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Who (If Anyone) Is Cooperstown Bound in 2013?

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It took me longer than usual to really study the BBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year. I don’t know why. However, there remains a pretty interesting storyline this year with so many of the most high-profile steroid era superstars in their first year on the ballot.

It’s not like we’ve had no discussion of the HoF at all though, as the Pleiss boys covered the topic in one of their “Talk to Contact” podcasts earlier this month.

(This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com)

Last year, I put up a poll at Knuckleballs and allowed our readers to cast votes. I’m not going to do that this year, but I will give you the benefit of my wisdom concerning who I would cast my vote for if the BBWAA had gone out of their frigging minds and sent me a ballot.

First of all, there are going to be some players I voted for last year that I won’t be voting for this year, simply because so many of the first-timers are clearly deserving. That makes things tough for me because I do believe that the players I voted for last year are still worthy.

Two years ago, I shared my thoughts about the BBWAA having the honor of determining who “gets in,” and in particular about those who refuse to vote for PED users based on some sort of “morality” judgment. Here’s one paragraph from that post that summarizes my views:

I’m sure that if you and I sat down and tried to come up with a group of people worthy of casting judgments about others’ “morals”, we could come up with an idea or two. But I’m also pretty sure “sports writers” wouldn’t be at the top of our list. Not that sports writers are, inherently, less moral than any of the rest of us, as a group. But I’ve known enough of them over the years to be damn sure they aren’t morally superior to most other groups, either… and that includes ballplayers. So, if BBWAA members were willing to just vote based on players’ performances, I would reluctantly agree to let them keep their position as HoF gatekeepers. But if they think it’s their responsibility to protect the HoF’s integrity, please… spare me. The percentage of BBWAA members who would have willingly “juiced” in order to be able to play Major League Baseball in the 1990s instead of writing about it would be roughly 100%. I detest the hypocrisy of some of these writers.

Last year, my post was geared more toward what my own approach would be if I were among those honored with a ballot. Again, a snippet to give you a sense of what my approach would be:

My criteria for judging whether a player should be in the HoF is as much art as science. It’s not just an “eyeball test”. It’s more of a memory test. Certainly, statistical excellence over a period of a player’s career should be a consideration, but not the sole consideration.

It’s the Hall of FAME. So tell me what these players accomplished during their careers that stood out, that was remarkable, that made an impression on baseball in their era, that made memories, that fans of that era and beyond still talk about and recognize, that made the player famous or added to the general level of fame bestowed upon the game of baseball itself.

Why shouldn’t players that found something in themselves that allowed them to rise above their otherwise good-but-not-excellent career performance levels to give the baseball world something remarkable to remember for a lifetime be recognized for their contributions to baseball’s fame?

This year, the ballot seems longer than usual. I don’t know if it really is. There are 13 players that carried over from last year and 24 first-timers, for a total of 37 players on the ballot. Click here for the full list, complete with career stats from baseball-reference.com.

Voting BBWAA members can vote for up to 10 players, so I’ll do that as well. Here are the 10 players I would cast my vote for this year:

First, five players who deserve to be in anyone’s Baseball HoF or you really shouldn’t bother having one… I don’t care what you think of them personally (which is probably pretty close to what I think of them personally):

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Mark McGwire

Add to those a name that, I believe, has been wrongfully kept out of the HoF simply due to “guilt by association and rumor” and another name that could be treated much the same way for the same reasons if the BBWAA voters were going to be consistent (which is certainly not a given):

  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Mike Piazza

That leaves room for just three more players on my ballot. It’s tough, but here are my choices and all three are carry-overs from my ballot last year:

  • Jack Morris
  • Tim Raines
  • Alan Trammell

That means a couple of guys I voted for a year ago are not on my ballot this year. I do believe Edgar Martinez is HoF worthy (if you don’t think a DH is worthy of the HoF, then get rid of the DH) and hopefully he will get in eventually. I also believe Dale Murphy is overlooked and, unfortunately, this is his 15th and final year on the ballot, so I won’t be able to add him back to my ballot in the future.

It also means there’s at least one first-timer that I believe is certainly worthy of HoF status who is not on my ballot in his first year of eligibility and that’s Craig Biggio. Curt Schilling is another that I certainly could see myself voting for eventually. I’m sure both Biggio and Schilling will get the requiste 5% that will keep them on the ballot next year, so I don’t feel too bad about leaving them off this year.

I’m also open to reconsidering such players as Fred McGriff and Larry Walker down the road. I suppose Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams should fall in to that category, too, but as career Yankees, they have a steeper hill to climb to get my vote (I never claimed to be an unbiased voter!).

Last year, I correctly predicted that Barry Larkin would be the only player to get the 75% of votes necessary to be enshrined (granted, it wasn’t a tough prediction to make). I’m not sure it’s quite so easy this year. In fact, I think the only thing harder than predicting who will get elected might be actually getting elected. I don’t think anyone will get the necessary votes.

