Carlos Lee isn’t going to make the Hall of Fame — he’s currently getting shut out on Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker — but Joe Posnanski’s article about El Caballo shows the value of making a ballot, or hanging around them.
I’ve always considered the ballot a temporary hall, or at least the uppercase-Hall’s waiting room. It gives fans and and analysis years to talk about players who contributed some above-average seasons to the game, an informal send-off into obscurity.
Posnanski points out how Lee’s career production is remarkably similar to a Hall of Famer in Orlando Cepeda, not to mention they were both 6-foot-2-inch right-handed hitters with farm-animal nicknames. The key difference is that Lee played in an environment far friendlier to hitters, and the gap in their OPS+ — Cepeda 133, Lee 113 -- shows why Cepeda was a borderline pick and Lee might get shut out.
Still, Lee had a unique career. He never struck out 95 times in a season despite having the kind of power to deliver 358 homers, including one in his first trip to the plate, which I remember watching on TV.
Lee slugged from the start, literally. He homered in his first at-bat, a line drive smash off knuckleballer Tom Candiotti at Comiskey Park in 1999. By pure coincidence, his mother and fiancee -- both from his home country of Panama -- had been to Charlotte to see him when he got the call, so they were there for that first home run. Lee signed the baseball and gave it to his mother to take back home.
Lee was an entertaining player who helped the Sox climb out of the late-1990s funk. He was also flawed enough that the trade to Milwaukee, which was a loss on paper, didn’t really register. The White Sox winning the World Series had something to do with it, especially with Scott Podsednik hitting the walk-off homer and everything.
Today marks the deadline for voters to postmark their ballots, and Thibodaux has collected 35 percent of the electorate. at this point. Here are the percentages as of this morning, with former White Sox in bold:
- Chipper Jones: 98.6
- Jim Thome: 94.6
- Vladimir Guerrero: 93.2
- Edgar Martinez: 80.4
- Trevor Hoffman: 78.4
- Mike Mussina: 72.3
- Barry Bonds: 71.6
- Roger Clemens: 71.6
- Curt Schilling: 68.2
- Larry Walker: 40.5
- Manny Ramirez: 29.1
- Omar Vizquel: 26.4
- Fred McGriff: 16.2
- Sammy Sosa: 14.9
- Billy Wagner: 10.8
- Gary Sheffield: 10.1
- Scott Rolen: 10.1
- Andruw Jones: 5.4
- Johan Santana: 2.0
- Johnny Damon: 0.7
- Lee, Orlando Hudson, 10 others: 0 votes
A few observations about the ballot:
*Thome will sail in, and Scot Gregor tells a couple stories about why he’s so popular among the media.
*Martinez is running high to me, and I imagine his percentage will come crashing down when the private ballots come in. Which is a shame, because I’m a fan of his candidacy.
*Bonds, Clemens and Mussina join Martinez in getting big boosts. They’re all popular among first-time voters, who are using all 10 spots, so Joe Morgan’s letter hasn’t had much of an effect on that faction.
*Schilling would be up there with them if he hadn’t gone off the rails.
*Walker running 28 points behind Schilling shows where the voters start differing with their final couple ballot spots.
*Vizquel seemed like he was running higher based on how much acrimony any support generated on Twitter. That percentage is about what I’d expect for a flashy defense guy with a lot of hits, if little else, but it just happens to be at a time where there are so many other deserving candidates.
*Rolen and Andruw Jones are chief among them, and the latter stands a good chance at getting Lou Whitaker’d. I’d give Rolen Walker’s level of support myself, just because Rolen had fewer seasons where he needed a sub to take a big chunk of games.