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Mudville: February 23, 2024 9:35 am PDT

My HOF Ballot

BY KEVIN KERNAN

You’re an idiot.

You suck!

What about WAR, dude …  what about bWAR and WARP?

Steroids! PEDs!

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Okay, now that we’ve gotten the comments section out of the way early, it’s time to reveal my BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot, always an annual treat, especially around this Peace on Earth time. Fitting.

First of all, let me remind you again that this is my ballot, not yours. My evaluations. My ballot.

This is still America, though, so you are entitled to your opinions.

Here goes. I voted for 10 players this year, the maximum, only because the ballot remains clogged with players who should have been elected earlier. Hopefully this year, some do get the 75 percent of needed votes to be elected. Not putting my selections in alphabetical order or any kind of order.

Just putting them out there.

Also, since MLB did nothing really to “protect the game’’ during the troubled and massive Steroid/PED Era and managers and a commissioner from that era are in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, I am not going to stand on that wall now, years later, and say, nope, no HOF soup for you. I’m done with all that.

MLB let it all happen, let MLB deal with the consequences.

I’ve kept it simple with my ballot. It’s whatever happened on the field that counts. That’s it. So here goes, here are the 10 players I voted to be in Cooperstown; I’m guessing at least two, maybe three will make it.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ:

The numbers overwhelmingly favor A-Rod, just as they favored Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two players I voted for in later years on the ballot – two superstars who did not get elected by the writers. Yes, A-Rod was hit with a monster suspension but he also put up monster numbers. I will pick just one category, home runs, to make my argument for Rodriguez. He finished with 696 home runs, fifth on the all-time list. Only Albert Pujols (703), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Mr. Bonds (762) hit more home runs than Rodriguez. A-Rod hit more home runs than Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Jim Thome (612) and way more than David Ortiz (541), Reggie Jackson (563) and Mickey Mantle (536) – who is now, believe it or not, 18th on the all-time home run list ­– and Frank Thomas (521), too. All the names I mentioned, except Bonds, are Hall of Famers. And I do remember when The Mick hit his 500th, a special day. Those days, in so many ways, are long, long gone.

BILLY WAGNER:

This was an easy one, too. Wagner is sixth all-time in saves with 422. His career opponents batting average (.187) and strikeouts per nine innings pitched ratio (11.92) are the best of any pitcher in MLB history, minimum 900 innings pitched. On a personal note I always enjoyed interviewing Wagner. He is a straight shooter.

GARY SHEFFIELD:

This is where actually seeing players play, and not just looking at numbers, means a lot – and I’ve seen all these players play and covered many on a daily basis. Sheffield was absolutely feared by opposing pitchers and when he hit the ball it made a different sound. I covered him on an everyday basis with both the Padres and Yankees. His .292/.393/.514 slash line was incredibly loud. He lashed 509 home runs. This is a no-brainer. Sheff is a Hall of Fame hitter. And here is one more for the crowd, Sheffield never struck out more than 83 times in a season and wound up with more walks (1,475) than strikeouts (1,171). That is saying something in this K Era.

ADRIAN BELTRE:

This is his first year on the ballot and Beltre should get in no problem. A Gold Glove third baseman who finished with 477 home runs and 3,166 hits, that’s 12 more hits than Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. Played the game with joy too.

Welcome to Cooperstown.

TODD HELTON:

A big hitter and quite a quarterback, too, before being replaced by Peyton Manning at Tennesee after suffering a knee injury. Helton should pick up the 11 votes needed to pick up where he left off last year to make the HOF. I like the fact he played his entire career with one team, the Rockies and yes, he could hit on the road as well with a .287/.386/.469 slash line with 142 home runs away from Coors Field. His road on-base percentage (.386) was higher than Rod Carew (.385) and my old friend Tony Gwynn (.384). So there’s that too. Helton hit .345 at Coors with a .441 on base percentage and .607 slug with 227 home runs at home, so good for him to take advantage of where he played. Helton won three Gold Gloves at first base, too.

ANDRUW JONES:

A phenomenal centerfielder, Jones made it look easy, winning 10 straight Gold Gloves. As teams are again learning, outfield defense is vital to success that’s important to recognize in baseball. The only outfielders to win more Gold Gloves are legends Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. Jones blasted 434 home runs. His slash line was .254/.337/.486 for his 17-year career but from 1998-2006 with the Braves it was an impressive .270/.347/.513 with 319 of his home runs coming over that nine-year span, plus all that defense.

