- The surprise element of Hall of Fame day is being ruined, which is why this year was the time to hold the ballot until after results were public.
News Item (or not): The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Scientists will allow its voting members to reveal their Oscar ballots in the weeks leading up to the awards show. “We want to dampen the surprise of the announcement of the awards, promote groupthink in ballot casting and encourage outrage on social media against voters,” said a spokesperson for the organization. “In other words, we are using the Baseball Writers Association of America as our template.”
Ridiculous? Of course. Nobody would dare mess with the surprise factor of the biggest awards in the motion picture business. But that is what is exactly what is happening with the biggest award in the baseball business. Ryan Thibodaux and his team of Hall of Fame trackers do such an excellent job collecting BBWAA votes before they are announced—and more voters are revealing their ballots early—that Hall of Fame Announcement Day is losing its surprise factor.
The BBWAA does not allow its voting members of annual award committees (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie the Year and Manager of the Year) to reveal their votes prior those announcements. So why allow members who vote for the Hall of Fame to prematurely reveal their ballots?
The answer has something to do with drawing out interest for the announcement. It used to be that some writers would post columns explaining their ballot (disclosure: I used to be among them), but not in great enough numbers to be meaningful—nor were they tracked with the fervor they are today. In 2012, only about 10% of ballots were tracked. This year, on the eve of the announcement, we already knew how more than 50% of the voters voted. We know even have algorithms to convert early ballots into likely results.
With that in mind, and now that the results are announced, here are the players who received my vote, and why.
Roy Halladay: He was the best pitcher in baseball for a decade. From 2002–11, Halladay led all pitchers in winning percentage, complete games, shutouts and FIP while winning two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top five in the Cy voting seven times. He was the last of a breed. Since 1995, nobody has more complete games than Halladay (67), and nobody figures to get even close.
Fun Fact: Since the World Series began in 1903, Halladay has the greatest winning percentage (.659) of any pitcher who never played in a World Series (min. 350 starts).
Jeff Kent: He suffers from the most egregious lack of support of any player on the ballot. Voters hold WAR (an estimation, not a stat) against him, and that relies heavily on developing defensive metrics. But the teams that paid Kent didn’t hold his defense against him. Kent played 88% of his career games at second base.
Fun Fact: Kent has more home runs, more 100-RBI seasons and more starts in the cleanup position than any second baseman who ever played major league baseball.
Edgar Martinez: I did not vote for Martinez his first time on the ballot because I considered him a borderline Hall of Famer with similar career numbers to Moises Alou, John Olerud and Will Clark with no significant defensive contribution. What swayed me was the professional respect he commanded. Rivera and Pedro Martinez called him the toughest hitter they ever faced.
Fun Fact: Martinez had eight qualified seasons with an OPS+ of 150, tied with Dick Allen and Pete Browning for the most seasons by any eligible player not in the Hall and not connected to steroids.
Fred McGriff: He is Eddie Murray without the sexy round counting number. (The strike left him seven career homers short of 500.) McGriff had a better on-base percentage and better slugging percentage than Murray as well as more 100-RBI and 30-homer seasons. He posted a .917 OPS in 50 career playoff games. Thirty-two players have hit 475 home runs. Every one of them who has been on a ballot and not been connected to steroids is in the Hall of Fame with one exception: McGriff.
Fun Fact: McGriff is one of only 16 players to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot who posted an OPS of .886 over at least 10,000 plate appearances. Every other one of them not connected to steroids is not only in the Hall but also was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Mike Mussina: Mussina pitched his entire career in the AL East through the Steroid Era, one of the greatest slugging eras in baseball history—and he came out of it with 270 wins and 117 games above .500. He made 60% of his career starts at Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards and Fenway Park.
Fun Fact: Mussina is one of only eight pitchers with 11 qualified seasons with an ERA+ of 125 or better. Six of the others were first-ballot Hall of Famers: Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Greg Maddux, Pete Alexander and Christy Mathewson. The other is steroid-tainted Roger Clemens.
Mariano Rivera. We love our sports arguments. But Rivera is the rare player who was so great there is no argument about who was the best at his position. Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. He leads all pitchers in saves (642), games finished (952), ERA+ (205) and postseason games (96).
Fun Fact #1: Though righthanded, Rivera was the fourth toughest pitcher against lefthanders (.209; since 1950, when data is available), behind Whitey Ford, Nolan Ryan and Mickey Lolich.
Fun Fact #2: Rivera pitched the ninth inning more times (981) than any pitcher in any inning since 1908, and it’s not even close. (Second place: Ryan, with 774 times pitching the first inning).
Fun Fact #3: Rivera faced 527 batters in the postseason. Fewer men scored an earned run off Rivera in the postseason than have walked on the moon.
Curt Schilling: A three-time Cy Young Award runner-up, he is Don Drysdale with a better postseason track record. There is nobody in modern postseason history better at pitching a big game than Schilling.
Fun Fact #1: He took the ball five times in postseason elimination games. His team went 5–0 in those games while Schilling was 4–0 with a 1.37 ERA.
Fun Fact #2: He owns the greatest strikeout-to-walk rate since the mound was set at 60 feet, six inches in 1889 (4.4 punchouts for every walk).
Fun Fact #3. He is one of only four pitchers since 1900 to strike out 300 batters three times. The others are Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax.