The Hall of Fame “Ballot” of Editor-in-Chief Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson's mock Hall of Fame ballot includes Todd Helton Scott Rolen Billy Wagner and five others
(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) Center: PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 19: Hall of Fame candidate Scott Rolen #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies in position during a baseball game against the Houston Astros on May 19,1997 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) Right: CHICAGO, IL - CIRCA 1999: Hall of Fame candidate Billy Wagner #13 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during an MLB game from his 1999 season against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. Billy Wagner played for 16 seasons for 5 different teams and was a 7-time All-Star. (Photo by: 1999 SPX/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

My Baseball Hall of Fame “Ballot” — Helton, Rolen, and Five Others

I do not have a Hall of Fame vote yet and will not until the middle of next decade at the absolute soonest. But that doesn’t mean I don’t go through the exercise every year. Given how much I love baseball and its history, voting for the Hall of Fame will be a high honor, one that I will take seriously. Therefore, I am publishing the players I would have selected and my reasons for doing so. I will continue this practice every season.

My “Ballot”

After careful and thorough consideration, my “ballot” has seven names.

Carlos Beltran
Todd Helton
Francisco Rodriguez
Scott Rolen
Jimmy Rollins
Gary Sheffield
Billy Wagner

My Hall of Fame Standards

1) Certain career milestones are automatic.

Hitters: 500 home runs, 3000 hits, or .300/.400/.500

Starting Pitchers: 300 wins, 3000 K, or 50 shutouts

2) If a hitter did not reach these milestones but came close, then I put him in if he was also an elite defender for several years.

3) Catcher, shortstop, second base, and center field are “defense first” positions, so defensive prowess is weighed more heavily than it is for other positions.

4) For relievers, if his appearance was all but a guaranteed “game over” for many years, he’s in.

5) I also look at his overall impact on baseball. For example, if a pitcher or hitter terrified me as an opposing fan for a sustained period of time (several years), he’s in.

6) I eliminated anyone who, after the steroid testing rules were collectively bargained with the MLBPA, failed a PED test.

7) If I still have more than 10, I remove anyone who either a) is such a sure bet that me not voting for him will clearly not keep him from reaching 75% or b) probably won’t make it but is going to come back next year because he’ll still be eligible and is assured of getting enough votes to stay on the ballot.

We will go through each step before reaching the players I would have voted for.

Building the List

Alex Rodriguez had 696 home runs and 3,115 hits. He also had 2,086 RBI, one of five (Henry Aaron, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Cap Anson) to enter the 2,000 RBI Club. Manny Ramirez had 555 home runs and was also in the .300/.400/.500 Club. Gary Sheffield hit 509 home runs. Todd Helton was in the .300/.400/.500 Club. This completes Step One.

Carlos Beltran was 275 hits shy of 3,000 and 65 home runs shy of 500. His career slash line was .279/.350/.486, so he did not make any of the automatic milestones. This is offset by his 300 stolen bases, making him one of five players to have 2500+ hits, 400+ home runs, and 300+ stolen bases. The others are Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Rodriguez, and Andre Dawson, so this is an exclusive group. Furthermore, Beltran was an elite defender, ranking seventh all time in Total Zone Runs (Rtot) by a center fielder with 104. His role in the sign-stealing scandal does not change that, nor does it disqualify him from my “ballot.” People have stolen signs and relayed the info since the beginning. The Astros simply got caught. And there is no way at all that they were the only team doing it at the time.

Scott Rolen did not put up the counting stats, largely due to missing so many games with injuries. He was by no means a slouch at the plate, slashing .281/.364/.490. But he was an elite defender, ranking sixth among third basemen in Rtot. Of those who played while Rolen was active, only Adrian Beltre had more.

The More Complicated Ones

Jimmy Rollins played a defense-first position — shortstop — winning four Gold Gloves over the course of his career. At the plate, he was among the best-hitting shortstops of the past 25 years. His career spanned from 2000 to 2016. During that time period, he was second to Derek Jeter among shortstops in runs scored (1437 to 1421) and fourth overall behind Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Jeter. In hits, Rollins was second among shortstops and fifth overall. Doubles? Sixth overall, first among shortstops. His 115 triples? Second among shortstops (Jose Reyes, 121) and third overall (Carl Crawford had 123). In stolen bases over that time period, Rollins came in third, with 470. Only Reyes (488) and Crawford (470) had more.

Andruw Jones also played a position that is still defense-first, although not as much as catcher or middle infield. In Rtot, he had the most ever by a center fielder (230) and fourth-most all-time behind third baseman Brooks Robinson (293) and shortstops Ozzie Smith (239) and Mark Belanger (238). Jones is also in an elite club of only five players, that being 200 or more Rtot, with Roberto Clemente (204 in right field) as the fifth member. His 12 seasons with the Atlanta Braves were impressive, slashing .263 (1683-for-6408)/.342/.497 while averaging 28 doubles, 31 home runs, and 93 RBI per season. For his entire career (not just Atlanta), he hit 434 home runs.

The Other Shoe Drops

But he played five seasons after leaving Atlanta and did not even reach 2000 hits in his career. His slash line fell to .254/.337/.486. In two of those seasons, he batted below .200. His defense also suffered. With the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and Chicago White Sox in 2010, his Rtot in center field was negative in both seasons. His totals? With the Dodgers, -8; with the White Sox, -4. His center field play had deteriorated so much that the Texas Rangers (2009) and New York Yankees (2011–12) never played him in center field during a game, not even for so much as an inning.

