If They Retired Today, Who Makes the Hall of Fame?

With the quiet lull in place before the burst of energy that marks opening day, its a good time to have one of my favorite baseball discussions. Who makes the Hall of Fame? Let’s supposed that these players retired today, without playing a day in the 2012 season or beyond. Who is in? Active players only.

  • In, no discussion: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Pudge Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Ichiro Suzuki, Roy Halladay, Vlad Guerrero
I don’t think anything more needs to be said about this group. Vague, silly steroids concerns aside, everyone is in. No doubts here. The following players also should make it in:
  • Jorge Posada – Count me as on the Posada wagon. The Hall of Fame undervalues catching. Posada put together 44 bWAR over a successful career, despite the limited playing that comes with his position, the physical rigor, and the reduced credit for defensive WAR that catchers get. You can count the number of players during his era that were clearly better than Posada on one hand – Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, and Joe Mauer. Even Mauer is showing how rare it is that a guy like Posada plays a long, dominant career at catcher.
  • Scott Rolen - Rolen put together a mighty impressive 66 WAR over his career. A lot of that value comes from his stellar defensive play, but Rolen was no slouch at the plate either, hitting .282/.366/.494. The biggest knock against him is that he was constantly injured over his long career, preventing him from wracking up tons of counting statistics. In my book, he should be a no-brainer.
  • Andy Pettitte – Andy is an active player again! Pettitte is tied with Tim Hudson for 3rd place overall in active pitcher WAR, behind Halladay and Rivera, with 49.9 bWAR. To me, 49.9 bWAR, even for a starting pitcher, is borderline. I’d argue that Hudson falls on the “almost, but not quite” side of that borderline, and Andy just makes it in. Pettitte’s world-beating 263 postseason innings, and five rings, put him solidly over the top.
Todd Helton, Bobby Abreu, Andruw Jones and C.C. Sabathia are all out in my book. Two interesting cases for me are Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer – who would be retiring with very short careers, but were as dominant as it gets during that time frame. I think I would lean toward excluding them, but I could be persuaded.
But that’s me. In your books, who makes the Hall if they never played another game?

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

20 thoughts on “If They Retired Today, Who Makes the Hall of Fame?

  1. Steve

    Whether you believe steroid concerns to be valid or not, the fact remains that players like Manny Ramirez will have an overwhelmingly difficult time getting in to the Hall of Fame. Disregarding this concern is what is “silly.” I understand and actually agree with your opinion, but it is entirely irresponsible to label some of these players as “In, no discussion” simply because you feel a certain way. There would be a hell of a lot of discussion. That is, unless this is your personal Hall of Fame. In which case you obviously have total rights to decide who’s in and who’s not. You didn’t label as such however, so I assume this is not your intention.

    • Yeah, don’t care about whether or not writers voting will be stupid in the future. We can debate these things without wondering how random or arbitrary (Jim Rice but not Tim Raines) they will turn out to be. They might decide to bring down their holy hammer of justice on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but not Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte. Who knows.

      • And if you want to see how silly these HOF debates are becoming: Jeff Bagwell. Writers voted against him, literally, because he looked too strong.

  2. Sandy

    I don’t know why you say “vague, silly steroids concerns aside.” Alex Rodriguez has admitted to PED use, and based on the current electorate, he would not get into the Hall. Manny Ramirez has failed two drug tests, and would not get in. Andy Pettitte, too, has admitted to PED use and would not get in under the current standards. There is nothing vague nor silly about their PED use. If you had limited your comment to Pudge Rodriguez, about whom there is much speculation but no clear evidence, that would be understandable. Perhaps you mean “just consider their numbers and nothing else,” but that’s not how the Hall voting works.

    Also, if Joe Mauer retired today he wouldn’t even be eligible for the Hall, as he’s only played eight years in the majors.

    • A very large fraction of the league used performance enhancing drugs. It happened. Its over. Move on. Any exclusion on this basis is arbitrary and silly. There are plenty of well-known people who bent/broke/blew threw the rules in the Hall of Fame, a list that includes John McGraw, Ty Cobb, Whitey Ford, and Gaylord Perry.

      • Sandy

        Got it. Two wrongs always make a right. If we let in other cheaters, we should let in these cheaters.

