An Outsider’s 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot
Well, here we are again. The time has come to reveal who will be gracing Cooperstown with their presence. Last year, Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous player to be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. Will a teammate follow his lead? Will the Steroid Era continue to be passed by? Who won’t make it past their first year?
All these questions should be answered tonight, as the 2020 MLB Hall of Fame class is announced. With Derek Jeter as the obvious headliner, there are questions whether he will be going in solo or not (along with Modern Era committee selections Marvil Miller and Ted Simmons). There are a lot of fascinating aspects as to why people voted for one player or another, which can complicate the process.
Before we find out who will enter baseball immortality, I have decided to create my own ballot. Here are the top five players that would enter the Hall of Fame if I had a vote. By the end, it will either be praised, or people will understand why I don’t have a vote.
* Right out of the Gate*
Before we get to the “for sure” picks, I’d like to get something out of the way: I am not including those closely associated with the Steroid Era. As good as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez were, controversy clouds them. Bonds will go down as one of the best hitters prior to *allegedly* taking steroids, but the damage has been done.
Players like Larry Walker, who many are hoping gets in, get a bad rap because of the time they were in the game. I don’t believe Walker will get in because of a variety of factors, as well as a man who hit his 500th home run with the Mets, Gary Sheffield.
If Bonds or Clemens do get in, Pete Rose should as well. That is all I have to say about that.
Without getting too much into this, “Mr. November” has over 3,000 hits, a .310/.377/.440 slash line and a few World Series titles to his name, as well as series MVP. The face of the Yankees and Major League Baseball for years, Derek Jeter’s hustle and determination is known.
Some may discredit him due to his fielding, but the 14x All-Star’s 72.4 career WAR is right below Mike Trout. While managing the Miami Marlins has led to controversy with him as a businessman, Jeter’s time as a player cannot be denied.
By all accounts, Curt Schilling should have been in the Hall of Fame a while ago.
The six-time All-Star has 216 wins, a 3.46 ERA and over 3,000 strikeouts. He also has a career WAR of 80.5. In the postseason, Schilling ended his career with an 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA. He is also remembered for having one of the most memorable outings in history via the Bloody Sock Game.
One reason this man is not in the Hall of Fame is partly because of his mouth. The political statements he has made have been deemed controversial and vile. While fair, it wouldn’t be the first time players from the past have said things that affected their image. Take Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth for example, as well as Cap Anson, who had a history of problems on the field when it came to race. Heck, even Mariano Rivera’s political views are often questioned.
Every year his chances of getting enough votes have increased; he went from 51.2% in 2018 to 60.9% last year. Perhaps, even with a crowded field, Schilling’s chances will continue to increase if 2020 is not his year.
Now we get to the nitty-gritty portion of the ballot. Omar Vizquel has one of the more fascinating support groups when it comes to the Hall of Fame. The man has 11 Gold Gloves at shortstop, two less than Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.
While his .272/.336/.352 slash line doesn’t sound sexy to most, Vizquel has over 2,877 hits, ranking fifth in players who spent a majority of their careers at shortstop. The others are Jeter, Robin Yount, Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken Jr.
If that doesn’t help his cause, he is considered one of the most prolific defenders of all time. Vizquel’s all-time fielding percentage is .985 while his errors on the field (183) fail in comparison to his putouts (4,102) and assists (7,676).
He may not get the respect of other elite players, but Vizquel’s durability, defense and overall numbers make him a borderline Hall of Famer.
Some may argue that if Larry Walker shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame then neither should Todd Helton. That is fair, but Helton has managed to be a force for many years.
A career .316/.414/.539 hitter, Helton has over 2,500 hits and 369 home runs in 2,247 games. A five-time All-Star, the former leader of the Colorado Rockies ranks eighth in MLB history among first baseman in fielding percentage (.996). That has resulted in him winning three Gold Gloves.
When it comes to his number at and away from Coors Field, a big factor when it comes to the Hall of Fame, Helton’s numbers aren’t actually that bad. FanGraphs has his OPS at Coors field at a whopping 1.048 while he has a solid .855 OPS on the road. While his average is significantly different (.332 home v. .285 away), there is no doubt Helton’s power goes far beyond Coors.
Walker should be a Hall of Famer before Helton does, but that doesn’t discredit the former football star’s role in the game of baseball.
Over the years, the role of closer has meant a lot more compared to what it used to be. Rivera and Trevor Hoffman got immortalized for their dominance in both leagues, while Lee Smith, the original saves leader, finally got his moment to shine in 2019. Perhaps this could be the year Billy Wagner gets recognized?
Ranked fourth in the National League and sixth overall with 422 saves, the 16-year veteran has a 2.31 ERA, 1,196 strikeouts and a 0.99 WHIP. The former Met has a .187 average against him and has struck out over 100 batters four times. The last time was during his comeback year in 2010 with the Braves, which also happened to be his last season. According to FanGraphs, Wagner, with over 900 innings under his belt, is ranked first in strikeout rate since 1950. To put that in perspective, Randy Johnson is ranked fifth, Pedro Martinez 12th and Nolan Ryan 17th.
How impactful was Wagner to the game? The seven-time All-Star has a career 24 WAR that is ranked sixth among relievers, only behind Rivera, “Goose” Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Hoffman and Smith.
Wagner’s attitude has sometimes come into question, but that should not deter him from making the Hall of Fame. His numbers, especially during a time when players hit the ball to the moon, are impressive enough to warrant a plaque in Cooperstown.
If I had to guess, I’d bet the farm on Jeter getting in. As far as if anyone would join him, the only figure on this list that has a shot may be Schilling.
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