An Ode to Those that have Gone

A lot of people are focused on the players going into the Hall of Fame. We will focus on the players that are leaving the ballot. Of course, we can’t cover all of these guys. Perhaps, that’s part of the problem. There are so many guys on the ballot and after awhile it becomes surreal to think of some of these guys as a Hall of Famer.

After all, does anyone really think of Rick Ankiel as a Hall of Famer? Is anyone busting down the doors to get Juan Pierre there? Obviously, no one did because no one voted for them. So, we will ignore all of the players not getting votes and focus purely on those getting votes, but dropping from the ballot.

Fred McGriff– 169 Votes

I’ve talked at length about McGriff when talking about those on the outside looking in. I have no doubt that the new Veteran’s Committee will consider him and very well could put him in some day. 52.6 career bWAR is certainly not horrible and there are people in the Hall of Fame worse than McGriff. However, that’s not really the question we should be asking at this point. The big question is whether he is the best player not in the Hall of Fame.

Sure, we could focus on the 493 home runs, 1550 RBIs, and 1349 runs scored. Sure, he has almost 2500 hits. He also has only one top five finish in the MVP voting. He did have five top ten finishes, so he wasn’t a completely unrealistic choice. Again, it’s not whether he is qualified, but whether he is the most qualified.

Michael Young– 9 Votes

I get this on some level. He scored more than 1100 runs, had more than 2300 hits, and was a .300 hitter in his career. He won a batting title and led the league in hits twice. He had 200 or more hits five years in a row. Unlike McGriff, he had only two top ten finishes in the MVP award voting. So, the big question is why.

Well, in order to be an MVP you have to be a complete player. Yes, he won a Gold Glove, but does anyone take that seriously? He has negative ratings across the board with his glove. He might be the only Gold Glove winner in history to be moved out of his position because he wasn’t good enough to stay there.

Lance Berkman– 5 Votes

Every year there is a player that drops off the ballot that makes you scratch your head. This is where we start asking why. One problem might be a 35 man ballot where only 20 of them deserve votes. Another problem is that many in the BBWAA still don’t understand or care about advanced metrics. Berkman is second all-time amongst switch hitters in OPS. The only one better is Mickey Mantle.

Berkman had more career WAR than Jim Rice who got elected in. He was very similar to McGriff who got far more votes. He had four finishes in the top five in MVP voting. At the end of the day, I don’t think Berkman is a Hall of Fame player, but he deserved better than this. He probably needed one or two more seasons as a regular to clear hurdles like 2000 hits, 400 home runs, and 1400 RBI.

Miguel Tejada– 5 Votes

Unlike the others, he actually has an MVP award to his credit. That alone makes this a bit of a surprise. He was a prolific run producer for a shortstop, but like Michael Young, he wasn’t a complete player. He wasn’t as deficient defensively as Young, but he was not a great fielder either. He also wasn’t completely adept at stealing first base.

At the end of the day though, he just didn’t do it good enough for long enough. He wasn’t an everyday player until he was 25. He played nearly every day until he was 36 and then fell off the map. That’s 12 solid seasons and they were mostly solid. If he had fourteen or fifteen solid seasons he would likely be a Hall of Famer.

Roy Oswalt– 4 Votes

I love Roy Oswalt. He won that decisive Game 6 of the NLCS in 2005. That’s a magical date in Astros history. However, he is a borderline candidate at best. His 50.1 career bWAR is just not quite there. Add in that he has only 163 career wins to his name and you just can’t muster the wherewithal to argue too much for him.

He did have six top five finishes in the Cy Young voting and another top ten finish to his name. That’s impressive for a guy with only eight seasons with 180 innings or more. When he was healthy he was really good. He just wasn’t healthy enough for long enough.

Placido Polanco– 2 Votes

Two people voted for this guy? I demand they come out now and offer an explanation. True, he was better than I remember, but beyond having 2142 hits I’m struggling to figure out why he deserves to be on the ballot, much less getting a vote. Was it his two finishes in the top 25 in the MVP voting? Is it his two trips to the All-Star game? Maybe it was the three Gold Glove awards?

To be perfectly fair, he did finish in the top ten once in single season WAR and he did have a Silver Slugger to his name. Advanced metrics show he didn’t deserve any of those Gold Gloves. So, he was occasionally very good defensively and occasionally very good offensively, but rarely ever at the same time.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to get mad at individual voters for votes that don’t make sense. You could say that about players voted for or players not voted for. However, there are a couple of easy fixes beyond the voters themselves that would help streamline the process.

  1. Limit the Players on the Ballot

There were 35 men on the ballot. The rules dictate that you can only vote for ten. Most of those players were harmless, but occasionally you get some break through. You could argue that only Lance Berkman was possibly ever going to get into the Hall of Fame. Most people would even dispute that. If you cut the list from 35 to say 15 or 20 and then a limit of ten would make sense.

2. Lift the Limit

I have a feeling that some people would have voted for Berkman if they could have voted for more than ten people. Would it have been enough to get him into the Hall of Fame? Of course not. Would it be enough to keep him on the ballot? Probably so, and that would allow for more time to understand his career in its full context.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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