        No, it’s not arbitrary and silly to deny baseball’s highest honor to those who broke the rules (and the law) in an effort to get a leg up on the competition.

        • We don’t know who used PEDs (or corked bats. Or spit balls. Or everything Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford did) and the aggregate impact of that behavior. We just know a few names that leaked in a few patchwork investigations. We also know anecdotally that PEDs were pervasive in the game all the way back to the 1970s.

          Derek Jeter may have used PEDs. We have no idea. Players will always push the envelope, and always have.

          But guess what? Whitey Ford has admitted to cheating in every way under the sun. He practically brags about it. Should he jersey be removed from Monument Park? Tossed out of the Hall of Fame? Remembered as a terrible person? Of course not. He’s the Chairman of the Board. Any reasonable standard of not allowing PED users into the HOF also kicks out dozens more known players, plus likely more unknown ones.

          • Sandy

            No, we don’t know everyone who used. But that’s no reason to let in the players we DO know used.

            What’s arbitrary and silly is giving up the fight just because it’s become more complicated. The laziness of writers calling those years the “Steroid Era” reflects that approach — a lot of players cheated, so let’s just, as you say, “move on.” No. Giving in and saying that PED use didn’t matter, just because that’s easier or because we’ll never have complete information, is a great injustice to those who were clean — whether that was a thousand players, a hundred players, or one player.

  3. Again, why stop at PED use in the 1990s? We’ve heard stories of people using it in the 1970s. Let’s kick out every spit baller, ball scuffer, and corked bat user that we’ve ever heard about. Not to mention a guy like John McGraw, who literally used to hold on to people’s belts to keep them at 3rd base.

    Baseball has never, ever, once, in the history of the sport been one to moralize.

    • T.O. Chris

      Also no one ever says we should kick out a whole generation of admitted amphetamine users. Each and every one has admitted to using amphatmines for a performance boost for one reason or another, yet no one runs around screaming PED, PED, PED.

  4. bg90027

    I agree with everyone on your no doubter list other than Vlad Guerrero. A case can certainly be made for Vlad but he’s not a no doubter. I’d probably go with Andrew Jones before Vlad although I could also buy both making it or neither making it.

    Mauer – not a chance. I accepted a long time ago that Mattingly doesn’t quite deserve it and Mauer has a much weaker case than Mattingly.

    Also, Posada doesn’t belong on this list, mainly because he’s not active. I’m assuming if you included non-active, the list would be much larger.

    • T.O. Chris

      What would be the case for Jones making it over Vlad? Other than undervaluingh Vlad’s career?

      .318/.379/.553, .389 wOBA, 449 HRs, 1 MVP, 8 Silver Sluggers, 9x AS

      .256/.339/.488, .354 wOBA, 420 HRs, 1 Silver Slugger, 5x AS, 10x GG

      Vlad had by far the superior offensive career, even taking into account the difference in position Vlad more than makes up enough offense to be ahead of Jones on a HOF bid. Jones had a good run but he fell of hard and fast after leaving Atlanta, Vlad has just now reached the point of major decline. It’s really not close in my opinion, the two don’t belong in the same sentence when talking HOF. I could see both making it but if Vlad doesn’t get in it would be travesty and further enforce the idea that the baseball HOF is a joke.

      • bg90027

        Realized I never came back to this thread while reading EJ’s new thread on PEDs and the HOF. You seem to be completely ignoring defense. Jones’ case to me is built on his defense. He won 10 consecutive gold gloves at one of the most critical defensive positions while providing very good offense. That’s why he has more career WAR than Vlad. I’ll readily admit that Vlad was a much better hitter but you’re completely ignoring defense. They are both borderline cases to me. I was really comparing the two because EJ named Vlad a no doubter and Jones as not deserving. My main point was that Vlad shouldn’t be a slam dunk.

  5. T.O. Chris

    If there was a “Hall of Very Good” Pettitte and Posada would be in on the first try, but I just don’t see either as Hall of Fame worthy. Posada stacks up better against the field than Pettitte but he was so god awful behind the plate that I think his offensive numbers have to be so far above most to get in that he doesn’t qualify. Andy was a very good pitcher but just because he was on a team that made it to the playoffs a lot doesn’t make him a HOF player. The same tired argument is used for Bernie Williams and Curt Schilling, I don’t see either one as HOF players either. You make it into the hall based on what you accomplished in your regular season career, Postseason numbers can be the icing on the cake, but if you don’t have enough cake to get in you can’t just make up for it with a layer of icing.

