Here are the names I checked off on the Hall of Fame ballot:
A few notes if you are interested in the process:
The voting: There were 37 players on the ballot this season. There is no minimum number of players to pick, but you cannot vote for more than 10. The electorate consists of the 600-plus members of the BBWAA with at least 10 years in the organization.
(In my opinion, too many people who don’t actually cover baseball anymore get to vote. But that’s for another day.)
The board of directors of the Hall of Fame determines those rules. The results will be announced on Jan. 9.
Resources used: The Black Ink and Gray Ink tests developed by Bill James, which are found on Baseball-Reference.com, were useful.
I also relied heavily on the research done by Jay Jaffe. His JAWS formula is a terrific resource in this endeavor. Jay writes for Sports Illustrated. I’ve known him for probably about 10 years and he cares passionately about baseball and baseball history.
I also looked at career records as kept by Baseball-Reference.com and used their research tools to compare players by way of traditional and sabermetric statistics.
In the end you have make a personal decision about every player. But it’s good to have as many facts at your disposal as are available. If they are available, why not use them?
General philosophies: I tried to compare players to others of their generation, other players at their position and players at their position who are already in the Hall.
Some writers believe getting elected on the first ballot is a great honor and they withhold their vote from those players they find undeserving of that honor. I vote for the players who come up best in my tabulations, period. I don’t see how a retired player gets any better a year from now. Either you deserve a vote or you do not.
Performance-enhancing drugs: I wrote about this complicated issue a month ago and explained why I’ve changed my stance. Basically, I believe PED use was part of a particular era of the game and the Hall of Fame should reflect those times. The place is a museum, after all.
Let’s be honest, everybody involved in the game ignored the PED issue for a long time. MLB, the MLBPA, owners, GMs, managers, players, media, and fans, we all marveled at home runs and didn’t ask many questions. To me, it would be hypocritical to have ignored the issue in 2002 and then punish players in 2012.
I’m also uncomfortable with the idea of using suspicion as a reason not to vote for somebody. Excluding players like Bagwell and Piazza because you kinda sorta think they probably did steroids is McCarthyism. Beyond that, no voter can be absolutely sure that a player he believes to be clean was in fact clean.
That said, home runs hit during the Steroids Era have to be devalued to some degree because home runs were cheap to come by.
Now onto the players:
Jeff Bagwell: The pride of the University of Hartford was durable, consistent and productive. This was a player who hit for power, showed great patience, played an excellent first base and even stole 202 bases. His WAR is seventh among first basemen all time. Take away any suspicion and he’s an automatic choice.
Craig Biggio: It’s hard to argue against 20 seasons, 3,060 hits, 668 doubles, 55 triples, 291 home runs, 1,175 RBIs and 1,844 runs scored for a second baseman. Historically, Biggio is one of the best to ever play his position. That he also caught and played center field at times only adds to his resume. His 3,000th hit came off Aaron Cook. Just guessing, but it was probably a sinker that stayed up.
Barry Bonds: Let’s say you deduct 20 percent off his statistics because was a no-good cheating bum. Bonds is still one of the best hitters of all-time. That’s how good he was. Bonds is fourth in career OPS behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.
Roger Clemens: Before there were pink hats, seats on the wall and Red Sox Nation, there was The Rocket. His turn in the rotation was an event that caused everybody to take notice. Clemens had a 3.06 ERA and 192 wins before there was a hint of improper behavior. His perjury acquittal aside, Clemens probably did some things he regrets. But there is no discounting his place in history. Clemens is one of the three or four best starters the game has seen.
Mike Piazza: He is one of the best-hitting catchers ever, if not the best. He also played the bulk of his career in Dodger Stadium and Shea Stadium, two tough parks for hitters. Piazza hit .320/.389/.575 from 1993-2003 while catching. That’s insane. Piazza also was a better defensive player than he is generally given credit for. He had a flair for calling games and he blocked balls in the dirt very effectively.
Tim Raines: Simply put, Raines was the second-best leadoff hitter in history behind Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. New metrics showcase his value and by those standards he deserves to be in Cooperstown. Not voting for Raines is not doing your homework.
Curt Schilling: It’s popular to say that Schilling should get in because of his stellar postseason numbers. He was 11-2, 2.23 ERA in 19 starts with three rings, after all. But that diminishes his regular season excellence. Schilling’s 3,116 strikeouts are 15th all-time, he averaged 2.0 walks per nine innings and he finished second in the Cy Young voting three times. Schilling won “only” 216 games, but he is indisputably one of the best starters of his time. Take away Schilling and the Red Sox might still be searching for their first title sine 1918. He should get a spot in the Hall for ending all that insufferable angst.
Alan Trammell: Before Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter, and all the other hard-hitting shortstops, there was Trammell. He was one of the best all-around shortstops in history and has been overlooked in the voting.
Toughest omissions: Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff. Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Bernie Williams.
Martinez, along with David Ortiz, ranks as one of the best DHs ever. But DH is a not a position. Were he a third baseman, Edgar would be a borderline case. It’s hard to reward a guy for not playing a position. ... McGriff, a first baseman in an era of standout first basemen, didn’t make the cut. ... McGwire was very good at hitting home runs and getting on base, two critical skills. But when you compare the duration of his career and the peak of his career to other first baseman, he is not a lock for the Hall, the steroids issue aside. ... Morris had a 3.90 ERA and over the course of his career was just a little better than average (based on ERA+). He was more about great moments than consistent excellence. ... Murphy was a terrific player at times but at other times was just another pretty good one. Like Don Mattingly, there is just not enough there. ... Palmeiro and Sosa were 10th and 11th on my list. Palmeiro compiled a lot of impressive statistics. But when compared to other Hall of Fame first basemen, his marks lose a little luster. He was a product of his era. Palmeiro also faces the stigma of having tested positive after MLB’s drug testing program was put in place. That doesn’t exclude him in my estimation. But it works against him. Sosa had some amazing highs in his career. But he also had a .344 OBP and isn’t in the same league as other Hall of Fame right fielders. Sosa had a .777 OPS over the first nine years of his career, too. Given the state of the game at the time, his 609 home runs are no magic number. ... It’s easy (and not necessarily accurate) to dismiss Walker as a product of Coors Field. He was more than that, but not quite a Hall of Famer. I’d rank him above Sosa, however. ... Williams was a center fielder and a middle-of-the-order hitter on some excellent Yankees teams. But he didn’t do enough to reach Cooperstown.
Please, feel free to post a comment with your thoughts. Hall of Fame discussions are fun to have.