The Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was just released. The inductees will be three players and a union leader, Marvin Miller. Miller’s impact on baseball was immense, but we’re not sure it was all that positive. Of the three players, two were chosen by the Baseball Writers of America (Derek Jeter and Larry Walker), and the other by the Veteran’s Committee (Ted Simmons). Did the Hall of Fame get it right this year? Here’s what we think.
Derek Jeter: 1995-2014:
Shortstop. Career Record: .310 Batting Average. 260 home runs. 1311 RBI. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) 72.4.
To be clear, A Sip of Sports would have voted “Yes” on Jeter, but as we’ve indicated before he is very overrated. The outrage that he didn’t receive 100% of the vote is silly. Now, he was a more valuable player than the only candidate to get a higher percentage (Mariano Rivera last year), but that’s more due to the change in the people voting than in quality of play. We rated the top ten shortstops of all time in our Honus Wagner Article, Jeter did not make the list. He would make the top 15, and really could be as high as #8. We chose to put three shortstops ahead of him that had lower career WAR values than Jeter’s 72.4 (Barry Larkin, 70.4 WAR, Ernie Banks, 67.5 WAR, and Joe Cronin, 66.4 WAR), but Jeter trails the other seven (Honus Wagner, Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith, Arky Vaughan, and Luke Appling). We will stipulate he’s one of the six best offensive players (Wagner, Rodriguez, and Vaughan were clearly better. He’s about even with Banks, Ripken and Yount), whose primary position was shortstop, but he’s the weakest defensive player of the bunch. Just to put his 1st ballot election in proper perspective. Wagner, Yount, Ripken, Banks, and Smith were all first ballot selections, but Larkin had to wait until his 3rd year of eligibility, while Appling got in in his 7th, Cronin in his 10th, and Vaughan had to wait for the Veteran’s Committee. If he had not made it on his first ballot there would not have been an outrage, he was a marginal first ballot selection. (But as we’ve discussed, the first ballot status has been severely diminished after 2019s voting)
Larry Walker: 1989-2005:
Outfielder. Career Record: .313 Batting Average. 383 Home Runs. 1355 RBI. WAR 72.7
Look at Walker’s career WAR. It’s higher than Jeter’s, and he had to wait until his final ballot to get in. Walker has paid a huge price for his time in Denver. The modern sports media just discounts any big seasons in the “Mile High City”. Since that’s where Walker’s MVP season was, they generally dismiss it. At A Sip of Sports we would not have voted for Walker on the first ballot, but are glad he got in. He would of gotten a “Yes” vote from us after his first year of eligibility.
Unlike last year when we would have been a “No” on all four selections, this year we were a “Yes” on both. Now let’s look at the player choice by the Veteran’s Committee:
Ted Simmons: 1968-1988:
Catcher/First Base. Career Record: .285 Batting Average. 248 Home Runs. 1389 RBI. WAR 50.3
We hate to rain on Derek Jeter’s parade, but the fact that Ted Simmons had to wait this long to get in shows how inconsistent the voting is for the Hall of Fame. Both players occupied a defense first position. Both were one of the best offensive performers ever for their position, but were not particularly good defensively. Simmons had to wait 32 years after his baseball career ended to get in. He never received more than 3.7% of the vote from the Baseball Writers, but was voted in by the Veteran’s Committee this year.
What do we at A Sip of Sports think of his induction? Well, Simmons is a better choice than the two they chose last year (Harold Baines and Lee Smith). Ultimately we would have been a “No” on Simmons, but of the ten candidates he was up against this year, we would rate him 5th. Ahead of Don Mattingley, Steve Garvey, Thurman Munson, and Dave Parker, but behind Tommy John, Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy and Lou Whitaker. Our opinion is that Whitaker is the best choice of the group, followed by Tommy John.
Let’s now go to the players who didn’t get the necessary 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers of America. How many do we think should eventually get the nod.
Curt Schilling increased his vote total to 70% on his 8th ballot. We’re optimistic that he’ll get in next year. The fact that he’s had to wait this long is more of a reflection of the voters than his qualifications. The modern media does not like his politics, and several will not vote for him for that reason. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were next at 61% each. We’ve been clear that they will always be a “No” due to their PED use. Next was Omar Vizquel at nearly 53%. We can’t figure out what he has to sell? He was a good, not great, defensive shortstop who hit like a shortstop. His career WAR was only 45.6. Is that a Hall of Famer?
As for the rest of the vote getters who received 10% or greater. Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa are a permanent “No” due to cheating issues. Andruw Jones and Andy Petitte are a permanent “No”, because their record doesn’t rise to Hall of Fame caliber. We’re still undecided on Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, and Todd Helton. Gary Sheffield’s numbers are clearly Hall of Fame worthy, but there’s always been questions about his attitude and PED use. If nothing else comes out about him in the next couple of years we will be a “Yes” on him. We’re leaning towards an affirmative on Helton and Rolen also. Scott Rolen is in the middle of Hall of Fame 3rd basemen, and Todd Helton suffers the same bias as Larry Walker; his numbers are completely dismissed because he played in Denver. Billy Wagner was a closer, and we’re not crazy about closers. He was probably the third best closer of his generation (behind Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, who are both in). We’re less high on him than the other three, but haven’t ruled him out.
Jeff Kent is a “Yes”, and the fact he only received 27.5% of the vote this year is confusing to us.