2015 BJOL HOF Results

December 30, 2014
This year, eighty-nine ballots were cast for the Bill James Online Hall-of-Fame. From a crowded ballot, our readers voted in four starting pitchers:
 
Player
Votes
Percentage
Pedro Martinez
87
97.8%
Randy Johnson
86
96.6%
John Smoltz
70
78.7%
Curt Schilling
67
75.3%
 
Pedro Martinez finished with the highest percentage of the vote, narrowly beating out Randy Johnson. I don’t know that I’ll ever witness a player change a fan-base the way that Martinez changed what it was like to root for the Red Sox. I love Boston, but it’s not a perfect city, and many of its worst traits have seemed reflected in the city’s baseball team. But Red Sox fans loved Pedro…all of us. That a hot-tempered, highly-paid Dominican pitcher was able to turn around the culture of a hitting-focused franchise notoriously reluctant to embrace minority players is one of the most remarkable events in sports I’ve witnessed first-hand. I am convinced that Pedro made Boston a better city to live in: he broke down a lot of the provincialism that had marked Red Sox fandom for most of the team’s existence. He brought such light to the Red Sox, such energy and life to the old ballpark. His starts were events: the energy around Lansdowne Street was fantastic when Pedro was on the mound.  
 
He was brilliant pitcher, of course: I think I’ll never see a pitcher as brilliant at Pedro was at his peak. But to call him brilliant is to miss half of what made Pedro such a singular player. To me, the remarkable thing about Martinez is that he combined the intensity...that hyper-competitiveness that players like Pete Rose or Frank Robinson or Ty Cobb possessed, with a startling joy. He played with a rare kind of humor: though he always wanted to win, he seemed to know, too, that he was making his living playing a game, and was fortunate to be doing that. That’s a difficult balance to find: combining a fierce will with a sense of perspective that allowed him to enjoy the contests he so frequently won.
 
And my god…what a player he was. I’ve never seen a pitcher figure out hitters the way that Martinez did. He had an uncanny knowledge of what a batter was thinking about: he was able to get into the heads of hitters than any other pitcher I’ve watched, and use that to his advantage. His most remarkable game might’ve been a relief appearance: his six-innings of no-hit ball against the Cleveland Indians during the 1999 ALDS. With guile and skill, an injured and exhausted Martinez held a monster line-up at bay. I remember watching that game and thinking: I won’t see this again, ever. He was a wonderful pitcher, the best I’ve ever seen, and I very much look forward to his induction to the real Hall of Fame this summer.
 
 Randy Johnson must be one of the most unappreciated great players in baseball history. He’s won five Cy Young Award, came in second three other seasons, struck out more hitters than anyone other than Nolan Ryan (and at a better rate than any starter in history)….and it’s possible that he’s just the third-best pitcher of his generation.  From 1999 to 2002, Johnson had stretch in which he went 81-27 with a 2.48 ERA, averaging 258 innings pitched and 354 strikeouts each year. Let me repeat that last bit: he averaged 358 strikeouts a year. He won the Cy Young each year….four years in a row…and it wasn’t like he was the only guy in the league (or on his team) putting up impressive seasons. He was a singular looking player, tall, and he had a singular motion; a half-side-arm sling that scared the hell out of left-handed batters. His career is what every team hopes for when they draft pitchers who are hard-throwing but wild….they hope they figure out the wildness without losing the velocity. Randy Johnson did that: he went from walking 6.8 batters per nine innings as a 28-year old to walking 3.5/9 the next year. In his last year in Arizona, as a forty-year old pitcher, The Big Unit walked just 1.6 batters per nine innings…and he led the NL in strikeouts. He was incredible: another deserving Hall-of-Famer.
 
John Smoltz is the rare player to have three acts in his career, going from a Cy Young-winning starter to an excellent closer and then back to starting. He is also a central figure in the turning-around of the Atlanta Braves, an organization that saw just 848,000 fans attend games during his first year with the club (Montreal, the team with the second-lowest attendance that year, drew 1,478,000 fans.) If you grew up with cable in the late 1980’s, you knew two things: 1) that the Braves would always be on the television, and 2) that they’d probably be losing. Smoltz was around for the losing, and he was around for the winning. One World Series title isn’t a lot, but the Braves were one of the great dynasties of baseball, and Smoltz was a central figure on many of those teams.
 
Finally, Curt Schilling was elected this year, after missing by a single vote last year. He is eminently deserving of the honor: though he didn’t have the career length of players like Glavine or Mussina, his peak years were more impressive than a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers. Like Smoltz, Schilling has one of the most impressive postseason resumes of any recent starting pitcher (11-2, 2.33 ERA, 1 bloody sock). And Schilling, a baseball obsessive, was one of the most reachable players in modern baseball: when he joined the Red Sox he started posting on the Sons of Sam Horn message board, answering questions directly instead of through the frequently contentious media outlets. While I seldom share either his political or scientific opinions, I always appreciated his willingness to put himself out there. Schilling seems like one of those people who is fundamentally honest; one of those persons who can’t help but be themselves. This means saying what they think, even if those thoughts occasionally cause controversy. I like people like this: they seem somehow more true than all of us who end up living multiple versions of ourselves. In an era when most athletes stay behind the curtain, it was nice to have a guy who didn’t come to us filtered through the reports of others. During that magic run of 2004, G38 seemed like the player who cared as much as we did in 2004. I hope he gets into the real Hall, though the backlog is getting pretty long.   
 
Anyway…congrats to the newest members of the BJOL Hall-of-Fame. They join our previous classes:
 
2015 – Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling
2014 – Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Lou Whitaker
2013 – Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens
2012 – Edgar Martinez
2011 – Jeff Bagwell
2010 – Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire
2009- Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammell
 
The BJOL readers have been on a little bit of a run with starting pitcher, electing seven in the last two years. We’ve managed to clear a lot of the obvious guys from a crowded ballot, leaving us plenty of room to discuss some interesting players.
 
*             *             *
 
Onto the rest of the results:
 
Player
Votes
Percentage
Dwight Evans
48
53.9%
Gary Sheffield
45
50.6%
Larry Walker
44
49.4%
 
Three outfielders hit the 50% mark, with write-in candidate Dwight Evans getting the most votes for a non-elective player. I meant to write a lengthy article about Evans, but circumstances (specifically, the birth of Kid #2) got in the way. I’m glad that Dewey is sticking around so I can give his candidacy and his career its due consideration. I promise I’ll write a long article about Dewey next year.
 
I think people will come around on the careers of Sheffield and Walker….though both played in a high offense era (and one enjoyed a high-offense park), I think that there’s evidence that their career accomplishments are Hall-worthy.
 
 
Player
Votes
Percentage
Jeff Kent
30
33.7%
Fred McGriff
30
33.7%
Andre Dawson
28
31.5%
Kenny Lofton
21
23.6%
Rafael Palmeiro
17
19.1%
Kevin Brown
17
19.1%
 
Six players received enough support to stay on comfortably. Jeff Kent seems the most interesting player of the group: he showed up on a lot of ‘short’ ballots…on ballots with five or six players. There were at least two ballot that listed only Pedro, Randy, Smoltz, Schilling, and Jeff Kent. This suggests that some percentage of our readers are very much convinced of the merits of Kent’s career.
 
Andre Dawson, the only player elected by the BBWAA who hasn’t been elected by our readers, continues to net about 30% of the vote. The same is true for 80’s slugger Fred McGriff. The controversial Rafael Palmeiro stays on our ballot, as does the superlative leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton. And while Kevin Brown’s career hasn’t found the same traction as some of his pitching peers, he has a solid base of support.
 
Player
Votes
Percentage
Sammy Sosa
13
14.6%
Lee Smith
11
12.4%
Bernie Williams
8
9.0%
Dale Murphy
8
9.0%
 
Outfield Sammy Sosa remains on the ballot, as does closer Lee Smith...I don’t know if this means that the BJOL has a strong membership contingent in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, or if we need to do more marketing at the many fine taverns in the area. If Sosa or Smith are elected, the first round of Old Style’s are on us.
 
Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams manages to sticks on the ballot, as does two-time MVP Dale Murphy. We’ll see if they can gain some ground when the pack thins out.
 
Player
Votes
Percentage
Brian Giles
3
3.4%
Carlos Delgado
3
3.4%
Nomar Grciparra
2
2.2%
 
Brian Giles, Carlos Delgado, and Nomar Garciaparra are falling off the ballot: while each player received a few votes, none crossed the 5% needed to stay on another year.
 
Of the three, I’m most disappointed about Garciaparra falling off the ballot. While his career was very short, he was absolutely a Hall-of-Fame caliber player for the six years of his peak. While I’m not sure that Garciaparra is a Hall-of-Fame player, I think there’s an argument to be made that six years of great play at least challenges the longer-but-lesser careers of a player like Rafael Palmeiro. In a weird way, the player who makes a case for Garciaparra is Sandy Koufax, who had the same six seasons of brilliance, surrounded by a short span of mediocrity. The difference is that Sandy became great, while Nomar started great and declined. Thus, we see Nomar as a disappointment, while Sandy is a great surprise.  
 
Or maybe I’m a hopeless homer. I loved Nomah.
 
Player
Votes
Percentage
Tom Gordon
0
0.0%
Darin Erstad
0
0.0%
Jason Schmidt
0
0.0%
Cliff Floyd
0
0.0%
Jermaine Dye
0
0.0%
Rich Aurilia
0
0.0%
Troy Percival
0
0.0%
Eddie Guardado
0
0.0%
Aaron Boone
0
0.0%
Tony Clark
0
0.0%
 
No one votes for these guys. If they were BJOL members, they could’ve voted for themselves. Oh well.
 
*             *             *
 
We can look at how players have done on a year-by-year basis. Curt Schilling was elected this year, after nearly making it last year:
 
Player
2013
2014
2015
Curt Schilling
54%
74%
75%
 
Getting 50% the first year a player appears on the ballot is a good start….Schilling was almost elected in his second year, and crossed the line (narrowly) this year. Every vote counts.
 
A few player have received consistent levels of support over the years:
 
Player
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
Fred McGriff
18%
25%
36%
28%
29%
34%
Larry Walker
x
23%
50%
50%
55%
49%
Kevin Brown
x
22%
24%
18%
21%
19%
Kenny Lofton
x
x
x
25%
26%
24%
Jeff Kent
x
x
x
x
33%
34%
 
Fred McGriff is our poster-boy for a steady level of support, getting on about one-third of our ballots every year. Larry Walker had had four years in a row of 50% support….it’ll be interesting to see if he’s stagnating there, or if he makes a leap forward when the ballot thins out.
 
Kevin Brown and Kenny Lofton have stayed in the mid-20’s since they arrived on the ballot…I am less optimistic about their chances, though I think that Lofton will see a big surge when the ballot thins out.
 
Jeff Kent is getting the same levels of support that Fred McGriff gets, and the questions going forward is the same: will he stay in the 30’s, or gain some support down the track.
 
Player
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
Andre Dawson
21%
25%
18%
52%
39%
44%
32%
Lee Smith
14%
35%
40%
15%
8%
x
12%
Rafael Palmeiro
x
x
33%
48%
49%
46%
19%
Sammy Sosa
x
x
x
x
33%
32%
15%
 
Andre Dawson saw a slight decline this year….we have a lot of outfielders on our ballot right now, and it’s a little difficult to pick out the deserving players.
 
Lee Smith has the least consistent voting results of any player: after netting 14% in his first year, the great reliever jumped to 35% and then 40%....outpacing players like Andre Dawson and Fred McGriff. Then Smith dropped to 15%, and then 8%. I mistakenly left him off our ballot in 2014, but he didn’t see a jump in 2015. I think the window is closing on Smith…when the likes of Rivera and Hoffman show up on the ballot, he’ll struggle to hang on. He does have some staunch defenders.
 
Raffy and Sosa, two players linked with steroids, saw their results cut in half this year. This is particularly surprising for Palmeiro, who was edging towards the 50% mark before this season. It’ll be interesting to see how both players fare in the coming years.  
 
*             *             *
 
In our third annual write-in campaign, we saw strong support for Giants first baseman Will Clark. The excellent defensive whiz and one-time Seinfeld guest-star Keith Hernandez had strong support, and Minnie Minosa saw a late surge. A lot of folks wrote in Pete Rose, who is absolutely eligible…it’d be fascinating to have Pete Rose on our ballot at some point.
 
