Tag: Baseball Hall of Fame

Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols Lead B/R’s All-HOF Team in MLB Today

After Wednesday’s announcement of the 2017 Hall of Fame inductees, most of the talk is about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, performance-enhancing drugs and the like. I wrote something on the subject if you’re not sick of it yet.

Here’s another interesting question, though: Which current MLB players would make the Hall if their careers ended today? Who, in other words, has already stacked up the statistics, awards and intangibles to punch a ticket to Cooperstown?

It’s not a scientific exercise, obviously. Voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America have a proven ability to confound.

Mike Piazza waited four years to get in, to cite one example, while Ivan Rodriguez slipped through on the first ballot. Two all-time great catchers, both from the steroid era with suspicion but no hard proof of illicit chemical enhancement, two different results.

There are cases like that throughout the Hall’s history, including many that aren’t clouded by PEDs and some in which worthy players (cough, Alan Trammell) never earned enshrinement.

We’ll do our best, however, to pick the most likely inductees for B/R’s All-HOF in MLB Today team. Again, we’re weighing only current stats, not future potential, so the likes of Mike Trout and Kris Bryant don’t make the cut. Neither do recently retired players, meaning the David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez debates will wait for another day.

Let’s start by examining a handful of close calls, followed by four (virtual) locks.

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Curt Schilling Argues with Fake Sidney Ponson on Twitter After Hall of Fame Vote

Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines were all inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, but former MLB ace Curt Schilling missed the cut, per BBWAA.com.

He took out some of his frustrations in an argument with a fake Twitter account for former pitcher Sidney Ponson (warning: NSFW):

Mike Oz of Yahoo Sports captured the entire conversation (warning: NSFW):


Players need 75 percent of the votes to be inducted, and Schilling received just 45 percent.

Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine noted Schilling’s percentage of votes “collapsed from 52.3 [in 2016] to 45.”

From 1988 to 2007, Schilling played for the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox. He was a six-time All-Star, won three World Series championships (including one that broke the fabled “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004 with the Red Sox) and posted a sparkling career playoff ERA of 2.23.

However, Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today argued that Schilling’s failure to win a Cy Young Award “takes some luster off his candidacy.” Ortiz also described Schilling’s win total of 216 as “a remarkably low number for such an accomplished pitcher over a 20-year career,” although the win-loss record of a pitcher is an imperfect way to judge his ability at best.

Still, Schilling’s Hall of Fame candidacy was about more than his on-field achievements.

Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports’ Big League Stew said “Schilling’s case for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame no longer has to do with his arm, it has to do with his mouth.”

Wednesday’s argument won’t help Schilling’s reputation, but Cwik mentioned a number of more serious incidents that hurt the pitcher’s cause.

He noted Schilling was fired from ESPN for posting an anti-transgender meme, was suspended by the company for comparing Muslim extremists to Nazis and said presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should “be buried under a jail” in an interview with 610 Sports in Kansas City.

Schilling also shared an image of a shirt suggesting journalists should be lynched and said “so much awesome here,” as ESPN’s Bill Barnwell passed along (warning: NSFW):

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe (h/t MSN) referenced that tweet and said he invoked the character clause in his Hall of Fame vote when he decided not to vote for Schilling. After the former pitcher commented on the shirt, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports said, “I just couldn’t respect myself and vote for him this year.” 

Rather than accepting induction into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Schilling found himself arguing with a fake Twitter account. Given the sentiments of some writers, he largely has himself to blame for that.

Perhaps he can take solace in the fact that Ponson isn’t in the Hall of Fame either.

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Softening PED Stance in 2017 Hall of Fame Vote Bodes Well for Bonds, Clemens

Brace yourselves, steroid hard-liners: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are going to the Hall of Fame.

Not this year. According to results released Wednesday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Bonds got 238 votes, or 53.9 percent, and Clemens got 239, or 54.1 percent. (As a side note, anyone who voted for Clemens but not Bonds or vice versa should have their voting privileges immediately revoked.)

The threshold for induction is 75 percent, a bar that was cleared by three players: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez.

We can glean two things from this. First, Bonds and Clemens are gaining momentum. Their vote totals have trended northward each year. Now, in year five, they’ve edged over 50 percent for the first time.

That could be due to the shifting demographics of the BBWAA voting block. It could also be the enshrinement of former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who oversaw the steroid era and was put in the Hall in early December by the 16-person Today’s Game Era committee.

In some cases, we know Selig tipped the scales.

