I was going to hold off on this blog for a few weeks until I actually had the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot in my hand and started checking off names for the next class to be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y. (a trip that, by the way, remains on my bucket list). But after listing the candidates Wednesday and finding myself debating the merits of Dale Murphy (clean) and Mark McGwire (dirty) on Facebook and Twitter, I figured I might as well get this out of the way now.
So, following are the 27 players on the ballot. Voters can select anywhere from zero to 10 players for enshrinement. Some voters are really silly about this, like they won’t vote a guy in the first time because they don’t think he’s a “first ballot” Hall of Famer, but they’ll vote for him after. Seems kind of stupid to me. If a guy belongs in, I don’t see the point in waiting. Anyway, I’m voting for seven. (Prediction: Only Barry Larkin and Jack Morris get the required 75 percent of the vote to make it in.)
As always, those who’ve admitted or were suspected of using steroids and/or performance enhancing drugs generally are going to be rejected by voters. (By the way: Barry Bonds will be on the ballot next year.) So with that, here are my thoughts on the candidates. And yes, I’m voting for Murphy.
• Jeff Bagwell: No. He has a Hall of Fame credentials (449 homers, 1,529 RBI, .297 average, MVP). But he was well short of induction last year with only 41.7 percent of the vote, at least in part because he has been suspected of using PEDs. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci summarized the Bagwell debate nicely when he wrote: “Bagwell was an admitted Andro user who hired a competitive bodybuilder to make him as big as he could be, who claimed, [Mark] McGwire-like, that Andro “doesn’t help you hit home runs,” who went from a prospect with “no pop” to massively changing his body and outhomering all but six big leaguers in the 13 seasons before steroid penalties (Ken Griffey Jr. and five connected to steroids: Bonds, [Sammy] Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, McGwire and Juan Gonzalez), and who condones the use of steroids — but said, “I never used.” Yeah. I’m going to need a few more years on this one.
• Jeromy Burnitz: No. But he played for eight teams, including the Indians, Cubs and Pirates. At the very least, I think we owe him a beer.
• Vinny Castilla: No. Castilla was hitting 40 homers a year in Colorado. He hit 12 and 22 in his two seasons in Atlanta, batting .254. Chipper Jones will never forget those two season. He watched them from left field.
• Juan Gonzalez: No. Has been linked to steroids and HGH. He was named in the Mitchell Report, which detailed how he was found with a bag at the airport loaded syringes and steroids. Most meaningless statistic of all: his 434 homers.
• Brian Jordan: No. One of my all-time favorite athletes (in two sports). It would’ve been fun to see what he could’ve done if he just played one. Had a terrific career (15 seasons, .282, 184 homers, 821 RBIs) but not Cooperstown material.
• Barry Larkin: Yes. I can’t believe he didn’t get in last year (received 62.1 percent of the votes) but he’ll get in this year. A 12-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove, nine-time Silver Slugger at shortstop with Cincinnati. Finished with 2,340 hits. Slam dunk.
• Javy Lopez: No. The former Braves catcher doesn’t have the career numbers, and for those with suspicious minds, his 43-homer season in 2003 (a contract year) jumps way off the page.
• Edgar Martinez: No. A strong case can be made that Martinez has HOF credentials: .312, 2,247 hits, 309 HR, 1,261 RBIs. But I don’t like the fact that for most of his career — 6,218 of 8,672 plate appearances — he was a designated hitter. DH is a half-player in my book.
• Don Mattingly: Yes. Over 2,000 hits, nine Gold Gloves, seven All-Star Games. One MVP. A great ambassador for baseball. A thousand times, yes.
• Fred McGriff: Yes. Even if he didn’t hit 493 home runs, I think the fact that the Atlanta-Fulton Stadium press box caught on fire the day the Braves traded for him, cementing their 1995 World Series championship, is reason enough to put him in the Hall.
• Mark McGwire: No. He only finally admitted steroid use, not because of regret or shame but because he wanted to come back to coach and try to salvage his legacy. And by the way, I’m not sure he would’ve been a HOF player without steroids.
• Jack Morris: Yes. He also should be in already (received 53.5 percent of the vote last year). Beat John Smoltz (barely) in the greatest pitching match-up most have ever seen (1991 World Series). Won 254 games, finished with 2,478 strikeouts, 175 complete games.
• Bill Mueller: No. I’ve heard of him.
• Terry Mulholland: No. Ex-Brave. Can’t knock a guy who has a 20-year career. Just doesn’t mean he gets a bronze plaque.
• Dale Murphy: Yes. Murphy won’t get in but I’m voting for him anyway — again. I’ve heard the arguments about him not having the career numbers. But when you win consecutive MVP awards, there’s an acknowledgement that you were one of the best players in the game. Five Gold Gloves, four Silver Slugger Awards, seven All-Star selections, 398 homers — and he mostly played on crummy teams. And yes, he should get points for not juicing and representing the game the right way.
• Phil Nevin: No. Suddenly became Hercules in 2001 with 41 homers in 2001. Go figure.
• Rafael Palmeiro: No. I went to those Congressional steroid hearings in Washington D.C. The only difference between McGwire and Palmeiro is Palmeiro lied. (McGwire wasn’t interested in answering questions at all.) Palmeiro even pointed his finger at the panel for impact!
• Brad Radke: No. Did he room with Bill Mueller?
• Tim Raines: Yes. He was one of those players who always scared me. He played 23 seasons and had career averages of .294 with 57 stolen bases and 93 runs. He had six straight seasons of 70-plus steals and the 808 in his career rank fifth all time. For some reason, he has been kept out.
• Tim Salmon: No. But he did hit 299 homers and captains the All-Fish team with Mike Carp, Mudcat Grant and, of course, Catfish Hunter. (Feel free to add more down below.)
• Ruben Sierra: No. He’s on the ballot for the first time. He had a long (20 year) and solid career. He goes into the Hall of Very Good.
• Lee Smith: Yes. But it’s close. Some never considered a dominant closer, just a very good one. But he led the National League in saves four times and his 478 saves rank third in history. Isn’t that worth something?
• Alan Trammell: No. Another Hall of Very Good member. Over 2,000 hits, four Gold Gloves and a World Series MVP won’t be enough.
• Larry Walker: No. Much like my aversion to career designate hitters (Martinez), I’m predisposed to giving the stink eye to guys who build career numbers in the thin air of Colorado. Walker hit 258 homers and batted .334 in 10 years with the Rockies. He hit 125 homers and batted .282 in eight seasons in Montreal and St. Louis. Thumbs down.
• Bernie Williams: No. Another very good player, but that’s it. If his vote total becomes inflated, it’s because he played for the Yankees.
• Tony Womack: No. A bad way to end a career, via Wikipedia: “He received a non-roster invitation to spring training with the Washington Nationals for the 2007 season, but was released on March 8.”
• Eric Young: No. Played for 15 seasons. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
By Jeff Schultz