Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My 2013 Hall of Fame ballot

Associated Press photos
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa didn't get my vote.
Let's forgo pleasantries and cut immediately to the chase: There's no right answer to this year's Hall of Fame ballot.

Anyone who tries to tell you there's a right answer to the biggest conundrum since Cooperstown first opened its doors eight decades ago simply hasn't devoted enough time and consideration to this topic. Lord knows there are a whole lot of Hall of Fame voters plenty smarter than me who have spent days, weeks and months trying to find the right answer to this problem and have been unsuccessful. How am I to believe I'm capable of solving what they have not?

Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Sammy Sosa. Mike Piazza. All appeared on the ballot for the first time this year. All produced careers worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame. But all have been connected to varying degrees with steroids.

What is a voter -- members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America with at least 10 consecutive years of service -- to do? Place check marks next to each of those players' names based solely on their performance between the lines? Leave them out altogether
based on the Hall's explicit instructions that voters are to consider "the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played" when filling out their ballots?

What's the right thing to do? Does the fact that some of these players would have produced Hall of Fame caliber stats even without the use of PEDs make a difference? Does the fact it's becoming more and more clear just how many of their peers also were using PEDs?

Or does the fact these players knowingly and purposely broke MLB rules -- yes, steroids have been banned by MLB since 1991, even though there was no testing or punishment for use until 2002 -- and U.S. law supersede whatever they accomplished on the field?

There's no right answer, and the wide variety of explanations that have already been put forth by my fellow BBWAA members only underscore that point. Some decided not to include anyone on this year's ballot. Some decided to vote for the maximum 10 players allowed, steroid users or not. Most fall somewhere between those two extremes, and that's exactly where I fell.

After much research, consultation with other writers, current and former players and plenty of soul-searching, I came to the following conclusion: I won't vote for any players for whom there is actual evidence of PED use. For now. I may very well change my mind in future years, as we continue to develop a better grasp for this difficult subject.

Now, "actual evidence" varies among these players. Rafael Palmeiro failed an MLB-issued drug test. Mark McGwire publicly admitted taking steroids and HGH. Bonds admitted to a grand jury he took PEDs (though he claims he didn't know they were PEDs at the time). Clemens may have been found not guilty of lying to Congress by a federal jury, but he was named 82 times in the Mitchell Report and was named by former trainer Brian McNamee and two former teammates as a PED user. Sosa, according to a comprehensive New York Times investigation, tested positive for a PED in 2003.

On the other hand, there is no actual evidence to date implicating Piazza or Jeff Bagwell, only whispers and speculation in some corners of the baseball world that either slugger could have been juiced. Is that enough to keep them out of the Hall of Fame? Some voters say yes. I say no.

Again, there's no right answer.

And that only covers the potential PED users. We haven't even begun talking about the old-fashioned borderline cases that also dotted this year's ballot, players who put forth stellar careers worthy of Cooperstown consideration but not in every case worthy of actual induction. Craig Biggio. Edgar Martinez. Fred McGriff. Jack Morris. Tim Raines. Curt Schilling. Lee Smith. Larry Walker.

In the end, the 569 BBWAA members who submitted ballots this year deemed none of them worthy of induction. Yup, not one of the 37 players listed for our consideration crossed the necessary 75 percent vote threshold, the eighth time that's ever happened and the first time it's happened since 1996.

I can assure you that's not an outcome the overwhelming majority of my colleagues wanted. And I can only hope it doesn't happen again anytime soon, that those who came oh-so-close to induction this year will gain enough votes to make it next year, along with three first-time candidates who should have no trouble getting in: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

I certainly hoped at least one of the six men I voted for would garner enough support for induction, but alas I'll have to take up their cause again next year.

Until then, here is my complete ballot and explanation for why I voted or didn't vote for each candidate...

Though he didn't sustain the kind of dominant career that got his brother, Roberto, elected to the Hall of Fame two years ago, Sandy was no slouch behind the plate. A six-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year winner in 1990, he enjoyed his best success with the Indians in the mid-90s, including a fantastic 1997 season in which he hit .324 with 21 homers and a .900 OPS.

This is the third year Bagwell has been on the ballot, it's the third year I've voted for him and I'm hopeful his tally continues to climb toward the magic 75 percent threshold. (He received 42 percent in 2011, 56 percent in 2012 and 59.6 percent this year.) On performance alone, he should be close to a slam-dunk candidate. He's one of only 10 players in history with 400 homers, 400 doubles and 200 stolen bases. He ranks 22nd all-time with a .948 OPS (better than Mel Ott, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Schmidt, among others). He had a better career slugging percentage (.540) than Duke Snider, Chipper Jones, Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey, among others. He ranks second all-time in assists by a first baseman. So the only real justification for keeping him off a ballot is because of his connection to steroids. Except there is no actual, published connection, only speculation and whispers. Is it possible Bagwell took PEDs during his career? Sure. But until someone produces some actual evidence of it, I can't in good conscience leave him off my ballot.

There are some voters out there who don't believe Biggio has a strong enough case for Cooperstown. To them, I ask a simple question: Have you actually examined his case? Because it's pretty air-tight, as far as I'm concerned. How about 3,060 hits, 21st all-time? How about 1,844 runs scored, 15th all-time? How about 668 doubles, fifth-most in baseball history? How about 414 stolen bases, making him one of only seven players ever with at least 3,000 hits and 400 steals? How about the fact he produced more extra-base hits in his career (1,014) than Rogers Hornsby, Ernie Banks, Honus Wager, Al Kaline and Mickey Mantle? How about the fact he played three distinctly different and difficult positions in the big leagues: catcher, second base and center field? And, just for good measure, how about the fact he always conducted himself with class and dignity, winning the Roberto Clemente Award in 2007 for his community service? The Hall of Fame was made for guys like Craig Biggio, and I certainly hope he gets through the door someday soon. He came closest of anyone this year at 68.2 percent.

