As a huge baseball fan, one of my favorite days of the year comes at the end of January when the National Baseball Hall of Fame announces who will be inducted that year. The Hall of Fame is one of my favorite baseball topics to discuss, and even though the induction announcement was January 24th and we are now in April, I wanted to share my opinions on a few who have yet to be inducted or have fallen off the writers’ ballot. This year, four very deserving candidates were voted in by the writers, as Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, and Vladimir Guerrero will be enshrined in Cooperstown. With the induction of these four, the BBWAA has now inducted 16 players since 2013, the last time no one was inducted. For all of the “small hall” proponents out there, this is a problem because they believe not everyone being inducted is deserving of the Hall. I think the number 16 is a problem because there are multiple deserving candidates who are either not getting nearly enough support to be elected, or are falling off the ballot entirely.
The main reason for some of these people seems to be the so called “Character Clause” that is given in the voting manual provided to the writers. Voters are instructed to vote based on the following, according to the Hall of Fame’s website: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” The problem I see with this is too many voters using the term “character” as a reason to not vote for some of the all time greats just because they weren’t loved by the media, especially the BBWAA. Today, I’m going to break down the cases for people I believe are no doubt Hall of Famers, but have either fallen off the ballot or remain well short of the 75% of the vote required for induction into the most exclusive fraternity in sports.
Curt Schilling pitched in the major leagues from 1988-2007, compiling a 216-146 record with a career ERA of 3.46, WHIP of 1.14, and 3116 strikeouts in 3261.0 innings for 5 teams. Schilling is also the owner of the 5th highest K/BB ratio among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings, coming in at a 4.38 mark. If you’re into more advanced metrics, he had a career 3.23 FIP and 127 ERA+, with a 79.9 WAR and 64.5 JAWS. The Big Schill also made 6 All Star teams and finished in the top 5 for Cy Young voting 4 times, including 3 runner-up finishes. I understand the 216 wins seem a little low, but Schilling wasn’t a full time starter until his age-26 season in 1993, and didn’t become an All Star until his age-30 season. Even though the numbers speak for themselves and make him a deserving Hall of Famer, Schilling has yet to garner more than 52.3% of the vote on the Hall of Fame ballot. This is in large part due to Schilling’s online behavioral issues and political views, most significantly after his playing days ended. Schilling has gone on multiple Twitter rampages regarding his alt-right political views, and has always been despised by the media. He even went so far as to agree with a picture of someone wearing a shirt suggesting that members of the media should be lynched. Even as a Red Sox fan and someone who grew up idolizing Schilling, I think he is a jerk and deserved to be fired from ESPN and probably shouldn’t work in the industry again. On the other hand, there is no reason to keep him out of the Hall of Fame for his comments. Schilling was one of the dominant right handed pitchers in the game for a number of years, and was never accused of any sort of Performance Enhancing Drug use, despite playing in the heart of the steroid era. Schilling may not be a good guy, but he was a damn good pitcher and deserves his plaque in Cooperstown because of what he did on the field for so long.
Regarded as one of the best offensive second basemen in the history of the game, Kent has failed to get more than 16.7% of the vote on the Hall of Fame ballot since first appearing in 2014. Kent finished his career with a .290/.356/.500 slash line with a 123 OPS+. Kent also hit 377 home runs with 2,461 hits, 560 doubles and drove in 1,518 runs over his 17-year career. Kent made 5 All Star teams, and took home the National League MVP award in 2000 when he hit .334/.424/.596 with 33 HR, 125 RBI, 41 doubles, a 1.021 OPS and 162 OPS+. Out of his 377 home runs, 351 of them came as a second baseman, good for the all-time lead at the position. Like Schilling, Kent’s numbers signify not only a Hall of Famer, but one of the greatest second sackers the game has ever seen. Kent went underappreciated due to his poor defense and his inability to get along with his teammates, especially star left fielder Barry Bonds (we’ll get to him later). Bonds and Kent had their fair share of conflicts, including one particularly famous scuffle in 2002 which was caught on camera (fight can be seen at the 56 second mark in this video:).
