Next on our list of counting down the top players by position are the second basemen.  This is our 3rd position to date, and it was the first to cause some real debate among the three of us as to which players made the cut.  A note to anyone that has been following our lists: We are softening just a little on our rule that a player had to have 75% or more of their games at the position to qualify.  Although longevity at the position will carry substantial weight, we will also be looking at each player's prime.  We also did make two exceptions to the pre-1920 rule as you'll see below, as this was one of those few extraordinary cases.  Here's the list...

1.  Rogers Hornsby
2.  Joe Morgan
3.  Charlie Gehringer
4.  Roberto Alomar
5.  Nellie Fox
6.  Ryne Sandberg
7.  Eddie Collins
8.  Craig Biggio
9.  Frankie Frisch
10. Bobby Doerr

Hon Mention - Jeff Kent and Chase Utley 

Second base is one of the weakest in terms of fielding an all-time team.  There have been great players to man the position, but not nearly the wealth we had to choose from at first base.  Even so, we were still able to get 10 HOF players on the list.  The two pre-1920 players are #1 Hornsby and #7 Collins.  Hornsby ranks among the greatest hitters of all time and could do it all, putting up numbers that the players of today would covet.  In his career, he led the league in hits and doubles 4 times, triples and homers 2 times, and won 7 batting titles.  Collins was the second exception, and frankly, it's hard to turn away someone with 3300 hits.  Joe Morgan was considered by many the engine that propelled The Big Red Machine in Cincinnati.  He took back to back MVP and led them to several pennants and 2 World Series wins.  Sandberg and Fox both had MVP seasons and were great hitters in their day.  Biggio played a few positions in his career amassing over 3000 hits and 668 doubles.  He did play nearly 70% of his games at second which was good enough for us. 

The debate came into play more toward the end of our list and somewhat in the particular order of the middle of the list.  There was a debate on the floor as to the legitimacy of Kent making the list over Doerr and Utley.  We'd love to hear comments from our readers as to who they would have put in at the #10 spot among Doerr, Kent, Utley, or even another player.  Let us know what you think!
This is the second installment of our All Time Teams by position lists.  This list proved quite a bit more tricky than our chapter on catchers as there have been several great players throughout history to man first.  We also stuck to our two main rules for putting these lists together.  First, we don't use  players before 1920 unless a special exception for greatness.  The only player that seemed possible pre-1920 was Cap Anson.  Due to the great number of first basemen in history, he wasn't a big enough exception.  The other rule states that a player must have played 75% or more of his games at the position.  So you won't see players like Frank Thomas, Stan Musial, Ernie Banks, or Jim Thome as they played other positions or DH that pushed them below the 75% threshold.  We will be doing a team of guys that didn't qualify because of the 75% rule.  Here's the list.

1.   Lou Gehrig
2.   Albert Pujols
3.   Jimmie Foxx
4.   Hank Greenberg
5.   Johnny Mize
6.   Jeff Bagwell
7.   Eddie Murray
8.   Willie McCovey
9.   Steve Garvey
10. Orlando Cepeda

The three of us independently pick our lists and then compare, contrast, and debate until we get it down to 10.  All three of us had the same top 8 names just in different order.  Gehrig was consensus number one with 2 MVPs, and additional six times in the top 5 MVP, a Triple Crown, a .340 lifetime average with 493 homers and 1995 RBI.  The second spot was a flip flop for us between Pujols and Foxx.  Both have 3 MVPs to their credit and also mesmerizing numbers.  Pujols already has a line including 520 homers, 1603 RBI and a lifetime average of .317, and he just turned 35.  With a few healthy years, he could get into some really rarified air.  Foxx was widely considered the best right handed hitter of his day and amassed 534 homers, 1922 RBI, and an average of .325.  Like Gehrig, he also won a Triple Crown.  Greenberg and Mize don't quite have the impressive numbers of the first three, but there's a big reason for that.  Both war heroes, Greenberg and Mize missed between 3 to 4 seasons due to World War II.  Both were around 30 when they left for war, and their seasons from age 30-33 would have been highly productive ones.  Greenberg still won 2 MVP awards and Mize was top 5 in MVP voting 4 times.  Bagwell edged out Murray and McCovey in our minds due to higher batting average and on base while playing in far fewer games.  He was a staple of the Killer B's and among the most feared hitters of his day.  Eddie Murray is one of 4 players to have 3,000 hits and 500 homers (Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Rafael Palmeiro).  Murray was 8 times in the top 10 MVP voting as well.  McCovey blasted 521 homers and drove in 1555 in his stellar career.  The last two players were debated with Garvey and Cepeda taking the spots.  Both won MVPs, racked up 2300+ hits and ended with averages over .290.  Others considered for the last two spots were Todd Helton, Keith Hernandez, Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Don Mattingly.  Palmeiro and McGwire were quickly dismissed due to the obvious PED overtones that plagued their careers.  Hernandez and Mattingly both won MVPs at first and they took home 11 and 9 Gold Gloves respectively.  No one could argue they'd be at the top if defense alone was the standard.  Helton was another great choice, but playing in Coors took some wind out of his sails numbers-wise.  He was a hits machine, sporting the most doubles of anyone on our list, and had he stayed healthy, he might have made 3000 hits.  Let us know how your list would differ and who you would have added.       
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.
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