Balloting for the Baseball Hall of Fame is starting to get messy. There is a large faction of voters who don’t want to vote for anyone who was suspected of PED use. There are others who believe everyone was doing it, so why discriminate. There are baseball writers who feel limited by voting for just ten players. Buster Olney believes there are 17 worthy candidates… and he wants to be able to vote for all 17. Because he can’t, Olney is not submitting a ballot at all. Because he thinks the system is flawed, he is taking his ball and going home. Using some form of backwards thinking, Olney believes that by not casting a ballot he is helping the cause of fringe candidates like Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Tim Raines, presumably because they are ranked between eleventh and seventeenth on his list and he can’t vote for them. Maybe they aren’t Hall of Fame worthy then. Just a thought.
I have the opposite view. Baseball writers should be limited to only vote for five players every year. That’s right– five! This is the Hall of Fame. The first Hall of Fame class was Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner. Think about that for a second. There was a long laundry list of great players from over three decades that could have been chosen for that first group. Cy Young didn’t even make that first group. He only has an award named for him for the best pitcher every year.
Here is who I would choose if I was ever lucky enough to be considered worthy of voting (and I would, surely, never skirt my responsibility):
What needs to be said? Red Sox fans knew to plan their summer schedule around Pedro Martinez starts. Wedding? Not if Pedro is pitching that Saturday. Birthday parties? Sorry, if it falls on the day Pedro is pitching, we’re celebrating your birthday a day earlier or a day later. In an era known for chemically-enhanced long ball hitters, Pedro was posting sub-2.00 ERAs. His numbers are just silly when you really sit down to look at them. In 2000, Pedro led the American League with a 1.74 ERA. Second best? Roger Clemens with a 3.70 ERA. Absurd!
I remember seeing Randy Johnson for the first time on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the late 1980s when he was a member of the Montreal Expos. The story, as I recall, didn’t focus on his pitching, but, instead, focused on what a freak he was at 6’10” and being a major league pitcher. That freak would go on to strike out 4875 batters (second all-time to Nolan Ryan). In those early days, his command wasn’t so good. Who can ever forget the John Kruk All-Star Game at-bat where Johnson throws over Kruk’s head and Kruk taps his heart as if to say his heart just skipped a beat? Johnson did do something Pedro never did. He pitched two no-hitters, fourteen years apart– the one in 2004, at the age of 40, was a perfect game.
Maybe if the picture shows Barry Bonds during his Pittsburgh Pirates days people will forget about his (ahem, alleged, ahem) chemically-enhanced San Francisco days. He was well on his way to the Hall of Fame before going to San Francisco. He averaged 27 HR, 85 RBI, and 36 stolen bases in his six full seasons in Pittsburgh prior to 1993. You can’t have a Hall of Fame without the all-time home run leader in it. While they’re at it, let’s get Pete Rose in there, too.
Clemens and Bonds are the elephants in the room. They are the best hitter and pitcher of the last thirty years, at least. OK, a very valid argument could be made for Pedro, but Roger did it longer. OK, the second half of Roger’s career was a fraud. You see the problem? The Rocket’s 13-year Boston career produced a 192-111 record with a 3.06 ERA and 2590 strikeouts. His career could have ended there and he would have been a Hall of Famer.
The temptation is there to put Curt Schilling in this group with former teammates Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. But you can’t leave out the best hitting catcher of all-time. Come on– a catcher who hit .308 with 427 home runs. That is just unheard of.
Better luck next year
John Smoltz deserves to get in, but, hey, not even Cy Young was a first ballot Hall of Famer. Smoltz will get in.
Tim Raines got my vote last year, but there are better candidates this year. Maybe Olney is on to something.
Jeff Bagwell continues to hang around the fringe.
Gary Sheffield is on the ballot for the first time. Who would have thought in 1988 that he’d have a better shot at the HOF than his uncle, Doc Gooden?
I mentioned Curt Schilling earlier. If he ever gets in, this would be the group to include him with.
I’m just not buying into the Craig Biggio hype. I never considered him one of the best in the game.