Kent was also known for rubbing media members in a way they didn’t appreciate, often being short with them when asked questions and just not being all that nice of a guy.
I’ve watched a lot of baseball in my 18 year life, including a lot of highlight reels. To this day, I have yet to see a better center fielder than Jim Edmonds. Edmonds won 8 Gold Glove Awards at the position, and his offensive numbers weren’t too shabby either. Edmonds retired as a .284/.376/.527 hitter over a 17-year career with 393 homers, 1,199 runs batted in, 5 seasons of 30 or more home runs, and a .903 OPS. He also finished with a 60.3 career WAR and 132 OPS+, receiving MVP votes in 6 seasons, including two top-5 finishes. Edmonds defined a new era of center fielders, with the position undergoing a transition from small, fast, defensive-minded players to bigger, stronger, sluggers who could also play great defense. Alongside Edmonds in this wave of center fielders were the likes of Andruw Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Carlos Beltran, and others. We still see players like this in the game today as well, with players like Mike Trout, Curtis Granderson, Adam Jones, George Springer, and even Bryce Harper having spent significant time in center over the past few seasons. Along with everyone else in this article though, Edmonds had his problems with the media and even his own teammates. Edmonds was a very competitive player, but was accused of only caring about his personal statistics and not about the team he was on winning. Teammates have come forward and denied these allegations, but he did see conflict with fellow players in his career, the most notable being with Gary DiSarcina. DiSarcina accused Edmonds of not caring about the team and a few words were exchanged between the two on multiple occasions. Along with the teammate issues, Edmonds battled with members of the media, including saying “I’ll kick your ass!” to Mike DiGiovanna of the New York Times after not liking an article written by him. Edmonds fell of the Hall of Fame ballot on his first attempt in 2016, receiving only 2.6% of the vote, which in my opinion is a travesty. Edmonds was and probably always will be one of the best at his position that I have ever seen and deserves the recognition as such, more so than some of the people already enshrined in Cooperstown.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
I know, I know. There are many reasons as to why people aren’t voting for Bonds and Clemens, the most notable being the issue of steroid use. That is an article for another time, and I have my own opinions on that as well, but tonight we’re going to focus on the “character” part of Bonds’ and Clemens’ games. The numbers obviously speak for themselves and if it weren’t for the issue of PEDs these two would’ve been no doubt, first ballot, inner circle Hall of Fame players. These two also weren’t exactly loved by the media, or much of anybody for that matter. Bonds, as mentioned earlier, got into altercations with teammates and was typically rude to writers and reporters alike, since so many questions were based around his possible steroid usage. Even though he was disliked by many, Bonds did gain a huge amount of respect from his peers and even people like manager Dusty Baker, who was seen chewing Kent out, not Bonds, following their dugout altercation. Clemens was one of the most hated players in baseball after the Red Sox years, especially when he was a Yankee. One of the most iconic moments in recent World Series history is the shot of Clemens throwing a piece of broken bat back at Mike Piazza of the New York Mets during the 2000 Fall Classic. Clemens was clearly trying to hit Piazza with the bat, somehow blaming him for it happening, even though a broken bat is clearly no one’s fault (seen here:).
Clemens claimed he thought it was the ball, which is a poor excuse because you wouldn’t throw the ball at the baserunner. Clemens also was disliked by many for his comments made in his congressional hearing, where he was charged with lying about his use of Performance Enhancing Drugs.
These are just a few examples of players who have yet to be enshrined into Cooperstown solely based on the fact that they were not likeable, either during or after their playing days. There are more players where the argument could be made, including Scott Rolen, Albert Belle, and Lenny Dykstra, but their cases aren’t as strong as the players listed above (even though I believe Rolen should be in as well). Writers with a Hall of Fame vote need to remember that the Hall is a place where we recognize the all-time great players that the game has ever seen, not a place where we honor the most well-liked players in the history of the game. If that were true, Ty Cobb would’ve been left out along with these other great players. The vote is not a popularity contest, it’s a way to separate the great players from the good players, and should be treated as such.