In fact in most years, I refused to even consider arguably the greatest hitter and greatest pitcher of their generation.
Not only have I considered both Bonds and Clemens — both players are on my ballot.
It appears the majority of voters are starting to come around to enshrining Bonds and Clemens. Both guys are on the sixth year on the ballot and as of Saturday afternoon, both are on 72.4 percent of the 105 public and anonymous ballots tracked so far by Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker.
So to be inducted, 76.3 percent of remaining ballots would have to include them and both need 213 votes to reach the 75 percent threshold, according to the data.
Bonds and Clemens might not get inducted this year, but they are on track for 2019 or 2020. My reasoning is below, along with explanations for the rest of my ballot.
Chipper Jones is without a doubt a first ballot hall of famer. The tracker has him being included on 98.6 percent of ballots, and he should easily be inducted.
Jones, whose 19-year career ended in 2012 at the age of 40, put up legendary numbers and became the face of the Atlanta Braves.
Jones was one of the best switch hitters in baseball history. Only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray hit more homers. Only Mantle and Pete Rose drew more walks. Only Rose, Murray, Frankie Frisch and Omar Vizquel had more hits. Mantle, Roger Connor and Lance Berkman were the only players to finish with a higher OPS+ than Jones’ 141 among switch hitters with 7,000 or more plate appearances.
Jones hit over .300 from both sides; from the left-side he hit .304 and from the right-side he hit .305. He sits third in home runs (468) among players whose careers were spent primarily at third base, behind Mike Schmidt and Eddie Matthews.
In addition, his career 85.0 WAR ranks sixth all time among third baseman and is 18 points ahead of the average WAR from All Electees, according to The Ringer.
Jones was a great postseason hitter, won an MVP Award and was an eight-time All Star.
This is as easy as it gets.
Thome is the other slam dunk first ballot hall of famer.
He finished his 22-year career with 612 home runs, the eighth most all time. Four of the seven players ahead of him — Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr — have already been inducted — two others — Bonds and Alex Rodriguez — have been tainted by steroids and Albert Pujols will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
That alone should warrant induction this year. But I have to write more than two paragraphs.
He tallied at least 40 home runs six times, hit 30 or more 12 times and hit a career high 52 in 2002 before leading the league with 47 in 2003.
His career WAR of 72.9 is above the average Hall of Fame first baseman (66.4). His peak WAR, which accounts for a player’s seven best seasons, of 41.5 falls just below the average but still ranks 18th among first baseman.
Mike Mussina should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He has had to wait and it is about time.
The right-hander never won a CY Young Award and did not reach the 300-win plateau.
But he was one of the best during his time at run prevention and strikeouts.
The advanced metrics certainly support Mussina’s induction. His career WAR of 83.0 is 10 points higher than the average Hall of Fame starting pitcher. It is also 1.5 points above 2014 inductee Tom Glavine.
I included Hoffman and Wagner in the same section because I would not vote for one without the other. Both in my mind deserve to be inducted.
Few relievers have been elected into the Hall, and both Hoffman and Wagner fall well short of the average WAR for a Hall of Fame relief pitcher, but both were dominant when they played and racked up numbers that simply cannot be ignored.
This is a case where I have decided to stray away from the advanced metrics and look at rate statistics that were off the charts.
Hoffman saved 601 games. The save stat may not be highly regarded in today’s sabermetric driven game, but it was when Hoffman pitched and nobody besides Mariano Rivera could close out a win or come through in the clutch quite like Hoffman could. Most believe that Rivera is a slam dunk Hall of Famer so why shouldn’t Hoffman be?
In regards to Wagner, his advanced stats and postseason performance are shaky. But the left-hander dominated during his prime to the tune that not even Hoffman could match. His career ERA+ of 187, which is a much better measurement of a pitcher’s success than ERA, was 46 points higher than Hoffman (141).
Wagner did not have the innings of some of the other great relievers, but when he did pitch, he was dominant. Among pitchers with at least 800 innings pitched, his career 11.9 strikeout rate is the best in history by a wide margin.
Do I like that he used steroids in the latter portion of his career? No. But, I have decided to support his induction into Cooperstown because of one reason.
He would have been a Hall of Famer anyway.
Most have agreed that Bonds started using performance enhancing drugs after the 1998 season. So, I decided to combine his stats from the first 12 seasons of his career.
From 1986 to 1998, he hit 411 home runs and had 403 doubles with a .290 batting average, .411 on base percentage and an impressive 164 OPS+.
Not only do his rate stats check out, so do his advanced metrics. He compiled a ridiculous 99.6 WAR before he ever used steroids, which is well above the average for a Hall of Famer and would rank among the best for left fielders all time. That is how dominant he was.
My argument for including Bonds is the same for Clemens. He was so dominant that his numbers would have been good enough for Hall of Fame induction before he used steroids.
The right-hander started using steroids around the same time as Bonds. I combined the first 14 years of his career from 1984 through the 1998 season, and his numbers are Cooperstown worthy.
He won more than 65 percent of his starts, and compiled a 151 ERA+ and a 2.86 FIP. He already had struck out well over 3,000 batters and won Rookie of the Year, five CY Young Awards and an MVP Award.
That is a Hall of Fame resume folks.
The Final Three
I usually vote for 10 and that will not change this year. Here are my final three.
Scott Rolen: Rolen may not be elected this year, but he was one of the best all around third baseman of all time and deserves a place in Cooperstown. His career 70 WAR is above the average Hall of Fame third baseman. He won eight gold gloves, hit 316 home runs and collected 2,077 hits.
Curt Schilling: While I may not agree with what he has said on Twitter and on the airwaves, his personal choices should not affect his place in the Hall of Fame. Whether people like it or not, Schilling’s accomplishments on the baseball field should be the only thing considered. His 79.9 career WAR is above the average Hall of Fame pitcher and his postseason accomplishments were nothing short of amazing.
Larry Walker: The main argument for not including Walker is his time spent at Coors Field. But his road OPS was higher than his OPS in Denver when he won MVP in 1997. Plus, fewer than 33 percent of his plate appearances came at Coors and he hit for every team he played for. His career 72.6 WAR sits eighth among all players eligible this year and while it falls just below the average Hall of Fame right fielder, his Peak WAR, as in the best seven seasons of his career, was slightly higher.