By In Baseball

Hall of Fame Ballot: The Minor Characters

So, you probably know that today is the deadline for our Hall of Fame votes. And that means I’m putting together my massive Hall of Fame post. I believe that will be up at NBC tomorrow and then, on Thursday at noon, I’m planning a Hall of Fame chat here on the blog. Come one. Come all.

So, first, an appetizer. Everybody knows that this year’s Hall of Fame ballot is crazy. There has never been one quite like it. For the first time, you hear numerous baseball writers complaining that they are only allowed to vote for 10 players — this is a group where people in the past have often voted for one or two. For the first time, the hardest decisions involved which Hall of Fame caliber player I would NOT vote for because I simply did not have the ballot space.

I can tell you now that for me it came do to this:

— There are 15 players who I would vote for the Hall of Fame if I could.
— There are nine players I would not vote for the Hall, but they have pretty good cases.
— There are 12 players who were pretty clearly not Hall of Famers.

Now, I’ve already written: I’m not sure those 12 clear non-Hall of Famers serve much purpose being on the ballot. Nobody thinks of them as Hall of Famers so they are kind of just taking up space. But, this is the way it’s done now. And, as mentioned, it’s an honor just to be on the ballot.

So, here’s a short bit on the 12 who were good players but clear Nos on the Hall of Fame:

— Moises Alou: Probably the best player in this group. He was even better than his father Felipe, who was also a good player. A lifetime .300 hitter with more than 300 home runs. A six-time All-Star. Compares quite favorably with Hall of Famers Chuck Klein and Hack Wilson, among others.

— Armando Benitez: A good reliever who pitched for seven different teams and had 289 career saves. Benitez could throw serious gas and averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

— Sean Casey: They called him the Mayor, and he was, more or less, every sportswriter’s favorite player. Approachable, quotable, funny … he was also a line-drive hitter with a lifetime .300 average. Early in his career hit as many as 25 home runs, but his power more or less disappeared at age 30. He never drove in 100 RBIs, but he twice drove in 99.

— Ray Durham: A survivor. Durham lasted in the big leagues long enough to get 2,000 hits and to score more than 1,2000 runs. He was fast when young and he walked a bit so he did have a knack for scoring runs — he had a six -year stretch where he scored 100-plus runs every year.

— Eric Gagne: Could never get it together as a starter, but he was dominant as a reliever for four seasons. He had a .830 WHIP and a 1.38 ERA between 2002 and 2005, and he averaged more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings. In that time, he won a Cy Young Award and finished in the Top 10 twice more. He was named in the Mitchell Report.

— Jacque Jones: He never made an All-Star team but he was a key player in the resurgence of the Minnesota Twins in the early 2000s. His best year by far was 2002, when he hit .300 with 27 homers and 96 runs scored. The following year he hit .304 with somewhat less power in few games. He struck out a lot and seemed allergic to walks but he was solid and very popular in Minnesota.

— Todd Jones: A durable reliever with more than 300 saves in his career. Jones pitched for eight different teams in 16 seasons and kept finding ways to survive in the big leagues without a great fastball or much of an out pitch.

— Paul Lo Duca: He hit well in the minor leagues for years without getting a big-league shot. Finally when he was 29 he became the Dodgers everyday catcher, and he hit .320 with 25 homers and 90 RBis and received MVP votes. He was never again as good, though he was good enough to be selected to four All-Star teams. He was named in the Mitchell Report.

— Hideo Nomo: There is a not unreasonable Hall of Fame argument for Nomo as a pioneer. He was the first Japanese League player to relocate in the United States. This, in itself, was a major step, but then there was immense pressure on him to succeed. He did. He was an immediate sensation with his unique pitching delivery; he led the league in strikeouts and shutouts in his Nomomania rookie season. He was never as good after that, His success certainly paved the way for Ichiro, Yu Darvish, Hideki Matsui and others. He was never quite as good again, though he did throw two no-hitters, again led the league in strikeouts and won 123 big league games.

— Richie Sexson: A personal favorite. I’ve always liked those swing-for-the-fences players. There’s something forthright about them. Sexson hit 30-plus homers six times in his career — twice hitting 45. He also had five seasons with 150-plus strikeouts. He was always a limited player. He couldn’t run, couldn’t field, couldn’t make enough contact, and he was done at 33. But at his best, Sexson would step in — at 6-foot-6, 200-plus pounds you noticed him — and he would swing big and hit massive fly balls and baseball’s more fun with players like that.

— J.T. Snow: A solid player who got on base, hit 20-plus homers three times, had three 90-plus RBI seasons and won six consecutive Gold Gloves at first base. He was indeed a slick-looking fielder though the defensive numbers wildly disagree with the award voters — for his career, his defensive WAR is minus-11.2 wins.