It's kind of pointless to run through his career numbers, because there isn't a man, woman or child on this planet who wouldn't deem them above and beyond the minimum requirement for induction. But for posterity's sake, let's not lose sight of the fact this man hit more home runs (762) and drew more walks (2,558) than anyone in baseball history, ranks third all-time in runs scored (2,227), fourth all-time in RBI (1,996), total bases (5,976) and OPS (1.051) and sixth all-time in on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.607). He won a record seven NL MVP awards, including four in a row. He won two batting titles, eight Gold Gloves and 12 Silver Sluggers. Above all else, he perfected the art of hitting a baseball unlike perhaps anyone in the history of the sport, certainly unlike anyone since Ted Williams. But the best seasons of his career came while he was taking PEDs. Of that there is no doubt. The shame, of course, is that Bonds was already a Hall of Fame caliber player before he is believed to have begun taking PEDs. That doesn't, however, make his choice right. And -- in my opinion -- that doesn't absolve him from meeting the Hall's "character clause." The vast majority of voters shared my opinion, resulting in Bonds receiving only 36.2 percent of the vote.

You may be surprised to learn he boasted a career .296 batting average and actually put forth four or five seasons that at least merit Cooperstown consideration (1996, 1998-2001). But that's still not nearly enough to put him in the serious discussion for this honor.

The Nationals' starting shortstop through the first half of the 2006 season -- before he was part of the eight-player trade with the Reds that brought the illustrious Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to Washington -- he was a solid defensive shortstop who managed only a .258 career batting average and paltry .679 career OPS.

Like Bonds, there's no debating his statistical merits. Seven Cy Young Awards. Seven ERA titles. Five strikeout titles. Three hundred fifty-four wins, ninth all-time. Four thousand six hundred seventy-two strikeouts, third all-time. A 3.12 ERA that ranked third among all pitchers during his career (behind only Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux). But like Bonds, the latter half of his career during which he compiled many of those records was marred by PED use. There will be those who say there's no proof he took drugs, especially after that federal jury found him not guilty of lying to Congress. The accounts of Brian McNamee, Andy Pettitte and Jason Grimsley suggest otherwise. And I don't question the validity of their accounts, or of the material gathered by George Mitchell in his exhaustive 2007 report on PED use in baseball. Perhaps I'll change my mind about the Rocket some day. But not today. Like Bonds, Clemens came nowhere close to induction today, receiving 37.6 percent of the vote.

I had the distinct pleasure of covering Conine for two seasons in Baltimore, and I mean it when I say distinct pleasure. He's one of the nicest ballplayers I've ever encountered, and he was beloved by teammates. He was also a pretty darn good ballplayer who hit .285 for his career but saved his best work for the postseason, when he hit .304 and twice led the Marlins to World Series titles.

One of the best center fielders of his time, Finley won five Gold Gloves in his career. He also turned into a potent power hitter late in his career with the Padres and Diamondbacks and hit .365 with nine RBI during Arizona's 2001 World Series run.

Let's stop and appreciate the mere fact this guy played 23 seasons in the big leagues, straight through age 48. That's absolutely remarkable, though it does probably cloud his career achievements. Though he'll most likely be remembered for his longevity, Franco was a career .298 hitter and a truly great player early on with the Indians and Rangers before he decided to just keep playing and playing and playing until nobody would offer him a contract anymore.

During a tremendous five-year peak from 1998-2002, Green averaged 38 homers and 112 RBI. That wasn't enough peak, however, to merit serious Cooperstown consideration.

You may remember that he made 1,010 career appearances (10th most in baseball history) and saved 326 games. You may not remember that he also blew 94 career saves, not an especially impressive rate of success.

The slugger had a nice peak from 1996-2002 in which he averaged 26 homers and 90 RBI. His .871 OPS, however, ranked only 50th among all qualifying players during his career, behind such luminaries as Dante Bichette and Ray Lankford.

Here's a player who probably doesn't get enough credit for being as good as he was. Lofton absolutely was a complete player for a long time, owner of a career .299 batting average and .372 on-base percentage, not to mention 622 stolen bases (15th all-time). Don't be fooled by that last stat, though, because Lofton was successful on less than 80 percent of his career stolen base attempts, ranking 59th all-time. Still, this is a player who probably deserved a higher percentage of the votes than he received.

I agonize over his candidacy every year, I really do. He's got a lot going for him. A whole lot. The man did, after all, hit .312 for his career, with a stellar .418 on-base percentage. And he produced probably eight great seasons, two of which resulted in AL batting titles. But I still can't get over my two biggest hang-ups with Martinez: 1) He was such a late bloomer that his career totals (2,247 hits, 309 home runs) don't quite stack up with the true greats, and 2) He spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, meaning there's nothing to judge him on outside of his offensive performance. His offensive performance was really, really good, to be sure. But enough to overcome the fact he was a true one-dimensional player? Not quite, in my opinion.

There may not have been a better all-around player in the game from 1984-89 than Donny Baseball. But he simply couldn't sustain that level of play for any more than those six fantastic seasons. And I believe you need more than a six-year career to merit a place among the immortals.

