This is the first installment of a new FBJ List series.  We will be taking a look at the Top 10 at each position.  Important to note that we imposed our pre-1920 general rule... no pre-1920 player will make our list unless that player is truly exception, deserving of an exception to the general rule (we call it the Christy Mathewson rule).. 

How we compiled our list:  we each made our own lists (which we love doing, in fact, if our wives would let us, we'd do them all day long).  Then by order of rankings of all three lists, we assigned points (10 points for first, 9 for second, etc.) and then generate a final ranking of our composite final list by total points.  An unusual thing happened when we made our lists; we had the same 10 catchers listed, just in different order.  That doesn't happen too often with us.  We were in agreement also on the top 1 & 2 (let's face it, if you know baseball history, there's Johnny Bench and then there's the rest).  Here's our list and feel free to tell us we're wrong.

1. Johnny Bench

2. Yogi Berra

3. Ivan Rodriguez

4. Mike Piazza

5. Roy Campanella

6. Bill Dickey

7. Mickey Cochrane

8. Gary Carter

9. Carlton Fisk

10. Gabby Hartnett

I (Hersh) had Campanella higher on my list.  3 MVP'S in a decade where he played in the same league as Mays, Aaron, Robinson, Banks, Musial and Snider... he beat those guys out 3 times!!  That should tell you something. 

OCP had Carter slightly higher based upon the fact his JAWS, WAR and WAR7 scores were all top two... he was a tremendous defensive catcher (arguably the best) who posted above average OPS numbers over the course of nineteen seasons.  OCP considered Ernie Lombardi, Ted Simmons and Bill Freehan instead of Hartnett but Hartnett's accolades (HOF, four WS appearances, MVP, four top-10 MVP) swayed his thinking, in the end.

Mc's list was probably the closest to the final result.  He had Piazza in the third spot and Cochrane a couple slots higher but his list was solid and he served as the voice of reason for the Lombardi/Freehan discussions. 

So that's our list, tell us what you think.
At FBJ, we absolutely love putting together baseball lists and all-time teams.  Please find your favorite team listed in our database above in the tool bar.  A few years ago, Hersh, Chuck, and I figured out that you could field an entire team of players that won consecutive MVP awards.  It's a rare feat to win the award and even more prestigious to do it multiple times.  Considering the small list of players, we didn't want to choose between players by position as to who should make the team.  Therefore, we're going softball rules with a fourth outfielder, fantasy rules with backup corner infielders, and a DH. 

C   - Yogi Berra (1954 & 1955)
1B - Jimmie Foxx (1932 & 1933)
1B - Albert Pujols (2008 & 2009)
2B - Joe Morgan (1975 & 1976)
SS - Ernie Banks (1958 & 1959)
3B - Mike Schmidt (1980 & 1981)
3B - Miguel Cabrera (2012 & 2013)
LF - Barry Bonds (1992 & 1993, 2001-2004)
CF - Mickey Mantle (1956 & 1957)
CF - Dale Murphy (1982 & 1983)
RF - Roger Maris (1960 & 1961)
DH - Frank Thomas (1993 & 1994)
SP - Hal Newhouser (1944 & 1945)

Foxx was the first back to back winner, and also the first player to win a 3rd MVP award as well.  There are 7 Hall of Famers on this list with Pujols certainly joining them when he retires.  Likewise, Cabrera is well on his way if not already a lock.  Six players on this list ended up winning the award 3 times including Berra, Foxx, Pujols, Schmidt, Bonds, and Mantle.  Murphy had a fine career with the Braves and twilight years with the Phillies and Rockies.  He was a feared hitter in the mid-1980s.  He was on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years finally losing eligibility in 2013.  Maris had a nice slew of years in his prime most notably his single-season home run record year of 1961 where he hit 61 homers eclipsing Ruth's mark.  Injuries slowed him down and he left baseball at the relatively young age of 34.  Newhouser had an excellent string of seasons during WW2 (he was medically denied enlisting) posting win totals from 1944-1946 of 29, 25, and 26.  He nearly won the MVP a 3rd straight time in 1946 losing by a slim margin to Ted Williams.  With the advent of the Cy Young Award in 1956, pitchers don't get quite as much MVP consideration as they once did.  Unless there's an utterly dominating season, most view the MVP as a hitter's award.     
Reviewing the ballots has become an annual thing for me.  I don't necessarily enjoy doing it but I feel like it's a public service, of sorts.  Someone needs to be the watchdog.  Someone needs to evaluate and monitor the constituents who are entrusted with the responsibility of selecting Hall of Fame entrants and I'm not sure anyone else is going to do it.

Last year's analysis was enlightening (and frightening) to me.  It was the first time I had gone through the exercise of reviewing the published Hall of Fame ballots, comparing them to prior year ballots for consistency and overall prudence.  The point of this exercise is NOT to sway the voters towards the players that I feel are worthy of enshrinement.  If someone feels that Craig Biggio is not a Hall of Famer, that's their prerogative.  The point is to ascertain whether the voters are actually putting some thought into their vote while voting in a consistent manner. 

