I recently joined the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, and with membership comes the responsibility of voting for the IBWAA Hall of Fame.
This isn't Cooperstown, and as far as I know there is no ceremony for induction (Mike Piazza was voted in last year), but it's a fun way to express feelings toward baseball's highest honor. Much like the BBWAA, we can vote for up to 10 players, and 75% is required for induction.
Without further adieu, here is my 2014 ballot:
Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens
These two are and likely will be linked for some time. They both won the annual award as the best in their role (Bonds the MVP, Clemens the CY Young) a record seven times, they are both in their second year on the ballot and thanks to mountainous evidence of performance-enhancing drug usage won't be voted in by the BBWAA for quite some time, if not ever. But I view the Hall of Fame as a museum, highlighting the sport's history warts and all. To exclude two of the very best players in the history of the sport seems silly. Mention their ties to PEDs on the plaque, or whatever. But put them in.
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina & Curt Schilling
If there is only one lock on the 2014 BBWAA ballot, it's Maddux, who will sail in on the first ballot. Glavine will receive a higher percentage than fellow first-timer Mussina and second-timer Schilling thanks to topping 300 wins, but a case can be made that Mussina (270 wins) and Schilling (216 wins) were every bit as good as Glavine, if not better.
Of the three non-Maddux pitchers of this group, Mussina (83.0) has the highest Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference version), and Schilling has the most strikeouts, plus the fourth-highest seven-year peak WAR on the ballot (49.0), behind only Bonds, Clemens and Maddux. Schilling also gets credit for going 11-2 with a 2.29 ERA in 19 postseason starts.
But Glavine was no slouch. He was healthy just about his entire career and has a significant innings advantage on both Mussina and Schilling. But if we artificially shorten his career to 15 years from 1991-2005, giving him 3,305 innings (closer to the 3,261 pitched by Schilling and 3,563 pitched by Mussina) his ERA+ of 128 is higher than the career marks of both Schilling (127) and Mussina (123).
Jay Jaffe, now of Sports Illustrated, has done amazing research on the Hall of Fame and has developed what he calls JAWS, a system of blending career and peak value to measure against one's position. Among starting pitchers, Schilling is 27th in JAWS, Musinna is 28th and Glavine is 30th.
Every starting pitcher in the top 31 in JAWS who has been on the HOF ballot has been inducted to Cooperstown with the exception of Clemens (third) and 19th century pitcher Jim McCormick (18th).
Frank Thomas & Jeff Bagwell
Thomas is another first-timer on the ballot, and was simply devastating with the bat, especially early in his career. From 1990-97 Thomas hit .330/.452/.600, and his 182 OPS+ to open his career is the second-highest by an MLB player in his first eight seasons (minimum 800 games), second only to Ted Williams.
I always associate Thomas and Bagwell together, probably thanks to their 1994 MVP awards. Among first baseman, Bagwell ranks sixth in JAWS and Thomas (971 of his 2,322 career games came at first) is ninth.
Alan Trammell & Barry Larkin
This is where the ballot becomes extremely difficult. There are more than 10 deserving candidates this year, which means some worthy Hall of Famers will be left off this year's ballot.
Larkin was voted in by the BBWAA in 2013, but was not elected by the IBWAA (Mike Piazza was the only inductee by the IBWAA last year). He began in my mind as a clear choice for induction, but it got cloudier the more I examined. Larkin was the ninth name on my ballot, with Craig Biggio, Tim Raines and Edgar Martinez vying for the 10th spot.
Martinez is easy to push into the future because he was a designated hitter. Biggio was great and got to the normally-automatic 3,000-hit plateau. But Raines in my opinion was a more dynamic player than Biggio, so I pushed Biggio aside.
But then I looked at Trammell, who has been criminally under-appreciated in BBWAA voting, peaking at 36.8% in 2012. At least he has stayed on the ballot for now 13 years, unlike his Detroit double-play mate Lou Whitaker, who was knocked of the BBWAA ballot after just 2.9% in 2001.
The more I looked, the harder it got to distinguish between Trammell and Larkin.
Larkin leads in accolades with his 1995 NL MVP and 12 All-Star appearances. Trammell was an All-Star six times and finished second to George Bell in AL MVP in 1987.
What is a little surprising is the defensive edge to Trammell. He won four Gold Glove Awards to three for Larkin, but the first part of Larkin's career was spent in the defensive shadow of Ozzie Smith, who won 13 Gold Gloves in a row from 1980-1992. But Trammell also leads Larkin in defensive WAR, 22.0 to 13.8.
I found it hard voting for Larkin without voting for Trammell, too. In reality I want both in, but given the 10-player limit of the ballot tough choices had to be made. It pains me not voting for Raines, but he is only on his seventh year on the ballot while Trammell is in his 13th year, almost out of time.
While I could have neglected to vote for an automatic like Maddux to free up a spot - like Mike Petriello did at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness, for instance - I couldn't bring myself to do it.
So there it is, 10 names. I wish it was 13 names, maybe more.