The Crime Dog was the consummate professional, a steady-as-she-goes slugger who consistently put up big numbers throughout his career. So, shouldn't that put him in the conversation? Well, not quite. His just wasn't a career of dominance, as evidenced by the fact he never finished higher than fourth in MVP voting, not to mention ranked 31st among all players during his career in slugging percentage (behind Klesko and Green).

There is no debating McGwire's importance in baseball history. Along with Cal Ripken Jr. and Sammy Sosa, he helped bring the sport back to a fan base that threatened to leave forever following the 1994 strike. His breaking of the single-season home run record in 1998 captivated the entire nation. That it turns out he did so while (he later confessed) taking steroids was heartbreaking to millions of fans who wanted to believe his record was pure. McGwire has paid the price for his mistake, and it doesn't appear he'll ever come close to the 75 percent threshold. After holding firm in the low-20 percent range in recent years, he fell to 16.9 percent this year.

One of several high-wire-act closers of the 1990s, Mesa did save 321 games in his career, good for 14th on the all-time list. But he never once led his league in that category, and in fact he only finished runner-up twice.

Morris has his supporters, plenty of them, who have for 14 years insisted he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Trouble is, their case for him just ignores way too many detracting facts. Yes, he won more games than anyone in the 1980s. But did you know he ranked 43rd among all big-league pitchers with at least 1,000 innings during that decade in ERA (behind Pascual Perez, Danny Darwin and Scott Sanderson)? Did you know his ERA was worse than the league average in nine of his 17 full seasons in the majors? And about that argument that he was the ace of three World Series champions ... well, yes, that's factually correct. But it also glosses over the fact he owned a 7-4 record and 3.80 ERA in 13 career postseason starts. Only eight of those 13 starts, by the way, were "quality starts." And only three of those 13 starts were dominant outings in which he surrendered zero or one earned run. Yes, he pitched perhaps the greatest game in World Series history, and he's rightfully celebrated for it. But his overall case -- both regular season and postseason -- simply doesn't stack up with the all-time greats. Morris will get one more crack at it next year, hoping to move up from 67.7 percent to the 75 percent threshold.

For a six-year stretch in the 1980s, Murphy was among the very best players in the NL, a two-time MVP and home run title winner. But his dominant period abruptly ended after age 31, and his final batting average of .265 leaves plenty to be desired. It should be noted that there have been fewer men in baseball history who displayed better character on and off the field, and Murphy should be resoundingly applauded for that. But that alone isn't enough to get him into Cooperstown. The playing performance just doesn't quite meet the standard.

I didn't vote for Raffy either of the last two years -- based on the fact he failed an MLB-issued drug test in 2005 -- and nothing has changed since to convince me to change my mind. Palmeiro has insisted all along he never knowingly took anything and that the shot of B-12 he claims was given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada was tainted, but he's never been able (or willing) to tell his full story in public and make a compelling case for himself. So based on the information we have at this point, I'm not comfortable voting for him.

There has been no more productive offensive catcher in baseball history than Piazza, who hit more homers and posted a better slugging percentage and OPS than anyone who has ever strapped on the tools of ignorance. A 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger with a career .308 batting average, his credentials are impeccable. Was he a defensive liability behind the plate? His throwing stats are atrocious, but those who pitched to him insist he was a fantastic game-caller. Regardless, the offensive numbers far outweigh what he lacked in defensive skills. Now, what about his potential PED use? Like Bagwell, it's all speculation and whispers, with no actual evidence or formal accusation ever levied against him. There is one notable difference with Piazza: He admitted to briefly using androstendione early in his career. Though andro is now banned by MLB, it was not at the time. So I can't in good conscious withhold my vote for something he was allowed to do both by MLB rules and U.S. laws. Is it possible Piazza took banned PEDs later in his career? Absolutely. But until someone provides actual evidence of such use, he gets my vote. A majority of voters felt the same way, giving him 57.8 percent of the vote.

There are two seemingly borderline candidates who have become my two pet projects, and by sheer coincidence each played a good portion of his career in Montreal for the franchise that has since moved to Washington. Raines may very well be the most under-appreciated ballplayer in history, legitimately one of the best players of his era and among the very best leadoff hitters ever. No, he wasn't Rickey Henderson, but who else was? He was only a notch below that greatest of the great leadoff men, and here are the numbers to back it up. Career on-base percentage: .385. He won a batting title and led his league in OBP, doubles and runs scored while leading the league in stolen bases four times. He is fourth all-time with 808 steals, but more importantly is No. 1 all-time with an 85 percent success rate on stolen base attempts. Let me repeat that: Raines is the most successful basestealer in baseball history. And now for my absolute favorite stat: Tim Raines reached base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn. Let me repeat that: Tim Raines reached base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn (in almost an identical number of plate appearances, by the way). There is one red flag involving drugs: Raines was admittedly a cocaine addict early in his career and was in rehab in 1982 for his addiction. Some will say that should preclude him from Cooperstown because he fails the character test. Here's why I don't agree with that line of thinking: There is nothing to suggest Raines took cocaine in an attempt to enhance his playing performance. If anything, he has since said he believes his drug use actually hindered his playing performance. Look, there have been plenty of less-than-reputable characters in baseball history, many of them already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. I don't believe the doors to the Hall should only be opened for saints. I just believe they shouldn't be opened for those who knowingly broke the rules of the sport and U.S. law in an attempt to enhance their personal careers. Best as I can tell, Raines didn't do that.

Sanders' career numbers -- .267 average, 305 homers, .830 OPS -- really weren't anything special. But this guy did put together a very nice career, highlighted by the fact he somehow always found himself playing for winners. He remarkably made the postseason six times with five different franchises.