MANNY RAMIREZ:

From pure fielder to pure hitter. Few hitters could hit like Manny and let me just throw this at you because as you know, I am a big doubles guy. Manny hit 555 home runs over his 19-year career and 547 doubles. Mickey Mantle hit 536 home runs and 344 doubles over his 18-year career. Manny finished as a .312 hitter to Mickey’s .298 career average. That’s Manny being Manny. Okay, now that I got all the Yankee fans mad, let’s move on to my next selection.

ANDY PETTITTE:

Feeling better now Yankee fans?

Pettitte was a winner, especially when it mattered. Over his 18-year career and 3,316 innings pitched, the left-hander won 256 games while losing 153, a .626 winning percentage. In the postseason he finished 19-11, good for a .633 winning percentage. In the regular season his ERA was 3.85. In the postseason, a span of 276 razor edge innings, his ERA was was 3.81. Andy Pettitte stepped up in those 44 postseason starts. Joe Torre, Joe Girardi and the Yankees could count on Andy Pettitte. That counts an awful lot in my Hall of Fame book. Wins matter. Especially for starting pitchers. Justin Verlander is considered a lock for the Hall of Fame and he has one more win than Pettitte. Max Scherzer is considered a lock for the Hall of Fame and he has 42 fewer wins than Pettitte.

JOE MAUER:

Just as wins matter, batting average matters, too and Mauer finished with a .306 average over his 15-year career with many of those games coming at catcher. In 2009 Mauer batted .365 and produced a .444 on-base percentage and .587 slugging percentage for the Twins. That won him an MVP Award and was one of his three batting titles. Mauer was a six-time All-Star as well. Mauer’s career slash line is .306/.388/.439 similar to Buster Posey’s .302/.372/.460. Mauer played for his home team so there was that pressure too.

OMAR VIZQUEL:

I look at Vizquel much like I look at Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith. They were glove magicians. Again, defense matters as I stated in my case for Andruw Jones and it really matters in centerfield and at shortstop. Vizquel played 24 years. That alone is special and he wound up only 123 hits short of the magic number of 3,000. Vizquel compiled 2,877 hits and 456 doubles. Over his 19-year career the Wizard of Oz compiled 2,460 hits and 402 doubles so there is that. Vizquel came up with Seattle and then became part of that Cleveland Indians juggernaut as did Manny Ramirez. Vizquel played in Cleveland for 11 years. The switch-hitter won nine straight Gold Gloves, 11 overall. Ozzie leads all shortstops with 8,375 assists, then comes Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio with 8,016 followed by Vizquel at 7,676.

That’s my ballot. I left it all on the field. I’ve covered and talked to every one of these players and watched them carefully from the press box. I’ve seen them in regular season play and in the postseason. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a most special place. It tells the story of the game and it is a must visit for anyone who cares about baseball; just roaming through the beautiful grounds and seeing all the exhibits, artifacts and the films is a trip you must take.

I believe in the Hall of Fame and have immensely enjoyed every one of my many visits to Cooperstown. From getting a coffee early in the morning at Stagecoach Coffee and walking down a peaceful Main Street to having lunch on the veranda at the historic Otesaga Hotel, where sitting on the white rocking chairs after your meal is a must, to dinner at Toscana on Main Street, it is all such a treat.

I am blessed to have had many special times there with friends.

And each December I look forward to filling out my ballot when it arrives in the mail.

Once again, my evaluations, my ballot.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

Comments
  • Chris Clehane

    Kevin-solid ballot, sound reasoning. Enjoy the columns, thanks.

    December 31, 2023
  • LOUIS J ROMAN

    I ALWAYS THOUGHT SHEFFIELD HAD A VICSIOUS SWING AND LOOKED LIKE HE COULD RUN THROUGH AN OUTFIELD WALL. WAGNER STORY IS INTERESTING IN THAT HE HAD TO SWITCH THROWING ARMS AS A KID. ALWAYS LIKED PETTITE IN BIG GAME SITUATIONS.
    I REMEMBER GOING TO ST. AUGUSTINE WITH THE TEAM WHEN WE PLAYED IN JACKSOVILLE. I HAVE TO BE AT HOF @8:00AM TOMORROW. MIGHT GO TO STAGECOACH AFTER INVENTORY.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR.
    JOE ROMAN

    January 1, 2024
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