“As I continued to think about this and go back and forth, the thing that sealed my vote [for Bonds and Clemens] was when Bud Selig was voted in,” BBWAA voting member Tom D’Angelo said, per Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan.

Mostly, though, it’s clear the relationship between the HOF and performance-enhancing drugs is evolving. Voters are softening. The floodgates could be about to open. 

It’s not just the increasing support for Bonds and Clemens, whose Hall of Fame cases would define “open-and-shut” without the cloud of steroid suspicion. 

Look at who got in this year. Bagwell languished on the ballot for seven years, presumably because he was a big, strapping guy who compiled his stats during the steroid era and acknowledged using at-the-time legal enhancers, including androstenedione. 

Then there’s Rodriguez. Controversial steroid whistleblower Jose Canseco connected Pudge to PEDs in his book, Juiced. Rodriguez has never admitted to steroid use, but when asked if his name would appear on a list of players who tested positive for steroids in 2003, he replied, “Only God knows,” per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Not exactly a vehement denial.

Mike Piazza, another slam-dunk Hall of Fame catcher by the numbers, had to wait four years for his call to Cooperstown, despite never testing positive or appearing in any reports.

Like Bagwell, Piazza copped to using “andro,” as USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale noted. The closest thing to a banned-PED smoking gun was the fact sportswriters noticed acne on his back, however.

Now we have Pudge, against whom the circumstantial evidence is arguably stronger, slipping through with 76 percent on the first ballot. 

None of this is to say the tug of war between suspected PED users, BBWAA voters and the Hall is settled. Even when (or, fine, if) Bonds and Clemens eventually get in, there will be the matter of Manny Ramirez, who was actually suspended under MLB’s testing policy and got just 23.8 percent in his first year of eligibility.

Or what about Sammy Sosa, who clung to the bottom of the ballot with 8.6 percent? Or Mark McGwire, who has already fallen off the ballot and is now at the mercy of the veterans committee?

Baltimore Orioles reporter Rich Dubroff of PressBoxonline.com floated the curious case of Rafael Palmeiro. To paraphrase Game of Thrones, Alex Rodriguez is coming. On and on it goes.

Things will get messier before they get cleaner, if they ever get cleaner. Debates will rage.

The winds are shifting, however. Whether you enjoy the breeze depends on how you view the Hall of Fame.

If you see it as a reward for good behavior and lean on the so-called character clause, this is doubtless giving you fits.

If, like me, you see the Hall as a museum where we commemorate the best players of all timefrom the cads to the upright citizensthis is long overdue.

“I don’t have any doubts that I’ll get there in time,” Bonds said of the Hall in 2015, per MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. “I’m bothered about it, but I don’t sit here going, ‘I’m not going to make it.’ I don’t see how it stays the way it’s going. In my mind, in my head, I’m a lot more positive about it than I am negative. I think eventually they’ll do the right thing.”

Right or wrong, it’s happening. Maybe not next year, maybe not even the year after. Sometime soon, though, Bonds and Clemens will get their busts. Others will follow.

Brace yourselves.

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Jose Canseco Talks 2017 MLB Hall of Fame Results, Jeff Bagwell and Mark McGwire

The 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class has been announced, and Jose Canseco is not happy about it.

According to Andrew Simon of MLB.com, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez all earned the minimum 75 percent of votes needed to get into Cooperstown, New York.  

Canseco took to Twitter to complain about the results:

There’s going to be more drug users in Cooperstown then The YArd at San Queintin…How the f*** is Jeff Bagwell being inducted into the Hall of Fame and Mark mcgwire’s not that is disgusting. It’s a great day for the hypocrisy of the Hall of Fame voting induct all that used Peds or induct none. How it’s not Mark McGwire Sammy Sosa Roger Clemens Rafael palmeiro not in the Hall of Fame that is a travesty. And definitely bonds should be in the Hall of Fame are you kidding me that is disgusting. [sic]

The Hall of Fame induction debate centers around the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which Canseco knows all about. He is an admitted user and the author of Juiced, a tell-all book about illegal drugs in baseball.

His biggest argument seems to surround his former Oakland Athletics teammate Mark McGwire. In 2010, he confirmed he used steroids during his career. While the slugger did have 583 home runs, 12 All-Star appearances and an American League Rookie of the Year award, he never came close to receiving the required votes for the Hall of Fame.

McGwire was on the ballot for 10 years and never topped 25 percent of the vote, ending with 12.3 percent in his final chance last year.

Suspected PED users Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are still ballot-eligible, with each earning over 50 percent of the vote this time around.

Canseco alleges that Bagwell was also involved in illegal activity, although the Houston Astros star has denied it.

Although we might never know everyone who used PEDs during their careers, it seems the Hall of Fame voters have drawn a line in the sand when it comes to certain players.

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2017 MLB Hall of Fame Results: Full List of Inductees, Comments and Reaction

Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines will take their rightful place in Cooperstown, New York, after they were announced as the three inductees for the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Per BBWAA.com, Bagwell received 86.2 percent of the votes, Raines got 86 percent and Rodriguez got 76 percent. Players are required to receive 75 percent for induction. 

*Previously announced by Today’s Game Era committee in December

Baseball Reference tweeted out full vote totals for players on the ballot:

Raines was the name commanding a lot of attention this year because it was his final year on the ballot. The seven-time All-Star just missed out making the Hall of Fame in 2016 with 69.8 percent of the vote. 

Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated made the case for Raines to be inducted into Cooperstown, notably highlighting his peak years from 1983-87:

Raines broke out the next year, the beginning of a five-year plateau (1983–87) in which he hit a cumulative .318/.406/.467 and averaged 114 runs scored, 11 homers, 71 steals, a 142 OPS+ and 6.4 WAR, never falling below 5.5 in that last category. He led the NL in steals in ’83 (a career-high 90) and ’84 (75) and ranked third or fourth among NL position players in WAR in four of those five years, finishing seventh in the other. For the period as a whole, only Wade Boggs, Henderson and Cal Ripken—all AL players and future Hall of Famers—were more valuable.

ESPN Stats & Info also helped make a case for Raines:

The only significant knock against Raines is that his career was hindered by injuries after 1987. He only appeared in more than 140 games three times from 1988 to 2002, but he still finished his career with a .294/.385/.425 slash line. 

Other than Raines himself, no one was happier to hear he earned induction than noted Montreal Expos fan Jonah Keri. The CBSSports.com writer had this response on Twitter after the voting was announced:

“Just to know now that I’m in the [Hall of Fame], there will be a lot of proud people in Canada,” Raines said, per MLB Network PR

Bagwell‘s absence from the Hall of Fame was one of the more curious snubs. He has some offensive numbers that compare favorably to Ken Griffey Jr., per Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal:

In addition to those numbers, Bagwell was a four-time National League All-Star, 1991 NL Rookie of the Year and 1994 NL MVP. He finished his career with a .297/.408/.540 slash line, 449 home runs and 202 stolen bases. 

ESPN Stats & Info noted Bagwell‘s stolen-base total put him in rare territory among first basemen:

Rodriguez was no sure thing on his first ballot. In the past, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America has shown an unwillingness to induct players in their first year of eligibility unless they were a transcendent talent. 

In Rodriguez’s 21-year career, he was named to 14 All-Star teams and won the 1999 American League MVP. 

MLB Stat of the Day put together a strong case for Rodriguez to enter Cooperstown:

Among the players who just missed out on induction this year, Trevor Hoffman (74 percent) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7 percent) appear likely to make it in 2018. They will be joined on the ballot by notable first-timers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome to make for a potentially interesting class. 

The Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony will take place on July 30, with Bagwell, Raines and Rodriguez being enshrined with the other immortal stars of the sport. 

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Vladimir Guerrero: The $2,500 Signing with Mismatched Shoes and Clemente Tools

The kid showed up unannounced, riding on the back of a motorcycle, wearing shoes that didn’t match.

“One was larger than the other,” Fred Ferreira remembered. “He had a sock stuffed into one of them so it would fit.”

It was the spring of 1993, and Ferreira was on the outskirts of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He works for the Baltimore Orioles now, but he was with the Montreal Expos then, running a tryout camp at a field in Mendoza.

The kid with the mismatched shoes was about to become the best player he ever signed.

“I’ve had 72 guys make it up there [to the major leagues],” Ferreira said proudly.

Some were stars. Some won World Series. Ferreira thought Bernie Williams deserved Hall of Fame consideration, but he never got there.

This week, that kid with the mismatched shoes could be Ferreira’s first in Cooperstown.

Vladimir Guerrero has a chance in his first year on the ballot, although the votes publicly revealed suggest he may fall just short. Ryan Thibodaux, who runs the Hall of Fame Tracker and follows these things more closely than anyone, has Guerrero at 74.4 percent so far, with 75 percent required for election.

Numbers like that mean Guerrero will get to the Hall of Fame, even if it’s not this year. A chance like this means Ferreira will be watching closely for the Wednesday announcement.