Say what you want about the guy -- and there's plenty you can say -- but he was one of the best pitchers of his time and legitimately one of the best pitchers in baseball history. No, his 216-143 record doesn't stand out. But his 3.46 ERA (while a tad higher than most of the great pitchers of previous generations) was among the best of his generation. Schilling's only contemporaries with better ERAs: Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Kevin Brown and Roger Clemens. Only Martinez, Johnson and Greg Maddux bested Schilling's 1.137 WHIP. And only Johnson and Martinez struck out more batters per nine innings. There are two areas in which Schilling truly stands out above everyone else. His 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks second in the history of baseball, behind only Tommy Bond (best known for his pitching prowess in the 1870s with the Worcester Ruby Legs). And then there's Schilling's postseason record, a phenomenal 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. Fifteen of his 19 career postseason starts were quality starts. He surrendered zero or one earned run in an astounding 12 of those 19 October starts. People try to compare Schilling to Jack Morris, but compare the postseason numbers between the two There is no comparison. Both had reputations as "big game pitchers." Schilling truly deserves the reputation. And he gets my Hall of Fame vote.

A 4.61 career ERA? And he's on the Hall of Fame ballot? Uh, sorry, but I don't get this one.

One of the great closers of a previous generation, Smith has a good number of supporters and perhaps will reach the magic 75 percent threshold some day. But he doesn't make the cut for me. Though he once held the career saves record, he wasn't nearly as effective closing out games as the very best closers of the last three decades. Smith's career save rate: 82 percent. That's worse than Armando Benitez and Jason Isringhausen.

Some say he wouldn't be Hall-of-Fame worthy regardless of his steroids connection, that his complete record isn't strong enough. I disagree. The guy does rank eighth all-time with 609 home runs, 27th all-time with 1,667 RBI, was a seven-time All-Star and seven-time Top-10 finisher in MVP voting. So I do believe his numbers are good enough. But that's not good enough to get my vote. Sosa was one of 104 players who tested positive for PEDs in MLB's anonymous 2003 drug program, according to a 2009 New York Times report whose accuracy has never been questioned. So Slammy Sammy doesn't get my vote, and he barely got any at all, tallying a disappointing 12.5 percent.

A member of the 2005 and 2006 Nationals (who famously balked in a game-winning run in before ever throwing his first pitch in a Washington uniform), Stanton ranks second only to Jesse Orosco with 1,178 career appearances. He wasn't a dominant reliever, but he did fashion a mighty impressive and lengthy career. He also was named in the Mitchell Report as one of Kirk Radomski's HGH customers.

Trammell was a fine, all-around shortstop who produced a career that absolutely is worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. In the end, though, I don't agree with a number of my colleagues who give him their annual vote. During his career, Trammell ranked 47th in the majors in batting average (behind Johnny Ray and Steve Sax), 58th in OBP (behind Bill Doran and Rance Mulliniks) and 98th in slugging (behind Von Hayes and Roy Smalley). He just doesn't quite make the cut.

Here's Pet Project No. 2 of mine, second only to Raines. I'm not sure people out there truly appreciate just how great a player Walker was. A complete player, dating all the way back to his Montreal days when he possessed all five tools. He ranks 13th in baseball history with a .565 slugging percentage (better than some guys named Alex Rodriguez, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron). He ranks 16th all-time with a .965 OPS (better than Mays, Aaron, Rodriguez and Frank Robinson). He produced more extra-base hits in his career than Joe DiMaggio, Duke Snider and Roberto Clemente. Over the 13 best years of his career, Walker had a higher batting average, OBP and OPS than A-Rod did over his best 13 years. Think about that for a moment. Now, Walker is penalized because he played parts of 10 seasons in the thin Colorado air, where he posted ridiculously good offensive numbers. Fine. But if you're going to penalize him for taking advantage of Coors Field, you also have to penalize Ted Williams for taking advantage of Fenway Park, Babe Ruth for taking advantage of Yankee Stadium's short right field porch and Sandy Koufax for taking advantage of Dodger Stadium's spacious outfield and thick marine air. That doesn't seem fair, does it? Besides, Walker's Hall of Fame case extends beyond his Rockies tenure. Did you know his slugging percentage during his final four seasons in Montreal (not exactly a hitter's haven) was .501? That's better than the career slugging percentages of Ernie Banks, Reggie Jackson, George Brett, Al Kaline and Eddie Murray.

In 12 seasons with seven different clubs, he hit .289. He had a very nice postseason for the Red Sox in 2003 (five homers in 12 games). And he owns the 81st-best fielding percentage all-time among second basemen. Sorry, that's all I could come up with.

Here's perhaps the best evidence ever that a pitcher's won-loss record needs to be taken with a grain of salt: Wells was 239-157 in his career, an impressive .604 winning percentage. Wow, doesn't that make him Cooperstown worthy? Um, no, not when you realize his career ERA was 4.13. Talk about benefiting from pitching on some really good teams over the years.

Little known fact: He was a 2003 All-Star with the Padres ... who was subsequently traded to the Royals later that summer. Sorry, that's all I could come up with.

A key member of four Yankees clubs that won the World Series, he was a fantastic, all-around center fielder. Who still had a worse batting average than Jeff Cirillo and Frank Catalanotto, a worse OBP than Chili Davis and Jason Kendall and a worse slugging percentage than Trot Nixon and Rusty Greer.

Little known fact: His real name is Gregory Scott Williams. More pertinent fact: His career ERA was 4.19.


