Deciding whether a baseball player is a Hall of Fame is no easy task. There's a lot to weigh — eras, positions, postseason vs. regular season, etc. But, in the end, it's a "Yes" or "No" question.
At The Stew, we wanted to look at the players on the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot a different way. So we asked the question: What if it were a draft? What if you weren't deciding "Yes" or "No," but looking at it schoolyard-style and picking teams? The results would probably be a bit different.
At least that was our hypothesis. If you're not getting into moral arguments and voters aren't sending in statement ballots and all that mess, and instead you're asking "Who's the No. 1 pick?" then it changes the conversation about guys such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
So The Stew's Mike Oz and Dave Brown sat down for a draft. We flipped a coin and decided first pick. At one point, Dave went rogue: "Not being beholden to the Hall of Fame's rules for this draft," he said. "I picked some guys who aren't, but should be, eligible for inclusion."
As you can imagine, things got fun. Not only for that reason, but because we were drafting the entire ballot, someone was going to get stuck with Armando Benitez and/or Paul Lo Duca. Our draft is below. Please don't consider it a Hall of Fame ballot. Or a Hall of Fame rating system. It's just another way of sizing up the 2014 Hall of Fame hopefuls. (btw, the actual results will be announced at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday on MLB Network).
1. Barry Bonds (selected by Mike Oz): Well, no drama here, huh? Bonds is the easy choice at No. 1. Not only are his home run and RBI numbers ridiculous, but his WAR and JAWS ratings are No. 1 too. (JAWS, by the way, is Jay Jaffe's very helpful Hall of Fame rating system). While Hall of Fame voters have turned his case into a moral dilemma, in a schoolyard-style draft, Bonds is the best baseball player on the board.
DB: Should I get two picks?
Mike Oz: Naw.
DB: He's like two guys.
Mike Oz: Simple back and forth.
2. Greg Maddux (selected by Dave Brown): He won’t be a unanimous choice, but Maddux was the best pitcher of his era, which otherwise was dominated by hitting. He posted a composite 1.60 ERA in 1994 and 1995 pitching half of his games in a hitters ballpark during the best hitting era since at least the 1930s.
3. Roger Clemens (MO): First, see everything I said above about the Bonds moral decision. Second, while some of his stats aren't that different than Maddux, Clemens' strikeout total (4,672 vs. 3,371) and career WAR (104.3 to 106.8) are significantly higher.
4. Frank Thomas (DB): The Big Hurt crushed the ball, but he also had of the best batting eyes in history, up there with Ted Williams. Batted .330/.452/.600 his first eight seasons, an almost unparalleled peak.
5. Tom Glavine (MO): Oh no, now we've separated Maddux and Glavine. Sorry, HOF voters. They're (very likely) going to be enshrined as a pair, but for our purposes, this is like when Maddux went to the Cubs and Glavine went to the Mets. I'll take 300-game winner Glavine here over Mussina. They're fairly close in stats — closer than some people might think — but Glavine has a better ERA, a longer career and two Cy Young awards.
6. Mike Mussina (DB): One of the more underrated and seemingly under-appreciated pitchers of any era. His adjusted ERA, for starting pitchers who logged at least 3,000 innings in their career, is 21st all time. If you knock it down to 2,000 innings to include pitchers such as Sandy Koufax, Mussina is still 38th. He deserves Cooperstown — and easily so.
7. Mike Piazza (MO): Good thing I have Glavine, who it's hard to hate, because my team is ripe with controversy. Piazza — like Bagwell — gets shrouded in PED doubt even though he was never busted. In this team setting, he's more valuable to me because he's a catcher and he pairs nicely with Bonds when constructing a batting order. On a Hall of Fame ballot, he may not rank as high offensively as Fred McGriff or Rafael Palmero, but his career .308 batting average is good for a power hitter.
8. Curt Schilling (DB): He’s 12th on that Mussina list. So I probably should have picked him ahead of Mussina. Like Jack Morris, his postseason accomplishments help, but was a great regular-season pitcher too. Much better than Morris, actually.
9. Jeff Bagwell (MO): For what it's worth: He actually ranks higher in career WAR and in JAWS than Frank Thomas. His JAWS score is sixth highest on this year's ballot.
10. Alan Trammell (DB): About as valuable as Derek Jeter or Barry Larkin, but probably will never see his plaque at Cooperstown.
11. Tim Raines (MO): If we look at WAR and JAWS, he's more valuable than Craig Biggio, Mark McGwire, Piazza, Jack Morris and numerous others. Also: I'll take a lead-off man for my squad.
12. Edgar Martinez (DB): Should have been the first primary DH to make it to Cooperstown, and might someday.
13. Craig Biggio (MO): Has the most hits of anybody on the ballot with 3,060. Other than a certain guy who has been banned by MLB and a still-active Derek Jeter, Biggio has the most hits of any player not in the Hall of Fame.
14. Pete Rose (DB): Not on the ballot because he’s been made ineligible, but accumulated about 79 Wins Above Replacement. And it’s about time he was let in, don’t you think, MLB?
Mike Oz: That's just trying to win over the commenters!
