2019 Hall of Fame Ballot; Mariano unanimous?


Mariano Rivera runs from the bullpen to the mound at Yankees stadium.

2019 Hall of Fame Ballot

As everyone rings in the New Year, most people start thinking about going back to the gym for all of a week or maybe drinking more water. But for me, it means it’s time to focus even more on the best thing in life, baseball. While there is no real off season for the true fan, we usually take a little bit of time off for a break every now and then. 

Now that the new year is here, and the Manny Machado/Bryce Harper sweepstakes are in full effect, there is another fun thing to think about: Cooperstown. 

While I may just be a baseball writer for a website, it is still fun to dream about getting to cast my own 2019 hall of fame ballot as an official member of the BBWAA. My vote doesn’t actually count but here is who I would vote for.

When looking at the ballot, there are usually two ways to look at it. You can start with the returners, or you can take a look at the first-timers. Today, I am going to start with the new guys.

2019 First Timers

Debuting this year are Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Lance Berkman, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Travis Hafner, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Darren Oliver, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Mariano Rivera, Miguel Tejada, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis and Michael Young.

First choice, and an obvious one: Mariano Rivera. This is an obvious choice. Let me make this clear, Bill Ballou is an asshole. Yes, I said it. The Sandman revolutionized a position, and is, and will always be, the greatest closer of all time. There is zero doubt in my mind that Mo should be the first-ever unanimous decision for a Hall of Famer, but whatever. Is my opinion here biased? Absolutely. Not because I am a Yankees fan. Not because I recorded a save in my one opportunity back in high school. I am biased because I am a baseball fan. 

With my first vote going to Mo, that leaves me with nine more selections. Sticking with other first-timers, my next two votes go to Harry Leroy Halladay III and Andrew Eugene Pettitte. Neither of them are 300-game winners, that plateau is astronomical in the era of the over-managing, and both pitchers won over 200 games.  

Halladay, with his 148 wins in Toronto will always be a Blue Jay in my memory, but his end years in Philly will always be remembered as magical. Especially the evening of May 29, 2010, when he was perfect in Miami and again in the first game of that year’s NLDS when he no-hit the Reds. Doc surpassed the 15-win mark in eight of his 16 seasons and led the league in wins twice.

I may be biased in my vote for Pettitte, but hey, at least I am honest. He never had any real special season where he peaked beyond the competition, but I always appreciated him as a pitcher, because if he was anything in his career, he was consistent. While his pick-off move to first might be one of the best of all time, it isn’t exactly a HoF caliber stat, so where Pettitte really stands out for me is his post-season career.

Five World Championships is nothing to shake your head at, and he always seemed to be the guy that could pick up those “must win” games for the Yankees in the height of their dynasty. I don’t think he will get in just yet, but he still is getting my vote. 

My fourth and final vote for a first-timer would go to Todd Lynn Helton. My opinion of Helton is similar to my opinion of Pettitte. Despite Helton never winning an MVP; he was a five-time All-Star, three-time gold glover, four-time silver slugger, and finished as an MVP finalist six times during his 17-year career.

He was very consistent throughout his career in Colorado but it was his fourth year in the league that stands out among his best. In 2000, he led the NL in batting average (.372), hits (216), doubles (59), RBI (147), and slugging (.698), yet he still finished fifth in the MVP voting behind winner Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, and Jim Edmonds. I am not too sure Helton will make it in the HoF on this ballot, but I do believe he eventually will in Cooperstown.

With four selections made, it means I have six left to pick and they are all going to players returning to the ballot. 

2019 Returners

My first selection led this year’s returners with 70.4% of last year’s votes, Edgar Martinez. Edgar may very well be the best Designated Hitter of all time. (Editor’s Note: We detailed Edgar last year.) The only argument that could be made is that he is the second-best ever, behind David Ortiz. His 2,247 hits, 309 HRs, 1,261 RBIs, and 514 doubles speak for themselves. However, his stat line that I find even more impressive, is his .579/.652/1.053 career splits against fellow 2019 Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera. With just missing out on Cooperstown in 2018, I think 2019 is finally his year.

Michael Cole Mussina gets my next vote. Moose was also just shy in 2018, garnering 63.5% of the votes. Winning 270 games in his 18-year career split between Baltimore and the Bronx, he surpassed the 15-win mark 11 times, leading the AL in wins with 19 in 1995 and posting a 20-9 record in his final season in 2008. Like Halladay and Pettitte, Moose was a workhorse. He started 30 or more games in 12 of his 19 seasons, and in those seven seasons where he didn’t make 30 starts, he started 24 or more games in six of them.