The Pig Skin Jew said...

Mark, keeping Piazza out is an absolute joke. Zero proof, and he rewrote the record books for Catchers. Complete and utter crap by the BBWA.

MicheleS said...

Glad you took a long well reasoned approach to this. Couldn't have been easy. I only have a few quibbles (I Love me some Edgar, but that's just me)

Can't believe that Piazza didn't get in or the Killer B's

Faraz Shaikh said...

Mark does have him on his ballot? or were you talking about others in BBWAA?

anyways, nice to know Mark left out users their first time around.

JD said...


I agree 100% on Raines; in fact it's a travesty that Raines is out and Dawson is in. Raines is much the better player. I haven't given Walker much thought and he had some of his best years in Denver which will hurt his cause but I'm not quite sure he is a hall of famer.

I also agree 100% on Piazza and Bagwell because if innuendo is the criteria then we may as well ban any one who has played in this era from the HOF.

MicheleS said...

Faraz.. refering to the others in BBWAA about Piazza/KillerB's

Doc said...

Thanks for a really comprehensive review, Mark.

Thanks also for your continuing vote on Raines. BBWAA voter Bill Madden,on MLB Networwork, said he 'wasn't ready' to vote for Raines, in spite of all and stats that you quoted above, and in spite of being the 8th rated LF in baseball history.

Until voting formats for our HOF are revised, ignorant blow-hards like Madden will continue to sully the validity of the process.

JD said...


I think that known, proven or admitted cheaters should be legitimately excluded. I think that league and the players union has done a disservice to all the clean players by not publishing the entire list of the players who failed the drug tests.

Anyone who claims to have always been clean and about whom there is zero evidence to suggest otherwise should be considered clean by everyone. This is the standard we should be living by. no?

Feel Wood said...

Lord knows there are a whole lot of Hall of Fame voters plenty smarter than me who have spent days, weeks and months trying to find the right answer to this problem and have been unsuccessful. How am I to believe I'm capable of solving what they have not?

If this is what you really believe, you should have been one of those guys who decided not to cast a ballot at all.

MikeinDC said...

I like that you are brave enough to put this out there. Most writers aren't. So thanks.

But I'll take Murphy and Mattingly over Raines and Walker any and every time.

MicheleS said...

I want to know who voted for Aaron Sele?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed, reasoned explanation.

My own preference would be to take moral judgments out of the equation -- not the task put to the voters, I understand -- and enshrine the likes of Bonds and Clemens (and even Pete Rose) and let history judge them including their warts (or roid-induced back zits). I don't say this to condone cheating, but baseball's history (and the Hall) is chock-full of folks who aren't making anyone's sainthood list and I have a hard time saying that Barry Bonds competing against a significantly juiced population of players is less worthy than generations of players before him who abused amphetamines, used spitballs, etc.

I appreciate the distinction you drew, Mark, but to me, I'm not sure that rewarding lying about past use or being better or luckier at alluding the testers is the right basis to distinguish between players. I'd put them in with the verbal equivalent of an asterisk on their plaques and let history judge them as it will.

JD said...


I used to have a partial season ticket at the big O and I saw Raines, Dawson,Carter etc play hundreds of times. There is no question in my mind that Raines was a far superior player to the Hawk and it's not even close. I think that if Raines had spent most of his career somewhere other than Montreal he would have gotten in. Dawson had several monster years for the Cubs which put his name on the map but his overall career numbers are not HOF worthy (lowest OBP in the hall).

Anonymous said...

All in all--no problem with your position here except on Edgar Martinez and Lee Smith. These were two professionals who were the best (and for Edgar, best ever) at their position. If they aren't judged in context of their role and how important their role--whether it's only as an offensive player or a defensive necessity, then you're not judging the game for all the elements it contains. It reminds me of the debate Chris Kluwe has stirred up regarding the NFL Hall of Fame and the lack of a single punter amongst the honorees. All players should be recognized and rewarded for the job they do at the position they play. Ergo, the case for voting Edgar Martinez and Lee Smith in should be obvious and acted on.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Got it Michele.

JD, I agree with you on users. The trouble is with players like Bonds and Clemens who were talented before they cheated. Then it gets into when they started and when they were clean? no one knows that. fans are also kind of responsible for this since they appreciated likes of Sosa and McGwire for hitting HRs more than someone like Bonds who might have played a clean game before he started juicing and hitting HRs like crazy.

Doc said...

JD, thanks for your comments on Raines.

I saw a few games at the Big O, probably far fewer than yourself.

Your comments bring back found memories of Raines, Carter, Dawson--and a bunch of other guys.

jeff550 said...

Cant say I have any problems with your ballot, Mark. I think with the sterioid users, every voter should either consider them like any other player, or not vote for them. Anyone who has no proof of steriod use should not be kept out of the Hall baseed on someones gut feeling. Inocent until proven Guilty.

DL in VA said...

Mark, you say yes to Piazza, but no to Edgar. I think that should be yes for both. Your reason for saying no to Edgar is that he was a DH. But I can't help but note that in your blurbs about the 37 players on the ballot, you only mentioned defense twice (unless I missed it somewhere) and those two times were about Edgar and Piazza!

A catcher is on the field for his defensive abilities, so much that being an offensive liability is somewhat ignored. Piazza was a catcher that should have been a first baseman because he couldn't catch. His defense was poor.

Edgar, on the other hand, was not a defensive liability at all because he didn't play defense.

If you (collectively) hold Edgar out of the hall because the position he played did not showcase defense, doesn't it stand to reason that players who did not perform their defensive duties at at least an average level should not be considered also?