— Mike Timlin: A versatile pitcher who lasted until he was 42. He did manage 31 saves one year, but he was mostly a middle-reliever or setup man. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Timlin is that he pitched in 46 postseason games for four different teams. He pitched in four World Series and his teams won them all.

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29 Responses to Hall of Fame Ballot: The Minor Characters

  1. Phil says:

    Weird: in the movie Inside Llewyn Davis, Llewyn’s (dead) ex-partner is named Mike Timlin.

  2. Dylan says:

    It’s always nice to read some words about Alou. One of my all-time favorites.

    I have a complaint, though, that I need to get off my chest. Sorry Joe —

    Can we please – PLEASE – stop mentioning the Mitchell Report as some uniform badge of dishonor? I know why people do it, as it’s a convenient way to identify players from a certain era who were connected to PEDs. But the Mitchell Report was hastily prepared, ill-researched, had no intention of applying some consistent standard for naming a player, and was almost entirely a product of MLB’s lame PR efforts rather then an honest attempt at assessing baseball’s PED problem. To tag certain players as “Mitchell Report” guys, and others as not, is to distort the image of PEDs from that era.

    Even if you give the report all credence, being named in the report meant vastly different things. Some players had fairly extensive connections to PED dealers, well-documented in the report. Others were mentioned alongside virtually no substantiation actually tying them to PEDs. A blanket “Mitchell Report” tag provides so little information, with the wide range of evidence supporting the naming of a player in the report, as to provide almost no information at all.

    We can do better than that. We all are smart enough, capable enough, and appreciate nuances sufficiently to understand that assessing any one player’s contribution during this era is a complex, conflicted, and perhaps ultimately impossible venture.

    I think that adding a mostly meaningless scarlet letter to some players adds nothing, and very well encourages the type of suspicion-fueled labeling that so clutters the hall of fame voting today.

    • largebill says:

      Good points well worth repeating. The Mitchell Report relied on a few informants with ties to only a few teams. Players on other teams were also using just were not known by those particular informants.

  3. Brian says:

    I think Joe’s just mentioning the Mitchell Report as a way of saying Gagne has no chance of election. Joe has said he’d vote for suspected PED users so he’s not using it as a judgment tool. But it is important to mention the report because so many voters won’t vote for anyone with even the slightest hint of steriods – regardless of the veracity of the reports.

    • invitro says:

      “Joe has said he’d vote for suspected PED users”

      Indeed, proven PED users.

    • Dylan says:

      @ Brian — Ok, I get that. If that’s all you were referencing the report for Joe, sorry for using this forum for a rant. I still think it doesn’t help the conversation overall, though.

  4. Jaack says:

    Of these guys, a few will inevitably get weird rationale/pity votes a la Shawn Green and Aaron Sele last year. I imagine That Alou and Nomo will get 2-5 votes a piece (since there is an almost reasonable case for their consideration) with maybe Gagne and Casey picking up a couple. I hope that Ray Durham gets one, but I doubt it. No one else screams pity vote to me, but then again, Aaron Sele didn’t last year.

    • Which hunt? says:

      There is no excuse for a pity vote this year.

      • Jason Roth says:


        That said, there are a ridiculous number of voters (~800 I think?), and we know that a fair number (hundreds, at least) are stupidly limiting their votes for real candidates, which means you only need 3 guys out of 300 to decide to throw a bone to Nomo or Moises.

        Point being, you’re right as a normative matter – nobody should get any pity votes this year – but wrong as a descriptive one – somebody will.

  5. s1rweeze says:

    As a Twins fan, I just wanna say it does my heart good to see Jacque Jones on the HOF ballot. He was your classic “what you see is what you get” player who played hard and always had a smile on his face. He embodied those early 2000s Gardy teams that were so fun to root for.

  6. Frank says:

    “[Nomo] was the first Japanese League player to relocate in the United States. ”

    Masanori Murakami says, “Hi.”

    • Cuban X Senators says:

      Thought about Murakami (thanks, Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading & Bubble Gum Book). And maybe one year in the States isn’t “relocating”.

      But Cecil Fielder?

  7. Jan says:

    I read Tom Verducci’s column last week and it had an interesting stat on Alou. Alou is one of 11 players to hit 330 homers and strike out less than 900 times. Of th 11 to do it, only Rocky Colavito (and Alou) will not be in the HOF.

  8. Mac says:

    One of my absolute favorite posts of the year. These guys are like all those ancillary characters on Joe’s favorite show, The Office. The stars run the show, but those other players give the stars meaning and it’s these iter goods not greats who you root for just as much if not more.

