Want to know what an actual Hall of Fame ballot looks like? Mine came in Monday's mail.
Here you go:
Don't bother trying to copy and submit a ballot in hopes of influencing the process. Even if you can scrounge up a voting member's badge number, the ballots are numbered (that's whited out here) and must be submitted in a special envelope.
Years ago, when I got my first ballot, I thought it was a pretty ordinary-looking piece of paper. I guess I expected something dazzling from the world of word processing. I can't speak for others, but I've come to appreciate the simplicity.
I can tell you this much -- and I know it sounds corny -- but every year when I get the ballot, it feels weighted with responsibility. This honor means so much to so many people. I try my best to judge each candidate against the standard of whether they deserve to be grouped among the best in the game's history.
I often find the process daunting and always find it humbling. I know many of the 575 voting members from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. I know some of them very well. And I've rarely found a voting member who didn't view the process in the same manner I do.
That doesn't mean everyone judges the candidates in the same manner.
For example, I know some members who flatly refuse to vote for anyone tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs. And if they apply that standard in all cases, I respect that view.
Personally, my view is if baseball didn't ban the player, if the player's on-field achievements are still recognized in the record books, then I'll judge the player accordingly. That means, in the past, I voted for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others linked to alleged PED use.
I won't pretend those allegations don't bother me or give me pause. But, again, if baseball recognizes what they did, then I'll recognize those accomplishments as well.
I judge candidates by the numbers, of course. How they rank in comparison to others. But in doing so, I'm always reminded of a wonderful blog post years ago by my friend Joe Posnanski when we both worked at The Kansas City Star. I know of no journalist who crunches numbers better than Joe.
On this occasion, in a piece entitled, "The Hall of Comps," Joe built a persuasive argument that Duane Kuiper, who now works as a Giants broadcaster, belonged in the Hall of Fame. He chose Kuiper because when Joe was growing up in Cleveland, his favorite player was Kuiper, a solid but light-hitting second baseman who lasted 12 years in the big leagues.
Through some glitch, the piece is no longer available on the internet. But I contacted Joe, who emailed it to me. It appears, in its entirety, at the bottom of this post. Anyway, it was a fabulous piece. It might be my personal favorite among the countless fabulous pieces that Joe has written over the years.
In it, Joe acknowledged what we all know — that Kuiper isn't a Hall of Famer. But he then presented Kuiper's different numbers in comparison to others already in the Hall of Fame. And as you read it, even knowing Kuiper was not a Hall of Famer, you found yourself saying, "Well, maybe..." before you caught yourself.
Joe's point is to be wary when building a Hall of Fame case for any player based on comparative numbers to those players already in the Hall of Fame. (It was written a few years ago; some of the information cited is dated. For example, Bert Blyleven was not in the Hall when Joe wrote this.)
Anyway, yes, I do look at numbers for comparative purposes, but I want more. I ask myself whether a player could ever have been considered the best player in the game or (at least) one of the three or four best players? Was he ever viewed as the best player in the game at his position? Was he ever viewed as the best player on his club?
If yes to any of these questions, for how long?
My reasoning is this: If a player wasn't viewed as one of the best overall players in the game, at his position or on his club at some point while he played, then how can he be viewed as one of the best of all-time?
It's inexact, of course. And the judgement of whether the player met any of my "best" criteria is mine. Being the MVP or Cy Young winner helps. So does making the All-Star team a number of times. I don't give extra weight for being voted as an All-Star starter because I think that best player doesn't always win that vote.
But it's rare that Hall of Fame-caliber players aren't chosen for the All-Star team. Deserving players get overlooked each year, but those players aren't often guys you view as potential Hall of Famers.
You might disagree with this approach. Heck, few things in baseball create the level of emotional disagreement that accompanies the Hall of Fame voting. I certainly agree it's not the only way to do it. (If you think you disagree with BBWAA members, you should see how we disagree among ourselves.)
I'm willing to respect just about any approach where the voter makes an honest attempt to set a benchmark as long as they apply that benchmark uniformly to all candidates.
Anyway, the ballot is out. Take a look. Below are the official "Rules for Election" that accompany the ballot. If you wish, let us know how you'd vote. Then get ready for those who disagree.
Joe Posnanski's "Hall of Comps" blog
The Hall of Comp Game is fun. It really is. It is amazing how, with a little imagination, research and dishonesty you can make a Hall of Fame case for anybody.