PIngrassia said...

Agree on Piazza 100% -- he'll get in, but I just think a bunch of guys didn't want him in on the first ballot.

I appreciate the arugment on Morris, but as a Twins fan who remembers 1991 -- and the 80s when he was one of the best pitchers in AL -- I think he should get in. Like Blyleven, it could be his last year of eligibility to make it.

Section 222 said...

Fantastic and fascinating post Mark. Thank you. Your rationale on steroid use is consistent and fair. And I agree with both of your "projects."

Another point in Larry Walker's favor -- that blooper play where he caught a foul popup down the right field line, forgot there were only two outs, handed the ball to a fan, started to jog to the dugout, and then ran back and retrieved the ball from the fan when he realized his mistake. Classic.

Keith Olbermann had a good post last night about the complicity of reporters and fans in the steriod era. Worth a read.

Personally, I hope the 'roid users never get in. No one's going to forget the achievements of Bonds and Clements if they don't make it into the Hall. Recognize them, if you must, with a special exhibit about those sorry years -- when a sublime game was transformed into a home run derby. And let's be glad that the days of baseball being played by unnaturally musclebound monsters is over.

Don said...

There is no right answer, and I understand not voting for guys implicated -- but don't be naive, you likely have already voted for guys in the HOF who were PED users, and a bunch of them.

There simply was NO negative moral stigma attached to using PEDs for well more than a decade, not by players, management or the beat writers who saw it happening, so I think it is hard to apply one now.

Players could buy the stuff over the counter legally all over Latin America. They bought the stuff without presciption from trainers using personal checks, or simply asked their docs to give them a 'script. Shipments came in the mail to your house. It was not such a scandalous thing. Hundreds of MLB players were using every year. It was not some sinister small group of cheaters trying to sneak some secret by the masses of clean guys in MLB, it was rampant and it was barely beyond view from anyone paying attention.

Think about it: Nolan Ryan (no-no at 44 as he rings up 99 on the gun, and his team of Kevin Brown, Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco, Pudge, Julio Franco and others mob him), Dennis Eckersley (finds his game and the fountain of youth as he arrives in Oakland in the late 80's), Rickey Henderson (the ageless speedster), Kirby Puckett, Robbie Alomar, the much hallowed Cal Ripken (he goes from 185 lbs at age 29 to 240 at age 31 with a wildy skewed MVP stat year in 1991 in between, and the 96 O's had more juicers than I can count -- does anyone think that the trainers wanted to be sure Cal did not get the stuff that made you as good as you could be? that helped you recover, play harder, get paid more?), Wade Boggs (he'd cheat to win tic tac toe against a preschooler), Randy Johnson (most 6'10" guys have trouble adding noticeable muscle, not Randy), Pudge Fisk, Andre Dawson (blasts 40+ HRs out of the blue after averaging about 22 for years), Paul Molitor (hits .340 when he's well over 40), etc. Maybe not all of those guys used, maybe most just had natural longevity and good fortune to have great success late in their careers and maybe only a couple used, but it is exceptionally unlikely that in an era where it was not frowned-upon by virtually anyone (I loved the arguments back in the day that steroids might be in baseball but it did not matter much b/c they don't help a guy hit a round ball with a round bat squareley and such -- nonsense), were readily available and effective, and were not against the rules (greenies were illegal too but players chewed them like Hubba Bubba every day anyway) -- so why would those HOF players -- with fame and fortune and World Series rings on the line -- NOT be using PEDs?

The steroid era is what it is and the best players from that era are who they are. If I had a vote, though I hate Clemens, Bonds is no prince and Sammy was juicing too, but they all deserve to be in the HOF -- they were the best of their era and they played by the contstraints and norms of players in the game in that era. I don;t know -- if we don't have something like lie detector tests and complete medical histories for every current HOF player and every candidate, then maybe no one should get in? This is tough stuff.

sm13 said...

Excellent, well tbought out ballot, Mark. I would add Edgar Martnez to your list, as he redefined the DH position.

I am very disappointed that Piazza fod not get in. He was the best offensive catchers and one of the best offensive players period for a decade or more. He deserves better.

Anonymous said...

Mark, you did a great job this year. One of the best ballots I've seen. And more importantly, you explained each and every decision thoughtfully. I wish more of your peers took after you in this respect.

Eugene in Oregon said...

An excellent, exemplary ballot with well-reasoned rationale for both your yeas and nays.

Anonymous said...

Don said...

"There simply was NO negative moral stigma attached to using PEDs for well more than a decade, not by players, management or the beat writers who saw it happening, so I think it is hard to apply one now."

Disagree 100%. If there was no negative moral stigma, why was it hidden from the public so adamantly? Why didn't anyone use openly? If there's no reason for shame, there's no reason for secrets.

The Fox said...


Thank you for making your vote public. I think all the people who vote should have to do this.
If you have any thoughts on making the vote public I'd like to hear them.

The only reason Biggio and probably Piazza didn't make it in this year was because some of the people who vote think it is an extra honor to be voted in on the first year of eligibility. I think both will make the HOF and Biggio will next year for sure.

Using the no PED premise I agree with all your selections although I'm on the fence with Schilling mostly because he wasted the early part of his career before he cared.

I also think Trammell should get in because he was part of the longest double combination in MLB history, and best combo of their generation with Whitaker. I can't think about one of those players without thinking about the other.

Tim Thorsen said...

Bravo on Tim Raines.

Tcostant said...

Biggio and Piazza not getting seem unfair.

Does anyone know how many "blank" ballots were subbitted?

