On the Hall of Fame Ballot: Just Missed

Mike Mussina

Truth be told, I agonized over Moose more than just about any other player I left off the ballot. He’s almost exactly as qualified as Tom Glavine, who did make my ballot, and not far at all behind Curt Schilling.

Glavine did pitch many more innings than Mussina (4413 to 3562). Even so, Mussina’s career WAR is a whopping 82 to Glavine’s 74. That’s right: Mike Mussina was worth more wins to his team than the 300-game winner. It speaks to just how good he was in those innings.

Glavine won two Cy Young Awards. Mussina never did win, but he probably shouldhave taken home the hardware a couple of times. In 1992, he was arguably the best starting pitcher in the American league (though Roger Clemens was right there with him, maybe even a little ahead). It didn’t matter, though, as closer Dennis Eckersley won the Cy. In 2001, he was pretty clearly the best pitcher in the league, but teammate Roger Clemens rode stronger run support to a 20-3 record. Mussina’s 17-11 mark didn’t stand a chance.

I put Glavine on my ballot ahead of Mussina because, well, the 300 wins still mean something. I tend to favor players with somewhat longer careers and big counting numbers. It’s close, though. Fantastically close.

If there were 11 spots on the ballot, Mussina would get my vote. As it is, I’ll wait for next year.

Jeff Kent

I mentioned in my earlier piece on Mike Piazza that I don’t think being the all-time home run leader at a position is an automatic qualifier for the Hall of Fame. It’s pretty clear who I had in mind at the time.

Kent was a terrific power hitter at a generally light-hitting position. The quick case:

  • He hit 377 home runs, easily a record at the keystone.
  • He won an MVP award in 2001.
  • He’s a five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner.

That’s about it. Kent is in many ways the inverse of Bill Mazeroski, a tremendous fielder who couldn’t hit a lick. Maz is in the Hall of Fame, but he probably shouldn’t be.

Another inverse comparable: Keith Hernandez, whose claim to fame is being the best fielder at the least valuable defensive position. Hernandez isn’t in the Hall of Fame, though some argue he should be.

The thing about Kent is that, while he’s the best power hitter at his position, he’s far from the best overall offensive player – that’s Rogers Hornsby by a country mile. Nor is he especially close to second-best: Joe Morgan, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie and Rod Carew were all, I think, superior. Kent is somewhere between the sixth-best and tenth-best offensive second baseman of all time, in the same vicinity as Jackie Robinson, Charlie Gehringer, Joe Gordon and the criminally underrated Bobby Grich.

Still, being at the very least a top-10 all-time hitter at a position is nothing to sneeze at, even with Kent’s typically below-average defense. I’m not sure I’d vote for Jeff Kent, but I think he has a legitimate case, and I think he’d be a reasonable addition.

On this ballot, though, he has no chance.

Edgar Martinez

Along with Mussina, Martinez gave me more trouble than any other player on this ballot. He was a historically great hitter who absolutely deserves recognition for his greatness; it’s no fault of his that this ballot is just overflowing with deserving candidates.

Martinez really could do it all at the plate. His career slash line is .312/.418/.515, well above the classic .300/.400/.500 benchmark for a true superstar. His career OPS+ is 147, proving that even relative to his time, he was dominant. His 1995 season was one for the ages, and he had three or four other seasons that were just about as good.

The big knocks on Martinez are that his career was fairly short and that he was primarily a DH, both of which are fair criticisms. A short-career player needs to be absolutely awesome to build a real case, and a designated hitter needs to build all his value with the bat. It’s a tall order.

It is my opinion that Edgar Martinez’ hitting was good enough to fill that order. Hopefully he’ll have room to sneak back onto the ballot next year.

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