There is much hand-wringing and hair-pulling every year from the traditional journalists who make up the BBWAA and have Hall of Fame votes. Each writer takes it as seriously as they deem necessary and allow their personal biases and relationships with individuals to shape their vote. That’s all well and good. That’s always been part of the process, and for the most part, the electing media usually get it right as a group, although in certain cases it takes way too damn long (see: Blyleven, Bert).
With the heavy hitters during the “Steroid Era” now making their way onto the ballots, it causes the electorate that much more angst. But really, it’s pretty simple if you boil it down to its most elemental terms. No one — NO ONE — knows who was using and who wasn’t. It’s as simple as that. There’s only player that was on this year’s ballot that ever tested positive for a performance enhancing drug, and that was under murky circumstances at the tail end of his career. Of the thousands of players in that era (in this one too, I might add), we don’t know which ones — good, bad, or Hall-worthy — were using PEDs unless they’ve admitted to it.
That said, I then assume the playing field was even. You can’t judge the good players accused without considering the same percentage of bad/average players also on the juice.
Here, then, was my ballot to the two groups for which I submitted ballots. Please know some of this is objective, some subjective. It’s my ballot. I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions.
Jeff Bagwell: .297/.408/.540. Unique blend of power (449 HRs) and speed (202 SBs) at first base.
Barry Larkin: .295/.371/.444. Quintessential top-of-the-order hitter with excellent defense.
Mark McGwire: .263/.394/.588. 583 home runs.
Dale Murphy: .265/.346/.469. 398 homers, two-time MVP, best all-around player of the 80’s.
Rafael Palmeiro: .288/.371/.515. One of four hitters in MLB history with 500-plus homers and 3000-plus hits (Aaron, Mays, and Eddie Murray).
Tim Raines: .294/.385/.425. Dominant base-stealer with decent pop and great plate discipline.
Lee Smith: 71-92, 3.03 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 2.57 K/BB. All-time saves leader when he retired by a large margin.
Bagwell and Larkin’s careers speak for themselves. They are probably the most electable of the players on the ballot. I know Raines and Smith are niche players. I also know that they dominated their positions against others in the era. Murphy is a pet pick for me. He’ll never get elected, but was one of my favorite players as a kid and was the best player in baseball over an eight-year period. Everyone knows McGwire’s story. And call me a fool, but I buy Raffy’s story.
Just missed: Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Alan Trammell. Each of these players were excellent in their own rights, but I can’t get over the hump on them.
Not for me: Jack Morris, Don Mattingly. Morris’ 3.90 ERA can’t be explained away by “pitching to the score”. Mattingly just doesn’t have enough numbers in shortened career.
Overrated: Juan Gonzalez. Didn’t like him then, don’t like him now.
Hall of Very Good: Bernie Williams, Tim Salmon, Javy Lopez, Brad Radke, Vinny Castilla.
Why are they on the ballot?: Brian Jordan, Bill Mueller, Jeromy Burnitz, Eric Young, Phil Nevin, Ruben Sierra, Terry Mullholland, Tony Womack.