Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting process has become one of the most discussed and debated topics of the offseason especially in recent years due to some of the stars of the Steroid Era becoming eligible for induction.
During that time people have hit from all angles of the morality and ethics pyramid and have left out some very deserving candidates with no attachment above suspicion of use of performance enhancing drugs.
My opinion on the subject has changed over time. At first, I was vehemently against including anybody with proof against them into the Hall. I love baseball. And the Hall to me was sacred.
I don’t feel that way anymore.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is exactly that: a museum. A place where the history of the game can be represented and taught to future generations and a place for those who are getting on in years to reminisce about the games and players they cheered for when they were once the younger generation.
What I’ve also come to realize is that you’ll never be able to identify all who cheated and may, at times, do a disservice to some honest players who maybe didn’t take PEDs, but were linked due to their appearance.
In order to properly represent the history of the game, the Steroid Era cannot be swept under a rug and buried under a floorboard never to be seen again. As such, the most elite players from said time period should be acknowledged as such. You don’t have to agree. This is just how my feeling on the subject has evolved over time. I’d rather put them all in and truthfully represent the times rather than keep out those who deserve it, but won’t meet the voting percentage because of suspicion.
That being said, the Hall released their official list of eligible candidates for this year’s vote, which can be read here. Using the actual rule of only being allowed to vote for a maximum of ten candidates, I’ve put together what my ballot would be if I had one (which I never will). I didn’t go out of my way to get to ten, but it happened rather easily.
At first run through, I identified 12 candidates on the list that I would place a vote for. The two players that I ended up pushing off were both first-year eligibles who – in theory – should gather the 5% of the vote needed to remain on the ballot for next year at which point I can reevaluate their case for inclusion. Since I know you’ll ask, it was Trevor Hoffman and Edgar Martinez. But enough about them! Let’s get to the ten that would get my vote:
1. Jeff Bagwell
Won Rookie of the Year, an MVP, a Gold Glove and was a three-time All-Star at a position that is traditionally tough to crack. Was also a member of six postseason teams, though he was a diminished version of his past self by the time the Astros finally got to the World Series in 2005. Over 400 homers, 1500 RBIs and a career OPS+ of 149. Easy choice.
2. Barry Bonds
You all know the deal. You either don’t dwell on the steroids stuff or you do. If you don’t he’s at the top of the list.
3. Roger Clemens
See Bonds, Barry.
4. Ken Griffey, Jr.
Simply put, one of the most exciting players to ever watch play. Junior just made everything look so damn smooth and easy and, if you were a kid watching him like I was, so fucking cool. It’s hard to think of anybody that ever looked as if they were having more fun playing baseball than Ken Griffey, Jr. and man, was he good. Lost a significant amount of time due to injuries as he got older and should definitely lose votes because he invoked his 10-And-5 rights to veto a trade to the Mets, but it wouldn’t be a real Hall of Fame without him there.
5. Jeff Kent
I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with this one and I doubt he’ll ever get in because of his contentious relationship with the media, but when looking at his career, especially in the scope of second basemen in history, Kent is very deserving. Four top-10 MVP finishes including winning the award in 2000, five All-Star selections, 377 career homers and 1518 RBIs to go with a 123 OPS+ predominantly out of the 2B spot put him among the position’s elite. His case suffers because of how many teams he played for (6 in 16 years) thus never becoming a franchise-face or someone a singular fanbase can point to as “our guy”, but that’s hardly a reason to keep him out. Fuck, if Bill Mazeroski can be in, Kent should get in twice.
6. Mike Piazza
My obvious Mets bias aside, Piazza is the greatest offensive catcher to ever play the game and was not-as-bad-as-you-think-but-still-not-winning-a-gold-glove on the defensive side. Piazza gets the Bagwell treatment for suspicion without proof (which admittedly is a big reason for my rethinking the subject) but has eye-popping numbers at a position that simply wasn’t built for them. If all things are equal, he’s another obvious, easy choice.
7. Tim Raines
Most people probably remember Raines as a productive platoon player for the last portion of his career, but before that, Tim Raines was the fucking bee’s knees. I’m not kidding either. Tim Raines could do it all, dude. He hit, he hit some dingers (love the word “dingers”), he’d steal bases. He was exciting. You didn’t turn away from the game when Tim Raines was going to hit or run. He was THAT good. Rickey Henderson may have gotten more of the headlines, but Raines wasn’t far behind if at all. The issue of his drug suspension for cocaine is obviously in the conversation, but he paid his penance and his career numbers still stack up favorably.
8. Curt Schilling
Schilling may not have the typical numbers for a Hall of Fame starter, but he does have over 3,000 strikeouts and 200 wins to go with a great postseason ledger which includes 3 World Series wins, an NLCS MVP in 1993 and a Series MVP in 2001. Schilling boasts around an 80 career WAR (depending on which source you use and if you like stats like WAR) which is slightly higher than the average Hall of Famer, but I do put the extra emphasis on his showing up in the bigger games and would vote him in.
Side note, I understand he’s an asshole and everything he says and tweets makes you want to hit him, but, as a player, he was great and that’s all I’m going on.
9. Alan Trammell
Trammell is one of the most under-appreciated shortstops in history and a lot of it probably has to due with being in the American League shadow of Cal Ripken, Jr. during the 80s, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. A six-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover and one-time World Series champion, he was an offensive plus at a position almost void of them for the time along with providing excellent defense up the middle for some good Tigers teams in the mid-80s. He stacks up favorably to other shortstops already in and using the Baseball-Reference JAWS tool, actually ranks as the 11th best at his position in history. That’s enough for me. He’s in.
10. Larry Walker
Coors Field or not? That’s really the argument here. And similar to how it’s not my responsibility to judge what substances – whether legal or illegal – should be considered in a candidate’s election, neither should the environmental circumstances. An excellent right fielder and an absolute hitting machine, Walker won an MVP when doing so was not at all easy and also provided us one of the all-time great All-Star moments when he turned his helmet backwards and tried to hit Randy Johnson from the right side of the plate after being frightened like most other left-handed hitters during the time period. But Walker’s numbers are right there with any qualification of what a Hall of Famer is. If you think Coors Field was that much of a factor, well that’s your choice, but I can’t punish a guy for playing where he was told to.
So there you have it. Agree, disagree, whatever you will. If I had a ballot, this is what it would look like. If you hate it, don’t worry, I don’t have a ballot. It’s unlikely anywhere near ten candidates get in for all sorts of different reasons, but I didn’t put anybody on this list who I felt wasn’t deserving. I genuinely hope the writers of the BBWAA feel the same because there is plenty of deserving players (even beyond the 12 I’ve mentioned) and I do hope that a good number of them get to celebrate in Cooperstown next summer.