2020 Baseball Hall of Fame: Whom did our voters pick?
The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the results of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting for the Class of 2020 on Tuesday. Based on ballots that have been made public, Derek Jeter might become only the second player elected unanimously by the voters, joining longtime Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera, who was honored with that support last year. Initial returns also suggest Jeter could be joined by Larry Walker, on his 10th and last year on the ballot, in earning induction, with Curt Schilling also being close.
The ballots of seven voters from ESPN are listed below, with a breakdown of whom they voted for and some short thoughts on their decisions. Candidates need 75% of the total vote to be elected into the Hall.
Dan Graziano (6): Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker
The only new guys on my ballot this year are Jeter, who was an obvious choice, and Rolen, for whom I haven’t voted in the past. Just thought a deeper look at Rolen’s case ranks him alongside some of the best ever at his position.
Paul Gutierrez (3): Jeter, Kent, Omar Vizquel
It was the summer of 2005, the winter of Jeff Kent’s 17-year MLB career, and he was holding court in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. Kent and Milton Bradley had an altercation the day before — no, nothing like the dugout choking match he and Barry Bonds had infamously participated in years earlier — and Kent was asked if such an episode could actually help a team’s chemistry. “You ever played the game before?” Kent asked.
By the time Kent’s career was done, no second baseman had ever slugged like him before … or since. His 351 homers as a second baseman (he had 377 HRs total) are the most at the position, and being the greatest slugging second baseman in the game’s history alone would be enough to warrant Cooperstown consideration. But when you compare his numbers to other second basemen already enshrined, it’s easy to throw a vote Kent’s way. Consider: Kent had at least 100 RBIs eight times (in a nine-season stretch), more than Charlie Gehringer (seven), Roberto Alomar (twice), Paul Molitor (twice), Ryne Sandberg (twice), Joe Morgan (once) and Craig Biggio (never). And Kent’s .290 career average eclipses those of Biggio, Morgan and Sandberg. No, Kent never won a Gold Glove. His four Silver Sluggers, four top-10 MVP finishes and 2000 National League MVP (with Bonds as a teammate) more than make up for it.
Christina Kahrl (10): Barry Bonds, Walker, Jeter, Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Wagner, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Todd Helton
As a “big hall” believer, the problem for me is cutting down to 10 when I think there are 14-15 worthy choices on the ballot. I’ve written in the past to explain my rationale for voting for historically worthy sluggers like Bonds, Sosa and Sheffield, so making room for Ramirez makes sense, at least since baseball has said it considered his suspensions for PEDs fulfilled. Larry Walker’s feats and all-around game convinced me to support him on my first ballot, but also helped lead me to the conclusion that Todd Helton belongs as well, Coors Field or no Coors Field.
The big thing folks will have noticed about my ballot is that I had Roger Clemens on my ballot last year (my first), and took him off this year. Clemens’ statistical accomplishments and historical achievements put him in the forefront of the Cooperstown conversation — he’s among the 14-15 players I referenced. If or when he’s elected, you’ll get no argument from me, not on that basis alone.
But the ballot is also very clear in its instructions that those are not the only criteria with which to make informed choices. After spending more time in the past year looking at the questions surrounding Clemens’ interactions with Mindy McCready, alleged and agreed-upon, starting from when she was a minor, and discussing the issue with other colleagues, I can only say that going forward, should he ultimately get elected, it will have to be without my support.
Tim Kurkjian (10): Jeter, Walker, Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Sheffield, Helton, Rolen, Vizquel, Kent
My biggest decision was Omar Vizquel. I understand that he doesn’t meet some Hall of Fame standards by today’s advanced metrics. But I watched him play for nearly 25 years. He has the greatest hands I’ve ever seen. After Ozzie Smith, Vizquel is the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever seen. And given the importance of that position, I believe he’s one of the greatest defensive players of all time at any position. He was an exceptionally smart player, he was durable, he got 2,877 hits and was a great teammate. That was enough for me.
Ian O’Connor (7): Bonds, Clemens, Jeter, Schilling, Vizquel, Walker, Wagner
Five holdovers and Captain Jeter left me with some room on my ballot, so I spent considerable time reviewing a number of candidates I’ve considered borderline, or just a tick below Hall of Fame worthiness. And the one who grabbed me was Omar Vizquel. By the WAR measurement, he’s one of the 10 greatest defensive players of all time, and though he wasn’t a premier offensive player, he did finish within close range of 3,000 hits. Yes, Vizquel was more of a compiler. But on further review, I think he did enough to earn induction.
Enrique Rojas (10): Bonds, Clemens, Jeter, Rolen, Schilling, Sosa, Vizquel, Wagner, Walker, Bobby Abreu
This is my second year as a voter of the BBWAA for the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, an honor that I take very seriously. In addition to the basic recommendations of the Hall of Fame, my other requirements to consider that a candidate deserves sports immortality are simple: All players with at least 10 years in MLB, who stood out among their peers and who did not violate the MLB anti-doping program starting in 2004, are eligible in my view.
I do not consider myself the guardian of public morals, nor do I want to be part of any form of modern inquisition. Therefore, I reserve the right to change, amend or vary my opinion about players who have been suspended for doping in the future. But for the moment, I’ll take care of the others who don’t drag that heavy burden.
Four of my 10 selections last year were elected (Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martínez and Roy Halladay), leaving only six players on my 2020 ballot (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Omar Vizquel and Larry Walker).
Basically, what I did this year was to add four new names, no matter how much time they have on the ballot: Derek Jeter, Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner and Bobby Abreu.
The two candidates I spent the most time with were Abreu and Wagner, who did not have numbers that make them automatic selections, but if we are fair, they were better than many other players from their positions already in Cooperstown.
Claire Smith (6): Bonds, Clemens, Jeter, Sheffield, Sosa, Vizquel
The hardest decision was the non-vote for Larry Walker as he makes his final appearance on the BBWAA ballot. Hall of Famers I spoke to often said that while the Rockies slugger was sensational, he is hurt by the Coors Field factor, a benefit when batting a mile high, but a detriment if production there makes road stats look pedestrian. HOFers’ views are important guideposts to me. Also, the Hall is their very exclusive club, and they have pretty strong opinions on who should gain entry.
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