It's the most wonderful time of the year! Hall of Fame ballot time! Instead of arguing over the dinner table about Politics or Religion, I prefer to argue about whether or not Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should get elected into the Hall of Fame. We've been hearing this argument for five years now, and Buster Olney is sick of it. He's not alone. Many people are frustrated with the current voting system the Hall of Fame is employing. Voters are only allowed to vote for 10 players at a time, meaning some very talented players, players many would consider Hall of Famers, aren't getting votes. Olney's piece details his frustration, in which he has concluded that he will abstain from voting, in order to help a guy like Mike Mussina. Casting a ballot and not voting for Mussina is actually hurting Mussina's HOF chances, something Olney wants to avoid. If this is a topic that interests you I encourage you to read his piece.
For me, however, I will still cast my fictional ballot, since leaving someone off of it does not have any impact on their actual HOF candidacy, just their feelings (If you're reading this, sorry Randy Winn). I would like to point out that I agree with Olney's (and others) points about the flaws in the system, and will have to leave players off of my ballot that I believe are Hall of Famers. I don't know if I would abstain like Olney is doing, but I can see his point.
Below is a list of all the players on the ballot, with how I "categorize" them:
Garrett Anderson (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Brad Ausmus (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Jeff Bagwell (HOFer)
Barry Bonds (PEDs)
Luis Castillo (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Roger Clemens (PEDs)
David Eckstein (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Jim Edmonds (close but no cigar)
Nomar Garciaparra (close but no cigar)
Troy Glaus (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Ken Griffey Junior (HOFer)
Mark Grudzielanek (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Mike Hampton (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Trevor Hoffman (HOFer)
Jason Kendall (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Jeff Kent (HOFer)
Mike Lowell (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Edgar Martinez (HOFer)
Fred McGriff (HOFer)
Mark McGwire (PEDs)
Mike Mussina (HOFer)
Mike Piazza (HOFer)
Tim Raines (HOFer)
Curt Schilling (HOFer)
Gary Sheffield (PEDs)
Lee Smith (close but no cigar)
Sammy Sosa (PEDs)
Mike Sweeney (ballot filler, less than 5%)
Alan Trammell (HOFer)
Billy Wagner (close but no cigar)
Larry Walker (HOFer)
Randy Winn (ballot filler, less than 5%)
After eliminating the ballot fillers and the "close but no cigar players", we are left with 17 players.
Five of those players (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa) have very heavy steroid clouds hanging above them. While I believe that they are HOF caliber players, I will choose to use my votes elsewhere. Kevin Cooney, a voter from Philadelphia, explained his thought process, saying "With a numbers crunch, you have to set a standard. Mine is 'clean guys' first". While it is impossible to know who is or isn't clean (Piazza and Bagwell have been suspected, and many people believe Sheffield is clean) I want to cast my vote for players who I believe are HOF caliber, and who I think did it the right way. There is no way to know for sure, but the system only allows me to vote for ten, and I want to vote "clean" players in first.
So now I am left with 12. Here is where I have trouble. I believe all 12 of these players are HOFers, but I can only vote for 10. Looking at the list, there are eight that stand out as guaranteed votes in my mind:
Griffey, Hoffman, Bagwell, Piazza, Martinez, McGriff, Raines,and Schilling.
This leaves me with only two spots for four players: Alan Trammell, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker and Jeff Kent.
Trammell gets a vote. He's in his final year on the ballot, he accrued a career WAR of 70.4 (about the same as Derek Jeter) was one of the best defensive SS of all time, hit 185 HR, and was the 1984 WS MVP. I am surprised how little his support has been over the past 15 years, and can only hope the voters have a very massive shift in viewpoint this year. Otherwise, his candidacy will be left up to the Veteran's Committee down the road.
Jeff Kent, despite being one of the most prolific offensive second basemen of all time, loses a vote from me. He had a great career, but doesn't quite stack up to Mussina and Walker in my opinion. He had a surly demeanor as well, something that I think is hurting him with the voters, many of whom have stories of his bad attitude toward them.
I would love to see Larry Walker and Mike Mussina in a cage match for my final vote, but Walker certainly would have an edge size wise (provided of course that he is healthy, which was a longshot during his career). I have written about both of them separately (Larry here, and Mike here) and have advocated that each of them should be in the Hall of Fame. This makes this decision hard, but I am going to leave Mike Mussina off my ballot and give my final vote to Larry Walker. Mussina seems to come up the most in discussions about the HOF's "Rule of Ten" with Olney citing him specifically in his article linked above, and Tim Kurkjian memorably calling out the Hall of Fame's rule about only being able to vote for ten players, saying "I lost sleep last night over not voting for Mike Mussina".
I predict that Ken Griffey jr and Mike Piazza both go in next year, thinning out the ballot slightly (both Alan Trammell and Mark McGwire will come off the ballot next year as well). I think Bagwell and Hoffman will both come very close, and will eventually see enshrinement.
I welcome any and all questions, comments, opinions, etc on my ballot and my thoughts on the Hall of Fame. Happy reading!