I have advocated for Jones before, but I do not anymore. Hall of Famers do not fall off a cliff like Jones did after turning 30. His last season in Atlanta was the year he turned 30, and he slashed .222 (127-for-572)/.311/.413 with 27 doubles, 26 home runs, and 83 runs scored. This was a guy who hit 51 homers two years prior and 41 the season before. In the five years following, he slashed .210 (250-for-1191)/.316/.424 with 53 doubles, 66 home runs, 172 RBI, 354 strikeouts, 174 walks, and 159 runs scored. His wOBA and wRAA during those seasons were .325 and 3.0. That was in five years combined. Sorry, but this is not a Hall-of-Fame resume, and it removes him from my “ballot.”

The Relievers

Billy Wagner should have been in a few years ago. I do not care that he had fewer saves than the overrated John Franco, who never once made me think, “Oh great, he’s in the game. We’re done now” while my favorite team faced him. Franco finished 71 more games than Wagner but only beat him by two saves. Wagner’s save percentage was 85%; Franco’s was 81%.

But let’s not compare him to Franco. Let’s simply state his numbers. Wagner’s ERA was 2.31, making for an ERA-minus of 54, second to Rivera amongst relievers with 600 or more innings pitched. His strikeout percentage was 33.2%, his walk percentage was 8.3%, and the difference between the two was 24.9%. The opponent’s batting average was .184. Wagner’s strikeout percentage is higher than any pitcher currently in the Hall, starter or reliever, with Randy Johnson (28.6%) as the current leader. The strikeout-walk differential is also higher than anyone in the Hall, starter or reliever, with Pedro Martinez (21.0%) as the current leader. Furthermore, Wagner’s WHIP is 0.998, better than any reliever in the Hall and better than any pitcher other than Addie Joss (0.968).

Having said all that, Wagner, above all, meets the fourth criterion. For the bulk of his career, when Wagner entered the game, it was over. When my team faced him, I often felt they’d be lucky to even put the ball in play. He was one of the most dominant relievers ever to play the game, and he certainly deserves to join the eight relievers who are already enshrined.

K-Rod

Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has not been mentioned much, which is a shame. His ERA-minus is 69, tied with Dennis Eckersley, who is third among Hall of Fame relievers behind Rivera (46) and Hoyt Wilhelm (68). Rodriguez came onto the scene in 2002, where he was lights out as a setup man for Troy Percival in the postseason as the Angels won the title. As a closer, K-Rod finished fourth on the career save list behind Rivera (652), Trevor Hoffman (601), and Lee Smith (478), also having a better save percentage (85%) than Smith (82%). In addition, he holds the single-season record for saves (62).

Beyond that, he put up the high save total while spending all or part of six seasons as either a middle reliever or setup man. And as a setup man, he was among the best. Rodriguez, like Wagner, meets the fourth criterion. As a closer, I definitely felt the game was over if he came in the game and was facing my team. And as a setup man when he was with the Angels, I often felt better about my team’s chances to come back against Percival than I did against Rodriguez. That’s not a knock on Percival, as he was also a dominant reliever, albeit not for a long enough time to be considered for the Hall. Rodriguez gets my “vote” and will until he makes it.

Trimming the List

That makes nine. The sixth criterion — failing a PED test after the policies were codified by Major League Baseball and the Players Association — eliminates Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez. The reason I established this policy is that the league, by its practices, showed that it didn’t care about PEDs until then. They looked the other way, and what you permit, you promote. What is especially damning to the league is that four managers from this era are in the Hall, as are two general managers and the very commissioner who looked the other way. These managers and general managers benefited from players who used. To include them but not the players is unfair.

The Fear Factor

There is also the Fear Factor. Gary Sheffield terrified me every time he faced a team I was rooting for during his entire career. The way he cocked and waved his bat while waiting for the pitch sent chills up spines. It was like he was saying, “I’m hitting this ball to the next county, and there is not a thing you can do about it.” He was the most feared hitter of that era other than Bonds. There were teammates who were legitimately nervous about being on third base during his at-bats due to how hard he hit the ball. And Sheffield often came through in big moments and against great pitchers.

Todd Helton also terrified me, as he did with every other team in the NL West. It didn’t matter where the game was played, Helton was a tough out. And it didn’t matter what point in the game he batted or which pitcher he faced.

Another thing about Helton that hasn’t been brought up yet — his defense. He ranks second all-time in Rtot by first basemen with 107. The only other first baseman with more than 100 is the leader, Keith Hernandez (120). It does not matter that we do not have enough play-by-play information to compute the stat prior to 1953. Helton was an elite defender, and that’s all there is to it. There is no “but he played in Denver” aspect to that part of his game.

And about Denver. Major League Baseball put a team in Colorado. It is not fair to disqualify any hitter who played there based solely on that fact. After all, we do not disqualify pitchers for playing in Dodger Stadium, either of the San Diego stadiums, the Astrodome, Oakland, or San Francisco.

Looking Ahead

We will find out who, if anyone, makes it Tuesday night at 6:15 Eastern.

Main Photo:

The main photo is a composite of the following images:
Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Share "The Hall of Fame “Ballot” of Editor-in-Chief Evan Thompson" on social media:
More Hall of Fame News
Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

Order Evan's book at store.bookbaby.com
Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_m_thompson
Support Evan on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=81411994

2 thoughts on “The Hall of Fame “Ballot” of Editor-in-Chief Evan Thompson

  1. Billy Wagner’s relatively small sample size has probably hurt him. He only pitched 903 innings–less than any pitcher in the HOF–and only faced 3600 batters–again, less than any pitcher in the HOF. Babe Ruth pitched over 1200 innings and faced almost 5000 batters.
    At the same time, the comparison to Francisco Rodriguez really helps Billy Wagner, I think. KRod only pitched 73 more innings than Wagner did, yet faced over 400 more batters! That shows how good Wagner was at getting outs.

  2. I am surprised the Francisco Rodriguez did not get in! Will he and Billy Wagner get in soon. I hope they do not end up being chosen by the Veterans Committee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *