In case you missed part 1 of my 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, here’s where I left off:
Nine players on this year’s ballot – Bonds, Clemens, Chipper, Edgar, Mussina, Manny, Rolen, Schilling and Thome – are no doubters. If you have a dissenting opinion on that statement, keep it to yourself because you’re wrong.
“Maybes” in my mind were Jeff Kent, Johan Santana, Vlad Guerrero, Andruw Jones, Fred McGriff, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Omar Vizquel, and Larry Walker.
After further review, Kent, Santana, McGriff, Damon, Sosa, Jones and Vizquel are not Hall of Famers, at least not on this ballot. (Andruw Jones is a really tough call – Vizquel, not so much.)
That leaves me one vote amongst Guerrero, Sheffield and Walker.
Two points to make before proceeding:
One, I think they are all somewhere in the neighborhood of 60/40 “yes”. It wouldn’t be an egregious decision if all were inducted or if none were. They were all better than Dave Winfield, for example.
Two, my original thought on Larry Walker was that his supporters were too easily dismissive of the Coors Field effect on his career numbers.
Walker had 8,030 career plate appearances, 2,501 at Coors Field. There he posted and OBP of .462 and a SLG of .710, for an OPS of 1.162. Literally, for almost 1/3 of his career, he was a better offensive player than Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Ted Williams. Those numbers would represent the 3rd best OBP, and the best SLG and OPS ever.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds that nonsensical. For some perspective, in Olympic Stadium in Montreal he had 1,369 plate appearances and posted an OBP/SLG of .373/.518. That’s a very good player, especially when good defense and base running are factored in – quite possibly a Hall of Famer. But that’s a .271 lower OPS in Montreal than in Denver.
I’m thinking that’s more representative of the player he was (he wrote, with sarcastic condescension…)
Comparatively, Sheffield posted a career OBP/SLG of .393/.514 and Guerrero a .379/.553 line. So Walker’s numbers in Montreal were similar to Sheffield’s and Guerrero’s career numbers (so I may have been right about the Denver effect, and still underrated Walker at the same time). Of course, Walker was the significantly superior base runner and fielder, explaining the approximate 10 more wins above replacement he has on the others.
Now, we split hairs…
What about the traditional “counting stats”? Generally not the first place I go, but it is a factor. The longer the period of time that you play and produce increases your value. This is where the decision becomes easy (assuming you’re with me that we’re splitting hairs up to this point):
Sheffield has more career hits, home runs, runs and runs batted in than both Walker and Guerrero – significantly more in most cases. And playing in Coors may not affect OPS+ and wRC+ as they both weigh run scoring environments and parks, but Coors would positively impact those numbers.
For more context, among players who played between 1983 and 2013 with 5,000 plate appearances, Sheffield’s 509 HRs rank him 10th, only behind current Hall members, those who are about to be inducted and guys who won’t be because of PEDs. His 1,676 RBIs are 8th over that span, again only trailing Hall members, soon to be members and won’t be members only because of PEDs. (Even with that disclaimer he drove in more runs than Sammy Sosa.)
To that end, I’m giving Gary Sheffield my final Hall of Fame vote.
Again, there isn’t an egregious decision here. It can easily be argued Walker and Vlad are Hall of Famers, but I only have one pick. This definitely isn’t a choice worth getting into a spitting contest over.
Want an egregious decision to discuss? Explain Alan Trammell’s exclusion, or Kirby Puckett’s inclusion to me.
As always, thanks to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for the stats.