The 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame class looks to be on track to right some of the wrongs of the previous half-dozen years. Mike Piazza appears set for election, while Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are knocking on Cooperstown's door. The only question surrounding Ken Griffey Jr.'s candidacy is whether he will eclipse Tom Seaver's record by appearing on more than 98.8 percent of ballots.
But when the results of the BBWAA's voting are announced this Wednesday, there are two injustices which will not be resolved. Once again, for reasons that are completely asinine, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker will watch as they are passed over for enshrinement among the all-time greats of the sport. According to this tracker of Hall of Fame votes compiled by Ryan Tibbs, with approximately 31.8 percent of ballots made public, Martinez needs to appear on 87 percent of remaining ballots to be enshrined, and Walker has already been eliminated from consideration.
Much ado has been made over the last few years about how loaded the Hall of Fame ballot has been. But even with the enshrinement of seven players in the last two classes after a goose egg in 2013, there are still more than 15 players with legitimate Hall of Fame credentials. While members of the BBWAA are allowed to vote for up to 10 players, most opt to select fewer for some reason, be it a moral stand against a player or simply viewing that player as not Hall of Fame worthy.
After all, Hall of Fame voting is a highly subjective process, and while a great many writers vote objectively based off a player's credentials, some prefer to vote based on their own subjective feelings about the player. Without exploring in detail why a subjective method makes a mockery of the voting process and the Hall of Fame itself, this ends up creating problems for players like Martinez and Walker. While we have objective metrics that take into account things like primarily being a DH (WAR) and playing your home games in an offense-friendly environment like Coors Field (wRC+), they are eschewed in favor of weak, subjective arguments.
Consider the following table.
|JAWS (avg for position)
For those unfamiliar with JAWS, it is the Jaffe WAR Score system developed by Jay Jaffe. It takes a player's career WAR and averages it with the peak seven years of the player's career. This helps to filter out players who accumulated WAR by sticking around for many years as opposed to ones with truly great peaks. For more on JAWS, Baseball Reference has a nice primer that can be found here.
All three of those players had very good careers and have JAWS better than the average enshrined player at their position. Here's the big reveal: Player A is Griffey, Player B is Walker, and Player C is Martinez. For the record, JAWS categorizes Martinez as a third baseman, which is where he played sparingly.
Junior Griffey is the best player of the trio, but when you objectively look at the numbers, is there really a convincing argument to be made that he should be a slam dunk and Martinez and Walker should be on the outside?
Adjusting for park factors, Larry Walker was the best-hitting right fielder since Hank Aaron. His stretch from 1997 to 1999 where he hit .369/.451/.689 in over 1700 plate appearances would be godlike if Barry Bonds didn't exist. A Peter Gammons tweet from this weekend noted that Walker was a better hitter on the road throughout his career than Griffey was. Yet Walker gets slammed by the electorate for playing in Coors Field.
The ridiculousness lies in that we have numbers which factor in Coors Field, but they're ignored. The electorate doesn't penalize pitchers who spend a majority of their career pitching in pitcher-friendly ballparks, so why target Walker?
Martinez, on the other hand, was such a good hitter that they named the award for best Designated Hitter after him. His career 147 OPS+ is the same as Mike Schmidt's. The slam on him is that he "played only half of the game". By that token I suppose starting pitchers shouldn't be allowed in the Hall of Fame because they play in only one out of five games and most of the time don't play for the entire game. The same goes double for relief pitchers like say, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and (soon) Mariano Rivera. They participate in even less of a percentage of the game! If you're not a fan of the DH rule, that's certainly your prerogative, but don't take it out on one of the best pure hitters of his generation because that was his position.
At this point, Walker and Martinez have such little ballot support that they will have to wait for the Veterans Committee to vote them in to have a chance, and that's a shame. They are both very deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown, and it's an injustice to their careers and to fans that they won't get it.
Joe Vasile is the Assistant General Manager and Voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs of the Coastal Plain League. He is a contributor to Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.