THE AUTHOR

Ian Casselberry is a freelance writer, currently based in Asheville, NC. He is an editor at The Comeback and Awful Announcing

Previously, he has been a contributing writer for Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew, MLive.com and SB Nation. In addition, he was a lead baseball writer for Bleacher Report. 

You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook, where he craves your attention.

He still plans to write that novel someday. 

("Pearls Before Swine" © 2005 Stephan Pastis)
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Entries in IBWAA (3)

Tuesday
Jan062015

My 2015 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

On Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 6), the 2014 class for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced. Last year, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) elected three players to Cooperstown, a somewhat surprising total, considering no players were voted in the previous year. But that speaks to how outstanding Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were during their careers. 

I think it's notable who isn't allowed to cast ballots in BBWAA voting. For instance, broadcasters. Bob Costas and Vin Scully don't have a vote, if you can believe that. Nor do beat reporters for MLB.com, who may well see more baseball on a daily basis than anyone. 

But many baseball writers whose work is on the internet don't have a say in the process. (Though to be fair, the BBWAA has been more inclusive of internet writers, with writers from ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports and CBSsports.com allowed into the organization over the past two years.)

That's where Howard Cole, who created the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA), comes in. The IBWAA presents an alternative view to the traditional vote, giving a voice to those who don't have one. No, the IBWAA vote doesn't count, in terms of determining Hall of Fame election. But the balloting provides an intriguing comparison. 

You can read interviews with Howard regarding the IBWAA at the Los Angeles Daily News and Big League Stew.

This is my second year of membership in the IBWAA, and thus the second time I participated in its Hall of Fame balloting. I'm obviously grateful to be recognized among peers, but above all, appreciate some glimpse into how difficult this vote really can be. 

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One key difference in the IBWAA ballot is that members voted to expand the ballot to 15 names, instead of the 10 that the BBWAA is restricted to (a limit that a growing number of voters are objecting to). Also, Barry Larkin — who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012 — hasn't received 75 percent of the vote in IBWAA balloting, while Mike Piazza got the necessary percentage of votes in 2012 and Craig Biggio was voted in by the IBWAA last year. Hopefully, those disparaties are cleared up in the next year or two, since it leads to unnecessary confusion. 

Last year, I used up all 10 spots on my ballot and probably would have included another two or three players, had I been allowed. Yet with 15 choices available this year, I actually didn't like having the extra space. Many voters would disagree, but I like having to make difficult choices. I'll admit to putting a couple of extra players on my ballot simply because I had the open slots. 

So with that said, here is my 2015 IBWAA ballot. 

1. Randy Johnson
2. Pedro Martinez
3. John Smoltz
4. Barry Bonds
5. Roger Clemens
6. Jeff Bagwell
7. Tim Raines
8. Barry Larkin
9. Curt Schilling
10. Mike Mussina
11. Alan Trammell 
12. Gary Sheffield

 

I thought it was especially important to vote for Alan Trammell, who's in his second-to-last year of eligbility on the ballot. Some might call that a homer pick, since I'm a Tigers fan. But I feel like Larkin and Trammell have very similar numbers, though Tram played one more season and Larkin won a National League MVP award in 1995. (If Trammell had won the AL MVP in 1987, would he be in the Hall of Fame now?) 

Initially, I wasn't ready to vote for Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina, but in comparing their numbers to John Smoltz, I felt I couldn't put one on my ballot without the others. (Although when limited to 10 spots on my ballot for an imaginary vote at Bless You Boys, I did exclude Smoltz in favor of Schilling, which was my toughest choice.)

In looking at my ballot, which I cast in early December, I think I probably should have included Edgar Martinez as well. I had until Dec. 31 to submit my vote. In retrospect, perhaps I should have waited and pondered over the ballot a bit longer. 

Also, I've explained this before, but I'm on the side that is willing to vote for those associated with or suspected of PED use. Though I realize many disagree, I feel that we don't know who was taking those substances and who wasn't while they were playing. Excluding Bonds and Clemens — two of the best baseball players I've ever watched — from the Hall of Fame distorts the history of the game.

So I don't think it's fair to single a few players out, especially if there was no actual proof that certain players used PEDs. Suspicion isn't enough to exclude them, and I think it's horribly unfair for some voters to do so. 

As you can see, I voted for the players associated with or suspected of PED use. I know many voters and fans feel differently, believing that Bonds, Clemens and Palmeiro are known cheaters whose achievements are tainted. Others also suspect, with no viable proof, Bagwell and Piazza, which is presumably why they haven't been elected yet. 

In my view, we don't know who was taking PEDs and who wasn't, so I don't think it's fair to single a few players out — even if they were discovered to have taken such substances. I also feel that excluding Bonds and Clemens — two of baseball's greatest players — from the Hall of Fame distorts the history of the game.

I'm not certain I got my ballot right this year. As I mentioned, I already have a regret or two, though those aren't irrevocable decisions. But I feel good about it overall and have no problem defending it. I'm eager to see how the BBWAA vote turns out on Tuesday afternoon. 

Monday
Jan062014

My IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot 

The 2014 class for the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced on Wednesday. Hopefully, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voters elect a candidate this time around. Last year, no player on the ballot received the necessary 75 percent of the vote. 

