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It took 10 years, a great deal of debate and plenty of stumping on his behalf, but Tim Raines is headed to Cooperstown. The speedy outfielder and on-base machine finally topped the necessary 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America, getting 86 percent on the 2017 ballot. And the Internet celebrated like Raines was from their team, because he kind of was.
It’s a warranted and, frankly, long overdue nod for Raines, whose 23-year career in the big leagues was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson but was still every bit historic. Part of what took so long for Raines to get in is that he wasn’t a traditional case. To understand the greatness of Raines, you had to dig past the usual benchmarks like 3,000 hits and really look at more value-based stats like Wins Above Replacement.
That considered, Raines’ tickets to Cooperstown probably wouldn’t have been punched without the support of the Internet. On Twitter especially, it feels like the campaign to get Raines into the Hall of Fame has been going strong for the last four years, with Jonah Keri and Ryan Spaeder leading the way as evangelists.
So this begs the question: Now that Raines is in, who should the Internet stump for next? There are a number of worthwhile candidates, especially ones whose 2017 voting percentages don’t exactly measure up to their stats on the field and their impact on the game. Our crew has some ideas:
2017 voting percentage: 58.6
The obvious answer is Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez and it’s not close. In fact, the Internet has already adopted Martinez as the next sabermetric darling. For whatever reason, voters have overlooked Martinez’s tremendous .312/.418/.515 career slash line because he was a DH, or because he played in Seattle … or something like that. It doesn’t make sense.
That makes him the perfect candidate for the Internet to get behind. While he falls short on some traditional statistical landmarks, Martinez’s 147 career wRC+ says he’s the 32nd best hitter of all-time. On top of that, the stance on the DH has softened in recent years. It’s more accepted as an actual position and not a “part-time” role. David Ortiz’s recent retirement may have helped as well. Many feel Ortiz will waltz into the Hall once eligible, but Martinez actually edges him out in a number of statistical categories. How can one be an easy Hall of Famer while the other sits and waits? Edgar Martinez is more than deserving of the honor. C’mon, people of the Internet, let’s make it happen!
— Chris Cwik, Big League Stew
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2017 voting percentage: 51.8
I admittedly brushed off Mussina’s Hall of Fame credentials for a long time because his performance never seemed to stand out. If you’d asked me even a month ago, I would have said no without giving it a second thought. That’s changed now that I’ve taken the time to really dig into the numbers and put his circumstances into perspective.
Mussina pitched in baseball’s toughest division for nearly two decades, and did so at perhaps the peak of the steroid era. Yet his production remained consistently brilliant. I think a lot more support is owed to him — or at least a call for a closer, more meaningful look into his complete body of work, because voters in particular might surprised what they find.
— Mark Townsend, Big League Stew
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2017 voting percentage: 74
With Lee Smith falling off the ballot this year and Mariano Rivera on the ballot in two years, this is the perfect time for the internet to take up Trevor Hoffman’s case. It seems insane that Mariano will probably be a first ballot Hall of Famer, while Hoffman, second all-time in saves, could see his second year on the ballot pass by without making it in. And now that he’s so close, a Hoffman-for-the-Hall campaign shouldn’t be too hard.
In reality, what the internet should do is adopt Hoffman’s cause and force a large-scale conversation about the value of relievers. There are only five other relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and that’s because valuing them is so hard. Saves are a stat independent from ERA and strikeouts, and so until there’s a discussion about what a save really means, and how to measure the value of what a relief pitcher provided to their team and to the game, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to shove their support behind any reliever besides Mariano. And Hoffman deserves better than that. For as good as he was for as long as he was, he deserves better.
— Liz Roscher, Big League Stew
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2017 voting percentage: 10.2
If there’s anything the Tim Raines saga has taught us it’s that the internet loves the “not quite as good as the best guy ever in his genre, but still incredible” guy. Wagner isn’t Mariano Rivera, and his numbers might not pop off the page to fans weaned on the super relievers of the current “Strikeout Scourge” era, but in his own time, he was incredible.
During his 16-year career, the average MLB K/9 ranged from 6.35 to 7.14. Wagner’s career average was 11.92. “Billy The Kid” has more strikeouts than Trevor Hoffman in 186 fewer innings and a WAR within .3 of him in two fewer seasons, but somehow got less than a sixth of his support on the ballot last year.
– Nick Ashbourne, Yahoo Sports Canada
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2017 voting percentage: 21.9
Larry Walker is a guy who has some great numbers to his credit and some decent arguments against him. Which is exactly the same thing you could say about Tim Raines. Raines climbed steadily from 24.3 percent in his first year, all the way to 86 percent this year. They’re completely different players — well, there is that Expos connection — but if you parse the numbers, you can really show how great Walker was at the plate.
Particularly, Walker’s .313/.400/.565 career slash line is something that not many hitters can claim. And while many people put a Coors Field asterisk on that, it’s not entirely fair considering someone like Edgar Martinez doesn’t extra credit for doing all that he did in Seattle. Walker is someone who needs a Hall of Fame evangelist, because certainly his career is worth more than xxx of the vote.
— Mike Oz, Big League Stew
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