The early polls – and by this we mean “early poll,” singular; Ryan Thibodaux’s invaluable Hall of Fame tracker is all you need – indicate that Andruw Jones will again stay on the HOF ballot for next season, which is heartening for those of us who believe he’ll benefit from a longer look. The tracker also shows Fred McGriff getting a last-go-around bounce; he’s polling at 36 percent, up from the 23.2 of last year.
The bad news for Crime Dog supporters: He’d have to more than double that 36 percent to be elected to the Hall, and this is his 10th and final year on the ballot.
Full disclosure: I voted for A. Jones; I did not vote for McGriff. The short explanation is the difference in WAR, as calculated by Baseball-Reference. Andruw’s is 62.8, and a heapin’ handful of position players have gained enshrinement with a lesser score. (Vladimir Guerrero did just last year; I didn’t vote for him, either.) McGriff’s bWAR is 52.6, and the list of non-pitchers who played in the post-WWII era who’ve been elected by the Baseball Writers with a lesser number is short: Ralph Kiner, Lou Brock, Kirby Puckett, Jim Rice and Roy Campanella.
The Veterans Committee – it’s called something else now, but it performs the same function – tends to get around to enshrining many of those we writers don’t. You might think of that as correcting our errors. In most cases, I don’t. That committee just tapped Harold Baines, who has a career bWAR of 38.7, which is less than Rafael Furcal’s. I’m not sure Baines belongs even in the Hall of Very Good.
I’d expect McGriff will get a favorable nod somewhere down the road. I’d imagine Dale Murphy will do the same. That committee tends to err on the side of nice guys. A look at my ballot will tell you that niceness doesn’t much matter to me. Here it is:
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Scott Rolen, Manny Ramirez, Edgar Martinez, A. Jones and Mariano Rivera.
From 1 through 10, that’s almost a straight WAR ticket. The omission was the late Roy Halladay, ninth in bWAR among this year’s eligible players, but I skipped him to include the greatest closer ever. (Closers get short shrift from WAR, and I say again: greatest ever.)
As it stands, Thibodaux’s tracker indicates that four will make it: Rivera, Halladay, Edgar (in his final year) and Mussina. With roughly 43 percent of ballots made known, Schilling, Bonds and Clemens are polling above 70 percent but below the needed 75. Also of note: Nobody is yet known to have not voted for Mo Rivera. Nobody has ever made the Hall with 100 percent of the vote.
Apart from Halladay, there really wasn’t anyone I agonized over omitting. My continuing support of Andruw’s candidacy contains an element of advocacy, but only a trace. He’s 10th in this class in WAR, and we’re allowed to vote for 10. My hope is that he’ll stay on the ballot long enough for Bonds and Clemens to come off it, one way or the other. (They’re in their seventh years.) That would free up space for those who’ve been voting those two as an annual bloc.
It would, however, take a massive jump to go from the 7.3 percent he managed last year, his first time on the ballot, to 75 percent in the next nine years. He’s a fascinating candidate – maybe the greatest center fielder ever who also had huge power numbers, but he didn’t hit for average, and his decline wasn’t gradual. He might well have to wait for the Veterans Committee, too. But if Harold Baines made it, there’s surely a place in Cooperstown for Andruw Rudolf Jones.