This column is being penned between Christmas and New Year’s Day and before you know it, the Hall of Fame ballot results will be out there for everyone to digest and debate. As usual, this will be a contentious decision-making process for the baseball writers and reading through the thoughts of various eligible voters, one thing is clear…nobody agrees on anything! This isn’t surprising because in speaking with scores of fans over the last few months, I’ve found the same can be said of their opinions. From people who would put the maximum of ten players on their imaginary ballot to those who want to make some sort of statement by leaving the ballot blank to everywhere in between. The PED issue has muddied the waters to such an extent, there is no right or wrong answer. The only position that is stupid, is the one where a fan says, “steroids don’t matter that much, you still need to hit the ball.” All those people must first watch the ESPN 30/30 documentary on Ben Johnson’s Olympic 100-meter race before apologizing to the rest of us.
Based on a recent survey utilizing ballots made public early in the process, there seems to be a reasonable chance that a number of players will be elected by the writers in 2017 including the possibility of Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens. Won’t that be great fun for the fans who have already made plans to travel to Cooperstown for induction weekend? With all this as a backdrop, the Old Duck will enter the fray and share with you his mythical Hall of Fame ballot. One thing I know for sure…nobody will agree with me.
> Jeff Bagwell, NO – I’m not penalizing him for suspected PED use, it is just my feeling is that he’s a borderline candidate. With 71.6% of the vote last year, he’ll probably eclipse the 75% threshold this time.
> Tim Raines, YES – Overlooked and underrated, he might be the second best leadoff hitter in the history of the game. Over 2,600 hits and 800 stolen bases, his lifetime WAR is 69. It’s his 10th and final opportunity on the ballot and he was also the player most affected by the owners collusion tactics, costing him millions of dollars. Let’s at least give him a plaque.
> Trevor Hoffman, YES – Got 67.3% last time in his first year of eligibility and just might make it this time. 601 Saves…let that sink in.
> Curt Schilling, NO – One of those marginal guys with 216 Wins, his lifetime WAR of 76 is very impressive and higher than many Pitchers already enshrined. While it isn’t fair, his political comments will probably impact the voting.
> Roger Clemens, NO – Yes, he was probably a Hall of Fame player without steroids and yes, he will get in someday, but sometimes you must make a stand. If Robby Alomar had to wait a year for spitting on an umpire, this arrogant jerk should have to wait a few years for each needle-marked cheek.
> Barry Bonds, NO – Same comment as Clemens.
> Edgar Martinez, YES – The argument against the DH doesn’t hold any more credence than the one against relief pitchers ten years ago. The best at every position belong in the Hall. His lifetime OPS of .933 is better than Mike Piazza and the WAR of 68 seals the deal.
> Mike Mussina, YES – This is one of the tougher choices, but the overall numbers are very impressive…270 Wins and a WAR of 83 are both better than Schilling.
> Lee Smith, NO – Just not convinced he was a “difference maker” during his career in the same way as Dennis Eckersley, Trevor Hoffman & Mariano Rivera. There could be an argument made, however, that if Bruce Sutter belongs, so does he.
> Fred McGriff, NO – As time goes on and voters have a chance to digest his numbers prior to the PED era, more consideration will come his way.
> Jeff Kent, NO – His credibility has more to do with his position (2B) than his performance.
> Larry Walker, NO – Another player who may be more appreciated as the years roll on, but the Colorado factor makes it difficult to determine his real credentials.
> Gary Sheffield, NO – His cumulative totals of 509 HR’s and a 60.3 WAR are impressive but they’re watered down by the era in which he played. Also impacted by a lack of fan loyalty because he played for eight different franchises.
> Billy Wagner, NO – Had an outstanding career but overshadowed by Rivera, Hoffman and others.
> Sammy Sosa, NO – Got 7% of the vote last year…everyone feels he had help. He will, however get more votes than Chico Esquela.
> Ivan Rodriguez, YES – On the ballot for the first time, “Pudge” did have a complete change in his physicality after MLB instituted PED testing, but even if some of the offensive numbers are tainted, he did win 13 Gold Gloves playing the toughest position on the field.
> Manny Ramirez, NO – Another first-timer, he was caught cheating on multiple occasions. Maybe his use of female hormones can get him into the “League of Their Own” wing.
> Vladimir Guerrero, NO – Will get a reasonable amount of votes, but his 59.3 WAR is less than Sheffield & Walker.
Only five of my ten spots are filled but that seems reasonable. Don’t forget about some of the other players on the ballot for the first time – Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, Melvin Mora & Pat Burrell. That sounds more like one of my Rotisserie teams from the past.