This 2013 Hall of Fame class has long been ominously looming, and is finally arrived. There is no easy way to approach the steroid era, and unfortunately we will be debating and delineating this for a few more decades.
This year the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) did not elect anyone for enshrinement in Cooperstown. I think this is shameful, as there are at least 13 deserving players. The most notable omissions for me, other than the steroid guys, are Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, and Jeff Bagwell. Having lived in Houston, and seen many games, it was obvious to anyone who watched Biggio and Bagwell throughout their careers that they were game-changing players for about a decade and a half. And a closer examination of Jack Morris’ numbers give him the credibility, not to mention that he was super clutch (see: 1991 World Series game 7).
The voting percentages were very interesting to me. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are hovering around 37% (75% is needed for induction, 5% is needed to remain on the ballot), Mike Piazza had around 57%, Sammy Sosa got 12.5%, and Rafael Palmeiro got only 8%. Biggio was closest with 68%, but pretty much everyone who was on the ballot last year either stayed the same or dropped a few percentages. Morris around 67%, Bagwell around 59%, Tim Raines up to 52%, Lee Smith down to 47%, Alan Trammell down to 33%, Edgar Martinez down to 35%, Larry Walker down to 21.6%, and “The Crime Dog” Fred McGriff down to 20.7%. This is not good.
I agree with Jim Caple that one of the biggest problems with Hall of Fame voting is the 10 player limit. A voter can only vote for 10 players on a single ballot. If a voter votes for more than 10 players his/her ballot is thrown out and not counted in the percentages. However! If they turn in an empty ballot because they believe no one is a worthy HOFer (which is ridiculous this year), or as a protest, or to make some sort of silly statement, the ballot is counted against the percentages. Over the next several years, this ten player limit could hose a number of great players, like McGriff, Edgar, Trammell, Walker, and Raines.
Things will start to get really difficult because we’re about to enter about a three year stretch where there will be between 15-18 deserving candidates every year. For example, the 2014 ballot highlights Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, “The Big Hurt” Frak Thomas, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent. The 2015 ballot features many potentially Hall worthy players and several locks, highlighted by Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson. The 2016 ballot is highlighted by Trevor Hoffman and Ken Griffey Jr. All of these names on top of the guys who didn’t get in this year. This could create total chaos. So making the large assumption that in 2016 the writers still have not elected anyone, there are 25 players sitting on the ballot who deserve to be enshrined. This year, only 18 players received enough votes to remain on the ballot. So even if every writer fills in all 10 slots on their ballot (which they won’t), there may not be enough votes to go around to keep Hall worthy players on the ballot. So now people have to start voting to please the percentages just to keep guys on another year. This is going to be a huge mess for years to come.
I am of the opinion, like Buster Olney of ESPN, that you judge an era in its context. There were potentially thousands of players who used PED’s over this period of time, and most of them were doing it for money, and to keep up with the competition. Probably only a few, like Bonds and Clemens, took them because of their legacy in the game. We may never know. The Hall is a museum, and while I understand the argument that we should not reward players for cheating, it was an era of rampant cheating. Are the numbers inflated? Oh most definitely! But we can’t pretend they didn’t happen. Put them in!
So while I’m not saying my opinion is the best one, if I had a vote, here’s what my ballot would look like, in no particular order:
1. Barry Bonds–Just go look at his 2004 season. Impossibly ridiculous! His plate patience was legendary. Greatest player I’ve ever seen.
2. Roger Clemens–Maybe the most dominant right-handed pitcher ever.
3. Jeff Bagwell–One of the greatest first basemen of all time.
4. Craig Biggio–The most doubles of any right-handed hitter ever. Ever.
5. Curt Schilling–Over 3,000 career K’s, 300 K’s three times, and perhaps the greatest postseason pitcher ever.
6. Jack Morris–The definition of a big game pitcher, averaged 7 IP PER GAME for his CAREER! Ridiculous!
7. Edgar Martinez–.312 career hitter, .418 OBP, .933 OPS, and a career OPS+ of 147, better than many HOF’s, including Harmon Killebrew and Reggie Jackson, as well as his former teammate and future HOF Ken Griffey Jr.
8. Mike Piazza–He’s the greatest offensive catcher ever.
9. Alan Trammell–Career WAR of 67.1, higher than Barry Larkin, and an outstanding defensive SS.
10. Sammy Sosa–Only player to hit 60+ home runs more than once. He did it three times.
But I would also put these guys in:
11. Fred McGriff–493 career home runs (come on!), and transformed the middle of the Braves lineup.
12. Tim Raines–2nd greatest leadoff hitter ever. Reached base more times than Tony Gwynn.
13. Rafael Palmeiro–Forget the finger wag, look at his numbers.
14. Larry Walker–Dominant hitter during his peak.
15. Lee Smith–A dominant closer who pitched for the wrong organizations.
Mark McGwire–Hit a ton of home runs (583), but didn’t do much else.
Don Mattingly–Made hitting a science and art for many years.
Dale Murphy (Now off the ballot)–Dominant and feared for 8 years, 2 NL MVP’s, played in massive ballparks.
What do you think?