DB: You should have picked him already
15. Shoeless Joe Jackson (MO): You're not the only one who can go out of bounds, Mr. Brown. Shoeless Joe's HOF case — minus the banning — isn't as strong as Rose's, but his .356 career batting average is third-best all-time. He had 1,772 career hits and still had years ahead of him before he was banned in 1920.
Dave: Copycat and awful one at that
16. Tony Mullane (DB): A 19th century pitcher with great numbers (and a relatively short career) but no old-timers’ support.
17. Larry Walker (MO): Walker is likely just a "Hall of Very Good" guy. But he was very, very good. Of the players on this year's ballot, he's fourth behind Bonds, McGwire and Thomas in OPS. He also has the highest career batting average on the ballot. He's better than Edgar Martinez is many offensive categories, but doesn't get the same Hall of Fame push.
18. Mark McGwire (DB): Not a one-dimensional player. He got on base — a lot — to go with his 583 home runs. But he’s got PEDs on his record. You could make a case against McGwire for Cooperstown that doesn’t have to involve steroids.
19. Jeff Kent (MO): Uh-oh, Kent and Bonds on the same team again, what have I done? To Kent's credit: He won an MVP and his numbers are good enough that he was considered the best offensive second baseman in the game during his career.
20. Sammy Sosa (DB): Closer to one-dimensional than McGwire but he also has 609 homers. A PED suspect, too, for whatever that’s worth to ya’.
21. Fred McGriff (MO): Under-appreciated as always. The Crime Dog was never as good as Frank Thomas, but he hit 493 homers and drove in 1,550 runs. He's Bagwell-like in most offensive categories, but Bagwell got nearly 40% more of the Hall of Fame vote last year. As drafts go, McGriff is a great value pick in the 10th round.
22. Lou Whitaker (DB): Probably the biggest Hall of Fame injustice since Ron Santo. Slipped off the ballot after one season. The best second baseman of the 1980s, except for Ryne Sandberg and perhaps including him.
23. Jack Morris (MO): At least he's not the only guy I picked.
24. Rafael Palmeiro (DB): Pointer! Notorious compiler of statistics! A non-PED argument could be made against him being in Cooperstown, too. Had a 132 adjusted on-base plus slugging, which doesn’t SCREAM Hall of Fame.
25. Lee Smith (MO): #Bullpen. And you could do worse than the former all-time saves leader. He's currently No. 3 on that list behind Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.
DB: Did anyone say Luis Gonzalez yet?
Mike Oz: Yours
26. Luis Gonzalez (DB): Hit 57 home runs once, but career was not as good as that of Palmeiro. Has never been connected to PEDs, though he’s had to defend himself against “whispers.”
27. Don Mattingly (MO): There are a lot better first baseman on the ballot than Mattingly, but man, was he good in the mid '80s. He won the MVP award in 1985 when he drove in 145 runs. His JAWS ranking puts him behind players such as Luis Gonzalez and Kenny Rogers, but heck, he's Donnie Baseball. I'll take him here.
28. Kevin Brown (DB): Mentioned in dubious “Mitchell Report” and fell off the ballot after one shot. And yet, he’s one of the best pitchers in his era. At his peak, only Pedro Martinez had a better WAR. Abrasive personality with writers probably had something to do with his poor showings.
29. Kenny Rogers (MO): Maybe he's not a Hall of Famer, but he had an esteemed career. Twenty seasons, 219 wins, 3,300 innings. He did work.
30. Eric Gagne (DB): Not a Hall of Famer, but this team needs a closer.
31. Moises Alou (MO): He could — but probably won't — be the first of the famous Alou family to get into the Hall of Fame. While his HOF case isn't particularly strong he was a great hitter who had an especially good run between 1997 and 2001.
32. Bobby Grich (DB): Someday, maybe, statistical anthropologists will correct the mistake of Grich not being in Cooperstown.
33. Hideo Nomo (MO): He's not a Hall of Famer, but at least my team gets to have "mania." There have been a lot of Hall of Famers. Haven't been as many manias.
34. Dwight Evans (DB): A borderline guy no longer on the ballot. A really good player who just wasn’t great enough for enough voters.
Mike Oz: Just to be clear, I'm only drafting guys off this year's ballot. Other than Shoeless Joe.
DB: Hey, it's your loss.
35. Richie Sexson (MO): Had six seasons with 30 or more homers. That's something.
36. Mike Timlin (DB): Wore the same camo undershirt for, like, 12 years.
38. J.T. Snow (DB): Will monitor the bat boys to keep them safe from rogue baserunners.
39. Todd Jones (MO): He can, at the very least, use the team bathroom.
40. Sean Casey (DB): Official greeter, like a boxer at a casino
41. Jacque Jones (MO): At this point, I'm just trying not to pick Paul LoDuca.
42. Armando Benitez (DB): Innings eater.
DB: Which means you get Paul Lo Duca
Mike Oz: is there someone other than Paul Lo Duca?
Mike Oz: Damn
43. Paul LoDuca (MO): I already have Mike Piazza. I don't need the foreclosed-home version of Piazza, but hey, it's a draft, you get what you get.
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