But…one man absolutely dominated the write-in vote this year: Bobby Grich. The Angels second baseman received 26 of the 61 write-in votes we received, 43% of the overall vote and a staggering twenty votes more than second-place finisher Will Clark. Some years its close….this year it was a blowout. Bobby Grich will appear on our ballot next year.
 
We’ll see you then.
 
Dave Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com.  
 
 

COMMENTS (23 Comments, most recent shown first)

jimgus
Just commenting on McGwire or Sosa...

I am a BIG McGwire guy (I have defended him here before) and my sense is that Mark was great before the juice and would have been great but not prolific without the juice Sammy, on the other hand, would have been a once in a while All Star without the juice.
5:39 PM Jan 4th
 
MarisFan61
Do you not relate to many people's devaluing the meaning of that extreme number of home runs?

(Subtext: Trying to get a handle on why our membership in general views this kind of thing so differently than the BBWAA and, I think, the public.)
12:18 PM Jan 1st
 
evanecurb
Hi Guys,

Thanks for your comments on Sosa. I think Terry's analysis (traffic) makes the most sense to me. In hindsight, I should not have used McGwire as a comparison. They were different players in many respects.

I do believe that, sometimes in our use of measures like OPS+, WAR, win shares, and park factors, we run the risk of overlooking some obvious strengths of players who don't stand out by these measures: Sammy Sosa hit over 600 home runs. In one five year period, he hit something like umpteen gazillion, or at least more than any other player did, ever, in any league, ever, in any five year period. So I'm not saying he's as good as McGwire. I'm just saying he hit an unbelievable number of home runs.


9:44 PM Dec 31st
 
MarisFan61
I think our biggest difference from the BBWAA, by far, is how we regard PED use or suspicion. The BJOL percentages on the relevant players are generally (actually I think uniformly) much higher than the BBWAA numbers.

I've wondered a couple of times on the site why that is, truly as a matter of curiosity, and I'd love for some people to tackle that. I'm totally at a loss to understand it. My asking has usually been taken as a rhetorical expression of moral judgment, but it isn't at all; I'm really just wondering. If anything I would have expected that BJOL-type people would tend to be "purists" who would have 'holy' views against PED's (as I basically do, although not out of holiness).​
6:27 PM Dec 31st
 
MWeddell
Ultimately, we're much different from the BBWAA. Our decisions on whether to induct several players has differed from the BBWAA since our starting point a few years ago. We even elected Lou Whitaker, who the BBWAA isn't even considering.
4:45 PM Dec 31st
 
78sman
Marisfan, you're probably right that Paul Waner is not a good example of a borderline HoFer. When one factors in his fielding, then he is no longer borderline although he is certainly much closer to the Dewey Evans/Bobby Grich level than to the Frank Robinson/Stan Musial/Mark McGwire level. The distribution is certainly skewed to the right.

In any event, none of this justifies considering Sammy Sosa's credentials for the HoF to be at all comparable to those of Mark McGwire.
2:56 PM Dec 31st
 
MarisFan61
Further about Sosa: I find it very interesting (and surprising!) and JAWS has him as only 18th on the RF list -- behind Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith, who are 15 and 16 -- despite ignoring the PED factor.
BTW he also happens to be just ahead of Dave Winfield. I never said I thought JAWS is the very greatest thing. :-)
2:46 PM Dec 31st
 
steve161
So ultimately we're no different than the BBWAA. We can't elect anybody unanimously, either.
1:06 PM Dec 31st
 
MarisFan61
Re the comment below: I don't think I've ever before seen Paul Waner mentioned as just a borderline Hall of Famer, and Bill has him as the #9 right fielder of all time in the last version of the Historical Abstract.
12:43 PM Dec 31st
 
78sman
Evanecurb, Sammy Sosa compiled his stats in a hitter's park and in a hitter's era. Although McGwire played during the same era, he played mostly in a pitcher's park. OPS+ does a good job at adjusting for park and season effects. Sosa's OPS+ (128) is comparable to that of Dewey Evans, Bobby Grich, Jim Rice, Freddy Lynn, and Paul Waner, who are all borderline HoFers. Sosa's OPS+ is substantially lower than that of Reggie Smith and Will Clark, who are both not in the HoF, but who have better credentials than some HoFers. All of these players were much better on defense than Sosa.

