When I had my sports blog, one of the coolest things I did was become a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, or IBWAA.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, the IBWAA was established in 2009 by Forbes sports writer, Howard Cole. It’s a really cool concept give a voice to those who write digitally about baseball, a group that has not yet been represented by the traditional BBWAA.
Each year we have our own vote for MLB season awards, and a vote for the Hall of Fame. We are allowed to vote for as many as 15 former players. Here is my ballot, broken down into three groups.
The “Steroid” Guys
I have no problem with anyone not wanting to vote the guys linked to steroids in, but have written in the past that i’m over the steroid stuff, and despite the hypocrisy of former players like Joe Morgan, I have stuck by my guns. With that conviction in mind, there was no way I could not vote for Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds. The PED stuff aside, their career numbers speak for themselves, as Clemens and Bonds were arguably the greatest pitcher and hitter of a generation.
After the two big names, three more guys appear on the list that have been “linked” to PED’s. I use the word linked loosely, because one of the next three, Sammy Sosa, has never been linked to, or proven to have used, PED’s. I get why some people may think he used them, but, in my opinion, that becomes a slippery slope, and one that I do not wish to make my way down. With that said, there is simply no way I’m not voting for a guy who has three 60-homer seasons and 600 career bombs.
I also voted for Gary Sheffield and his 509 career home runs, 1,600-plus runs scored and RBI, and .907 career OPS. the numbers are there, but the main reasons I am voting for him is because his only link to PED’s is the infamous leaked grand jury testimony made famous by Game of Shadows. I seem to be in the minority on this, but I have a bigger issue with anyone who illegally leaked a grand jury testimony than I do with someone who used a foreign substance to help them hit a ball further. Not to mention, had the BBWAA liked him more, Sheffield would also have won back-to-back MVP awards in 2003 and 2004 (and maybe even 1992 for that matter).
I also voted for Manny Ramirez. Of all the steroid guys, he is the one guy I could see not voting for, because he is the only one of this group who actually failed a drug test for PED’s. Still, the guy was arguably the greatest right handed hitter of his generation, and maybe ever finishing his career with 555 home runs, over 1800 RBI’s and an OPS four points shy of 1.000. Oh yeah, and he also helped end one of baseball’s most storied “curses”, so I gave him my vote.
I voted for 14 guys total this year, and of the remaining nine guys on my ballot, I feel that five should be absolutely locks. Those guys are Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, and Omar Vizquel.
Chipper Jones is arguably the greatest switch hitter in National League history. Jim Thome hit 612 home runs without ever being mentioned in any PED conversation, and Trevor Hoffman just missed the 75 percent in our vote last year, and is widely regarded as the greatest closer of all time, not named Mariano Rivera (more on this in a minute).
Omar Vizquel is another guy I think should be a lock to get in, although I’m not sure he will. His career compares comparably to Ozzie Smith’s, but with slightly better offensive numbers. In an era that was dominated by offensive powerhouses at shortstop, Omar Vizquel still stuck out, and was arguably the best defensive player of his generation.
My fifth guy who should be a lock, but I don’t think will get in, is closer Billy Wagner. In my opinion, the second best closer ever is not the aforementioned Hoffman, but it’s actually Wagner.
Sure, Wagner’s 422 career saves pales in comparison to Hoffman’s 601, that is the only evidence that Hoffman was better. Wagner has a better career ERA, WHIP, H/9, and a SO/9. All of those numbers, with the exception of ERA, are also better than Mariano Rivera’s. Wagner also has more career strikeouts than both Hoffman and Rivera despite playing in approximately 200 fewer games.
The Borderline but Deserving
Jeff Kent won an MVP award, and finished his career with 377 home runs, 1518 RBI, and an .855 OPS while playing most of his career at second base. Those numbers easily put him in the conversation fo best offensive players ever at the position.
Tossing the first no-hitter for my beloved Mets alone was enough to get my vote, but Johan Santana has a very impressive resume for a short career decimated by injuries. He won two Cy Young awards and a Gold Glove as a member of the Twins, and was arguable the best pitcher in baseball from 2004-2008. While not as good, his career resembles that of Sandy Koufax, but I think he’s a long shot.
Larry Walker was a five tool player who won an MVP, three batting titles, and seven Gold Glove awards. He has a career batting average of .313, a career OBP of .400, and a career slugging percentage of .565. those last two numbers are good for 12th and 16th all time, respectively. the only reasons Walker hasn’t already made it to Cooperstown is because he didn’t play long enough to reach any of the magical career milestones, and because he played his best years in Coors Field.
Finally, I selected Curt Schilling. I can’t stand the guy, but he was the Jack Morris of his day. He was as clutch as any pitcher ever, and was a key contributor to three different teams World Series runs (Philadelphia, Arizona, and Boston). Had he not been a late bloomer, or not spent so much time injured in Philadelphia, he may have won 300 games.
One guy I debated non-stop was Mike Mussina. Was his best as good as Johan Santana’s or Curt Schilling’s? No, but he was really good, for a really long period of time, all the way up to his last day, as evidenced by his only 20 win season coming in his last season. Ultimately, I left him off my ballot, even though I had one more player I could choose. After submitting my ballot, it stayed on my mind, and realized, I screwed up. Mike Mussina should be a Hall of Famers, he should have gotten my vote, and he absolutely will next year.