“I certainly am waiting,” he said.

He’s not alone. Every player on the Hall of Fame ballot has a scout who first signed him, a coach who first believed in him, an instructor who helped him along the way. Everyone has a story that becomes all the more cherished when the vote goes the right way.

Houston Astros scout Tom Mooney gave Jeff Bagwell a seven (out of eight) on power potential when Bagwell was at the University of Hartford and then recommended the Astros trade for Bagwell when he was still in Double-A.

“Remember it like it was yesterday,” Mooney wrote on his Facebook page after Alex Speier of the Boston Globe wrote about scouting Bagwell.

Texas Rangers scout Doug Gassaway clocked a 16-year-old Ivan Rodriguez throwing 93 mph to second base, as Sandy Johnson remembered in an MLB.com story by Tracy Ringolsby.

And Fred Ferreira signed Vladimir Guerrero for $2,500 out of a tryout camp in the Dominican Republic.

“Jon Heyman wrote in Sports Illustrated it was the second-best deal ever, behind the Babe Ruth deal,” Ferreira said.

It’s an even better story.

Guerrero wasn’t exactly unknown that spring. His older brothers had both played baseball too, and Wilton Guerrero signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers a year and a half earlier. Vladimir spent a couple of months in the Dodgers academy, but they never signed him.

The New York Yankees worked out Guerrero too, but as a pitcher. They told him to come back a week later, but in the meantime, Guerrero showed up at Ferreira’s tryout.

“We had about 30 kids already there,” Ferreira said. “The first thing we had him do was run a 60-yard dash, and he ran like 6.5. He ran that well with shoes that didn’t match. Then we had him throw from the outfield. They were good throws, very good, exceptional.

“Running and throwing, those two tools can’t be taught.”

Ferreira was intrigued, but he had to know if Guerrero could hit. They were setting up a game, and he told his assistant to have Guerrero lead off every inning.

“The first at-bat, he hit a ground ball to short and tried to beat it out,” Ferreira said. “He was really busting it down the line and then he pulled up. He’d pulled a hamstring. I saw him go sit in the dugout with his head between his legs.”

So that was it for the day. Some running in mismatched shoes. A few throws. And one ground ball to short.

Ferreira had a flight out that afternoon, but he decided on the spot Guerrero was worth a chance. The flight home could wait.

Guerrero told the Expos he had been working out at the Dodgers academy, which would make him ineligible to sign with another team. Then he said he’d been there 60 days.

“I said that makes him a free agent,” Ferreira said.

The Dodgers hadn’t signed him because they thought he looked more like his older brother Albino, who they released because he was too slow. They preferred Wilton, who eventually played eight years in the big leagues but was never a star.

“In this business, you consider yourself a success if 5 percent of the guys you sign make it to the majors,” Dodgers scout Ralph Avila told Jeff Blair in a story for the Montreal Gazette three years later. “[Vladimir] will be part of the Expos’ 5 percent, not ours. And that’s how it works sometimes.”

Guerrero told the Expos he was 17, so they would need his parents’ permission to sign him. He was actually 18, but they wouldn’t know until 2009 that he had been lying about his age.

Ferreira canceled his flight and made plans for the 40-mile drive west to Peravia province, where Guerrero was born. But first, Guerrero told them he wanted to stop at the Dodgers academy to pick up his things.

“It turned out he had one shirt there,” Ferreira said.

The signing was straightforward, as Guerrero’s mother quickly agreed to the $2,500 bonus. It was a different era. By 2015, when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, he got a $3.9 million deal.

“I signed a crude Dominican player with great tools to play ball and a good disposition,” Ferreira reported back to his superiors in Montreal.

“They sent him to the Dominican Summer League, and I told the people in the office this kid will be Player of the Month for the next six months,” Ferreira said.

He had another message for them too.

“He was swinging at everything, but I told our instructors to let him do what he does,” Ferreira said. “Leave him alone. When he got to the States, Felipe Alou told him the same thing.”

Alou would later refer to Guerrero as a “baseball machine,” according to the Blair story in the Gazette.

Alou was the Expos’ manager by then, and Guerrero would soon join him. He shot through the Montreal farm system, skipping Triple-A altogether.

“After seeing Vlad in Double-A, our scouts said the kid had tools like [Roberto] Clemente,” said Dan Duquette, the Expos general manager at the time.

He never did stop swinging at everything. And hitting everything.

“Vladimir Guerrero is the best retired Truly Bad Ball hitter of our time,” Eno Sarris declared in a post on FanGraphs this month.

