Saturday, January 19, 2019

2019 Hall of Fame Ballot and 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame

I realized the other day that it’s been 3 years since the last time I did a “50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame” piece, and even that was a reduced 25-player ballot. The last proper 50-player list was five years ago. It seems Graham Womack had ceased work on the project, but I still find the subject interesting, so I wanted to pick it up again and see what my list today would look like.

After all, with so many players going in over the past few years (18 inducted over the past five cycles, with likely another five or six joining them this year), there must be a lot of turnover, right? Let’s start by looking at my list from last time (sorted by Hall Rating); as a reminder, players are eligible even if they’re on their first ballot this year and haven’t gone through a election cycle yet:

Barry Bonds, 364
Roger Clemens, 293
Greg Maddux, 221
Curt Schilling, 172
Jeff Bagwell, 165
Mike Mussina, 165
Larry Walker, 152
Pete Rose, 151
Tom Glavine, 149
(10) Mike Piazza, 148
Bill Dahlen, 145
Lou Whitaker, 145
Alan Trammell, 144
Bobby Grich, 141
Frank Thomas, 140
Kevin Brown, 138
Rick Reuschel, 137
Edgar Martinez, 136
Kenny Lofton, 133
(20) Jack Glasscock, 131
Joe Jackson, 130
Luis Tiant, 130
David Cone, 129
Tim Raines, 129
Craig Biggio, 128
Graig Nettles, 127
Rafael Palmeiro, 126
Reggie Smith, 126
Buddy Bell, 125
(30) Mark McGwire, 125
Willie Randolph, 125
Dwight Evans, 124
Bret Saberhagen, 122
Sal Bando, 118
Ken Boyer, 118
Sammy Sosa, 117
Dick Allen, 116
Keith Hernandez, 116
Dave Stieb, 115
(40) Wes Ferrell, 113
Ted Simmons, 113
Kevin Appier, 112
Bobby Bonds, 112
Sherry Magee, 112
Joe Torre, 112
Jim Wynn, 111
Darrell Evans, 107
Tommy John, 106
Thurman Munson, 102
(50) Minnie Minoso, 101

There are a decent number of people on that list who are now in the Hall of Fame! But less than I initially thought. As it turns out, only nine names have been cleared out: Maddux, Bagwell, Glavine, Piazza, Trammell, Thomas, Raines, Biggio, and Torre (although as a manager).

How is it we’ve had 18 inductees but only nine open slots? Well, not every inductee was on my previous list, between first-ballot (or other early) inductees who weren’t eligible last time (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome) or player who I just didn’t pick (Jack Morris, Harold Baines, Lee Smith).

Meanwhile, a number of good players have come onto the ballot since then. By my count, these are all of the players with a Hall Rating of over 100 who have joined the ballot since 2015, but aren’t yet in:

Scott Rolen, 143
Roy Halladay, 139
Manny Ramirez, 130
Mariano Rivera, 130
Andruw Jones, 127
Jim Edmonds, 122
Todd Helton, 120
Gary Sheffield, 116
Andy Pettitte, 108
Johan Santana, 108
Roy Oswalt, 106
Lance Berkman, 101

That’s actually too many names, so we can’t slot all of them in. I think everyone from Sheffield and up is an easy enough pick to slot in, leaving me with one more opening. But I might actually end up dropping someone else rather than deciding between Pettitte and Santana, who were like inverses of the traditional “high peak/sustained excellence” Hall debate. Minoso, Munson, and John are all close, but have other factors going for them in my mind, making Darrell Evans my drop.

Between another hopefully-large class this year, and a relatively-weak group of first-timers next year, I might be able to add people in instead of making cuts in 2020, which is nice given all the abundance of candidates I’d like to add to the bottom of the list (I’ve mentioned John Olerud and Jeff Kent in years’ past; I’ve come around of Will Clark and Curt Flood as candidates; I really like Berkman’s case, which I covered over at The Crawfish Boxes).


Also, there’s the matter of this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. If I were a BBWAA voter, I would of course be tracking the early results to inform my decision, since there are still more deserving candidates than ballot slots. Helping the top candidates get in would probably be the first priority, since that will do the most to clear out the ballot. That means Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina (who looks like he’ll be teetering right at the 75% line up to the announcement).

That also means Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker. Getting them closer to 75% sets them up well for future years, even if most probably won’t make it this year (although Walker’s climb from 34% last year to likely over 60% this year is amazing).

I’m also inclined to give a vote to Scott Rolen, who’s also seen his numbers tick up quite a bit in his second year. He could be another beneficiary of more ballot spaces next year, and some strong early-growth numbers could set him up well for down the road.

My last space comes down to I think Andy Pettitte, Andruw Jones, or Todd Helton, since that’s where I think it could do the most good. I think Jones and Pettitte deserve to stay on the ballot, and both are near the 5% line. Helton isn’t in danger of falling off, but like Rolen, a strong 2019 could have him picking up even more votes down the line. Ultimately, I think Helton’s need is less urgent, since he will undoubtedly be around next year.

Pettitte versus Jones is difficult, though. Jones is a little closer to hitting 5%, but I think Pettitte will do better with the voters who don’t reveal their ballots (having a lot of pitching wins, postseason success, and seasons with the Yankees). I could also leave Rivera off (since he’s still at 100%) and vote for both if I wanted to try and game things, but instead I’ll just include Jones and hope my gut instinct on Pettitte is right.

2019 Ballot:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, Andruw Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker

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