Wednesday, January 9, 2013

BBWAA Pitches a Shutout for the 2013 MLB Hall of Fame

Jan. 9, 2013
By Anthony Tripicchio

No player will get into Cooperstown this summer without buying a ticket. 

That was the edict from 569 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America Wednesday afternoon as none of the eligible players received the necessary 75 percent of the vote for election.

While there are several candidates who have achieved benchmarks that would automatically trigger admission in the minds of many, rampant steroid use over the last 20 years has irreversibly tainted the era.

Stonewalling all players from that time period is a misguided approach. No one forgets who wins NCAA championships when they are revoked years later due to scandal and this is the same principle.

With that in mind, here is my list of who should have been voted into the Hall of Fame today:

1. Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher of all-time. That line alone warrants him entry to the Hall of Fame.

The statistical evidence of his worthiness is abundant. Piazza won 10 silver sluggers and hit 396 home runs as a catcher, the most of any catcher in history. In addition to batting .300 nine times, Piazza had five seasons of 100 RBIs. His 8.7 in offensive wins above replacement (WAR) in 1997 ranked first in the NL and he finished in the top five four separate times in the category.

Suspicions of steroid use halted his induction, but they shouldn’t because they’ve never been substantiated. Although his throwing was a liability behind the plate, it is a minor blemish when you consider his career-long dominance offensively at a physically demanding position.

2. Roger Clemens
3. Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are inextricably linked as perennial all-stars who vaulted their careers to legendary status through the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). The saddest aspect of their omission is the fact that both would have been obvious first ballot Hall-of-Famers without the tedious PED controversies.

Bonds’ numbers are comical. He won seven NL MVPs, the most ever, eight gold gloves, 12 silver sluggers, had 15 years of OPS over 1.000, 11 years with a batting average over .300, 12 years of 100 RBIs and scored 100 runs 12 times. He holds the career records for homers and walks and is third in runs scored. I could go on for days, but I think you get the point.

Clemens feats are also stunning. He has seven Cy Youngs, an AL MVP, five 20-win seasons, 12 years of 200 strikeouts and led the league in ERA seven times. His career totals earn him third place in strikeouts, seventh in games started and ninth in wins.

To have a Hall of Fame without these two is beyond ridiculous. They brought this scrutiny on themselves, without question, but they are the preeminent players of their tarnished generation.

Their guilt doesn't erase the numbers or our memories of the type of players they were.

4. Curt Schilling

Yes, Curt Schilling's numbers won't bowl you over at first glance as the three names above him on this list do. However, once you dig a little deeper you find merit for his enshrinement.

Though 216 career wins leave him well short of the elusive 300 milestone, he did secure three 20-win seasons. Schilling is 15th all-time in strikeouts and second in strikeout-to-walk ratio. A big game pitcher, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 career playoff starts. He is third in post-season winning percentage and fifth in strikeouts. His ascendant performance in the 2001 World Series earned him a Co-MVP with fellow ace Randy Johnson as they defeated the Yankees in seven games.

Further, Schilling was top five in his league in WAR three times and WHIP nine times. This guy was a dynamic power pitcher with a unique blend of control that we rarely see.

5. Tim Raines

Leadoff hitters need love too. Barring Rickey Henderson, you won't find many that did it better than Tim Raines. Raines, a switch hitter, batted .300 seven times, scored 100 runs six times and won the NL batting title in 1986. He led the league in stolen bases four times and runs scored twice.

A remarkably efficient thief, Raines is second all-time in stolen base percentage with a 84.7 percent success rate (minimum 300 attempts). Six times his OBP was in the league's top five. Overall WAR slotted him in the top eight in five separate seasons. Demonstrating tremendous bat control, Raines walked more than he struck out in his career and it wasn't close (1330 BBs, 960 strikeouts).

He epitomized everything a leadoff man should be.
6. Edgar Martinez

Regardless of not playing the field, Edgar Martinez’s accomplishments are undeniable. Martinez won two AL batting titles, led the league in OBP three times and had an OPS exceeding 1.000 an astounding five times. He hit .300 in 10 full seasons, drove in 100 runs six times and scored 100 runs five times.

His reputation preceding him, Martinez was feared at the plate throughout his illustrious career. Although he wasn’t a prolific home run hitter, he was a doubles machine. They don’t make line-drive hitters like him anymore.