I’ve got to admit I’ve been pretty fortunate these past few months. Twice, I have placed myself in the crosshairs of the intense, unflappable and infallible Sabermetric community with my votes, and twice I have dodged the stat-laced bullets.
Let me simply say this to my fellow writers: Thank you for not being as feeble-minded, as old-school idiotic, as I am. God bless you. Everyone.
So, here’s the deal: In October, I voted Boston’s Mookie Betts ahead of Los Angeles’ Mike Trout in the AL MVP race. Luckily, Trout won, so the SABR mob’s sabers were temporarily put away. I voted the way I did because I still believe performing at an elite level in a pennant race should at least be part of the consideration when declaring “most valuable.”
Trout is baseball’s best player; Betts, in my opinion, was most valuable in 2016. And, let’s not forget, he had a tremendous year. Luckily, the other voters saved me from my own small-mindedness and made baseball great again with the Trout decision. So, I wasn’t even verbally flogged for my indiscretion. Didn’t hear a peep.
The BBWAA came through to save my moronic soul again Wednesday when the results of the 2017 Hall of Fame class were announced and Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (pictured above) made the cut.
I voted for Bagwell and Rodriguez and eight others – the maximum 10 allowed by the current rules. Raines, the darling of progressive thinkers, analytical geniuses and non-morons everywhere, was left off my ballot.
It wasn’t a protest. It wasn’t attention-getting. It wasn’t supposed to be just another example of my vast ineptitude as a writer, a thinker, a human being.
I just didn’t believe he was one of the 10 best candidates on a ridiculously stuffed ballot. If I had 12 spots, Raines probably would have been included on my final ballot (if I had 11, though, he still likely would have been left off). But I had 10. That’s a stat I must embrace.
Frankly, Raines was one of two players I seriously contemplated choosing this year whom I never considered a Hall of Famer while they were playing. Larry Walker is the other one – and Walker ended up on my submitted ballot.
It’s probably unfair that those two had to deal with such an obstacle, that they had to prove themselves a little more to me than the other candidates I considered. But this is a personal decision, and I’m allowed to have my own opinions. So long as I ultimately give those opinions a cool acronym.
So, here’s my brief WIDVORT (Why I Didn’t Vote Raines, Tim): I was bothered by the fact Raines played more than 115 games in a season just once in his final nine years. That he never had a WAR above 1.8 from 1994 until he retired in 2002, basically suggesting he was close to replacement level for a chunk of his career. That his best years were phenomenal, other-worldly, but much of his career was just solid to unspectacular.
I was bothered that, despite being considered the second-best leadoff hitter of all-time, he only batted leadoff in 63 percent of his starts (Rickey Henderson, the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time, batted atop his order 99.5 percent of the time; Lou Brock, 77 percent).
I was bothered that Raines never truly stood out as a defender, despite that blazing speed. And, given that Raines was on my Hall bubble, I was bothered some by his admittance that he used cocaine during games and carried it with him on the field. I can’t say that was a huge factor, but it was a mark on the wrong side of the ledger as I contemplated and compared.
None of this matters, though. Raines was an excellent player, one of baseball’s greatest baserunners who was a superstar for several seasons and is going into the Hall of Fame in his last chance on the writers’ ballot. I’m exceptionally happy for Raines, someone I covered for four games as an Oriole in 2001 (he was seemingly a good guy during that blink of an interaction).
I’m also happy for myself. I’m glad I didn’t cost Raines a spot in Cooperstown. That would have stunk. Because I do believe he has a legitimate argument; I just didn’t think his candidacy was as strong as 10 (or 11) others.
For the record, I didn’t avoid making my ballot public until the Raines storm passed. I was going to reveal it no matter what. The reason I waited until today is because I wanted to defer to the Hall to announce first. Many of my fellow writers chose to reveal their ballots earlier. That’s their prerogative, and I’m OK with that, too.
See, I’m pretty agreeable for a waste of human tissue (My WOHT is a perfect 1.000).
Here are the 10 candidates I voted for, with a quick comment on each:
Jeff Bagwell: He was a complete player, and I’m not getting caught up in whispers or trying to play judge, jury or detective. I don’t think it should have taken Bagwell this long to make it into the Hall based on his credentials. I’ve voted for him whenever possible.
Barry Bonds: Here’s what I do with the Steroid Era and Hall of Fame consideration. I lessen the power totals (home runs for hitters; strikeouts for pitchers, for instance) and look at the player’s overall talent and success. To me, Bonds was the best all-around position player I’ve ever witnessed as a professional writer. I get the “cheating” argument. I still vote for him.
Roger Clemens: Same as Bonds. He was the best in the game for a long, long time. I can’t erase that because he used performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t have to like the Bonds and Clemens choices, but I can’t justify keeping them out. Because they were so incredibly dominant.
Vladimir Guerrero: I debated this one some. But, again, it comes down to all-around talent and success. He was one of the game’s most feared hitters and strong-armed right fielders for what seemed like an eternity, though he retired – as an Oriole – at 36.
Trevor Hoffman: This is a vote that will get criticized by some. But he had one job to do – as defined by the way the game has evolved – and he did it as well as anyone not named Rivera.
Edgar Martinez: The DH is a position, according to the American League rules, which I didn’t write. Martinez was a hitting machine. I’ve never wavered on this one.
Mike Mussina: He gets docked because he was never the most dominant pitcher in his era. But he was so consistently good for 18 seasons in the barfight that is the American League East.
Ivan Rodriguez: The guy was a tremendous all-around player and arguably the best defensive catcher I’ve ever covered. And his teammates, including pitchers, will say he made them better.
Curt Schilling: I’m not asking him to teach a journalism class, I’m assessing his career as a pitcher. And it was splendid. He was dominant at times and excelled on the big stage.
Larry Walker: This one caught me by surprise when I first viewed his candidacy. Yes, Coors Field helped him. But the .313/.400/.565 career slash line in 17 seasons, the tremendous defense and the impressive consistency won me over – no matter where he played.