For a baseball fan such as myself, today is a pretty big day as it is every year. Today we find out who gets inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Most years in the past (I think nearly every one since I started this blog in 2003) I have given my own personal picks even though I do not have a vote. No reason to change tradition, so what follows are this year's choices. As usual, while I would certainly vote for more than the 10 allowed to the current members of the BBWAA, I will keep that as a rule for myself. If nothing else, this proves why that rule is moronic and should change. We have certainly moved past the logjam of some years ago (that I blogged about here) but there remain many individuals on the ballot that deserve enshrinement, in my mind. For assistance, here is the ballot for this year (thanks to Baseball Reference as always.)
As I have done in the past, I will offer a few honorable mentions...players that have no shot but I recall with much appreciation. There are some ex-Braves on the list, so thank you for your time J.D. Drew, Derrek Lee and Edgar Renteria. As I recall each had a productive year or two with the organization (Lee less so than the others.) I should also highlight Tim Wakefield as a player that I remember fondly from his early years as a Pittsburgh Pirate during those NLCS games with the Braves in the early 90's as well as his later years with the Red Sox. An excellent knuckle ball pitcher, if not a Hall of Famer. Jason Varitek too spent some time with those Sox teams that finally won a championship again, as well as a stand out player for Georgia Tech. I'd also point to Jorge Posada who may have some credentials for enshrinement but would not find a place on my ballot and as it appears as of this posting, will likely fall off after failing to get the 5% needed from the voters (more on this below.) Much like Bernie Williams in a recent vote, being a stand out for those winning Yankees teams is not enough for consideration. One could consider it a shame, but one should also look once more to that 10 player restriction. Without that, both players would likely continue on the ballot at the least for further votes down the line.
So now, we start with the real candidates and by my count there are at most 18 players for which to vote (nineteen if you include Posada) all of which may be considered legitimate Hall of Fame players by many. I have ten slots so I look over the list and find my first choices...those no-doubt, inner-circle players. They are:
- Jeff Bagwell
- Roger Clemens
- Barry Bonds
- Ivan Rodriguez
- Manny Ramirez
For anyone reading, you may be able to see that I have little issue voting for PED using players, whether suspected or proven in the case of Ramirez. I will never say that the entire sport was using at the time, but so many were that it seems to me that the playing field was as level as it has ever been given the game's history. When you consider further that the Veterans Committee easily elected Bud Selig into the Hall late last year for this year's induction...I see no reason to punish the players if the Commissioner that oversaw that period does not also see the same amount of suspicion. You cannot have it both ways.
So we now have five and must cut down the remaining 13 players. The next choice is an easy one for me as I have listed him for some time:
- Tim Raines
Not only is this his last year on the ballot, but he has deserved it since his first. It took me a few years to support him initially, but once I came around there is no doubt in my mind that he deserves enshrinement. He may not be Henderson, but he comes in as a close second for that period of baseball.
To assist in culling the list, I will now cut out the closers. That means that Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith and Billy Wagner will not be picked this year. I do so not to discount their contributions to the game, as each was a special player. But with such a stacked ballot, I cannot vote for one over the other and justify it in my mind. I have "voted" for Smith in the past when the ballot was not so stuffed and Hoffman and Wagner were different in their respective greatness while both specialists at their job. I would have no issue voting for any and all of the three had I an unlimited ballot. I do not. So they are off for now.
So that leaves us with 9 players left and I must cut that down to 4. I happen to think all nine are Hall of Fame players but I have to start gaming my ballot at this point. Thus, I will cut Vlad Guerrero. I thought him a special player when he played but I am unconvinced he is far better than others on this list and it is his 1st time on the ballot. I will cut Sammy Sosa as well as I still don't think he is a slam dunk candidate. Steroid use or not, he was one-dimensional. He could hit, no doubt. But he was abysmal in the field. With 7 players left, I have to look again and see three that must get a vote:
- Curt Schilling
- Mike Mussina
- Edgar Martinez
Much like the closers above, I could not vote for one and not the other between Mussina and Schilling. Especially after Smoltz waltzed into the Hall in his first year (I was very happy about that fact, but he remains a comparative player for both of these pitchers.) As for Martinez, I have stated my case for him often in past years and will not rehash it here. DH or not, his hitting prowess was far superior to Sosa's. He may not have had the home runs, but his average and overall OPS for his career remains a thing of beauty.
Now I am down to one player to choose from the lot of Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, Larry Walker and Garry Sheffield. While it may seem hard to pick between them as they were all special in their own way, my choice is simple.
- Fred McGriff
I happen to think all four deserve enshrinement, but this is McGriff's 8th year on the ballot. Had I a vote, he would get mine. I have said it many times before, but he should not be penalized for not getting those last seven home runs to get to 500. Any team of the 90's would have loved to have him and he has been severely underestimated as the years have gone by. Perhaps he lacks in comparison with the stud home run hitters of the steroid era as his numbers were not as gaudy. Maybe he gets dinged because those Braves teams only won the one World Series. I'm not sure why he lacks a following among voters, but the other three players have more time for consideration.
As it appears now, maybe two if not five of these men will get elected this year. If you look at the great Voting tracker by Ryan Thibodaux, you can see that Bagwell and Raines seem a lock with over 50% of the ballots counted. Hoffman, Rodriguez and Guerrero are in range for a potential nod as well. I am happy about all of this. Posada looks to fall off though it could change once all the votes are counted. And most interesting (and appreciated) it seems Bonds and Clemens have gained several voters from years past. As has been stated by many (and myself above), the choice of Selig to enter in with this 2017 class has had a freeing effect on voters. I applaud it!
Argue with my choices if you wish. In fact, please do. I need all the comments I can get to keep this poor blog alive. I look forward to the announcement later today and certainly look forward to next year when one Larry Jones, Jr. gets his shot. Let's go, Chipper! That is all.