Take my hero Duane Kuiper. Everyone knows I love the Kuip — heck he’s in the tagline on this blog. So you might throw out a challenge: “OK, Joaldo, let’s see you make a Hall of Fame case for Kuiper, a guy who hit one homer in his entire career, had the second worst stolen-base percentage in baseball history (52 steals, 71 caught) and never quite played in an All-Star Game.” You want it? Here it is. Come and get it.
Duane Kuiper hit .271 which is ELEVEN POINTS better than Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski. I mean that’s ridiculous. That’s not even close. He hit an even more amazing THIRTEEN POINTS better than Rabbit Marranville. These guys are in the Hall of Fame ahead of Kuiper? Who the heck is voting here?
Who is the greatest second baseman of all time? Joe Morgan, right? Come a little closer to the screen. OK, I’ll let you in on something: Duane Kuiper and Joe Morgan had the SAME LIFETIME BATTING AVERAGE. Yep. They both hit .271. And yet, everyone’s going on and on about how good Morgan was.
Or maybe you want to go for the advanced metrics than batting average, you know those really wacky stats like on-base percentage. Well fine. Kuip had a .325 on-base percentage which was way better than Hall of Famers Joe Tinker (.308) or Luis Aparicio (.311). His lifetime OPS was WAY better than Bill McKechnie or Leo Durocher.
Or even more advanced? I may not know what OPS+ means, but the guy had a 228 OPS+ his first year in the big leagues. Hello? That happens to be a higher OPS+ than Babe Ruth’s oh-so-famous 1927 season.
Fielding you say? That’s my man Kuiper’s specialty. Well, who is the best fielder ever, right? Exactly, Brooks Robinson, right? Duane Kuiper’s fielding percentage of .983 kicked the hose out of the Human Vacuum Cleaner, who had only a .971 fielding percentage. It’s laughable. Kuiper’s fielding percentage is better than Ozzie Smith’s (.978). It’s WAY better than Pee Wee Reese (.962) or Phil Ruzzutto (.968). These guys are in the Hall of Fame for their defense and they left Kuiper out? Joke!
He had more hits than Bob Gibson — and all anyone did was brag about Gibby’s hitting — more homers than Lefty Gomez, more RBIs than Branch Rickey, Dizzy Dean and Sandy Koufax put together, more runs scored than Branch Rickey. These are some of the all-time greats, people. Oh, I could keep going. More stolen bases than Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs or (this will blow you away) Ted Williams. That’s right. The great Splendid Splinter!
He grounded into about one-fourth the double plays that Hank Aaron hit into. He struck out almost 700 fewer times than George Brett, who everyone wants to keep calling a “pure hitter.” Duano was feared too — his 27 intentional walks are more than Larry Doby. Basically it’s an absolute joke that my man is not in the Hall.
You know, about one-third of the way through that, I really started getting into this. Duane’s gonna be on the next Pozcars ballot. The injustice must stop somewhere.
Anyway, I think the original point of this post was this: It’s Hall of Fame voting time which means that every day I get several emails from various lobbying groups pushing the case for their player. I’m OK with this, and some of these lobbyists make good points, some make bad points but at least they’re somewhat sane, some make ridiculous points that are at least kind of funny and some need to have their calculators taken away from them because Pythagoras will never have heavenly peace until it is done.
So, here’s what I’ve done for those of you interested in making a Hall of Fame case for your favorite player. I’ve taken some pretty shaky Hall of Famers, one at each position, listed their most appropriate Baseball Reference comp, and named someone else whose statistics absolutely blow theirs away. I hope this might accomplish two things: 1. Give you Bo Diaz, George Hendrick and Kevin Seitzer fans some comps to use in your next argument; 2. Get people to realize that there are some very mediocre choices in the Hall of Fame — it ain’t all Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.
By the way: Kuiper had more than five times more sacrifice hits than Mantle and a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Mays. Free Duane Kuiper!