Don said...

Bowdenball. Do you think that among the players, team management or the writers their was anyone crying foul back in 1993 or whenever? More than half of the guys on every club were using roids or HGh by the mid 90s. Scores and scores more in the minors. It was not something that your teammates or your club would be upset about. It just wasn't.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Tcostant, here are some of those ballots.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks, Mark, for once again providing us with a window on your thinking and reasoned approach.

JayB said...
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JayB said...
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peric said...

Tim Raines must have spent some time with Dexter Manley.

peric said...

Of course when Dexter did it he got caught and ended up permanently expelled from professional football.

Mark, not sure your reasoning applies with Raines given the history of sports in this town as opposed to Montreal. Then there is winning versus losing. That didn't happen for Raines until he left Montreal and ended up with the evil empire, the Yankees. And that was at the end of his career.

baseballswami said...

Questions - are there always the same amount of names on the ballot? If there are lots of good players, doesn't that dilute the percentage each one gets? Do you have a certain number you can vote for or could you vote for them all? I think this result is interesting for sure, but I am kind of sick of the debate at this point. The writers that vote know a lot about the game, there is a character clause, they each make their own decision and vote and then that's it. Weird year.

Anonymous said...


I don't know, because I wasn't in the clubhouse. I do agree with your basic point that it apparently wasn't condemned strongly and forcefully by MLB, the clubs or the media. I just disagree with your statement that there was NO negative moral stigma. I think there was, and the constant effort to keep usage under wraps proves it.

If I had a ballot it would look exactly like Mark's, plus Bonds and Clemens. But I think it's acceptable to disagree there. The character and integrity language leaves room for these kind of subjective considerations, so long as you provide reasonable support for your position. On the other handm, eliminating someone like Bagwell because of his physique or Piazza because of bacne is inexcusable in my book.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate reading your detailed reasoning, Mark, although the cherry-picking of stats to form favorable comparisons with legends like Aaron, Mays, Frank Robinson and Clemente (all of whom I saw play) does not persuade me that Larry Walker belongs in their company.

Only Biggio would have gotten my vote this time around. Some of the others are probably deserving in future years.

Don said...

JayB -- I hate me some Roger Clemens. There is no athlete alive that I can say I dislike more than that guy. But I would vote him in.

Zuck -- on Bagwell, you vote for him saying it would not be fair to not do so on the steroid whispers unless evidence was presented -- how much evidence does it take? That is where it gets hard to apply the bright line test.

After poiting out some pics of a skinny kid Bagwell as a 1991 prospect and a mid-career Bagwell looking like the fullback for the Bears and noting Bagwell played with dozens of PED implicated guys and that if he never used he also never spoke out about roids being a problem in the game when he was actually playing, Jeff Pearlman's take on Bagwell is as follows:

"Statistically, Jeff Bagwell is a Hall of Famer. And, on a personal note, he was always an approachable and nice guy. But, dammit, thanks to baseball’s meekness (for lack of a better word), Hall of Fame voters (I’m not one, for the record) have the right to suspect anyone and everyone from the past era. They have the right to view muscles suspiciously; to question a guy putting up six-straight 100-plus RBI seasons in the heat of PED Madness; to wonder why—when, oh, 75 percent of players were using–one extremely succesful, extemely large, extremely muscular man wouldn’t."

Sam said...

I agree about 95% with this ballot. And I am especially happy that Raines received a YES from Mark. Very cool.

IKN8wxU2 said...

Not having to do with the Hall, but back to trades involving Morse. How about trading him to the Yankees for Rafael Soriano? The Yankees don't seem to want him back, but it doesn't seem like anyone wants to sign him and give up the first round pick.

This would require the Nats to reach a deal with Soriano. It also likely would require approval of MLB, since the Yankees would have to sign Soriano and then trade him to the Nats,and I don't know if that works under the collective bargaining agreement. I think Boras is Soriano's agent, FWIW.

waddu eye no said...

i'd vote for mark.

Don said...

Soriano is a FA.

Water23 said...

I like that Mark is a homer and championing two former Expos (Raines and Walker).

JD said...


I have no doubt that Clemens and Bonds would have been 1st ballot hall of famers if they had never touched the PEDs. They were both greedy and wanted to surpass anything ever accomplished as well as extend their ability to get multi million dollar contracts.

To me there is a price to pay for cheating and Baseball writers have every right to administer the punishment. I don't agree with writers taking leaps of faith in trying to deduce who cheated and who didn't and I also don't agree with the assertion that everyone must have cheated.

I think it would be beneficial to everyone but the cheaters if the 'sealed' list became public especially since so much of it has leaked out in any event.

sjm308 said...

This made for entertaining reading and I don't know that I had seen a complete ballot before this. I have discussed my rationale before and also enjoyed reading Don's thoughts which were well thought out.

My ballot would have included
Bagwell-Bonds-Clemens-McGwire-Morris & Piazza (not that anyone cares)

Was discussing LaRoche and other things "national" with a friend over lunch, especially what Morse's fate will be. I like pretty much all of our lads and thought Bernadina found a great role for himself last year. My new question is: who will he honestly replace in the late innings for defensive reason? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep Morse than Bernadina. Obviously I am still not giving up my fight.

Thanks again Mark for your detailed ballot.

Go Nats!!

Feel Wood said...

Looks like Adam LaRoche himself is as seriously out of touch with reality as sjm308.

