Birds Watcher builds the most correct Hall of Fame ballot
Gary Sheffield: 22 years, 10,947 PA, 2,689 H, .292/.393/.514, 509 HR, 140 OPS+, 60.5 bWAR, 9* All-Star, 5* Silver Slugger. Sheffield doesn’t have much black ink on the Baseball Reference page, leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS just once each. He had three top-3 MVP finishes but was a poor defender, moving off third base too late in his career and never having enough range in the outfield.
But Sheffield was an excellent power hitter, posting a slugging percentage over .600 three times, and an OPS over 1.000 five. On one hand, he’s in the exclusive 500 HR club but on the other, he was an atrocious defender for so long. I struggle with this one as much as the Helton case, but if Helton and Vlad Guerrero are in, Sheffield needs to be too.
Sammy Sosa: 18 years, 9,896 PA, 2,408 H, .273/.344/.534, 609 HR, 128 OPS+, 58.6 bWAR, 1* MVP, 7* All-Star, 6* Silver Slugger. Sosa is another one of this group of really good hitters, including Ramirez, that are good enough to get in based on their merits but they have some kind of connection to steroids, or in Sosa’s case, a corked bat. I don’t condone Sosa’s cheating but a corked bat didn’t make him one of the most prolific home-run hitters of all time, nor did it earn him an MVP award, or earn him the home-run crown twice.
Naturally, Sosa hit 60+ homers three times in his career but the two times he led the league, he hit 50 and 49. The case against him, like Sheffield, is that his defense was mediocre at best, but Sosa’s bat alone get him into the Hall of Fame.
Omar Vizquel: 24 years, 12,013 PA, 2,877 H, .272/.336/.352, 80 HR, 404 SB, 82 OPS+, 45.6 bWAR, 2* All-Star, 11* Gold Glove. There’s really no case to be made that Vizquel belongs in the Hall of Fame, other than that he was a very good defender for much of his career. The JAWS system rates him as the 42nd best shortstop of all time, not anywhere close to entry in the Hall.
I put Vizquel’s SB numbers up there because his line looks awful without them. Tell me about how he played the game the right way, and I’ll tell you about how he hit double-digit homers just once and he only posted an OPS+ over 100 twice in his career. Vizquel is not a Hall of Famer, not now, not ever.
Billy Wagner: 16 years, 903 innings, 2.31 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 1,196 K, 3.99 K/BB, 422 SV, 27.7 bWAR, 7* All-Star. Wagner garnered Cy Young votes twice and MVP votes twice, but he didn’t acquire many accolades outside of being one of the best single-inning relief pitchers in baseball during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Wagner had one really bad year in ’00, but had 14 seasons with an ERA under 2.85 (his second highest career mark), five of which were under 2.00.
He wasn’t as good as Rivera but he was on par with Hoffman, despite having slightly fewer saves and innings pitched (Wagner’s career 2.31 ERA was 50 points better than Hoffman’s 2.87). I didn’t support Hoffman’s case then and I struggle to support Wagner’s now, but if we’re putting single-inning relievers in the Hall of Fame, Wagner is as deserving as almost any.
Larry Walker: 17 years, 8,030 PA, 2,160 H, .313/.400/.565, 383 HR, 141 OPS+, 72.7 bWAR, 1* MVP, 5* All-Star, 7* Gold Glove, 3* Silver Slugger. Walker won seven Gold Gloves without ever being an exceptional defender, but his 49 homers led the league in ’97 and he won three batting titles. He hit .350 or better four times, posted an OPS over 1.000 six times, and twice posted a slugging percentage over .700.
His 72.7 bWAR is 10th all-time among right fielders. Say Coors all you want, that 141 OPS+ and 140 wRC+ prove that he was an exceptional hitter regardless of which ballpark he played in. Vlad getting in over Walker was incredibly disappointing; if Walker gets left out of the Hall altogether, it’ll be a travesty on the voters part.
That makes 15 guys who should be in the Hall. Now that we’ve got the Yes list, we need to pick the ten best and get our ballot in order.