Contemporary Era HOF Ballot: No. 8, Albert Belle
We’re counting down from 8 to 1 on the Contemporary Hall of Fame ballot this week — this countdown is based not on my opinion of the players’ greatness but instead on that players’ chances of getting elected on Sunday. For example, I might think that Barry Bonds is the best player on this ballot — in fact, I do think that.
But do I think Barry Bonds has any chance at all of getting elected this year?
Well, we’ll find out as the week goes on.
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Key achievements: Led league in RBIs three times and slugging twice … Only player in MLB history to hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in same season … Hit 381 career home runs … His 144 Adjusted OPS+ ranks 59th all-time.
Where he ranks on my eligible Hall of Fame list: No. 100.
Who are the players around him on the list: Rocky Colavito, Fred Lynn, Quincy Trouppe, Fernando Valenzuela, Darrell Evans.
WAR (Hall of Fame Conversation usually begins around 60 WAR, though there are players in the Hall of Fame with less than 50 WAR):
Baseball-Reference — 40.1
FanGraphs — 41.0.
Hall of Fame history: Appeared on two BBWAA ballots, topping out at 7.7%. Appeared on veteran’s ballots in 2017 and 2019 and did not register enough votes either time to show up in the final results.
Chances he will be elected this time around: <1%
So as we begin our countdown to Sunday’s Contemporary Era Ballot announcement, you should know that I keep an up-to-date list of the 125 or so greatest players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Albert Belle is exactly No. 100 at the moment.
There’s always quite a lot of talk about bias in the BBWAA — talk that the baseball writers have their favorites and their non-favorites and they often vote accordingly for awards. I think this idea grew out of the BBWAA’s constant snubbing of Ted Williams for MVP in the 1940s.
And while I have no doubt there is some truth to the charge — we’re talking about human beings here, after all — the evidence of such favoritism is not always easy to find. Many baseball writers didn’t like Barry Bonds, but they still showered him with MVP awards. Maybe baseball writers didn’t like Roger Clemens, but they still showered him with Cy Youngs.
The one player of recent vintage who I think WAS hurt by BBWAA bias was Albert Belle. In 1995 and 1996, he finished second and third in the MVP balloting. And looking back, he was clearly better than the player who won the award both years.
The 1995 vote is particularly egregious. That was the year Belle — who most sportswriters called the “sullen slugger” or “surly slugger” or some such thing in their stories — hit 52 doubles and 50 home runs. He remains the only player in baseball history to hit 50 of each in the same season.* He led the league in runs, RBIs, total bases and slugging percentage.
*This is actually an amazing thing — Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, those sluggers in Colorado pre-humidor, not one of them had a 50-50 season the way Belle did in 1995.
And there are two things to know about that: