By: Rodney Johnson
Every baseball fan has an opinion on who should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame and who should not. The reasons for both vary from he had 500 home runs so he should be in to he used PEDs so there is no way I would vote for him. Let’s face it, the HOF ballot is nothing more than a subjective opinion poll in which the voters set their own criteria. So what the heck, I thought I’d take my own stab at it. You can take a whirl at it too. This year’s ballot is here.
There are 32 eligible players and you can vote for 10. Here’s my take on it.
- Ken Griffey Jr.: It is his first year on the ballot and he is a shoo-in. Griffey and Bonds are to this generation as Mays and Aaron were to the generation before.
- Barry Bonds: See above. Say what you like, Bonds is one of the greatest players of all time. Yes I know, some of those unreal numbers were enhanced by steroids and must be discounted. Henry Aaron is the real home run king. Nevertheless, Bonds was a Hall of Famer before he turned to the dark side and became a product of his era. He belongs. This is his fourth year on the ballot. He received 36.8% of the vote last year.
- Roger Clemens: See above. Clemens, Seaver and Maddux are the three greatest right-handed pitchers of the modern era. Clemens is an immortal with or without the juice. Like Bonds, this is Clemens fourth year on the ballot. He received 37.5% of the vote last year. Both Clemens and Bonds should have been first ballot inductees. They should inch up again this year.
- Mike Piazza: He was close last year with 69.9%. He should get the necessary 75% this time around. Piazza is among the greatest hitting catchers of all time. The whispers about PEDs are the only thing that has kept him out.
- Tim Raines: One of the game’s best leadoff hitters of his era, Raines earned 55% of the vote last year in his ninth season on the ballot.
- Mike Mussina: I think this one is a no-brainer. He won 270 games and his numbers are very similar to those of Jim Palmer. Moose received 24.6% of the vote last year in is third time on the ballot. In the past couple of years, he has had to face off against the likes of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Johnson. Now with all of those guys in, it is Mussina’s turn.
- Curt Schilling: The best walk to strikeout ratio in history and an incredible post season mark make Schilling a strong candidate. He was at 39.2% a year ago and without the competition from the same pitchers that held Mussina back, Schilling should get more support time around.
- Trevor Hoffman: Simply the best relief pitcher in history this side of Marino Rivera. It is his first year of eligibility and I can’t think of one good reason to exclude him while there are 601 good ones to vote him in.
- Gary Sheffield: This is his second year on the ballot and he only got 11.7% of the votes last year. Sheffield suffers from the PED stink of being named on the Mitchell report. My purely subjective view of Sheff was that he was a supremely gifted hitter. His 509 home runs, .292 average, .514 slugging and .907 OPS are all evidence of this. For me, he falls into the category of he could have done it without any chemical help. Of course we’ll never know.
- Fred McGriff: This is the seventh year on the ballot for McGriff. Last year he was named on 12% of the ballots. He was squeaky clean in the steroid era and still smacked 493 home runs. He compares to hall of famer Eddie Murray. I know, Bagwell has better numbers and was close at 55.7% a year ago, his 6th on the ballot. He will probably get enough votes to make it this year. But, like Piazza, there are whispers about this guy but no evidence that he used PEDs. He only hit six minor league home runs and then smacked 449 when he got to the big leagues. I’d like to see McGriff get enough votes to stay on the ballot and stay in the conversation. The other big name first baseman on the ballot, Mark McGwire, got 10% support last year in his ninth time on the ballot. Once I loved this guy, but sadly I now look at him as Dave Kingman on steroids. He is someone that I think never would have been considered for the HOF without the chemical help. Too bad. Perhaps the saddest case of a first baseman that sans PEDs would have been a first ballot guy is Rafael Palmeiro. He had 3000 hits, 500 home runs and one ugly finger-pointing episode in front of congress. He got only 4.4% in 2014 and dropped of the ballot.
The one guy I left off of my ballot that I really had to think about is Jeff Kent. Great offensive numbers for a second baseman and no steroid stink. I just can’t get over that he was something less than average as a defensive player at a position that defense is so important. When I think of the greatest second baseman I think of Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg. I’m not sure how I feel about Bill Mazeroski, but some say he was the greatest fielding second baseman ever. He rode that reputation and one very timely home run into the hall. In any case, Kent has earned only 14% in his second time on the ballot. I’ll have to let this one simmer for a while.
Sammy Sosa and his 609 home runs are likely to drop off the ballot after this year. He only earned 6.6% of the vote last year in his third year of eligibility. He seems doomed to languish with other products of PED enhanced success such as Jose Canseco and Juan Gonzalez who have both long since disappeared from the ballot.
Among other first time eligible players, Billy Wagner is intriguing. Some point to his strikeout rate and WHIP and call him the “best left-handed relief pitcher in history.” John Franco had more innings, more saves and a similar ERA but dropped off of the ballot in 2011 with only 4.6%. I’m not ready to say Wagner was any better. Jim Edmonds, 393 HR; 903 OPS and eight gold gloves should get some support. Garrett Anderson (2529 hits) was a really good, underrated player for a long time. There are very few catchers who play as long or as well as Jason Kendall did. He was a splendid defensive player and stroked more than 2,000 hits. He also caught more than 100 games in a season 14 times and more that 140 games in a season nine times. Extraordinary.
I’ll be interested to see how the “real” voters rank the ballot when it comes out next week.