  9. TWolf says:

    I have always thought that Moises Alou should have been voted the 1997 World Series MVP instead of Livan Hernandez. Alou hit 3 home runs, 9 rbi’s, 20 total bases, and a 1.101 OPS.
    Hernandez won two games as a starter, but was not especially impressive in either of them.
    His ERA was 5.27. I think he won because his personal story about his escape from Cuba was compelling.

  10. Richard says:

    True, none of these men are ever going to get in the Hall of Fame without paying the admission fee. But they are all fine players who helped their teams win a lot of games (and surely along the way made a lot of fans happy). So can we at least give them all a round of applause?

  11. Rob Deer says:

    – J.T. Snow: “He was indeed a slick-looking fielder though the defensive numbers wildly disagree with the award voters — for his career, his defensive WAR is minus-11.2 wins.”

    I hate to nitpick your stuff, but this is a pet peeve of mine. The dWAR number you’re quoting includes the positional adjustment. -9 wins of that are because he was a first baseman. The actual fielding part of dWAR says he was 2.2 wins shy of an average fielder at first base over the course of his career. That isn’t what you’d expect out of a guy with 6 Gold Gloves, but is a bit better than -11 wins.

    That Timlin WS factoid is amazing. I still remember him as the guy who got Otis Nixon out to end the 92 World Series.

    • ingres77 says:

      He would be 2.2 wins shy of a REPLACEMENT player, not an average one. 0 in WAR is “replacement”.

      Either way, his dWAR is -11. The positional adjustment is part of the measurement.

      • Mark Daniel says:

        ingres77, he’s 2.2 wins shy of an average player, defensively. dWAR is based on league average, not on replacement level. It is believed that replacement level players are of average defensive ability.

  12. Rob Deer says:

    According the Sean Smith’s WAR that’s used by baseball reference, there’s no such thing as a replacement level defender. For defense a replacement level defense = average fielder. So Snow is 2.2 wins shy of an average fielder at first. If you hover over the rField tab on a b-r player page it explains this.

    And positional adjustment confuses a lot of people. If Joe wants to say that Snow’s defensive numbers don’t match the gold gloves at first base, he shouldn’t include the adjustment for being a first baseman. That’s totally irrelevant. Similarly, I’ve seen articles claiming that Keith Hernandez is overrated because he’s held to be a fantastic fielder, but his dWAR is only 0.5 so he couldn’t have been that good.

    And relax, there’s no need to use ALLCAPS to emphasize things.

  13. Tom Wright says:

    ” He pitched in four World Series and his teams won them all.”

    And he still has the game ball from the final out of the ’92 World Series. Fun factoid that came up during that weird fight between the Red Sox and Doug Mientkiewicz over who got to keep the ball from the ’04 series.

  14. How can a guy that never even made an All Star team possibly be placed on the HoF ballot? I’ll be the first to admit the All Star voting process stinks, but still…

  15. Tom Flynn says:

    1997 World Series, my seven year old daughter have left field bleacher seats for the blizzard game in Cleveland. We get there early and catch the Marlins BP. I notice kids along the rail and say “lets give it a try”.

    We take a spot and I tell her to yell down to the players. She says “Why don’t you do it?” I said “Because I’m not a cute seven year old kid”. So she yells loudly “Hey mister, over here!”

    A Marlins ballplayer grabs a ball and looks up at us. He looks at me and points to her. I nod my head, “yes, she’s with me.” He tosses the ball up to me and my daugther starts screaming thanks..

    Yeah, Moises Alou belongs in the Hall of Fame.

  16. BillyF says:

    Hideo Nomo is underrated in America. Along Ichiro, Nomo has been the most celebrated player in Asia, even to this day. He’s a bulldog, never quit his dedication to play in the Major League AND revive the independent leagues in Japan. His bold move of retiring from Japan in order to get the hell out so he COULD CHOOSE where he plays–His action revolutionized the baseball system in Japan; the free agency, new rules, the dynamics between amateur and pro baseball.

    He’s been a silent contributor to Asian baseball and two hundred million people (a combined population of Korea, Japan, and Taiwan) NOT ONLY as a leader, but a HERO.

    One of the things for the Hall of Fame is character, and another is the player’s contribution to baseball. It didn’t say American baseball. It says BASEBALL. And I believe more than two hundred million fans will appreciate writers like Joe Posnanski at least acknowledge those two boxes for NOMO.

    • BillyF says:

      One more thing: People don’t say “relocate” in Asia. Going from Asian baseball to Major League-affiliations has been coined “CHALLENGE.” It’s a word to describe Nomo, who truly challenged the system.

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