"Regardless of external factors that may have hurt his market, LaRoche says that he's glad to be back in D.C on a two-year deal with a mutual option for 2015. However, his return means that Mike Morse won't be starting at first and he doesn't figure to have another place to start with the three outfield positions also filled. LaRoche knows that Morse could potentially be moved for impact pieces, giving him a chance to thrive elsewhere, but he "selfishly" hopes that Morse remains in Washington."

Candide said...

A couple of things:

As someone else pointed out, I find the cherry-picking of stats unpersuasive. Reminds me of those car commercials that say, "better gas mileage than Toyota Camry, more trunk space than Honda Accord or BMW 535, more horsepower than Nissan Altima." Leaves out the fact that the car they're touting doesn't win EVERY category going head-to-head against any car - better mileage than the Camry, okay, but why don't you tell us how it does against Honda and Nissan?

Taken to its extremes, you could say, "Hit more home runs than Whitey Ford, played better outfield than Ted Williams, got caught stealing less than Yogi Berra. All may be true, but those aren't the reasons those guys are in the HoF. Bill James pointed all this out in his famous Ken Keltner essay.

Point 2: It seems, from what you've written, that a player's character and integrity - or lack thereof - can only hurt his chances. Bonds and Clemens are out because they were dishonest and they were jerks. But - and maybe I missed it - I don't see anything saying you voted FOR a guy because he was a great clubhouse presence and was a Cal Ripken-like exemplar of the game - always there for fan autographs, never ripping ownership, management, fellow players, Bud Selig, or MASN. Is that a fair assessment - that character and integrity are factors that can only hurt your chances?

sjm308 said...

See Feel, support for my thoughts are growing!!
Thanks for that quote.

There are lots of great memories from last year but one of my finest is how much these guys honestly seemed to enjoy each other. Just one of Davey's bullet points when he sits down with Morse to convince him to help us on our march to the World Series.

sjm308 said...

Don: your lengthy post at 2:32 included lots of food for thought. One comment mentioned Cal Ripken and this is not the first time I have seen this. One of his closest friends - Brady Anderson. Body size - significantly changed over the years. Cal is truly a golden boy and never had any claims against him. I kind of agree with you that nothing has ever been proven but there are certainly suspicions about a bunch of greats. again, it made me think so thanks for that

Theophilus T. S. said...

I disagree on Raines, Piazza and Morris. Raines I'm just not convinced about, maybe because I didn't watch him very much. I don't give him a pass for being a cokehead while he was playing baseball. I.e., as such he was giving his team and teammates less than they were entitled to expect, and that screws the pooch as far as I'm concerned. Besides that, and entirely subjectively, I think Raines is hurt among some HOF voters by the extended streak of mediocrity at the end of his career; it's hard to get that out of your mind.

Piazza hit a ton. I don't know what pitchers thought of him. Defensively, he was Edgar Martinez w/ a chest protector, if that. If you're gonna ding Edgar for lack of all-around credentials Piazza is practically in the same boat. (Alan Trammell, who you dissed, played four more years and had twenty more hits. And E. Martinez had 100 more hits in less time. No offense Mark but those rationalizations don't float.)

Jack Morris was the "money" pitcher of the '80s. He pitched a gazillion innings and completed a whole bunch of games (which probably had something to do w/ his ERA because he didn't wimp out after six like pitchers are allowed/encouraged to today).

baseballswami said...

TTS-- really? Pitchers today wimp out after six? Get real. Strategies have changed. How many pitchers you see that look happy when the manager shows up to take them out? Things are managed differently now. Doesn't mean the pitchers are wimps.

Gorse Hackage, still waiting for spring said...

For a different take on the vote (and with an Expos tie-in), from Grantland.

The Fallacy of the Baseball Hall of Fame
By Jonah Keri

sometimesitrains said...

Mark -- thanks for sharing your reasoning. i completely concur wrt Biggio and Raines, and you've just about convinced me on Walker.

where we part ways, at least temporarily, is with Piazza -- and it has nothing to do with the PEDs. rather, it's that very argument i've heard for Piazza's inclusion concerns his statistics specifically *as a catcher*. and yet, he was such a liability at that position, notwithstanding your comment that some pitchers felt he pitched a good game. had Piazza been (for example) a first baseman, i don't expect he'd have been a likely candidate to be enshrined.

of course, Piazza was not a first baseman, and he in fact played catcher competently enough to allow other strong hitters (e.g., Olerud) to play first base, which unquestionably strengthened the lineup of the teams he played for. (indeed, makes me wonder whether Michael Morse could figure out how to be a minimally competent catcher.)

it's possible i'll change my mind with time, and i'm always open to be convinced otherwise. but i feel that unless and until Piazza's offensive stats are reasonably evaluated against his woeful defense, it's hard to support his enshrinement.

sometimesitrains said...

er, that should be *EVERY argument i've heard...

sometimesitrains said...

and, er, CALLED a good game. (it would be so much easier if i just did my proofreading BEFORE hitting "publish.) ;)

DWS said...

Dawson goes to Wrigley, makes the Hall. Walker goes to Coors, doesn't....yet. Having seen both at the big Owe, there is no doubt in my mind who is being ripped off by the BWAA.

Avar said...

Glad to see Mark voted no on Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and continues to vote no on McGwire. I personally don't have much respect for arguments of the ESPN types that advocate for them. They cheated, we all know it. What's there to talk about?

Couldn't agree more on Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza.

And totally agree on Larry Walker!! He was an absolute beast. I need to look at Tim Raines again, currently I'm on the fence.

Overall, love Mark's ballot, nearly identical to what mine would be.

Kyle said...

Great article! It would be great to see Bagwell and Biggio to go in together next year!!!

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