Last year, Barry Larkin was the only player elected by the Writers – with Ron Santo also getting in posthumously. No one else had a really legitimate shot of getting in. I’m glad Larkin got in this year before the biggest influx of players from the steroid era shows up. That dreaded year is this year.
I’m rooting for as many players to get in as possible. Why? The 10-player limit is a huge problem. It’s splitting the vote. The effect created is similar to Ross Perot running for president or when A-Rod and Griffey are on the same team and Juan Gonzalez sneaks away with the MVP. As you can see below, there are 16 players I’d vote for. And 2 more – Jack Morris and Lee Smith – who have reached 50% in past years. With that many viable candidates, players get less vote than they otherwise would. And maybe more importantly – a guy like Kenny Lofton is going to fall below 5% and never even get consideration.
From all the projections I’m seeing, Craig Biggio is the only player with a real chance, and it looks like he will be just short. Lofton will almost for sure fall off, and Dale Murphy is in his last year of eligibility. That’s 2 fewer players (3 if Biggio got in), but shoe-ins Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine are on next year. Plus Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent (who I’d vote for) and Luis Gonzalez (who I probably wouldn’t) all deserve serious consideration. For me, that would be an increase from 16 players I’d vote for to 19 (18 if Biggio got in). That’s leaving 9 players off my (fake) ballot, plus another in Lofton who is no longer eligible solely because of the process!
I said this last year, but it bears repeating – I’m not patently against the idea there are first ballot HOF-ers and players get gradual increases before eventually getting in. There’s this argument I hear all the time that someone “didn’t do anything between year #7 and year #8 after retirement to get in, but then he got in – he’s either a HOF-er or not”. I see the point, but I also think it misses some other points:
- If that argument held, you should also argue against the 5-year wait to even be on the ballot – because nobody did anything between year 5 and 6 differently to get in, either.
- This argument also neglects the fact that determining if a player is a Hall of Famer is a subjective process that should have checks and balances to make sure the decision to give that honor is as objective as possible. That’s the reason the process is what it is.
- That point also assumes that we know everything about players the day they retire. It assumes an inherently subjective process is absolute. It assumes an inherently subjective process is definitive. Being a HOF-er is neither. Being a HOF-er is a matter of hero-worship that can be given perspective after a player retires. Bert Blyleven wasn’t viewed as a HOF-er when he retired – but subsequent changes in how players were analyzed are what ultimately got him in. The writers collectively realized that his 287 wins on crappy teams were worth a lot more than was originally thought. Yes, he was a HOF-er when he retired in the early 90′s – but we didn’t know it because he wasn’t as clear-cut as someone like Cal Ripken or Tom Seaver.
- Also, every sport does this in some manner, so saying other sports do it better is complete bull-sh**. I hate when football fans bring this up – but neglect to mention the fact that the NFL is even worse about the whole concept. Football set a cap at 5 on the number of HOF-ers, and it ends up with the same result. Couldn’t I say that Cris Carter was either a Hall of Famer in 2008 or he wasn’t? But he will get in someday – so why is it that I never hear the same argument about football HOF-ers? Carter was a HOF-er in 2008 – he’s far more of a clear-cut HOF-er than any baseball player I can think of – and he will be in 2015 or whenever they finally get him in, but I think it’s fine they had a process, albeit different from baseball, that made sure he really did get in.
Situations like the one with Ron Santo are the casualty here. I wish he’d have gotten in earlier, but that’s the nature of the process.
So here’s my fake ballot. The “if I had a vote” deal. I do need to say what I’d do about the steroid guys. My opinion on the steroid thing – I’d generally vote for guys with a clear link to PEDs (Piazza and Bagwell do not have any link – just speculation with little to no basis). My reasons? First, I think PEDs were a baseball issue, not a Mark McGwire or a Barry Bonds issue. Second, this is a gray area, not the black and white line that many folks make it out to be. I think at sometime in the future, maybe 25 years or 40 years, we’re going to realize that some of those substances are safe to use and that it was silly that it got the debate it did. Thirdly, we don’t, and never will, know everything about this. There is probably a PED user already in the Hall of Fame.
I’ve heard it argued that “the baseball Hall of Fame is not a place for cheaters”. Too late, buddy! Babe Ruth allegedly used a corked bat. Willie Mays allegedly used amphetamines. John McGraw hid extra baseballs in the New York outfield. Ty Cobb sharpened his spikes to hurt infielders and gain an intimidation advantage. Pud Galvin admitted to taking testosterone. Gaylord Perry threw a spitball his entire career then wrote a book about it. Phil Niekro got caught with a nail file on the mound. King Kelly would skip second base when the umpire wasn’t looking. I don’t see the difference between that and the 90′s/00’s steroid users. The steroid era is just the newest form of cheating. For some reason, though, all those old forms are looked at now with either acceptance (at a minimum) or even outright respect as “part of the game”.
That said, if someone is linked to PEDs, at least for the time being, I will vote them in – but behind clean guys who I think deserve to be in without any question. The only reason for this – you have a limit of 10. I’d vote for McGwire absent any constraints, but if you have to pick between him and Craig Biggio, I’d choose McGwire waiting. Biggio deserves to be in CLEARLY, so I slot him ahead of the other guys. This matters when you’re limited to 10 votes, because I would vote more than 10 on this ballot in. So here’s my vote in the order of how I’d vote them in, and what their percentage was last year.
- Mike Piazza (1st year)
- Craig Biggio (1st)
- Tim Raines (48.7%)
- Jeff Bagwell (56.0%)
- Curt Schilling (1st)
- Alan Trammell (36.8%)
- Barry Bonds (1st)
- Roger Clemens (1st)
- Kenny Lofton (1st)
- Larry Walker (22.9%)
I would also vote these guys in, but they’d get eliminated by the 10 player rule.
- Edgar Martinez (36.5%)
- Sammy Sosa (1st)
- Mark McGwire (19.5%)
- Fred McGriff (23.9%)
- Dale Murphy (14.5%)
- Rafael Palmeiro (12.6%)
I have reservations over Murphy in particular – but I’d still vote him in if I could vote for more than 10. McGriff’s candidacy will also be interesting to follow in the future. He’s only in his 3rd year, and I think he would start seeing a better increase in the latter half of this decade, but you just don’t know.
Other names – I think I’ve come down to a permanent “no” on Morris. If he ever gets in, I won’t be offended, but I wouldn’t have voted for him. He had a big increase last year – 53.5% to 66.7%. He is in his 14th year, so he’ll need to get 8.3 more percentage points in two very stacked years to make it. I previously thought he would never get to that level - but now I think he just might.
Lee Smith moved up from 45% to 50% in his 10th year last year. He will be very close in his 15th year, just like Morris. I don’t think he should get in.
Don Mattingly increased from 13.6% to 17.8% in his 12th year. Let’s see how his managing career goes. He sure has the talent to win in LA.
Bernie Williams was the only first-timer to earn enough to be considered next year. He got 9.6%. I hope he makes it through the next two stacked years and stays on the ballot, but I don’t think he will (or deserves to) garner eventual election.