It carried him through 16 big league seasons, 449 home runs, a .318 career batting average and four finishes in the top four in Most Valuable Player voting. In 2004, his first season after signing a five-year, $70 million deal with the Anaheim Angels, Guerrero won the MVP award in the American League.

He had long since justified the $2,500 Fred Ferreira spent to sign him and the canceled flight home.

And when he goes into the Hall of Fame, you can bet his shoes will match.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Making Sense of Baseball’s Edgar Martinez, Designated Hitter HOF Debate

The Hall of Fame lists Frank Thomas as a first baseman.

Not as a first baseman/designated hitter. Not as a designated hitter/first baseman.

Thomas started 340 more games as a DH than he did at first base, but nowhere on his Cooperstown plaque or on his page on the Hall of Fame website does it even mention his time at DH. Paul Molitor is a third baseman, according to the Hall, even though he started 1,168 games as a DH and 786 at third base.

When will we put a DH in the Hall of Fame? We already have.

Just not Edgar Martinez.

He was so good at the job that baseball named the annual DH award after him. He’s so connected to the job that you get the feeling it’s the biggest thing keeping him out of Cooperstown.

He was, as ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark wrote, “one of the great hitters of his generation.”

And yet until this year, I didn’t give him a Hall of Fame vote. I’m not alone. As recently as 2014, Martinez got just 25.2 percent of the vote.

He jumped to 43.4 percent last year, and Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker has him taking another jump this year. He’s gaining votes, but he’s also running out of time. It doesn’t look likely he’ll get in this year, and he’ll be on the ballot only two more times.

In other words, it’s about time we figure out what to do with him. It’s about time we figure out how to judge a guy who barely wore a glove for the final decade of his career.

It’s about time we come to grips with the DH rule, now in its 45th year in the American League.

Do we judge a guy who was almost exclusively a DH (71 percent of his career starts and 98 percent of his starts in his final 10 seasons) the way we would any other hitter? Or does he need to be even better to make up for not contributing anything on the other side of the game?

Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated, who spends as much time as anyone evaluating Hall of Fame candidates, calls Martinez one of the top 30 or 40 hitters of all time. During the best seven-year stretch of his career (1995-2001), Martinez ranked third in the majors in Baseball-Reference.com‘s OPS+, which equalizes for league and ballpark.

The only two guys ahead of him during that span? Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.

Neither of them is in the Hall of Fame, either, but that’s another argument. It’s that other argumentthe steroid argumentthat dominates Hall of Fame debates. It’s so overwhelming that it obscures other just-as-interesting discussions, such as what to do with closers and what to do with designated hitters.

The Martinez debate is more than just a DH debate, though. He finished in the top five in MVP voting just once (1995), and his career totals (2,247 hits, 309 home runs) look a little light, in part because he didn’t become a major league regular until he was 27.

He didn’t have as many big postseason moments as David Ortiz, a DH who will likely find an easier path to Cooperstown.

But Martinez was still a great hitter, and it’s hard to believe he’d have such a hard time with voters if he’d spent the majority of his career at third base.

“I can’t believe any AL voter would discriminate against him,” Bob Ryan wrote in the Boston Globe. “Has to be those NL Luddites.”

Yeah, except that two of the guys who didn’t vote for Martinez this year (Nick Cafardo and Dan Shaughnessy) have covered the Boston Red Sox for the Globe.

“I have left off Edgar Martinez, never feeling his numbers were quite good enough,” Cafardo wrote.

I know the feeling. I looked at Martinez’s numbers every year, and every year I thought, “Not quite good enough.”

Eventually, I realized I was looking for too much. I was asking for too much, trying to make up for what Martinez didn’t do on defense. I never eliminated him because he had been a DH, but I set unrealistic standards for him because he was one.

I switched this year, and I don’t expect to switch back. I’m not alone on that, either. Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker has Martinez adding 31 votes this year (while inexplicably losing one). My Bleacher Report colleague Scott Miller was also one of the switches, citing many of the same reasons I did.

Martinez finally has momentum on his side. He has plenty of numbers on his side, including those where he compares favorably to Ortiz (147-141 edge for Martinez in OPS+, .933-.931 in OPS, 68.3-55.4 in Baseball-Reference.com’s version of WAR).

And just as it ought to help Trevor Hoffman that baseball named its National League Reliever of the Year Award after him, it should help Martinez that it’s the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award (which Ortiz won in 2016).

Cy Young is in the Hall of Fame, isn’t he?


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Scott Miller’s 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Maybe Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez and others who were on the cutting edge of the performance-enhancing-drug era eventually will be voted into the Hall of Fame by the general electorate. Maybe last month’s election of former commissioner Bud Selig will be the tipping point.

But that’s nonsense.

And it’s largely a non sequitur.

One new “narrative” to emerge this winter in advance of next Wednesday’s announcement of the 2017 Hall of Fame voting results is this: If Selig, who oversaw the game when it reeked of cheaters who distorted the record book, is in the Hall of Fame, then it gives voters who in the past have not supported the steroid crowd the green light to reverse course.

But it isn’t that clear-cut. Selig, like fellow Hall of Famer Tony La Russa three years ago, whose greatest managerial successes came with PED-enhanced players in his lineups, was put into the Hall of Fame by a small, 16-person veterans committee, not by the general electorate.

I was not on those committees and did not cast a vote for them. So why should that compel me to cast votes for those who clearly cheated the game and their fellow players when I haven’t done that in any of my previous 17 years of voting?

Another issue, and one I believe too few people understand when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, is that voting is a one-man (or woman), one-ballot exercise. This isn’t groupthink, and it isn’t (and shouldn’t be) some sort of organized movement to try to push a single agenda through.

Personally, as long as the so-called “character clause” is included in election rules (“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which he played”), I do not intend to vote for those buried in steroid guilt or under a mountain of circumstantial evidence.

Now, if some of those players wind up being voted into the Hall despite my stance, that’s how the breaking ball breaks. If Bonds, or Clemens, or anyone else shows up one day on the stage at Cooperstown, if that’s the will of the voters, then it will not be a time to rant and rave and throw fire and brimstone. It will be a time to celebrate them, even if some of us disagree with the choice.

This is a miserably difficult topic, and like so many other issues in this country right now, it is a bitterly divisive topic. There are no foolproof, correct answers. But I believe each voter must come to terms with their conscience. Some of those whom I respect the most in the baseball-writing business, including some close friends of mine within that group, vote for known steroid users and always have. I disagree with them, and they with me. And they have very good reasons, and I respect their opinions. That’s life. Not everyone is going to see things your way.

Some voters, who rightfully are uncomfortable with the baseball writers’ doubling as the “morality police,” have asked the Hall of Fame to issue guidelines regarding the vote. Hall officials have responded that they are very pleased with the way the writers have conducted the voting over the decades and are refraining from issuing guidelines.

To me, however, the Hall issued its guidelines long ago with the aforementioned character clause. If one day the tide turns and I’m in the minority, so be it. If one day Bonds, Clemens and Ramirez are elected to the Hall, a part of me will be relieved and happy, because it’s not right for a Hall of Fame not to include the very best players. But it’s less right to turn a blind eye to the cheating, and that includes everyone from the commissioner to the owners to the players’ union and the media.

In the end, as with any vote, you must assess what’s important, assimilate the information and come to a conclusion in which you can look yourself in the mirror. So that’s a big part, as always, of how I filled in this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.


Jeff Bagwell

This is his seventh year on the ballot, and it is the first time I voted for him. Bagwell, along with Mike Piazza (who was elected to the Hall last year), is one of those gray-area players about whom there has been some steroid suspicion but never any proof. As such, from his first year on the ballot, I wrote that I would wait a few years before voting for him while waiting for any new information to surface. It hasn’t, and he’s never been formally linked to steroids. As Jay Jaffe notes in his always essential JAWS Hall of Fame evaluation method, Bagwell ranks as the second-best first baseman in the post-World War II era.

Bagwell missed election last year by a mere 15 votes, and after Piazza’s induction, Bagwell should clear the bar this year. He won the 1994 NL MVP award and ranked in the top 10 in voting five other times, including finishing in the top five twice. His career on-base percentage of .408 ranks 39th all-time.


Vladimir Guerrero

Maybe the best bad-ball hitter in baseball history, Guerrero could do damage to pitches an inch or two off the ground, an inch or two over his head or anywhere in the strike zone. He was a marvel to watch, easily one of the most dominant hitters of his era, doing it for both average (.318 career average) and power (449 career homers).

He hit .300 or higher in 13 seasons, including 12 in a row from 1997 to 2008. He hit 30 or more homers eight times and knocked in 100 or more runs 10 times. Before his legs started to deteriorate, Guerrero also put together two 30-homer/30-steal seasons (and he had one 39-homer/40-steal season).