This year's official "ballot reveal" post on the Baseball Hall website was more difficult to find than it has been in the past... perhaps, the is trying to protect their voters (from watchdogs like me) by not making a big deal out of the publicized ballots.  Regardless, I was able to find it by changing the "14" to a "15" on the web address of last year's reveal

Once I had this information, I created a spreadsheet... because I'm an excel nerd... to sort and filter through the data and compare it side by side with last year's results.  There were a lot of new publicized ballots (which I wasn't able to do a comparison for) and a handful of voters who chose not to publicize this year (ones who did last year). 

When all was said and done, I was able to compare and analyze the ballots of 123 voters and I was able to come up with a few conclusions from the data... good, bad and ugly.

The Good...

- There were 72 more ballots (231) publicized and made available for scrutiny this year than there were in 2014 (when there were 159). 
- Of the 123 ballots analyzed, 72 ballots (58.5%) were "consistent" while an additional 33 ballots (26.8%) were only different by one or two names.

A consistent ballot was one that did not omit names from last year's ballot.  If the ballot was a "max ballot" with ten names and an omission(s) was necessary to include more first-time eligible players than prior year drop offs (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, who made it in and Jack Morris, who dropped off after 15 years), I considered it a "consistent" ballot (more concisely, if a voter was forced to drop someone solely to add a first time eligible player). 

The fact that there were so many consistent ballots tells me that most voters have found a hill they're comfortable dying on.  They've settled on names that they like, they have a basis for voting the way they are voting and their ballot choices reflect that.  There were probably a lot of explainable changes within the one name swings (ie. didn't vote for Mike Mussina because it was his first ballot); overall, it seemed like there were more consistent ballots this year, which made me very happy.

I was also very encouraged by the fact that there was such a sharp increase (about a 45% increase) in the number of publicized ballots.  It's still much lower than I feel that it should be... there are 569 total ballots and 231 are publicized so less than 50% of all ballots are made available for scrutiny. 

The Bad...

There were some questionable ballots... including the ballot cast by one of my favorite baseball journalists, Jayson Stark.  Now, I am not going to lay into Jayson because at least he explained his ballot but I will point out that the one thing he really can't explain is why he chose to include Mike Mussina last year but not this year while adding Curt Schilling this year (who didn't grace his ballot last year).  The last time I checked, neither player added to their HOF resume over the past twelve months.

I won't be so nice to these folks...

Dave Krieger (honorary)

2014 - Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas

2015 - Jeff Bagwell, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Allan Trammell, Larry Walker

Changed his stance on Biggio and Edgar... added Mussina, Trammell and Walker.  Not a very consistent ballot and I can't help but point out that I seemed to have more problems with honorary voters than voters linked to publications.

Bob Kuenster (Baseball Digest)

2014 - Bagwell, Biggio, Glavine, Kent, Maddux, Fred McGriff, Morris, Mussina, Piazza, Thomas

2015 - Bagwell, Biggio, Johnson, Kent, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, McGriff, Raines, Smoltz, Trammell

Changed his stance on Mussina and Piazza... added Edgar, Trammell and Raines.  I'm not sure why he would have dropped Mussina and Piazza on their second go-round in favor of guys that have been on the ballot for many years.  Deserves an explanation, I think.

Alan Robinson (honorary)

2014 - Glavine, Maddux, McGriff, Thomas

2015 - Barry Bonds, Johnson, P. Martinez, McGriff, Raines, Smoltz

One of the biggest bugaboos I have right now is voters putting arbitrary limits on their ballots... and seemingly, that's the only explanation you can come up with for this one.  In 2014, Robinson had only four names.  In 2015, he loosened things up a bit, voting for six names but when all is said and done, I'm not 100% sure what he's standing for.  He votes for Bonds but not Roger Clemens or anyone else, for that matter... adds Tim Raines... I just don't get it.

Lawrence Rocca (honorary)

2014 - Morris, Hideo Nomo, Raines, Trammell

2015 - Raines, Trammell

Technically, this is a consistent ballot (and I counted it as such) but that doesn't make it any less of a head scratcher.  Forget the fact that he DID NOT vote for Greg Maddux in 2014 or Randy Johnson this year... Forget the fact that he DID vote for Hideo Nomo... okay, don't forget those facts, strip this man of his vote.

Tom Haudricourt (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

2014 - Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Glavine, Maddux, Morris, Piazza, Raines, Thomas

2015 - Bagwell, Biggio, Johnson, E. Martinez, P. Martinez, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Smoltz

Changed his stance on the *steroids guys (Bonds, Clemens).  Adds Edgar, Mussina and Schilling.  There were a few ballots where this occurred (decided against Bonds and Clemens).  In some cases, it could have been due to the 10-name ballot max rule.  Others, it was a change of heart.  Speaking of the ballot max rule...