Jack Morris will come very close, but the deep field will keep him from making the progress he would otherwise make. I hope I’m wrong about Morris… it would be nice for Twins fans to have something to smile about for a few days, anyway.

Mike Piazza is really the only other name I think could possibly approach the 75% bar, but I just don’t think he’ll get there either. I’ll be very interested to see how his vote total compares to Bagwell’s though.

Feel free to share who you would vote for and your predictions for who actually will be elected in the comments section.

- JC
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  1. OldManWinter's Avatar
    How can anyone be positive what Bonds - McGuire performance would be without enhancement drugs?

    Sosa and McGuire 70 HR's at what 35+?

    How many people, athletes or no , can perform better at 35 to 40 than 25 to 30?

    No, the folks on that list are simply out of the Hall.

    The Hall is a unique honor. You cannot cheat to get in.

    Players like Oliva and Kaat are off the list for flimsy reasons too. Hall voters were unconvinced either were truly among the elite.

    I disagree. They passed the eyeball test for me and i can find less impressive players who are in the Hall.

    If you open the Hall to cheaters, where do you draw the line?
  2. AM.'s Avatar
    OMW--the Hall already has cheaters in it, and we don't really know who the cheaters are. I agree with JimCrikket. If you don't want a Hall of Fame with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in it, why bother having a hall of fame?
  3. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    The Hall of Fame is a joke without players like Bonds and Clemens.

    Of the bottom three, only Raines should be in.
  4. Jim Crikket's Avatar
    OMW, you obviously are of the same mind as many (perhaps most) fans. But as AM notes, the HoF already has cheaters in it. Players throughout the second half of the 20th century widely used amphetamines. Was that not using illegal drugs to aid performance? Baseball didn't care, writers didn't care and fans didn't want to know about it, so it was common... but it was still cheating, wasn't it?

    Steroids, to me, were ignored by baseball, by writers and fans for a far less period of time, but just because there were never Congressional hearings that led to witch hunts over use of greenies doesn't mean the players who used them are any cleaner than those who used steroids, in my book.

    Players who used PEDs of any kind during eras when MLB made no effort whatsoever to discourage, much less outlaw, their use should not be kept out of the HoF by voters who, if they were honest, would admit they would have readily done the same thing if it would have meant being able to play Big League baseball.

    OMW, you ended your comment by asking, "where do you draw the line?" You seem to be drawing that line somewhere between amphetamines and steroids, with the former being OK and the latter not OK. I respectfully disagree.
  5. Darin Bratsch's Avatar
    Raines deserves to be in by now. He was one of the top players of his era, somebody that affected how games were played and managed. Bagwel's case is absolutely HOF worthy when the fact he played in the astrodome for the majority of his career and still got 450 HR's! Biggio is a lock this year too. 3,000 hits while playing C & 2b in the astrodome?? why is their any debate? Piazza definately. I'd vote for Bonds and Clemens too because the last time I checked, Gaylord Perry is a HOF'er and he wasn't exactly Mr. Integrity.
  6. OldManWinter's Avatar
    Known cheaters should not be in the Hall. If there are people who slipped in, it is unfortunate. But, if known cheaters are allowed in then, where do you draw the line? Remember, there are many ways of cheating. Some not even invented yet.

    You destroy the integrity of what it takes to get in if you allow cheaters in.

    Lets say Sosa has 70 HR's with enhancers but someone else has 35 per year in the same era (or maybe before) and not judged Hall material.

    Who can really say what Sosa would have hit without? Maybe his performance would be less than the 35 homer guy?

    So given that you do not know ... and there is liklihood guys understate usage they can't be in the Hall.
  7. PeanutsFromHeaven's Avatar
    I love Hall of Fame debate time. And I definitely appreciate the analyses of how/why we allow/bar perceived cheaters from the hall. I absolutely concur that if we've got amphetemine users, spit ball pitchers and belligerent racists who perpetuated an absolutely unfair system for nearly 50 years of pro-ball in we should let in the PED crowd. (I personally would like to see their busts hung in the men's room...but that's a debate for another time)

    Here's my question though: chances are that Bonds/Clemens will get more than the 5% minimum to stay on the ballot but not the 75% minimum for induction. Biggio also will be over 5% but far closer to the enshrinement threshold and has the distinction of being both a superb player (an all-star at the up-the-middle triumverate of catcher, 2nd base, and centerfield) who was too often overlooked by the numbers of others. So would you Jim, or any other posters, consider withholding support on either Barry or Roger for one year to try to push Biggio over the top before guys like Glavine, Maddux and Mussina gum up the works again next year? Or is it best of the best first and let all the others keep on whistlin' dixie?
  8. Jim Crikket's Avatar
    Fair question PFH.

    If I voted, I would not make the PED users wait a year before I give them my vote. That said, if a member of the BBWAA went public with an intended philosophy of consistently not voting for KNOWN users in their first year of eligibility and then, starting with their second year, would vote for them on the merits of their accomplishments, I could at least respect that.
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