Monday, January 6, 2014

My 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

This year's new Hall of Famers will be announced the day after tomorrow. In honor of that, I made up my own Hall of Fame ballot. I'm not a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, so my vote carries no weight, whatsoever. It's just my opinion on who should be in the Hall of Fame.

Morality Clause

The first step, for me, is to determine where I stand on the so-called "morality clause" that some writer's are using when filling out their ballots. Basically the question boils down to this:

What do we do with people who are suspected of or were caught using PEDs?

I found the answer to this to be simpler than I thought it would be. The "Steroid Era" as we've come to know it happened. It happened and there's nothing we can do about it now. So, when discussing the case for whether or not I found someone to be a hall of fame caliber player, I eliminated steroids/PEDs from the discussion.

The Ballot

Players had to have played between 1994 and 2008, and you can vote for, at most, ten.

Players should be considered based on their record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his various teams.

Here is the list of possible candidates to vote for:

Moises Alou
Jeff Bagwell
Armando Benitez
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Sean Casey
Roger Clemens
Ray Durham
Eric Gagne
Tom Glavine
Luis Gonzalez
Jacque Jones
Todd Jones
Jeff Kent
Paul Lo Duca
Greg Maddux
Edgar Martinez
Don Mattingly
Fred McGriff
Mark McGwire
Jack Morris
Mike Mussina
Hideo Nomo
Rafael Palmeiro
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Kenny Rogers
Curt Schilling
Richie Sexson
Lee Smith
JT Snow
Sammy Sosa
Frank Thomas
Mike Timlin
Larry Walker

As I looked through this list, I started out with the slam dunk candidates. Disclaimer: I've been watching baseball for about 10 years. My perspective is short and skewed. I will almost inevitably snub names from the 80's and early 90's just because they predate my conscious knowledge of baseball. If this was a real HoF vote, I'd spend hours upon hours pouring through reference data to make my selections. But this is just for fun and to waste some time. So, I didn't go through all that trouble.

The Slam Dunk Candidates

These are the players who were absolute no-brainers for me:

Greg Maddux

Maddux is an easy choice. Maddux is the only pitcher in MLB history to win 15 games for 17 straight seasons. He won 355 games over his career, struck out 3,371 batters, and compiled 18 gold gloves and 4 Cy Young Awards.

Frank Thomas

I couldn't, even if I wanted to, argue against The Big Hurt. His lifetime .301 average, 2,468 hits and 521 homeruns make him a lock for the Hall. He also won 2 AL MVP awards. He's a first-ballot hall of famer.

Barry Bonds

Here's where that morality clause comes in. Bonds is a steroid user, he enhanced his body with illegal substances. But, the Hall of Fame is a museum. Bonds is one of the best players of all time (with or without steroids). He's the homerun king of baseball and should be in the Hall of Fame.

Roger Clemens

The fact that Clemens isn't the first name on this list should tell you that my "morality meter" at least has some movement in it. Clemens is definitely the greatest pitcher of our lifetime. Clemens might be the greatest pitcher of all time. Clemens won 354 games over his career, posting an ERA of 3.12 with 4,672 strikeouts. He won the AL Cy Young award seven times. He was also the AL MVP one year (a pitcher winning the MVP award has only happened 4 times in my lifetime). Steroids or not, Clemens is Hall of Fame worthy.

With four of my ten votes already cast, I moved into the next category, the second tier, these players are yes votes, but I had to dig a little deeper to decide for sure.

The Second Tier

Mike Piazza

Piazza is one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time. He's overshadowed (again) by steroid use, but he was an incredible player. He had a lifetime average of .308 with 421 homeruns. He deserves his spot in Cooperstown, and I hope he wears a Mets hat once he's there.

Tom Glavine

Glavine played with Piazza for a few years, so it'd be nice to see them go in together. However, Glavine is going to go in as a member of the Atlanta Braves, where he spent the majority of his career. Glavine is in the 300 win club (304), won 2 Cy Young Awards and a World Series (of which he was MVP) in his career. He's a lock for the Hall, in my opinion.

Mark McGwire

McGwire and Sammy Sosa are credited by a large number of people with saving baseball in the summer of 1998 after the strike of 1994. Their chase for Roger Maris' homerun record was a thing of beauty. I wasn't a baseball fan at the time, but even I was caught up in the chase. However, one season doesn't make someone a Hall of Famer, even if you hit 70 homeruns. McGwire's career numbers are solid, though. He hit 583 homeruns over his career. This comes out to a homerun an average of every 10.61 at bats, best in history (Ruth is at 11.76). 500 homeruns has long been a benchmark for the Hall of Fame, but I think that number is going to change with the influx of homerun hitters from the steroid era. Despite that, I still think McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame and he gets my vote.

Sammy Sosa

Sammy Sosa was a major part of that magical 1998 season with Mark McGwire. He broke Roger Maris record that year as well, finishing with 66 homers. His career was solid, though. He finished up with 609 homeruns and 2,408 hits. He was the NL MVP in 1998. The fact that he lied about steroids for so long will probably keep him from the Hall, but it shouldn't.

The Bubble

At this point, I've used 8 of my 10 votes. There are two slots left. There are four players I'm considering for the final two votes. They are: Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Curt Schilling. Two of them won't get my vote this year, two will. Here are the two I choose:

Craig Biggio

There are only four members of the 3,000 hit club who aren't in the Hall of Fame. One of them is Pete Rose, who is banned for life. Derek Jeter is still active. Rafael Palmeiro and Craig Biggio are the other two. Biggio should've gotten into the Hall last year. He was never connected to steroids and was a great player for his entire career. He earns my vote this year (and he would've last year, too), even if he is the ninth name on my list.

Curt Schilling

Originally, Schilling was left off my ballot. I've reconsidered, though. He has more than 3,000 strikeouts and 200 wins. Neither of those are legendary, but they're great. He won four World Series, including the infamous bloody sock series of 2004 and the incredible win with the Diamondbacks in 2001. Schilling is definitely more famous than Martinez and Palmeiro, so he gets in over them.

It's a shame that I have to leave Edgar Martinez off. He was an incredible player, and I think, even as a career DH, he deserves to be in the Hall. Before Big Papi, there was no question that Edgar was the greatest DH of all time (I'd give that nod to Ortiz now, though). Palmeiro, though, is an interesting study. He's a member of two of the most exclusive "clubs" in sports, the 500-HR and 3,000-hit clubs. He's in an even more exclusive club being a member of both (along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, who are each in the Hall). I don't know what it is about Palmeiro, though, he just doesn't seem like a Hall of Famer, he feels like a guy who happened to get over those numbers just through longevity and steroids. His adamant denial of steroid use and subsequently being caught with a dirty sample make him less likable to me. he was never MVP, in fact, he never finished higher than 5th in the voting. He should be a first-ballot hall of famer, but he failed a test. Therefore, he'll probably never get in, and he doesn't get my vote this year, either. I also think Mike Mussina will be and should be in the Hall at some point, but he doesn't scratch the surface this year because of the intense backlog that has occured.

What do you think? Who did I egregiously whiff on? Who am I letting in that shouldn't be there? Who are your ten?


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