My next two votes go to two guys that I absolutely believe should be in Cooperstown, but the old baseball “purists” will always argue against it. Barry Lamar Bonds, and William Roger Clemens

Yes. Steroids were used, and they lied about it. Now that we put that aside, do we really even have to discuss the numbers? Last time I checked, nobody has hit more home runs in the history of Major League Baseball than Barry Bonds. I’m not really a WAR guy, but Bonds’ career WAR is 162.8. THAT IS AN ENTIRE SEASON. He might arguably be the most dangerous hitter of all-time, and yes, I am putting him above Babe Ruth there. Yeah, I said it. Ruth may be the greatest ballplayer to ever live, but Bonds might have been the most dangerous to ever step in the box. 

You can also make the same argument for Clemens. His 354 wins are ninth-best all time, behind eight Hall of Famers, and ahead of 44 current Hall of Famers in the top 100 career wins list.  Everybody knows his stats. Just like Bonds, they speak for themselves. 

Where I think Bonds and Clemens fail to get the votes are, unfortunately, their personalities. I am more than positive we have current Hall of Famers that used steroids, so the whole steroid argument needs to just be thrown away already. David Ortiz, who ACTUALLY tested positive for PEDs, will more than likely get into the HoF when he is eligible because he was loved by all. Bonds and Clemens destroyed their personal image by being jerks on and off the field, which is a shame because on-field performance should be the only thing that matters when it comes to Hall of Famers. Just look at Ty Cobb, HE KILLED SOMEONE and is still in the HoF.

Why? Because of his numbers. It is time to put Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in Cooperstown.

While we are on the subject of testing positive, my next vote is for another dangerous hitter during the late 90s and early 2000s, Manuel Aristides Ramirez Onelcida. From 1998 to 2008, Manny hit 30 or more home runs in every season but 2007, averaging 38 homers a year in that span while earning All-Star nods each year. Where Manny hurts his chances at the Hall, other than his PED use, was his inability to walk away from the game. While spending his first 16 seasons with Cleveland and Boston, it was after he was traded to the Dodgers where he should have walked away and called it a career.

After spending the second half of 2008, all of 2009, and the first half of 2010 struggling in LA, he was then shipped to the White Sox for 24 games before playing in five games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 when he tested positive for PEDs, earning himself a 100-game suspension, prompting his MLB retirement. If a player could get voted into the Hall of Fame for just a portion of his career, Manny’s last few years in Cleveland combined with his Red Sox years, would have been a sure-fire lock for the Hall. Unfortunately, I believe his quick downward spiral at the end of his career will leave too large of a stain for him to ever get into Cooperstown, but he still would get my vote, if I had one. 

With nine votes in the books, my final vote is going to a guy that will never get in, but I think is deserving of the recognition if we are letting PED users in. Samuel Kelvin Peralta Sosa is my last choice for a vote, even though my hypothetical vote would not be enough to get him over the hump. Sosa is arguably most remembered for being part of that magical summer of ’98, where he and Mark McGwire chased after Roger Marris until Big Mac caught him first on September 8 against Sosa’s Cubs in St. Louis.

The stat that will always stand out to me is that Sosa is the only guy to hit more than 60 home runs in three different seasons, and even more impressive, he didn’t lead the league in any of those years! His 66 HRs in ’98 were overshadowed by McGwire’s 70. His 63 HR’s in ‘99 were second to McGwire’s 65, and his 64 in ’01 were behind Bonds’ 73. Sosa did, however, lead the NL in homers twice in his career, in 2000 with 50 and 2002 with 49, it is just kind of funny to think that he hit 60+ three times and was always second fiddle those years.

Like Manny, I do not think Sammy Sosa will ever get into Cooperstown, but his span from 1998-2003 where he slugged 332 of his 609 home runs were some fun summers to follow along. And let’s not forget that signature hop out of the box when he got a hold of one. 

So, to recap this long-winded article, if I got to select players I deem worthy of Cooperstown, my ten choices in 2019 would be Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte, Todd Helton, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, and Sammy Sosa. I guess we will just have to wait and see on January 22 who will be getting that illustrious phone call.

 

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