Final Ballot

Jeff Swinger via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Here are the candidates who I consider to have some semblance of a Hall of Fame case in reverse order. The players who did not receive a full article will be discussed more at length, for the others I will link to my full article if you have not already read. I will also include their JAWS ranking and where they rank outside the Hall of Fame at their position.

23. Johnathan Paplebon (10th, 5-6th best RP outside the Hall)

He was better than I remember, but a hair worse than Nathan/Wagner so an absolutely clear no to me. That being said, I would not be surprised if Papelbon is reconsidered many years down the line. He has not received a single vote via the BBWAA, but when you look at his case it's not too far off from Nathan and Wagner, and he is ahead of Lee Smith. So do not be shocked if in 20 years Papelbon gets a surprise plaque in Cooperstown.

22. Omar Vizquel (42nd, 6th or 5th best Shortstop not in the Hall)

I have already written extensively on my thoughts on Omar Vizquel and I do not have much to add about his baseball case. The short version is he is not Ozzie Smith. I want to add briefly here that what Omar is accused of by his wife and others in baseball is far, far, worse than the crime of taking steroids and lying about it. I am far more offended by this than I am about cheating. For this reason while in the past I looked forward to seeing his number retired in Cleveland: I no longer feel this way and hope justice is done. Additionally while my rankings suggest Vizquel may rank slightly ahead of Jimmy Rollins: his poor ethics drop him straight to the bottom for me.

21. Torii Hunter (36th, 15-20th best Center Fielder not in the Hall)

If the problem I have with Jones' case is I do not believe that Jones was quite the best defensive center fielder of all time, the problem with Hunter is the stats show that his fielding was more flashy than effective. The other issue is even if I believe that Hunter was a better defensive player than the statistics suggest: I still think Hunter falls short. He did not run the bases well and while he did learn to hit later in his career, it's not enough on its own.

20. Jimmy Rollins (32nd, 7th-10th best Shortstop not in the Hall)

Jimmy Rollins is a mildly interesting shortstop (in terms of the Hall of Fame). In his prime Rollins was a good defender, good baserunner with a solid bat. Offensively his 95 OPS+ is better than other defense first candidates who are either in or out of the Hall (better than Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel, Mark Belanger, etc). I think at his best Rollins was every bit the player Omar Vizquel was, but his value was more rounded than Vizquel's. Rollins was less of a defender, a slightly better hitter, and a stronger baserunner. I do not think Rollins is particularly close to the Hall of Fame despite his MVP in 2007, which I do not think he deserved. Chase Utley, Albert Pujols, David Wright and Chipper Jones all ranked a full win ahead of him in bWAR. I personally think Prince Albert got robbed, but it was a weird year.

19. Mark Texiera (31st, 10th-15th best First Baseman not in the Hall)

What a hitter, and a crucial piece to the Yankees 2009 World Series. Tex was a better hitter, I think, than remembered. He did win some Gold Gloves although his defense looked better than it performed based on the defensive statistics. That being said I would take Jason Giambi over Tex in his prime, same with Norm Cash. Neither of those guys are Hall of Famers in my book.

18. Jeff Kent (21st, 6-9th best Second Baseman not in the Hall)

People frequently wield Kent's home run total as proof of his offensive excellence but, as I have pointed out in the past: there is a difference between being the best offensive second baseman and being the best home run hitting second baseman. I believe the latter claim might be true, although Kent did play in the most conducive home run hitting era in baseball history. Kent never once led the league in homers, and only ranked in the top 10 once.

I also think it's quite clear Kent is just not as impressive offensively at his position as his backers think. Again using my obWAR JAWS metric: Kent would rank 11th at second base in obWAR. His obWAR7 is similarly not particularly impressive. That being said, he was not as bad defensively as many suggest and if you cut out the defense the last few years of his career he was decent enough. He's borderline, and I think there are several far more worthy players not in the Hall.

16. (Tie) Billy Wagner (6th, 2nd or 3rd best Relief Pitcher not in the Hall), Joe Nathan (8th, 3rd or 4th best Relief Pitcher not in the Hall)

As I have written elsewhere how you feel about Wagner is based entirely on how you feel about relievers. If relievers are specialists: then he doesn't belong. If relievers are treated like everyone else: he's a clear yes. I do think Bobby Shantz is the best reliever not in the Hall of Fame and would induct him. I am warming to Wagner who I think was clearly better than Hoffman. As I have also written: if you think Wagner is worthy, I do not see how you exclude Joe Nathan. This is why I am not as excited about relief pitchers as many others,

Joe Nathan was about every bit the pitcher Billy Wagner was: if you support Wagner, you should support Joe Nathan as well. To me this is the heart of the reliever problem (there are simply too many relievers who are as 'good' as the new bar: Trevor Hoffman). But your mileage may vary.

13. (Tie) Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, and Andy Pettitte (72nd, 78th, 81st, and 16-20th best Starters outside the Hall)

All three are short of the Hall for me, but not by much. I think they were all similarly valuable and all similarly worthy depending on what you value personally at any given time. Pettitte has the postseason appearances, Buehrle tossed a perfect game, and Hudson was probably a bit better at his best.

12. Sammy Sosa (18th, 7th best RF Outside the Hall)

Sammy Sosa deserved better considering how poorly baseball handled the steroid era. Sosa falls just short for me because I think, in context, Sosa was closer to Frank Howard than he was to Gary Sheffield and other superior hitting right fielders.

