Ken Griffey Jr. headlines the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot. Junior (630 home runs) is a mortal lock for induction into Cooperstown. The only question is what percentage of the vote will he garner? Trevor Hoffman (601 saves) also appears on the ballot for the first time, but the voters seem reticent to elect relievers. As a result, Hoffman may take an extra year for election to the Hall of Fame. Other notable first time candidates include Garrett Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus, Mike Lowell, Mike Sweeney, and Billy Wagner. Meanwhile, Alan Trammell and Mark McGwire make their final appearances on the ballot. If they do not win election, they will have to wait for the Veteran’s Committee to reexamine their candidacies. However, the noted stinginess of the committee makes their chances appear dim. I do not have a vote, but if I did, here is my ballot.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr. debuted in 1989. At the time, many believed Griffey was destined for Cooperstown. Those observers proved correct. Junior finished his career with 630 home runs, 1,836 RBI, 2,781 hits, 524 doubles, 5,271 total bases, .284 average, .370 OBP, .538 slugging, and .907 OPS. He led the league in home runs four times, total bases twice, and runs, RBI, and slugging once. Griffey topped 40 home runs seven times with a high of 56 in 1997 and 1998. He had eight 100 RBI seasons topping out with 147 in 1997. His offensive exploits led to seven Silver Slugger Awards and his defense earned ten Gold Gloves. The 13-time All Star won the 1992 All Star Game MVP, the 1997 AL MVP, and the 2005 Comeback Player of the Year. On top of this, fans voted Griffey the greatest player of the nineties over Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux. In the end, Ken Griffey Jr. evolved from a raw talent into one of the game’s all-time greats.
Offensively, Mike Piazza evolved into the catching version of Ken Griffey Jr. The 12-time All Star won 10 Silver Sluggers, the 1993 Rookie of the Year, and 1996 All Star Game MVP. He batted .308 for his career with 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, and .922 OPS. Piazza’s signature moment came when he hammered a go ahead home run against the Atlanta Braves immediately following the 911 attacks. Many believe Piazza’s numbers warrant consideration as the game’s greatest offensive catcher.
Like Piazza, Jeff Bagwell made his name with a bat. Many hoped Bagwell would enter the Hall of Fame with teammate Craig Biggio. Last year’s historically strong ballot pushed the first baseman aside, but 2016 might be Bagwell’s time. For his career, Bagwell batted .297 with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, .408 OBP, .540 slugging, and .948 OPS. He led the league in games played four times, runs three times, and doubles, RBI, walks, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases once. The four-time All Star’s trophy case includes three Silver Sluggers, the 1994 Gold Glove, the 1991 Rookie of the Year, and 1994 NL MVP.
Curt Schilling never won a Cy Young or MVP Award. However, he was the greatest postseason pitcher of his generation. Schilling won three world titles with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox and led the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series in 1993. His 11-2 postseason record is good for a record .846 winning percentage. Schilling’s signature moment came against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS when he dominated despite an ankle injury that led to his sock filling with blood. The righty made three All Star teams, won the 1993 NLCS MVP and 2001 World Series MVP Awards. Overall, Schilling finished his career with a 216-146 record, 3.46 ERA, 1.137 WHIP, and 3,116 strikeouts.
Schilling will be on the ballot again if he fails to win election. On the other hand, this is Alan Trammell’s last shot outside the Veteran’s Committee. The advanced analytics crowd, led by MLB Network’s Brian Kenny, heavily supports Trammell’s candidacy. Kenny’s hero, Bill James, considers Trammell the ninth best shortstop in big league history. The six-time All Star won four Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and the 1984 World Series MVP. He should have won the 1987 AL MVP. During his prime, few GMs would have traded Trammell for Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Overall, Trammell batted .285, with 185 home runs, 1,003 RBI, .767 OPS, 412 doubles, and 2,365 hits.
Mike Mussina’s candidacy is a bit like Trammell’s. Neither player gets the respect from the voters they have earned. Mussina posted only one 20-win season, but averaged 17 wins over 18 years. The five-time All Star accumulated 270 wins with 2,813 strikeouts, a 3.68 ERA, and 1.192 WHIP in an offensive era. Only five pitchers with 270 or more wins have a better winning percentage than Mussina’s .638.
So far, Jeff Kent’s candidacy appears to resemble Mussina’s. He received 15.2% and 14% of the vote in his first two years of eligibility. This seems paltry compared to Kent’s overall resume. He was an amazing offensive force at second base. Kent accumulated five All Star appearances, four Silver Sluggers, and the 2000 NL MVP. He batted .290 with a .855 OPS over 17 seasons. On top of this, Kent hit 377 home runs, 1,518 RBI, 560 doubles, and 4,246 total bases.
Kent’s candidacy has lacked traction in the first two years. Jim Edmonds might follow suit. Edmonds presents a fascinating challenge for voters. His offensive numbers are borderline at best. The outfielder batted .284 with 393 home runs, 1,199 RBI, and .903 OPS. Edmonds never won a MVP award, accumulated just one Silver Slugger, and appeared in four All Star games. However, Edmonds was a premier defender in centerfield for years. His work on defense led to eight Gold Gloves and countless highlight film catches. When the offense and defense are considered in tandem, Edmonds should receive enough votes to eventually earn enshrinement.
Like Edmonds, Hoffman may have to wait for enshrinement in Cooperstown. Voters seems to despise relievers. For example, it took Goose Gossage nine ballots to enter the Hall of Fame. Hoffman’s candidacy might be easier for the voters. Hoffman saved 601 games, appeared in 1,035, posted a 1.058 WHIP and 2.87 ERA. He should have won the 1998 Cy Young Award, but reliever bias might have intervened. Hoffman appeared in seven All Star Games, two Rolaids Relief Man Awards, and the 2004 Hutch Award, 2006 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, and 2008 Branch Rickey Award.
Some of Billy Wagner’s numbers trump Trevor Hoffman. Although he saved fewer games (422) than Hoffman, Wagner posted a lower ERA (2.31), and ridiculously miniscule WHIP (0.998). The seven-time All Star won the 1999 Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award. Most impressively, Billy the Kid struckout 1,196 batters in 903 innings. Few relievers were as dominant and devastating as Billy Wagner.