Who (If Anyone) Is Cooperstown Bound in 2013?

It took me longer than usual to really study the BBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year. I don’t know why. However, there remains a pretty interesting storyline this year with so many of the most high-profile steroid era superstars in their first year on the ballot.

It’s not like we’ve had no discussion of the HoF at all though, as the Pleiss boys covered the topic in one of their “Talk to Contact” podcasts earlier this month.

Last year, I put up a poll here at Knuckleballs and allowed our readers to cast votes. I’m not going to do that this year, but I will give you the benefit of my wisdom concerning who I would cast my vote for if the BBWAA had gone out of their frigging minds and sent me a ballot.

Baseball-Hall-Of-FameFirst of all, there are going to be some players I voted for last year that I won’t be voting for this year, simply because so many of the first-timers are clearly deserving. That makes things tough for me because I do believe that the players I voted for last year are still worthy.

Two years ago, I shared my thoughts about the BBWAA having the honor of determining who “gets in,” and in particular about those who refuse to vote for PED users based on some sort of “morality” judgment. Here’s one paragraph from that post that summarizes my views:

I’m sure that if you and I sat down and tried to come up with a group of people worthy of casting judgments about others’ “morals”, we could come up with an idea or two. But I’m also pretty sure “sports writers” wouldn’t be at the top of our list. Not that sports writers are, inherently, less moral than any of the rest of us, as a group. But I’ve known enough of them over the years to be damn sure they aren’t morally superior to most other groups, either… and that includes ballplayers. So, if BBWAA members were willing to just vote based on players’ performances, I would reluctantly agree to let them keep their position as HoF gatekeepers. But if they think it’s their responsibility to protect the HoF’s integrity, please… spare me. The percentage of BBWAA members who would have willingly “juiced” in order to be able to play Major League Baseball in the 1990s instead of writing about it would be roughly 100%. I detest the hypocrisy of some of these writers.

Last year, my post was geared more toward what my own approach would be if I were among those honored with a ballot. Again, a snippet to give you a sense of what my approach would be:

My criteria for judging whether a player should be in the HoF is as much art as science. It’s not just an “eyeball test”. It’s more of a memory test. Certainly, statistical excellence over a period of a player’s career should be a consideration, but not the sole consideration.

It’s the Hall of FAME. So tell me what these players accomplished during their careers that stood out, that was remarkable, that made an impression on baseball in their era, that made memories, that fans of that era and beyond still talk about and recognize, that made the player famous or added to the general level of fame bestowed upon the game of baseball itself.

Why shouldn’t players that found something in themselves that allowed them to rise above their otherwise good-but-not-excellent career performance levels to give the baseball world something remarkable to remember for a lifetime be recognized for their contributions to baseball’s fame?

This year, the ballot seems longer than usual. I don’t know if it really is. There are 13 players that carried over from last year and 24 first-timers, for a total of 37 players on the ballot. Click here for the full list, complete with career stats from baseball-reference.com.

Voting BBWAA members can vote for up to 10 players, so I’ll do that as well. Here are the 10 players I would cast my vote for this year:

First, five players who deserve to be in anyone’s Baseball HoF or you really shouldn’t bother having one… I don’t care what you think of them personally (which is probably pretty close to what I think of them personally):

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Mark McGwire

Add to those a name that, I believe, has been wrongfully kept out of the HoF simply due to “guilt by association and rumor” and another name that could be treated much the same way for the same reasons if the BBWAA voters were going to be consistent (which is certainly not a given):

  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Mike Piazza

That leaves room for just three more players on my ballot. It’s tough, but here are my choices and all three are carry-overs from my ballot last year:

  • Jack Morris
  • Tim Raines
  • Alan Trammell

That means a couple of guys I voted for a year ago are not on my ballot this year. I do believe Edgar Martinez is HoF worthy (if you don’t think a DH is worthy of the HoF, then get rid of the DH) and hopefully he will get in eventually. I also believe Dale Murphy is overlooked and, unfortunately, this is his 15th and final year on the ballot, so I won’t be able to add him back to my ballot in the future.

It also means there’s at least one first-timer that I believe is certainly worthy of HoF status who is not on my ballot in his first year of eligibility and that’s Craig Biggio. Curt Schilling is another that I certainly could see myself voting for eventually. I’m sure both Biggio and Schilling will get the requiste 5% that will keep them on the ballot next year, so I don’t feel too bad about leaving them off this year.

I’m also open to reconsidering such players as Fred McGriff and Larry Walker down the road. I suppose Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams should fall in to that category, too, but as career Yankees, they have a steeper hill to climb to get my vote (I never claimed to be an unbiased voter!).

Last year, I correctly predicted that Barry Larkin would be the only player to get the 75% of votes necessary to be enshrined (granted, it wasn’t a tough prediction to make). I’m not sure it’s quite so easy this year. In fact, I think the only thing harder than predicting who will get elected might be actually getting elected. I don’t think anyone will get the necessary votes.

Jack Morris will come very close, but the deep field will keep him from making the progress he would otherwise make. I hope I’m wrong about Morris… it would be nice for Twins fans to have something to smile about for a few days, anyway.

Mike Piazza is really the only other name I think could possibly approach the 75% bar, but I just don’t think he’ll get there either. I’ll be very interested to see how his vote total compares to Bagwell’s though.

Feel free to share who you would vote for and your predictions for who actually will be elected in the comments section.

– JC