It’s that time of year again; the most wonderful time of the year, they say. No, I’m not talking about the holiday season, I’m talking about baseball Hall of Fame season. It’s the season to scoff at horrible ballots, discuss the hot issue of peak vs. longevity, and argue about everyone’s favorite topic—PEDs.
With the lockout in full swing and no resolution likely to come before the new year, things are about as dead as they possibly could be in baseball. The only news that has really been circulating is either about the Mets managerial search or about Hall of Fame voting, and the managerial search ended Friday. So let’s take a look at this year’s Hall of Fame class. More accurately, let’s examine it through a Mets lens and focus in on the former Mets that grace this year’s ballot.
Unfortunately, Angel Pagan, Juan Uribe, Marlon Byrd, and Jeff Francouer were all eligible but didn’t make the cut for the BBWAA ballot this year, so there are no fun newcomers to the ballot that we can remember. In fact, there are more Mets killers and former rivals than there are former Mets on the ballot (Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, namely), but there are a few players who played for the Mets on the ballot that have interesting cases to be made. None of them are really known as Mets or would ever go into the Hall of Fame with the NY (NL) distinction, but they have “Mets” on their Baseball Reference page, which is good enough for us!
This is Wagner’s 7th year on the ballot, and he peaked last year at just 46.4% of votes and is only tracking at 57.5% so far this year according to Ryan Thibodaux. So he’s got a lot of ground to make up to attain the requisite 75% of the vote.
I dug into Wagner’s case in pretty decent depth a few years ago here. Basically, the Reader’s Digest version is that, despite having a smaller sample size of innings than most relievers in the Hall of Fame, he’s arguably one of the five best relievers of all time on a per-inning basis.
Kent isn’t fondly remembered by Mets fans, but he did play in Queens for parts of five seasons. He was acquired in 1992 for David Cone and was traded in 1996 to Cleveland for Jose Vizcaino. He wound up also playing for the Giants, Astros, and Dodgers, amassing a very nice career that might’ve earned him an easier Hall of Fame selection in an era where counting stats were more valued.
Kent is second all-time among second baseman in homers, and third in RBIs. But in terms of more advanced metrics, his 56.0 career fWAR ranks 19th all time among second basemen, and his 55.5 bWAR ranks the same. His career wRC+ of 123 and his JAWS number both rank 21st among second basemen as well. With that, it’s hard to make a case that he was really as stand out of a player as he seemed at the time.
This is his 9th and penultimate year on the ballot, and he hasn’t exactly had a groundswell of support in recent years, netting only 32.1% of the vote last year and tracking at just measly 25.0% this year. It’s unlikely he makes a run in these last two years on the ballot.
It wasn’t that terribly long ago, but it’s easy to forget Abreu, the long-time Phillies and Yankees outfielder, finished his career with the Mets in 2014. Abreu was a valuable bench bat on the 2014 team, posting a respectable 100 wRC+ at the ripe age of 40, with an impressive 13% walk rate and .342 OBP coming almost entirely in pinch hitting appearances.
As for his Hall of Fame credentials, Abreu’s 7-year peak from 1998-2004 in Philadelphia is one of the most underrated peaks ever, as the outfielder posted at least 5 fWAR every season and never had a wRC+ below 131. He combined tremendous plate discipline with solid, 20-30 home run power, and he hit over .300 six times to go with eight seasons where he posted OBP over .400.
He was never a great defender, so his career fWAR of 59.8 and bWAR of 60.2 don’t jump off the page, but he’s also within 1 career WAR of Shoeless Joe Jackson and has more career WAR than both Andre Dawson and Ichiro Suzuki.
This is Abreu’s third year on the ballot after garnering just 8.7% of the vote last year. He has only 15.0% of the public vote so far as of this writing. It appears staying on the ballot for the full 10 years is going to be a bigger issue for Abreu than getting inducted.
If Sheffield played for only one or two teams in his career, didn’t admit to PED use, and was kinder to the media, he’d have probably gotten inducted in his first or second try. Instead, with over 500 career home runs, 1600 RBIs, a career 141 wRC+ and 62.1 career fWAR, Sheffield is on his 8th ballot and hasn’t come anywhere close. He failed to muster even 20% of the vote until 2019, and 2021 was his peak so far at 43.2%.
Like Kent, Sheffield probably would have gotten in during a previous era given his counting stats, but his defense does drag him down—his JAWS rating of 49.3 is 23rd all-time among right fielders, below the 56.7 JAWS average for the position—plus the fact that he bounced around eight different teams and never had an iconic or lengthy run with any of them muddies his career in the eyes of the casual viewer.
Sheffield may never get into the Hall of Fame, but he will always have the distinction of hitting his 500th career home run for the Mets in 2009 in one of the first games ever played at Citi Field. Despite being 40-years-old and fairly broken down by then, his 122 wRC+ in 312 PAs that season stands out as a rare strong offensive performance on that offensively bereft 2009 team.
It’s not the most interesting Mets-centric ballot ever, and it’s not even as fun as last year’s ballot that included both LaTroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer, but it’s always worthy to remember the contributions these guys made in otherwise disappointing or even outright bad eras of Mets baseball.
Next year will be an infinitely more fun year for Mets candidates, as Francisco Rodriguez, R.A. Dickey, and Carlos Beltran are all set to potentially join the ballot in 2023. But that still pales in comparison to 2024, which will have David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, and fan-favorite Chase Utley on it. Consider this year the calm before the storm.