There are plenty of baseball writers working on the internet who would like to have a say in that process. Thus, my friend Howard Cole created the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) to present an alternate view and give a voice to those who don't have one. The IBWAA vote does not factor into actual Hall of Fame voting. But the balloting does provide an interesting point of comparison. 

The results of the IBWAA balloting were just announced. You can click over to LA Weekly, where Howard posted the results, explained the process and basically provided a statement of purpose. Four players earned the 75 percent necessary for election. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio make up that quartet. 

What did my ballot look like? I took up all 10 available spaces on my ballot. But paring it down to that number was difficult. I could've voted for 14 or 15 players. But here are the players who received my vote.

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1. Greg Maddux
2. Barry Bonds
3. Roger Clemens
4. Tom Glavine
5. Frank Thomas
6. Craig Biggio
7. Jeff Bagwell
8. Rafael Palmeiro
9. Barry Larkin
10. Alan Trammell

 

If you're wondering why Barry Larkin — who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012 — is on my ballot, he hasn't been named on 75 percent of IBWAA ballots. However, Mike Piazza was last year, so he wasn't included in this year's voting. Piazza is still on the BBWAA ballot, and we'll see if he wins election this year. 

Because I voted for Larkin, I also voted for Alan Trammell. Call it a homer pick, since I'm a Tigers fan and grew up watching Trammell. But I feel that Larkin and Trammell have very similar numbers, though Tram played one more season and Larkin won a National League MVP award in 1995. (If Trammell had won the AL MVP in 1987, would he be in the Hall of Fame now?) 

Unfortunately, that stance prevented me from including Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina — both deserving of Hall of Fame status — on my ballot. I guess I'll be voting for them next year. Had we followed the BBWAA ballot, my Larkin vote would've gone to Piazza. Would I have voted for Trammell under those circumstances? Probably, because I think if Larkin is in, Trammell should be too. But I may have opted for Schilling. 

Where's Jack Morris, Mr. Tiger Fan? It's taken me about 10 years, but I've pretty much done a 180 on Morris. Though I feel that he's one of the best pitchers I watched while growing up, I do watch and perceive baseball differently now and don't believe he's a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher. 

As you can see, I voted for the players associated with or suspected of PED use. I know many voters and fans feel differently, believing that Bonds, Clemens and Palmeiro are known cheaters whose achievements are tainted. Others also suspect, with no viable proof, Bagwell and Piazza, which is presumably why they haven't been elected yet. 

In my view, we don't know who was taking PEDs and who wasn't, so I don't think it's fair to single a few players out — even if they were discovered to have taken such substances. I also feel that excluding Bonds and Clemens — two of baseball's greatest players — from the Hall of Fame distorts the history of the game.

While many see the Hall of Fame as a measurement of a player's merit, the institution is a museum meant to chronicle the sport's history. That story can't be told without baseball's leading home run hitter and perhaps the best right-handed pitcher of all time. 

Did I get it right? I can't say for certain. What I can say is that this isn't as easy as it might appear. The BBWAA voters had a tough job with this year's ballot and it figures to get even more difficult next year. 

Friday
Jul052013

The IBWAA 2013 Midseason Awards

Earlier this year, Howard Cole invited me to join the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA).

Since I am, in fact, an internet baseball writer, joining up seemed like an obvious move. I've gotten to know Howard quite a bit over the past few months, and consider his feedback — and friendship — as a writer and baseball fan extremely valuable. 

The membership includes some acclaimed reporters and columnists in the industry, so I'm happy to be in that company — especially since I didn't have a baseball-writing home for a couple of months.

Just as the traditional Baseball Writers Association of America votes on regular season awards each year, so does the IBWAA. But the IBWAA does something its traditional media counterpart typically doesn't, and that's vote on player awards at midseason. Here we are, at the halfway point of the 2013 MLB season. 

So these are the winners of the 2013 Midseason Awards, as voted upon by the IBWAA.

American League MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
National League MVP: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
NL Cy Young: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

AL Rookie: Jose Iglesias, Boston Red Sox
NL Rookie: Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

AL Reliever: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
NL Reliever: Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates

AL Manager: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
NL Manager: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

The final results follow my own ballot pretty closely. Shortly after submitting my ballot, I actually had second thoughts about Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP and leaned more toward the Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis. (I felt like I may have had some Tigers bias there.) But I obviously wasn't the only one who voted for Cabrera. 

I chose the Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt for NL MVP, but that's really a tough vote right now. I don't think a true MVP has yet emerged in the National League. I voted for Goldschmidt mostly because the D-Backs are a surprise contender and he's their best hitter. 

I also selected Joe Nathan as best AL reliever over Mariano Rivera because the Rangers' closer has better numbers across the board, including strikeouts, hits allowed, opponents' batting average and WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). 

I gave my NL Manager vote to the D-Backs' Kirk Gibson, who lead the NL West over the favored San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers despite trading away their best hitter, Justin Upton, and a young starting rotation. (Is there some bias for a former Tiger there? Not really. But maybe a smidge.) 

In the AL, I went with Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers because his team has contended for the AL West lead after losing two of their best hitters, Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli. Washington has also had to constantly work to find consistent starting pitching after Yu Darvis and Derek Holland at the top of his rotation. 

Thanks again to Howard for inviting me into the IBWAA. I look forward to filling out an awards ballot at the end of the regular season.