Monday, January 14, 2019

Here's My Baseball Hall Call for 2019

As I have gotten older (and hopefully, but not necessarily) wiser, I have tried hard to not get too worked up about stuff I can't control. The state of politics in this country makes that challenging many days, but I'm trying.

And so it is for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This might have been my last year as a voter, as rules that were put in place a few years ago aim to slowly weed out "fossils" like 58-year-old me. I follow the major leagues as closely as I ever have -- perhaps more closely now, because I don't have the kind of Cubs/White Sox tunnel vision I had for most of my writing career. I take the responsibility seriously, I think I do a good job of vetting candidates, and I respect both the Hall and the process.

However, I do understand that other ex-sportswriters might not follow the game as closely as they once did, and I understand how that concerns the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Hall.

So if this is my last year as a voter (it might not be, but one year soon it will be), I'm not going to get worked up about it. It will have been a good run.

Along those lines, I didn't get my undies in a bundle last month over the selection of ex-White Sox slugger Harold Baines by the "Today's Game Era Committee."

Baines was a very good ballplayer, but there was a reason he was rejected by hundreds and hundreds of Hall voters for several years: His career was not Hall of Fame material. Led by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, however, 3 of the 16 people on the committee had close ties to Baines and lobbied hard to get him into the Hall.

It is not supposed to be an old-boy's network, and this certainly diminishes the stature of the most-watched and most-respected Hall of Fame in all of sports.

But again, I can't do anything about it, it doesn't affect my life, and if that's what the Hall wants to do, well, whatevs.

I will admit that as I looked at this year's ballot, I found myself saying a couple of times, "This guy's not a Hall of Famer, but if Harold got in ... " I decided not to change how I vote, though. 

As always, I couple my first-hand knowledge of a player's career with his statistics, and I make my selections.

Having said all that, let's get to this year's ballot, starting with the newcomers whom I did NOT choose:

TODD HELTON had a dominant 7-year stretch for the Rockies from 1998-2004, averaging 35 HR and 118 RBI. But his stats were SO much better in the thin air of Colorado that it's difficult to not look at his overall numbers as somewhat artificial. He also saw a pretty significant performance decline in the second half of his career. 

LANCE BERKMAN had a fine career, mostly with the Astros. He put up some good run-production numbers and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting 6 times. With six 100-RBI seasons in 15 years compared to three in 22 years for Baines, Berkman seems every bit as deserving of the Hall as Harold. But I've already said Harold isn't deserving, so I'm not going to lower my bar.

ANDY PETTITTE had enough success over a long pitching career to receive some consideration, but I'm going to invoke my 5-year rule for steroid cheats and not even think about voting for him until the 2024 class ... if he is still on the ballot and/or if I am still a Hall voter then.

ROY OSWALT had a great first 8 years to his career (2001-08), pitching kind of like a poor man's Pedro Martinez. He finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting 5 times, had a 129-64 record with a 3.13 ERA, and averaged 200 IP and 167 whiffs (OK, OK ... a VERY poor man's Pedro). But injuries derailed his shot to be Hall-worthy. 

FREDDY GARCIA and JON GARLAND played major roles in Chicago's first World Series-winning team in 88 years and first pennant winners in almost a half-century ... but they weren't close to being Hall of Famers.

TED LILLY rates special mention ... but only for his hilarious Tanner/Bad News Bears, glove-slamming exhibition after giving up a soul-crushing 3-run homer to Arizona's Chris Young in the 2007 NLDS.

Other first-time Hall candidates who have no chance: RICK ANKIEL ... JASON BAY ... TRAVIS HAFNER ... DEREK LOWE ... DARREN OLIVER ... JUAN PIERRE ... PLACIDO POLANCO  ...  MIGUEL TEJADA ... VERNON WELLS ... KEVIN YOUKILIS ... MICHAEL YOUNG. Hey, at least Baines has all of them beat!

As for those who have been on the ballot for multiple years but have not earned my check mark, I discussed them in last year's article: HERE.

I did vote for two players in their first year of eligibility:


Duh. The greatest relief pitcher ever, and it's not even close. I'm not going to waste my time and yours by reciting his stats.


In an era that introduced the coddling of starting pitchers, Halladay was a throwback: a workhorse who wanted the ball every 5th day and always wanted to finish what he started. 

In the 10 seasons after he became a regular in Toronto's rotation in 2002, he averaged 17 wins and 219 innings, had a 2.97 ERA, won the Cy Young Award in each league (AL 2003 with Toronto, NL 2010 with Philadelphia), and was selected for 8 All-Star Games. He led his league in complete games 7 times, and innings and shutouts 4 times each. 

Halladay also pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history, and threw the second postseason no-hitter ever. 

An outstanding, Hall of Fame body of work for a man who died too young (plane crash, November 2017, at age 40).

My other five selections are holdovers from last year and were discussed in previous years' editions of The Baldest Truth.

Here are the 7 players who received my check marks for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019:








The Hall of Fame will announce its 2019 class on Jan. 22.

** A quick look-ahead to next year: 

Derek Jeter is a slam dunk, but otherwise the newcomer list will look pretty unimpressive: Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Adam Dunn, Cliff Lee.

After Jeter, the best newcomer to the 2020 ballot will be Paul Konerko, the captain of the 2005 champion White Sox.

Even though I really like Konerko, my knee-jerk reaction is: Not a Hall of Famer. Then again ...

His numbers are at least as good as (and in most cases better than) those of Harold Baines.

No comments:

Post a Comment