Tomase: My Hall of Fame ballot explained, from Barry to Rocket, Doc, Mo, Schill, and Sheff

John Tomase
January 01, 2019 - 1:29 pm

The deadline for submitting Hall of Fame ballots passed on New Year's Eve and the class of 2019 will be announced later this month.

The only sure thing is former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who's bidding to become the first unanimous selection in history. He'll likely be joined by right-hander Roy Halladay and designated hitter Edgar Martinez, with PED poster children Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens improving their position in purgatory.

I selected seven players this year, and here are my thoughts on each, in order of worthiness.

1-2. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens

Their fates remain so intertwined, it's shocking they don't receive the exact same vote totals (Clemens beat Bonds by 4 votes last year). After starting in the 36 percent range in 2013, each is inching closer to 60 percent in his seventh year on the ballot.

It doesn't feel like they've developed enough momentum to earn enshrinement, which means the writers will soon punt them to the Harold Baines committee and force the Hall to finally take a stand on their candidacy.

By any performance metric, they're both worthy of enshrinement. One won seven Cy Youngs and the other seven MVPs. If baseball doesn't want them immortalized, take them off the ballot.

3. Mariano Rivera

Rivera's not only the greatest closer ever, he might be the greatest postseason pitcher, too. His lifetime ERA of 2.21 is like something out of the Dead Ball Era, and he obliterated it in the postseason.

Rivera pitched in 96 playoff games and posted a 0.70 ERA in 141 innings. That is beyond insane.

As we debate who deserves enshrinement, Rivera is the perfect example of a small-Hall no-doubter. Everything from his cutter to his entrance music to his humility to his performance was iconic.

Frankly, I could be convinced to stop my ballot right here.

4. Curt Schilling

Schilling's absence continues to mystify me. He's the best big-game pitcher of my lifetime and even if he didn't quite hit some longevity benchmarks, it's not like 216 wins and 3,200 innings are embarrassing.

Halladay is likely to make it on the first ballot despite fewer wins and innings, thanks to a pair of Cy Young Awards. Schilling finished in the top four four times and might've won twice, except for the dominance of Arizona teammate Randy Johnson.

Schilling retired with the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in history (4.38), ushering in the era of the power pitcher with pinpoint command. He has since been passed on that list by Chris Sale (5.3), Corey Kluber, and Stephen Strasburg, but none of them has done it for even 10 years yet and Schilling posted those numbers over 20.

Are his politics keeping him out? I'd like to think not, but they are pretty terrible, if we're being honest. Regardless, he strikes me as the ideal "cause" candidate for those who make it their life's work to put certain players in Cooperstown. His case is too strong, and at some point he'll stop being overlooked.

5. Roy Halladay

I was on the fence about Halladay because we're really only talking 10 years of greatness, once you strip away his slow start and broken-down finish. But then I read Tom Verducci's case in Sports Illustrated and was swayed.

Not only was Halladay a complete-game machine, leading the league seven times, he changed the way the game was pitched, breaking the fastball-curveball power template in favor of cutters and sinkers to both sides of the plate.

He owns the fifth-highest winning percentage of all-time (.659) despite playing for only two 90-win teams in his 16-year career.

His tragically pointless death while joyriding in a plane with multiple illicit substances in his system could garner some sympathy votes, but he doesn't need them. He deserves in on his merits.

6. Edgar Martinez

Martinez has always been a borderline candidate for me, but he was such a tremendous pure hitter whose on-base skills made him elite. He's likely to earn enshrinement in his final year on the ballot, and at least his election will pave the way for the next DH with a strong case: David Ortiz.

7. Gary Sheffield

If I have a cause, I guess this is it. Sheffield was not only a monster, he was wildly entertaining to watch, with his menacing waggle and murderous swing.

He also highlights one of the drawbacks of WAR, which tends to reward well-rounded players at the expense of those with one or two game-changing abilities. Sheffield was a Hall of Fame offensive talent who played terrible defense. I believe the former eliminates the need even to consider the latter.

He blasted over 500 homers with a .907 lifetime OPS and produced more than 80 WAR offensively, which ranks 35th all-time, between Rod Carew and Frank Thomas.

I loved watching him hit and freely admit I'm voting viscerally. Not every choice has to be about numbers.