higher WAR than Schilling, seven Gold Gloves, nine top-six Cy Young finishes.)
  • Larry Walker: (Three batting titles, 72.6 WAR, five Gold Gloves in spacious Coors Field.)
  • Jeff Kent: (Most HR by a second baseman, 560 doubles, 1,518 RBI and a Hall-worthy 'stache!)

Those are my ten Hall of Famers for 2017.  Some will get in.  Some won't.  And some will be Jeff Kent.  But regardless of who gets the call to Cooperstown, all of the players mentioned above had outstanding careers and deserve to be recognized for their great play.

Kinda like a certain blogger should have his Hall of Fame vote recognized.  Oh, well.  There's always next year.

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