The Ugly

Well, the biggest gripe I have at this point is that there was a mild increase in the number of max ballots.  It's actually about the same as it was last year, in terms of percentage but 40% of the ballots being "maxed out" is too many for me to swallow.  There are too many names to vote for, at this point.  The arbitrary limit is going to continue to really hurt players like Carlos Delgado

The fact that Del-Got-It didn't get a second year on the ballot is really a shame, to me.  Not saying he's a Hall of Famer but the prolific slugger deserved a second go-round... for what it's worth, his Baseball Reference Hall of Fame Monitor score actually suggests he's worthy of enshrinement.  I would have conceded heading into this that Cooperstown was undoubtedly a tremendous stretch for Delgado (who was never a media darling) but you can't tell me he's not good enough to earn the mandatory 5% required to earn a second year on the ballot.  I think there are plenty of voters who would have voted for Delgado if the ballot max was expanded to 15 (or removed altogether).  The ballot limit causes voters to do crazy things - like not voting for players that they know will get in (not wasting their vote) in favor of lesser supported names in hopes of vaulting support of lesser-qualified players.  It makes voters think about maximizing their vote instead of voting for worthy players and I think it's time to change that rule.

It's a sad day for baseball, as Ernie Banks has passed at 83. Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks came up in 1953 as a shortstop for the Cubs and was their first black player. He and second baseman Gene Baker also formed the first all black double play combination in baseball. Before joining the Cubs, Banks spent time in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs and subsequently skipped the Minor Leagues.

Banks had a Hall of Fame career spanning 18 years all with the Cubs. In 2500+ games, he blasted 512 homers, drove in 1636, with 407 doubles and more than 2500 total hits. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1977. Banks made 14 All-Star teams (double games in 59, 60, 62), snuck in a Gold Glove, and took home 2 MVP Awards. He will be the SS on our All-Time Team of players to win consecutive MVP Awards. 13 times he hit 20 or more homers, and 8 times he drove in more than 100.  He's a member of our All-Time Cubs team and the 1950 NL All-Decade team.

Banks split his career between SS and 1B which will pose a potential problem in our upcoming All-Time position rankings. Bad knees forced the move to first mid-way through Banks' career. Ernie Banks certainly began the process of changing the perception of a shortstop merely being a defensive player. This paved the way for power hitting shortstops like Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, and Troy Tulowitzki to combine great glove work with a power bat.

Banks was famous for his positivity and for wanting to play every day.
The Phillies are in a real dilemma this year - they still have Ryan Howard on their roster.  They've offered him as available in trade for almost nothing and yet there still have been no takers thus far.

That's not hard to believe if you watched him every day last year.  He appears to be done and it looks like he won't bounce back, well, at least it's not likely at his age.  He did manage to end up with some decent numbers last year; 23 homers is not terrible and 95 RBI's is a good year for most but if you watched him closely, you know those numbers are hollow.  A typical Ryan Howard year, when in his prime, he could have had 150 RBI's easily.  He left many men on base last year in critical situations.  Phillies fans wonder how he got to 95 RBI's.

The real dilemma for the Phils is that they owe him $60 million.  Nobody wants to pay that kind of money for a guy whose strikeout ratio is going up instead of down, as it should be this stage of his career.  The Phils are surely willing to pay some (read most) of his salary if someone wants to take a chance on him.
The Nationals just gave $215 million to Max Scherzer, so they seem willing to spend like money is no object.  Plus, they let Adam LaRoche walk, so it would make sense that they need a first baseman.  Ruben Amaro should be able to talk them into taking him, right??

Surely there's an American League team that needs a DH?   The Yanks have money as always and they're paying Alex Rodriguez a ton of money this year for nothing... at least Ryan could hit a bunch of home runs in that park (25 home runs would be the floor, I would think).  Of course, you'd have to bat him against righties only; otherwise, the Yankee fan base would notice how much he has lost.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing Ryan Howard.  In fact, he's one of my favorite Phillies of All-Time (he's a member of our All-Time Phillies team).  At one time he was on a Hall of Fame pace in his career.  500 home runs looked like a sure thing.  RBI's?  1,500 easily.  He helped the Phils win a championship and took them to the World Series 2 years in a row, which as a lifetime Phils fan, I never thought I would see that.  I'm grateful for what Ryan Howard has done for my team.  I want to remember him for the great player he was.  I don't want to watch another year of him struggling and looking bad.  Remember how awful we all felt watching Willie Mays stumbling and falling with the Mets?  That's how I feel watching Ryan Howard now.
As a fan, I would like to see him retire, but I understand he has a lot of money coming to him and I wouldn't quit either if I was him.  It doesn't look like anyone has any interest in him either.  So, to the Phillies I ask you to let him go home and just pay him his money.  He doesn't deserve to be embarrassed anymore.  He was a hero in this town, let him stay that way, please.
Copyright © 2012 FOR BASEBALL JUNKIES.