The 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot might be the best one we will see in our lifetime. It might also end up being the most controversial, depending on what happens with the voting.
Everyone has their own opinion on the "Steroid Era," whether it is right or wrong, fair or unfair, to the players whose names and reputations it affects. To me, the steroid issue gets overblown.
A lot of players who get attached to steroids actually have no connection to it. Some writers have taken it upon themselves to decide that a player must be on drugs because they heard it from someone.
Not to mention the fact that no one has ever been able to prove whether steroids and performance-enhancing drugs actually do anything to, you know, enhance performance. For every Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens linked to PEDs, there are 10 players like Freddy Galvis and Marlon Byrd.
By the way, Galvis and Byrd actually tested positive under baseball's drug program. Bonds and Clemens never did.
I am not lucky enough to have a Hall of Fame ballot, but if I did, here is how I would vote this year. For the purposes of this discussion, I will treat this like a real ballot. I will limit myself to a maximum of 10 names to use.
|Barry Bonds, OF, 1986-2007|
|Tim Raines, OF, 1979-2002|
|Jeff Bagwell, 1B, 1991-2005|
|Roger Clemens, SP, 1984-2007|
|Craig Biggio, 2B, 1988-2007|
|Mike Piazza, C, 1992-2007|
These six names are incredibly easy to put on a ballot. Raines has been victimized by the time in which he played. He has a strong argument for being the second-best leadoff hitter in baseball history. The problem is, he played at the same time as the greatest leadoff hitter ever (Rickey Henderson).
Bonds is the greatest position player of this generation in baseball. A Hall of Fame without him and players like Andre Dawson and Jim Rice is an absolute joke.
Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher of his era. He is the most decorated pitcher in history, with seven Cy Young awards. He meets all the old-school voting criteria as far as wins (354) and strikeouts (4,672). He also led the league in ERA seven times.
Biggio isn't talked about nearly as much as you would expect. Some of that could be backlash due to the way his career ended, as he battled Father Time and lost. His last great season was in 1999, when he hit .294/.386/.457 with a Fangraphs WAR of 5.3.
Despite never matching that performance again, Biggio was still a productive player who had a few strong seasons after that. He is a member of the magical 3,000-hit club that usually guarantees enshrinement.
Piazza is the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history. Say what you want about his defense, and there is plenty to say, but he more than made up for what he couldn't do behind the plate with that bat.
Like Biggio, Piazza's career fizzled down the stretch. He battled injuries, and catchers don't often age gracefully. He had a 10-year period from 1993-2002 when he put up absurd offensive numbers for the position.
He averaged nearly 35 home runs and hit over .300 every year except 2002. His lowest on-base percentage during that 10-year stretch was .359, and he never slugged less than .541.
Borderline Candidates Who Should Get in
|Mark McGwire, 1B, 1986-2001|
|Curt Schilling, SP, 1988-2007|
|Alan Trammell, SS, 1977-1996|
|Edgar Martinez, 3B/DH, 1987-2004|
McGwire's candidacy is interesting, because when he played, he had some of the most dominant offensive seasons we have ever seen. He slugged over .600 seven times in his career and had four straight seasons of at least 52 home runs.
The issue is consistency. He had a few really bad seasons, some due to injuries. In 1991, he hit just .201/.330/.383 in 154 games with Oakland. He played in just 74 games combined in 1993 and 1994.
Still, it is hard to look past McGwire's peak years from 1995-99, when he was slugging .700 on a regular basis, and not include him.
Schilling and Martinez battle issues with peak vs. longevity. They both played a lot of years, but outside of their peak years, there isn't a lot of sustained success.
Schilling threw more than 200 innings in a season nine times in his career. After becoming a full-time starter in 1993, he also had four seasons when he threw 151 innings or fewer. His 3.46 ERA would be one of the worst by a pitcher inducted into the Hall of Fame.
However, when you look at his best seasons, Schilling was as good as anyone. He had four seasons with at least 250 innings pitched and three seasons with at least 300 strikeouts. He also led the league in complete games four times in his career.
Martinez has the disadvantage of playing most of his career primarily as a designated hitter. He also didn't post the huge power numbers that a lot of the top hitters of his era were. But he was so good with the bat.
He had 10 seasons when he hit over .300. His career on-base percentage of .418 is 20th in baseball history. Despite not being a big home-run hitter, he had 309 in 2,055 games played and slugged over .550 every year from 1995-2000.
Trammell suffers the same problem that Tim Raines does. He was the second-best defensive shortstop of his era. The problem is, he played when Ozzie Smith was revolutionizing the position in St. Louis.
There is also a myth that Trammell wasn't strong enough on offense in his career, despite his greatness as a defender. He hit .285/.352/.415 in his career. In that era, for a shortstop to have a career on-base percentage of .352 is incredible.
The more I think about Trammell, the more I want to bump him up to the no-brainer section.
Keith Law of ESPN made a great point about Trammell, saying on a Baseball Today podcast that the only reason Jack Morris is talked about as a potential Hall of Famer is because of the work Trammell did to turn all those balls in play into outs.
Normally I wouldn't include 10 players on a Hall of Fame ballot, but this particular group is so strong that it merits that many players going in.
Of course, by the time the voting is announced on Wednesday afternoon, we could be talking about no one going in.