He led the league in intentional walks five times, signifying how respected he was by rival clubs. As B/R colleague Danny Knobler notes, Guerrero in 2006 compiled as many unintentional walks as intentional walks (25 of each), which doesn’t make him overly friendly to modern analytics. Nor does his play in right field measure up that well in the advanced stats field, though he made up for part of that with his exceptionally powerful arm. Nevertheless, Guerrero’s power and dominance put him on my ballot.


Trevor Hoffman

Tough crowd, the voters, when it comes to closers. It was utterly predictable last year that Hoffman would not reach the 75 percent threshold needed for election based on history: Nobody who pitched exclusively as a reliever throughout his entire career has ever been elected to the Hall on his first ballot. John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley each worked as a starter at times during his career. Hoffman never did.

That said, whatever your feeling on closers—and I’ve graded them harshly in the past (I did not vote for Lee Smith, and I do not vote for Billy Wagner)—601 career saves is a staggering number. Hoffman is a Hall of Famer; the only question is how long it will take him to reach 75 percent of the vote. This year? Next year? Stay tuned.


Jeff Kent

I voted for Kent because his 351 career home runs as a second baseman rank him as the all-time leader at the position. That said, I’m still not 100 percent comfortable with myself for having started voting for him a couple of years ago. He played in an offense-oriented era in which new ballparks became more hitter-friendly, and defensively he was no gem.

As I wrote last year, he was a very good player. But one of the best of all time? Some numbers suggest yes. But body of work overall…he’s borderline, no question.


Edgar Martinez

Along with Bagwell, the biggest change in my ballot. This is the first time I’ve voted for Martinez, and it is his eighth year on the ballot. Not sure if that’s a him-problem or a me-problem—maybe a little of both.

Bottom line: In the past, I withheld my vote because, to me, if you’re a one-dimensional player (read: closer or DH), your numbers had better be off the chart in whatever area you specialize. Martinez’s traditional numbers are not. He finished with only 2,247 hits and 309 homers. Both are light in terms of a DH and the Hall.

Yet every year, Martinez is one of the guys I have agonized over. Three things spurred me to change my mind late in the game on him.

First, his .418 career on-base percentage. While the homers don’t knock your socks off, that on-base percentage does. He ranks 21st in history. That’s the number that kept nagging at me during the years I did not vote for him. It’s sensational.

Second, Martinez’s 1995 Division Series against the New York Yankees was one for the ages. He hit .571 (12-for-21), reached base 18 times in five games and knocked in 10 runs. Furthermore, his 11thinning double clinched the series for the Mariners in Game 5, which helped turn Seattle into a baseball city and spurred taxpayers to vote for what today is Safeco Field. It was one of the greatest baseball moments in the history of Seattle, and while that does not fit into your traditional statistics, there should be room in the Hall of Fame for that kind of history.

Third, too many of Martinez’s peers during the time in which he played have told me over the years that he was the best hitter they ever saw, or that he should be a Hall of Famer, or some combination of the above.

The latest came last spring during a long conversation with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. I was working on a piece on Red Sox DH David Ortiz in advance of his retirement and spoke with Reggie about Ortiz. It was during that conversation when Jackson, unsolicited, passionately told me that not only does Ortiz belong in the Hall, but so does Martinez.

All of this, over all of these years, has conspired to convince me that maybe I’ve been wrong in not voting for Martinez, and I’m fixing that now.


Fred McGriff

One of the greatest hitters of his era, McGriff‘s biggest problem is that the guys who were gobbling steroids during the 1990s put up enough cartoon numbers to shove McGriff into the shadows and relegate him, nearly, to forgotten-man status. Maybe if he had hit just seven more homers to reach that big ol‘ round number of 500, he would get more Hall of Fame support. As it is, he checked in at just 20.9 percent of the vote last year, far below the 75 percent needed.

Still, 493 homers make a pretty good case. He ranks 28th all-time, and as I wrote last year of McGriff, remove some steroids frauds from the list and he comes close to cracking the all-time top 20. Not a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, to be sure, but borderline. And borderline enough that I would vote for him.


Mike Mussina

Time and place, to me, make Mussina more of a candidate than you might think. That time and place were…the 1990s and the 2000s, and the American League East. Pitching in a loaded division against some of the best New York Yankees teams of all time, and against many other bashers, and then pitching for the Yankees against historically good Boston Red Sox clubs, and more bashers, Mussina compiled 270 wins and a sterling 3.68 ERA. He was as consistent as a metronome, compiling 11 seasons of 15 or more victories.

While I know wins aren’t as sexy as they once were based on today’s analytics, to rack up that many means Mussina was in the game enough to make a difference on a heck of a lot of occasions. We know starting pitchers have been underrepresented in Cooperstown since the inception of the DH, and Mussina certainly is deserving.


