Your 2012 “If I had a Baseball HOF ballot” post Part 1 – The Newbies

Since the announcement for the Baseball Hall Of Fame voting results takes place this coming Monday, I suppose I should get around to that “if I had a ballot, here’s how I’d vote” post that every baseball blogger has to put out, since the ultimate goal for a baseball writer is to actually have a vote that counts for the Hall of Fame. Well, #1 is probably “get paid for writing about baseball”, with “actual HoF vote” a close second.

So, let’s go over this ballot, first with the newcomers. This years newcomer class is a thin one – and I don’t suspect that many will be around next year when it’s time to vote again. In Part 2, we’ll address those that have already been on the ballot and wrap it all up.

Tony Womack – In arguably Womack’s best season – his 1997 rookie year with the Pirates – Tony had a .700 OPS, a WAR of -1.2 (meaning Tony being on the team actually cost the Pirates a win that season), and came in 8th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting (tied with Geremi Gonzalez and behind Rich Loiselle). Basically known more for hating America by getting a hit off of Mariano Rivera and helping the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series in the wake of 9/11. Also gave the Yanks one of the worst full seasons in recent memory. Yeah – no vote there.

Terry Mulholland – Played for 20 seasons and has worn 17 different jersey number/uniform combinations. The fact that he managed to play that long is probably his most impressive trait. Made one All-Star Game, then was traded to the Yankees the following offseason, where he flopped and proceeded to bounce around for the next 11 seasons, pitching wherever he was called upon. Never outstanding, but more often good than bad.

Ruben Sierra – Actually beats Mulholland in the jersey number/uniform combination contest 19-17. For all intents and purposes should have been 1-and-done on the 2003 ballot after washing out with the White Sox in 1998, but came back to the Rangers system in 2000 after spending time in the independent and Mexican leagues, then hit 23 home runs in 94 games for the Rangers in 2001 as if some magical elixir had been injected into his body. An example of the skill of Yankee scouting/management in the mid-90s, as the Yanks dealt a regressing Danny Tartabull for Sierra, then the following season dealt Sierra for Cecil Fielder.

Phil Nevin – Former #1 overall pick didn’t breakout until he was 28 and with his fourth team. Played well for the Padres and had a great 2001, but injuries followed and he never replicated those seasons again. Was once traded for Chan Ho Park in what was seemingly a “which one has the worst contract” dare trade.

Eric Young – Basically Tony Womack, except a little less speed, and a little better eye for hitting. And a better glove. Not as good as his Colorado years (where he was putting up an OBP of around .400), but a good leadoff guy with speed and a good glove at second base. Just not a HOF guy.

Vinny Castilla – Speaking of “not as good as his Colorado years”, we have Vinny Castilla. Rockies players are going to see their statistics picked apart just as bad (if not worse) as their “steroid era” counterparts, some less fairly than others. Castilla is one who deserves it. Castilla had five good seasons, with the first four taking place between 1995-98 with the Rockies. During that time, Castilla had a .915 OPS, hit 158 home runs, and drove in 460. In 1999, Castilla had a down season for him for the Rockies that still looked decent on paper – .809 OPS, 33 home runs, 102 RBI. Put in the context of Colorado, however, it wasn’t as impressive, putting his OPS+ (which takes park factors into effect) of 83, only six points higher than Tony Womack’s that season. Castilla was traded to Tampa that offseason and his true colors showed, putting together parts of two horrid seasons with the Devil Rays before being released and signed by Houston, another stadium known for somewhat inflating numbers. Castilla parlayed that into a two-year deal with Atlanta, with unimpressive numbers there as well. Castilla then signed a deal with Colorado again, where he was REBORN (.867 OPS, 35 HR, led NL with 131 RBI), then signed another two year deal with Washington, where he crashed and burned again. Surely a candidate for the Colorado Rockie Hall of Fame, but nothing else.

Jeromy Burnitz – A top Mets prospect who for whatever reason couldn’t crack the Kevin McReynolds/Ryan Thompson/Joe Orsulak starting outfield, Burnitz – like Nevin – didn’t get a real opportunity to play full-time until he was 28. Maybe it was because it was because he spells his first name wrong. Regardless, Burnitz got his chance with his third team, Milwaukee, and put together an impressive five-year run for them. He was then dealt back to the Mets, where he struggled somewhat, then wrapped up his career with one-season stints with Colorado, the Cubs, and Pittsburgh. A poor man’s Jay Buhner, and Buhner only got ONE FRIGGIN’ VOTE, so yeah.