Third BaseHall of Famer: George Kell (.306/.367/.414, 2054 hits, 78 homers, 111 OPS+, .258 Big Average)No. 1 Comp: Harvey Kuenn (.303/.357/.408, 2092 hits, 87 homers, 108 OPS+, .246 Big Average)Not in: Ron Santo (.277/.362/.464, 2254 hits, 342 homers, 125 OPS+, .303 Big Average)
Comment: George Kell is one of the more popular Hall of Fame comps for people trying to make their case. He was a good player, but he wasn’t an especially productive hitter, despite hit .306 lifetime average and his batting title. It seems when you look at it in context that several third basemen — including blog favorite Bill Madlock — were better hitters. Kell was a good fielder, a solid teammate, a respected man, a 10-time All-Star, and he was inducted into the Hall by the veteran’s committee, which is no longer in existence. He also went in in 1983, when the list of third basemen in the Hall of Fame was hardly overwhelming — it was before George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Wade Boggs and the same year as Brooks Robinson.
So making any Kell comparisons now is probably pointless and borderline deceitful. But what’s a little deceit when making Hall of Fame arguments …
As an aside, Ron Santo was clearly and obviously a better player.
ShortstopHall of Famer: Joe Tinker (.262/.308/.353, 1687 hits, 336 SBs, 95 OPS+)No. 1 Comp: Ozzie Guillen (.264/.287/.338, 1764 hits, 169 SBs, 68 OPS+)Not in: Vern Stephens (.286/.355/.460, 1859 hits, 247 HR, 119 OPS+, .302 Big Average)
Comment: The Guillen comp doesn’t really stand up — check out those OPS+ — but Tinker is obviously a great Hall comp for anyone trying to make a case for their favorite shortstop. This is a good place to point out that Vern Stephens was one heck of a hitter.
Second baseHall of Famer: Bill Mazeroski (.260/.299/.377, 2016 hits, 138 homers, 84 OPS+, 8 Gold Gloves)No. 1 Comp: Frank White (.255/.293/.383, 2006 hits, 160 homers, 85 OPS+, 8 Gold Gloves)Not in: Bob Grich (.266/.371/.424, 1833 hits, 224 homers, 125 OPS+, 4 Gold Gloves, .290 Big Average)
Comment: When Maz got in, it made my friend Frank White feel like maybe people would take another look at his fine career. It’s hard in baseball history to find two players who are more similar in obvious ways. They were two great fielding second baseman — best of their generations — who played big roles on championship teams and put up almost identical offensive numbers over careers that lasted almost exactly the same amount of time.
I mean, sure, people can split hairs and say Maz turned the double play better but Frank ran better but Maz hit the big World Series home run but Frank hit cleanup in the World Series and won the first ALCS MVP but Maz … it seems silly to me. They are just so darned similar, why can’t people just embrace it. Eerily similar. Putting Maz in but not White like putting in Mary Kate but not Ashley.
Of course, it is once again not a fair comparison. After the veteran’s committee voted Maz in, they slammed the door behind him — the committee was disbanded immediately (and probably BECAUSE they voted in Maz). So there’s no real Hall of Fame door open for Frank, which is a shame because he was summarily dismissed by the voters and that wasn’t right. Frank was an amazing second baseman who invented a new way to play on turf — nobody played deeper. He would run down foul balls hit two-thirds of the way into the outfield.
Grich was a hell of a lot better hitter than either one of them — and he was an outstanding second baseman himself.
First baseHall of Famer: George Kelly (.297/.342/.452, 1778 hits, 148 homers, 109 OPS+, .278 Big Average)No. 1 Comp: Bob Watson (.295/.364/.447, 1826 hits, 184 homers, 129 OPS+, .282 Big Average)Not in: Will Clark (.303/.384/.497, 2176 hits, 284 homers, 137 OPS+, .323 Big Average)
Comment: Another false B-R comp — Watson was a hell of a lot better hitter than George Kelly. Will Clark inspires the question: How long does someone have to be a “GREAT” player in order to be a Hall of Famer? If someone is a great player, as Clark was, for most of his 15 seasons, but can’t stay healthy long enough to get to the 3000 hit or 400 homer region, does that disqualify him from being in the Hall of Fame. The answer, based on Clark’s 23 Hall of Fame votes, is unequivocally, yes.
But Kirby Puckett is in …
Left FieldHall of Famer: Lou Brock (.293/.343/.410, 3023 hits, 938 SBs, 109 OPS+, .273 Big Average)No. 1 Comp: Tim Raines (.294/.385/.425, 2605 hits, 808 SBs, 123 OPS+, .318 Big Average)Not in: Indian Bob Johnson (.296/.393/.506, 2051 hits, 288 HRs, 138 OPS+, .346 Big Average)
Comment: Here it is again. Bob Johnson put up spectacular numbers — but not for quite long enough.