Tim Raines

Raines is the best leadoff hitter this side of Rickey Henderson, and his .385 career on-base percentage is good enough to play on any team. His stolen-base rate of 84.7 percent ranks second-best all-time among those with 300 or more attempts.

Raines received 69.8 percent of the vote last year, and he’s still got some running to do: This is his 10th and final year on the ballot. If he doesn’t bump up to 75 percent of the vote, his Cooperstown fate will be left in the hands of future veterans committees. Here’s hoping he cruises into one more base this winter—a plaque in Cooperstown.


Close Calls

A few words about my near misses:

Curt Schilling

This has zero to do with his politics and everything to do with his middling 216 career victories and a whole lot of mediocre seasons. I know some numbers (specifically, his strikeouts) point to Cooperstown, but I would take Jack Morris in his prime any day over Schilling in his prime. And if there is no place in the Hall for Morris…


Ivan Rodriguez

One of the best catchers of all time without a doubt, Rodriguez under most circumstances would be a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. But for now, I’ve got him in a holding pattern, similar to where I had Piazza and Bagwell. In his book Juiced, Jose Canseco details injecting Rodriguez with PEDs. Pudge has since denied taking PEDs, so here’s another gray area.

Because of that, I’m holding off for a bit, and let’s see if any new information emerges and what Rodriguez says about it. He will be on the ballot for 10 years; I’d rather wait a bit for reasons I just stated rather than rush to vote him in right away.


Larry Walker

I looked hard at Walker, and while he’s very close, in my book he falls short of being a Hall of Famer. His offensive numbers were good, especially in the Coors Field years, but he was injured and off the field far too often. During his 17-year career, Walker played in as many as 150 games once, and he played in as many as 140 games just four times. I look at Walker and I see a very good player who could have been great. I do not see a Hall of Famer. His great moments simply weren’t great long enough.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Hall of Fame Class 2017: Breaking Down Each Candidate’s Case and Chances

The deadline for voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to submit their 2017 Hall of Fame ballots was Dec. 31. In the interest of keeping us all in suspense, however, the results won’t be announced until Jan. 18.

In the meantime, here’s a final look at this year’s candidates, their HOF cases and the chances they’ll punch a ticket to Cooperstown.

We have some data to go on. First, there are past vote totals for players who have been on the ballot before. Second, and even more revealingly, there’s the count of public ballots compiled by the indefatigable Ryan Thibodaux.

This year’s class is a fascinating one, populated by a number of borderline cases sure to spark debate, two titans of the steroid era who are gaining momentum and one worthy but long-spurned leadoff man on the verge of breaking through.

Note that we’re only discussing players who have a statistical shot at reaching the 75 percent threshold needed for induction based on the public count. Here’s a list of some notable names who’ve been eliminated for this year, though all appear likely to get the 5 percent necessary to stay on the ballot with the exception of Lee Smith, who is in his final year of eligibility:

  • Jeff Kent, INF
  • Fred McGriff, 1B
  • Jorge Posada, C
  • Manny Ramirez, OF
  • Gary Sheffield, OF
  • Lee Smith, RHP
  • Sammy Sosa, OF
  • Billy Wagner, LHP
  • Larry Walker, OF

Feel free to cast your votes in the comments and proceed when ready.

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These MLB Stars Are the Only Ones Worthy of 2017 HOF Enshrinement

The first year Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, I voted “not now.”

OK, technically I just didn’t vote for them, but as I explained then in a column for CBSSports.com, it was more of a “not now” vote than a “not ever” vote.

“They may never get in,” I wrote, “but my guess is eventually they will.”

Eventually is coming.

It likely won’t happen this year based on early voting numbers tracked so carefully by Ryan Thibodaux. But Bonds’ and Clemens’ numbers went up last year after the Hall of Fame made changes in the electorate, and Thibodaux’s tracking numbers suggest they’ll rise even more significantly this time around.

Some votes switched after a Hall of Fame committee decided to enshrine Bud Selig, the commissioner who oversaw baseball’s steroid era. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports talked to some of those voters and explained why they switched.

The Selig decision didn’t affect my vote. I’ve voted for Bonds and Clemens since 2014 for reasons I explained then on Facebook.

Three years later, I feel the same way. And just as I did in 2014, I used the maximum 10 spots on this year’s ballot.

Here they are in alphabetical order (as they’re listed on the ballot), with the reasons why each one belongs.

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