11. Roger Clemens (3rd, Best Pitcher Outside the Hall)

I thought about voting for Clemens and Bonds and leaving off Bobby Abreu, but I decided instead to leave off Roger Clemens, and here's why: I believe Roger Clemens is a rapist. I am not a huge fan of bringing ethics into Hall of Fame debates, but there are lines which I think make you so odious that I cannot in good conscience support them. I should have seen this years ago in the case of Clemens, but I allowed the steroid debate overshadow the other ethical considerations.

Roger Clemens cultivated a relationship with Mindy McReady, who was 15 when they met. According to her the relationship did not turn sexual until she was 21, but I struggle to believe that Clemens cultivated this relationship and waited that long. Clemens cheated on his wife, while holding power over Mindy. When the affair became public, Clemens denied it and over time. McReady has since committed suicide.

I cannot personally prove what I believe, so I am not advocating criminal proceedings. That being said: if I were to draw an ethical line somewhere, I think Roger Clemens is quite clearly on the other side of it for me.

10. Bobby Abreu (20th, 5-6th best RF outside the Hall)

Abreu is a borderline Hall of Fame case, admittedly, but it is one which deserves a full hearing from the BBWAA. I think in his prime Abreu was a good fielder, good baserunner and a superbly underrated hitter. Over the course of his career his defense fell off faster than you would expect, as did his base running. He remained a superbly underrated hitter until he turned 40. His case is near that of other hitters in the Hall. He remains far from Cooperstown via the BBWAA, but I hope voters choose to keep considering him.

9. Manny Ramirez (10th, 2nd best LF outside the Hall)

What else is there to say about Manny? He was probably the best hitter this side of Barry Bonds I ever saw (even if most of my recollection he played for Boston). Without Manny Boston probably does not win a World Series in 2004 and 2007. You cannot tell the story of baseball without him.

8. Alex Rodriguez (2nd, Best SS outside the Hall)

If there is a difference between Alex Rodriguez and other steroid users (with the possible exception of Roger Clemens): A-Rod went to great lengths to prove his 'innocence' of using performance enhancing drugs. He lied, he fought, and only caved when irrefutable evidence came to light. His lengthy suspension cost his club fairly significantly. Rodriguez was not particularly great in the postseason, despite numerous opportunities (his postseason OPS of .822 is over 100 points lower than his regular season OPS). As a result: despite being a superb third baseman for New York his tenure is not remembered fondly.

I do want to say I think A-Rod gets less credit than he deserved. He did sign in Texas for an outrageous amount of money, but given how the owners of baseball treat players who can blame him? Furthermore, he deserved every penny of that contract. When A-Rod went to New York he moved off shortstop to third base for Derek Jeter despite being a better defender than Jeter (and frankly it's not close). Rodriguez loved baseball in his youth, and I think baseball failed him in his prime. He reminds me somewhat of Barry Bonds, and neither player was treated right.

One thing I am sure about is that Alex Rodriguez is probably the greatest shortstop of all time. A-Rod could do everything he stole bases (over 300) and was a good baserunner. He was a solid defender (quite underrated in his youth) and obviously a fantastic hitter who could hit .300, mash 50 homers and take walks. His 696 HR ranks 4th all time, and let's be honest: if it were not for the PED scandal he'd have stuck around into his early 40s in order to reach 700, at least, and possibly keep going. That's a Hall of Famer, even with the scandal.

7. Andruw Jones (11th, 4-5th best CF Outside the Hall)

I have changed my tune on Jones, even if I think his case is more tenuous than his supporters would like to admit. Center Field is an underrepresented position in the Hall, which gives him a little more leeway in my book as well.

6. Gary Sheffield (23rd, 5-6th best RF Outside the Hall)

I have also changed my tune on Gary Sheffield. He's basically a better hitting Dave Winfield.

5. Todd Helton (15th, 4th best 1B Outside the Hall)

A doubles contact hitter who player in an era of home runs. Helton was a slick fielding first baseman long since those kinds of players ceased being the norm. I do think Helton was about as good as Eddie Murray, even if he did not play for quite as long.

4. David Ortiz (29th, Best DH, 6-7th best 1B Outside the Hall)

A transcendent postseason hitter who, like Manny Ramirez, was a crucial cog in breaking the Boston curse. He was also a really, really, good hitter who transcends his position. Unlike other DHs (specifically Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez): Ortiz was truly atrocious defensively and could not play the field at all, which matters and hurts his value, but not enough to keep him out of the Hall.

3. Curt Schilling (21st, 3-4th best SP Outside the Hall)

Curt Schilling is the best postseason pitcher of all time, with his only competition being Sandy Koufax. Schilling was instrumental to the Diamondbacks in 2001, and helped slay the Yankees in 2004. He was also superb several other times he appeared including for Philadelphia in the '90s and in other times for Arizona. While Schilling never won a Cy Young: he could have numerous times. He struck out 3,000 batters and has the best strikeout to walk ratio in modern baseball history.

2. Scott Rolen (10th, 2nd best 3B Outside the Hall)

Scott Rolen was far too underrated when he played. A superb defender who was also a darned good hitter for a long time. He is a modern day Ron Santo, who belongs in Cooperstown.

1. Barry Bonds (1st, Best LF Outside the Hall)

Barry Bonds was the best player in baseball history. That is not hyperbole. Bonds led baseball in WAR six times, and finished in the top 10 another 10 times. He won the MVP seven times, and probably could have won it several more including in 2002 when Jeff Kent was somehow awarded the MVP over his far superior teammate. He also should have won in 1991 when Terry Pendleton took home the award.

Final Ballot:

Bobby Abreu, Barry Bonds, Andruw Jones, Todd Helton, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling and

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