Mark McGwire's OPS+ (163), on the other hand, is much better than Sosa, and it is similar to that of Frank Robinson, Stan Musial, and Mickey Mantle.
11:30 AM Dec 31st
 
MarisFan61
Interesting to me that Smoltz did so well in this vote among our members -- but, as we saw in Reader Posts -- hardly anyone thought he would do that well in the BBWAA (but he is).

About the difference between McGwire and Sosa....I don't know if this is why McGwire did better here, but I'd say I'm pretty sure it's why he's done better (although hardly great) "out there":

-- McGwire is the one who set the record, and who reached the next 'decade' number of home runs. That matters -- a lot.

-- McGwire is seen by many more people as a player who maybe really was great or near-great even without PED's.....or, putting it a little differently, who would have been great or near-great even without PED's. Sosa, I think, is largely seen as a player whose seeming greatness was entirely a creation of PED's -- and to many people, that matters.



1:37 AM Dec 31st
 
MWeddell
Congratulations, Dave. Thanks for organizing this exercise each year.
9:30 PM Dec 30th
 
ventboys
I'll take a shot at a coupla posts ... Bruce, I think Sosa/McGwire is mostly a traffic issue; Mac got in at a time when the ballot wasn't nearly as crowded.... as for Will Clark/Reggie Smith, your arguments for Smith are that he was slightly better and played a slightly tougher position, plus he played slightly longer. There are several things I/we could post in Clarks 'defense', but I watch a lot of Law and Order; I don't believe three 'slightly' exhibits prove your case, so the defense moves to dismiss. You are welcome to retry, of course - but please bring some more compelling evidence, ok?

Seriously, though, the argument between Clark and Reggie is an interesting one, and well worth discussing. I fall on the Clark side, but I believe the other side of the argument has merit. Thanks for the great thread Dave, it's one of my favorite times of the BJOL year.
9:08 PM Dec 30th
 
evanecurb
Shins:

Thanks for the explanation about Sosa vs. McGwire. I'm really struggling to understand how, if you're willing to vote for steroid users, you can leave Sosa off of your ballot. I understand that on base percentage is very important and that Sosa was probably league average in OBP and below league average in that category compared to other outfielders. But his home run and total base totals during his peak are enough as far as I'm concerned, and I don't think it's close.


4:31 PM Dec 30th
 
shinsplint
bennybocce, Clemens was already elected by BJOL in a prior year.
3:33 PM Dec 30th
 
bennybocce
No mention of Clemons, best news of all
3:14 PM Dec 30th
 
tigerlily
Great job Dave! And congrats on the new addition.
2:39 PM Dec 30th
 
shinsplint
Bruce, to me it's the on-base percentage. McGwire's career OBP was .394 and Sosa's was .344. Huge difference in getting on base and not making outs.
2:11 PM Dec 30th
 
78sman
Good results. All four pitchers are excellent choices, especially Pedro and Randy Johnson.

Bobby Grich is also a good write-in vote. He was a great fielder at an important position and a very good hitter. I'm curious about why anyone would have written in Will Clark instead of Reggie Smith, however. They are both equal as hitters (OPS+ of 137), Smith played an important position (CF) well, and he had a slightly longer career.
11:32 AM Dec 30th
 
evanecurb
Dave: Congratulations on kid number 2. Thanks for holding the election again. It's always fun. I don't remember the write in campaign at all; I wonder if I missed it or if I'm just forgetful.

Everyone else: Sammy Sosa hit over 60 home runs three times. I don't see how McGwire gets in but not Sammy? Makes no sense.
9:30 AM Dec 30th
 
Edward
Okay, looks like 89. Who reads first sentences?
7:19 AM Dec 30th
 
Edward
Thanks a bunch, Dave.

How many ballots were cast?
7:16 AM Dec 30th
 
rgregory1956

Thanks for doing this again.
5:45 AM Dec 30th
 
 
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