Here are the names checked off on my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, and John Smoltz.
Obviously there was no bias shown against players who are linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. My stance on that subject shifted in 2012, and that has been reflected in my voting since.
There are 34 players on the ballot this season and 13 were deserving of a vote in my opinion. The toughest omissions from the first cutdown were Gary Sheffield and Edgar Martinez.
Both were tremendous hitters, but their accomplishments have to be judged in the context of the era in which they played. Big offensive numbers were easier to come by when they played. Sheffield deserves to stay on the ballot and receive further consideration.
After ranking the remaining 13 players, I eliminated Jeff Kent and Alan Trammell. They were the final two on the list. I voted for Trammell from 2010-12, but dropped him last season when the ballot got too crowded. Trammell has yet to receive more than 36.8 percent of the vote.
Kent is close and gets extra points for playing second base. But in this high-quality class, he falls short.
That left 11 names and because the Hall of Fame allows only 10 votes, a tough decision was needed.
Last year the decision was made not to vote for Bonds because he wasn’t going to get in anyway. That is flawed reasoning and gaming the ballot didn’t feel right. So the plan moving forward will be to vote for the players based solely on the criteria I find important.
So Craig Biggio, regretfully, won’t get a vote this year, but I do hope that he gets in. He deserves it. But playing political games with the ballot doesn’t seem right.
Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, and Martinez are obvious choices. They are among the best players in baseball history. Bonds and Clemens won’t get in because of their PED history and that’s a reasonable position to take, although one I disagree with. Johnson and Martinez should get in easily. Any voter who skips them is either irresponsible or seeking attention.
Smoltz, who was terrific as a starter and a closer for the dynasty Braves, was not as automatic as first thought but still deserving. Piazza is arguably the best-hitting catcher in history and his choice was easy.
Raines fell off at the end of his career. But his resume suggests he was the best leadoff hitter not named Rickey Henderson. Bagwell put up numbers that rank him in the upper echelon of first basemen.
Mussina and Schilling won’t get elected this season, if ever. But when you actually research their careers, both have compelling cases.
Mussina never won a Cy Young or a World Series and his only 20-win season was his last. But this is a pitcher who finished his career 19th all-time in strikeouts and compiled 83.0 WAR, 23rd all-time. He was strong in the postseason and pitched in the American League East at the height of the Steroids Era.
Given the teams and hitters he was competing against, Mussina’s 3.68 ERA is sparkling. His career statistics also compare favorably to Juan Marichal and Jim Palmer, two Hall of Famers.
You can also make a decent case that Mussina had a better career than Tom Glavine, who was elected last year.
Schilling also requires a nuanced look. He had a 79.9 WAR and struck out 8.6 per nine innings. His 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio is historically high.
Schilling also was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts. The postseason can sometimes be misleading because of the short sample sizes. But Schilling’s 133 1/3 postseason innings are tough to ignore, as are the three World Series championships he contributed to.
Schilling had a knack for controversial statements and alienated plenty of people around baseball with his views and actions. There are surely voters out there who will not vote for him out of spite.
Like Mussina, Schilling never won a Cy Young. But a deeper look at his career shows he deserves to be in Cooperstown.
Finally, a word of thanks to Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated. His research on Hall of Fame candidates has been an invaluable resource for several years now and his JAWS system is terrific. Bill James’ Blank Ink and Gray Ink measurements are helpful as well.