  6. tjo161

    E.J.;

    You’re obfuscating. Gaylord Perry loading up the ball? Likely, not proven; McGraw holding onto someone’s belt? A belt, you’re kidding, right??? Ramirez failed two tests, AND was implicated (with McGuire) in the Mitchell Report. It’s far more likely he was cheating from his first day in the minors. He is far more likely the greatest fraud and disgrace in Major League history than one of the better hitters in the past fifty years. McGuire will never get, neither will Ramirez. You should be ashamed of yourself, E.J.

    tjo

    • T.O. Chris

      From his first day in the minors? Greatest fraud? Sounds like someones bitter to me. Despite the two failed tests Manny is still one of the greatest hitters of all time and one of the two or three best hitters of the last two decades without question. The whole idea that it was some small minority “cheating” the game and that is vastly skewed the numbers is ridiculous. Even if you put aside the fact that baseball is one of, if not the most crooked sport around, you still have to factor in that most of the league was on some kind of substance. Most of the pitchers, most of the hitters, and most of the guys known for mostly defense were all on some sort of juice, HGH, PED, amphetamine, whatever you want to call it. Also for much of that time, though it was illegal law wise, it wasn’t even banned within the game of baseball.

      There is no way to know who took what, why, and starting when. To act like some moral police and act like we have the right to say who should and shouldn’t be in because of something the whole league was doing is beyond silly. The only right way to handle it is to look strictly at the numbers. If someone deserves to be in the HOF based on the numbers you put them in, make it clear what era they played in, and then allow people who go to the hall to make up their own minds on how to view each player. Anything else is the worst kind stuck up bias.

    • Gaylord Perry *wrote a book* about how he cheated in baseball. It’s called “Me and the Spitter”, and is practically a how-to guide about doctoring balls.

      Whitey Ford used every trick in the book. He and Elston Howard used to alternate cutting balls with their wedding rings. He frequently threw a homemade mixture of terpentine and baby oil that was so stick that Yogi Berra once glued his arm shut when he mistook it for deodorant.

      I’ll add a bunch more: Nettles was caught with a corked bat, right after he hit a home run. Don Sutton used to deface balls. Joe Niekro brought sand paper to the mound. The 1951 Giants had a guy in the stands with a telescope stealing signs. They went to the world series.

      Know your baseball history. This stuff happens. You suspend guys for this stuff, but you don’t exclude them from the Hall of Fame years after they retire.

  7. Mark Finke

    Scott Rolen in the HoF?
    No chance. I mean, we have all watched him the last 10 years or so and he doesn’t pass the eye test. Some good numbers and good defense? Yes! But seriously, he wasn’t even a Top 30 players for most of his career, so no one to put in the HoF.
    Pettitte is a mystery for me. If you take postseason stats and his five rings into account he has to get in. But with his regular seasons alone he doesn’t make it.

    About ManRam: Who cares about ‘roids? Really? He may be the best right handed hitter in the last 50 years (with Pujols). If you wanna make a case against him you have to point to his defense and that he didn’t always play with full effort.
    Not like the ‘roids, we can see and prove how it impacted his performances on the field.

  8. steven slootsky

    CC Sabathia & Doc Halladay get my HOF votes. Over the previous 5 years, they have finished no worse than 5th in the Cy Young Award. Halladay has won the award 2x’s & CC won the CY Young in 2007. They have been dominant for more than these 5 most recent years & are boy scouts, unlike some of the other HOF nominees.

  9. tjo161

    Chris;

    I’m neither bitter, a moral crusader nor stuck up. I simply don’t like cheaters and the stink they bring to a game I’ve loved since childhood. Ramirez failed two tests and was implicated a third time in the Mitchell report. Suggesting there should be no standards for cheating and cheaters is a bit odd. Why bother with needles and salves, just buy an eraser and change your stats at year’s end. Manny’s plaque will be squeezed between McGuire’s and Shoeless Joe’s.

    tjo

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