This has been the strangest Hall of Fame voting season ever for the Baseball Writers Association of America and when it closes Monday I’m sure there will be some unusual numbers be tallied. This is the first time most of the leading candidates’ credentials can be linked to the issue of performance-enhancing drugs.
I have heard some voters say they will never vote for anyone whom they suspect of taking PEDs. I have heard some voters say they will not vote for anyone whom they suspect of taking PEDs this year, but might change their mind in the future. (Not sure I get that approach). The most extreme view I have heard is that a voter will not support the candidacy of anyone who played during what he considers to be the steroid era, whether there was even a hint of the player being tainted. That sounds completely unfair.
For the last month I have studied the candidacies of everyone on the ballot and I have wrestled with the idea of who deserves enshrinement in Cooperstown and who does not. I do not have an official vote, but I have given considerable thought to what I would do if I had one.
It is a complicated decision. First one must decide how offended he is by the fact that baseball players took drugs to help their performances. Then one must factor in whether or not using performance-enhancing drugs was a cardinal sin at a time when baseball did not ban their use. The voting guidelines also say that character should be taken into consideration. However, I can think of some players who are among the biggest jerks I ever met in my life. Does character include being nice to people or mean to people? And finally, just how do you vote to keep out players with some of the greatest statistics in the history of the game?
I do not make a big deal about guys going in on their first try. First try or 15th try, once you are in the Hall of Fame you are in. The idea of not voting for someone now as punishment and then voting for them later is tricky because of rules procedures. Players must obtain 75 percent of the vote to be elected, but need at least five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot for future consideration up to 15 years.
There were 24 new names on the ballot for the class of 2013 and 13 holdovers.
First thing I would do is eliminate the first-time-on-the-ballot guys who didn’t belong in the discussion. That would be Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, Rondell White and Woody Williams. That cuts the contenders from 37 to 21.
Here is where performance-enhancing drug fact and suspicion comes into play and whether or not someone viewed as a bad guy now might be viewed in a different light in five or 10 years. I still had to eliminate five more players.
What I did was take the 15 remaining names and rank the top 10. I didn’t know what I was going to write until I wrote it, but this meant I omitted Rafael Palmeiro, Jack Morris, Fred McGriff, Tim Raines and Mark McGwire.
The 10 names I ended up with were: 1) Barry Bonds; 2) Roger Clemens; 3) Mike Piazza; 4) Craig Biggio; 5) Edgar Martinez; 6) Sammy Sosa; 7) Alan Trammell; 8) Lee Smith; 9) Jeff Bagwell; 10) Curt Schilling.
Some will ask what the difference is between Palmeiro and McGwire and Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. The first two were either caught or confessed to using PEDs. The others deny it and at least in the instances of Bonds and Clemens government bodies went to great lengths to prove it and failed.
Am I completely comfortable with my choices given the performance-enhancing drugs issues and the names off? No. Part of me would hope others’ ballots were kinder to several I left off so they can be considered again in the future.
The results from the real voters–about 600 of them–are scheduled to be announced Jan. 9. I have no idea what they will look like. There probably will be surprises, though I won’t be shocked if no one meets the 75 percent threshold.