Bill Mueller – One of those fun players that tests how much a person knows about baseball. Last name is pronounced just like “Miller”, but spelled like it is, so when you hear someone say “Mule-er”, it’s a special sort of way of establishing right off the bat that the speaker has no idea what they’re talking about. Mueller’s biggest claim to fame before his Red Sox run was being one of the few people actually traded not only after the July 31st trade deadline, but after August 31st as well, ensuring that Mueller wouldn’t be eligible for the playoffs if his team made it (his team – the 2002 Giants – actually did, and were one game away from winning the World Series. I can only assume Mueller would have won it for them). Mueller, seemingly a Moneyball player if there ever was one, would end up winning a batting title in his first season in the American League, then won a World Series the following year with Boston. He signed a FA deal with the Dodgers after his run with Boston, but would only play part of one season with LA due to injuries, and retired the following offseason. Will get one or two votes, but shouldn’t.

Javy Lopez – This has a post of it’s own coming. Let’s just say for now “I’m thinking about it”, that I’m shocked as anybody that I am, and move on to the next one.

Brian Jordan – Everyone remembers Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders as being dual-sport stars back in the late 80s/early 90s, but people forget Brian Jordan was well on his way to being one as well. Jordan was Sanders’ secondary teammate for the Atlanta Falcons, starting 30 games over two seasons at strong safety for Jerry Glanville’s team. Jackson’s career-damaging injury may have weighed on both the minds of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jordan though, as the Cardinals offered Jordan a signing bonus to give up football, and Jordan took it. As a baseball player, Jordan was better than Sanders (and would have a better career than Jackson), playing for fifteen seasons, most of which as a better than league average player. A highly underrated defender (his defensive WAR ranks 18th all-time), Jordan’s not a Hall of Famer, but a very good player nonetheless.

Tim Salmon – Here’s another player that sneaks up on you. I always remembered Tim Salmon as being “good”, but I didn’t realize how good until looking at his stats just now. Salmon only really had one bad season before the end of his career, and during the good seasons he was a regular 30 HR, .900 OPS guy, which is totally someone you’d want on your team. Doesn’t get the attention because he spent his entire career with the Angels and where therefore never exposed to the spotlight of free agency or any kind of marketing campaign. Very good player who deserves to be in the Angels Hall Of Fame, but no vote from me for the big one, though it should be interesting to see how much support he gets (if any) considering he never even made an all-star team.

Brad Radke – If Brad Radke were a little bit older, he could have been packaged as “Rad” Brad Radke and been part of WCW’s Dynamic Dudes, saving either Shane Douglas or Johnny Ace/John Laurinaitis from some career embarrassment. Alas, it was not meant to be, and Radke became a solid #3 starting pitcher who ate innings and generally put his team in a position to win. Sadly for Radke, for the first half of his career the Twins weren’t often in a position to take him up on the offer, and averaged a 13-14 record while the Twins were losing 90 games a season. He wasn’t a big strikeout guy either, relying on control (his season high in walks was 57) and defense behind him. Put on a better team with a longer career (Radke retired at 34) and Radke might be a more serious Hall of Fame contender, but the likelihood is that Radke won’t muster enough votes to stay on the ballot. I wouldn’t vote for him, but remember Radke though, because his name will come up later.

Bernie Williams – Easily the best chance of all the newcomers to the ballot to actually make the Hall, although I doubt he’ll make it. Bernie’s numbers are very good, although they don’t necessarily stand out. One impressive thing to think about is that from 1995 to 2002 – the height of the Yankee dynasty – Williams was #1 or #2 on the team in OPS. It’s not off-base to say that Williams was the best hitter on those Yankee teams – then the best teams in baseball. On the flipside, Williams was never really that good of a fielder – despite four Gold Gloves that say otherwise – and the highest he ever came in MVP balloting was 7th, so not only was Bernie never considered by the baseball writers to be the best player in the league at any time in his career, he was never considered even for the top five. That’s a hard Hall of Fame sell. Come back to me on this one.

So for the newbies, we’ve got two that I’m “thinking about it” and the rest are no votes. In part 2, we’ll check out the guys who have already been on the ballot, and see what my ballot’s going to look like.

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