Tomorrow, January 9th, the results for the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame voting will be announced.
This year’s ballot is probably the most controversial and toughest ballot ever (and this includes the first couple of years when the Hall of Fame was created). The reason? This is the first “full-fledged” ballot which addresses the peak of the “Steroid Era” in baseball. While other ballots in recent years have featured confirmed/suspected players of PED use such as Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and others; this year’s ballot includes the “cream of the crop” in terms of PED use – players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. With no direction from the Hall of Fame on how to handle this era, the voters (members of the Baseball Writers Association of America) are left to their own devices in determining how to vote for these players.
There are 37 players on this year’s ballot – some are on it for the first time such as Craig Biggio while others are on their last year such as Dale Murphy. Add in a “10 player” voting limit, and the writers’ hands are tied. There are 15 to 20 players at a minimum that are at least worthy of consideration for the Hall of Fame, so some writers are having to leave off players they have voted “Yes” for in the past – especially if they are voting for the “roiders.” Some players may see their “yes” percentage drop in comparison to previous years and others like Bernie Williams or Don Mattingly may not get enough votes to remain on the ballot for another year due to the crowded ballot.
In regards to the steroid issue, I’ve been torn on this for many years. I understand why some voters vote “yes” for them and I understand why others vote “no.” Barring a positive test or admission of known use, it’s hard to know exactly who used and who didn’t for sure (though some of the circumstantial evidence for players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa is tough to ignore). The only voters I don’t agree with are the ones who turn in completely blank ballots simply because they don’t think any player from this era deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because they played in the “Steroid Era” (which do count as a vote of “no” for every player).
I know there are known cheaters in the Hall of Fame such as Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford and that there are players with questionable character such as Cap Anson and Ty Cobb in there as well. I know that there are also confessed amphetamine (aka greenies) users in the Hall of Fame such as Mike Schmidt so a “no” vote for a steroid user simply for those reasons goes against the precedent set over the last 80 years or so of Hall of Fame voting.
I blame Kenesaw Mountain Landis for this issue. He’s the one, as Bill James points out in his book “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame”, when he was Commissioner of Baseball added the character clause that many of the voters point to when justifying why they vote “no” for steroid users. Landis added this clause in an attempt to get Eddie Grant inducted into the Hall of Fame (Grant was killed in action during World War I). While Grant was never elected, the character clause has “stuck” but has been routinely ignored throughout the years by the votes as I mentioned before. The character clause has only recently come into vogue by the voters trying to justify why the greatest hitter and pitcher our generation has ever seen do not deserve induction to the Hall of Fame.
However, like I said, I’m torn on this issue and have no idea if I would officially vote for Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens if I actually had a vote. But, for the purposes of this article, players that tested positive, admitted use (known or unknown) or have a “high amount of suspicion” will not be getting my vote.
Who does get my imaginary vote?
Craig Biggio – 3,000+ hits, multiple awards at multiple positions over his career.
Jeff Bagwell – one of the premier first basemen of the last 20 years.
Edgar Martinez – the best DH in the history of the game.
Tim Raines – the second-best leadoff hitter of the 1980s behind only Rickey Henderson and has stats that surpass other outfielders such as Tony Gwynn.
Alan Trammel – very underrated shortstop
Fred McGriff – underrated power hitter
Dale Murphy – back-to-back MVP winner
Mike Piazza – best offensive catcher in history
Why didn’t I vote for Jack Morris? For a very simple reason – 105 ERA+ and 3.90 ERA. His claim to fame is “the most wins in the 1980s” and one great playoff game. None of that to me says “Hall of Famer.” Jack Morris would be one of the first inductees into the “Hall of Very Good” but he’s not a Hall of Fame pitcher.
Why didn’t I vote for Curt Schilling? In the post-season, Schilling was an absolute beast, but during the regular season he was never the “best.” Part of it may be because he was on the same pitching staffs as Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez, but when I watched Schilling pitch, I just never thought “Hall of Fame.”
Why didn’t I vote for Larry Walker? Because of the “Coors effect.” While Walker was an absolute beast in Coors, his stats simply took to big a drop once he stepped outside of Colorado. It was close though – and if he ever does get elected to the Hall of Fame I wouldn’t complain.
Who do I think gets into the Hall of Fame and will join Deacon White, Hank O’Day and Jacob Ruppert on the podium in Cooperstown in mid-July? I don’t think anyone gets elected this year. However, I would not be surprised if Craig Biggio just barely gets in with 76 percent of the vote.
The Hall of Fame ballots in the coming years will become very overcrowded when players like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Frank Thomas among others end their 5-year waiting period. The Baseball Hall of Fame and/or Major League Baseball itself needs to do something regarding several issues with the Hall of Fame – voters not covering baseball for 15+ years still having votes, the 10-player voting limit, and voters not voting for players on the first ballot because “Joe DiMaggio wasn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” If these issues aren’t addressed prior to November 2013 when the next ballots are sent out, the issues that made the 2013 ballot a tough and controversial one will remain and we will still be discussing this issues in January 2014.
Who do you think deserves a “yes” vote? Who do you think gets elected? Why would you vote or not vote for a certain player? Please comment below.