Raines, as mentioned in numerous places here, was a better player than Brock. Got on base A LOT more. Stole bases more efficiently. Hit with more power. Brock though was trailblazer. Be interesting to see what the voters think on Raines this year.
Center FieldHall of Famer: Kirby Puckett (.318/.360/.477, 2304 hits, 207 homers, 124 OPS+, .285 Big Average)No. 1 Comp: Don Mattingly (.307/.358/.471, 2153 hits, 222 homers, 127 OPS+, .286 Big Average)Not in: Fred Lynn (.283/.360/.484, 1960 hits, 306 homers, 129 OPS+, .311 Big Average)
Comment: So here’s the deal when you vote in Kirby Puckett first ballot … you open the door of comp to every single player who had a good career, got hurt and finished their career prematurely. Right now, this is the BIG Mattingly argument — “Hey, if Puckett’s in, how can you leave out Mattingly — they had almost identical numbers” — but, hey, I would contend that offensively Fred Lynn had better overall numbers than either one of those guys.
No, Lynn doesn’t have quite the number of hits as Puckett, but his on-base percentage is the same, he slugged better, his OPS+ is significantly better and he hit 99 more home runs. Lynn was a brilliant defensive center fielder who had his career cut short, in large part, because he played the game hard (though he was also criticized for not being tough by some). He also won an MVP award and Rookie of the Year, same year, and he hit .611 in that 1982 ALCS.
Where’s the Fred Lynn Hall of Fame lobby?
Right FieldHall of Famer: Enos Slaughter (.300/.382/.453, 2383 hits, 169 homers, 123 OPS+, .304 Big Average)No. 1 Comp: Mickey Vernon (.286/.359/.428, 2495 hits, 172 homers, 116 OPS+, .280 Big Average)Not in: Minnie Minoso (.289/.389/.459, 1963 hits, 186 homers, 205 SBs, .314 Big Average)
Comment: I think Minoso should be in.
CatcherHall of Famer: Ray Schalk (.253/.340/.316, 1345 hits, 177 SBs, 83 OPS+)Catcher Comp: JIm Sundberg (.248/.327/.348, 1493 hits, 95 homers, 89 OPS+)Not in: Ted Simmons (.285/.348/.437, 2472 hits, 248 homers, 117 OPS+, .273 Big Average)Not in: Bill Freehan (.262/.340/.412, 1591 hits, 200 homers, 112 OPS+)
Comment: Ray Schalk is a great comparison for any Hall of Fame catcher you would like to use.
PitcherHall of Famer: Catfish Hunter (224-166, 3.26 ERA, 2012 Ks, 954 walks, 104 ERA+)No. 1 Comp: Luis Tiant (229-172, 3.30 ERA, 2416 Ks, 1104 walks, 114 ERA+)Not in: Bert Blyleven (287-250, 3.31 ERA, 3701 Ks, 1322 walks, 118 ERA+)Not gonna get in: Kevin Brown (211-140, 3.28 ERA, 2397 Ks, 901 walks, 127 ERA+)Nor: David Cone (194-126, 3.46 ERA, 2668 Ks, 1137 walks, 120 ERA+).
Comment: Bill James has a theory about why Hunter got in and Tiant did not — and it did not have to do with Hunter playing on better teams or being well liked or American or whatever. Hunter was eligible BEFORE the historic sweep of 300-game winners and other slam-dunk Hall of Fames — Gaylord Perry, Jim Palmer, Fergie Jenkins, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton. Once all those guys got in, the STANDARDS of what a Hall of Fame pitcher had to be had changed. Catfish got in just under the bell.
The theory is excellent — I mean, the guy’s Bill James — but another look does seem to show that interest in Tiant seemed to be fading BEFORE those guys started getting in. Tiant’s first year, he got 30.9 percent of the vote, a good first showing. But his second year — when only Perry among those players was on the ballot — he dropped to barely more than 10 percent. Maybe voters were looking ahead and realizing that Tiant would not stack up to the wave of pitchers on the horizon. Hard to say — that sort of Hall of Fame drop is unique. Tiant was, in my opinion, a better pitcher than Catfish.