My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot
1. Randy Johnson (Stats)
"The Big Unit" should be absolutely no question included in the Hall of Fame. Although he didn't hit his stride until his late 20's, Johnson was unstoppable up until his signing with the Yankees in 2005. He compiled 303 wins over his 22 season career, won 5 Cy Young Awards (including 4 in a row from 1999-2002), and led the league in strikeouts 9 times! The question for Johnson is not whether he'll get in, but how much he'll get in by. But it appears that his final voting percentage (which I don't find all that important) will be affected by some writers who will choose not to vote for him in order to give others a push to make it in, since Johnson will certainly receive the votes needed to be inducted this season. I'll always remember his signing with the Yankees, because 2005 was the first year I ever watched baseball full time. While he was past his prime, I remember loving to watch him and even had his pinstripe jersey at one point. Randy Johnson will be a Hall of Famer by this time tomorrow, without a doubt.
2. Pedro Martinez (Stats)
When I started to watch baseball, I couldn't stand this guy. But, most of that hatred was out of pure respect. I missed Pedro's prime seasons, but the statistics jumped out at me when I took a look at his Baseball Reference page. His final season in Montreal in 1997 sparked an incredible run of excellent seasons, and unfortunately for this Yankee fan, the remainder of those seasons were in Boston. A three time Cy Young winner, 3 time strikeout league leader and 5 time ERA league leader, Pedro had one of the best primes of any pitcher in the game's history. Between the 1999 and 2000 seasons, he was 41-10 with a 1.90 ERA and 597 strikeouts. It would be a travesty if he does not dominate the ballot this year, but it appears likely that he'll be joining Johnson as the only two locks in 2015.
3. Craig Biggio (Stats)
Longevity can be a very helpful tool in making the Hall of Fame, and I think Biggio will attest to that after he barely squeaks into Cooperstown this year. After viewing his career statistics, I can see why he is regarded as a Hall of Famer, but I don't think he ranks among the very best. Clearly we've seen over the years that the Hall contains several tiers of talent, but Biggio's consistency and lifetime totals of 3,060 hits and 668 doubles (most doubles for any right handed hitter in history) undoubtedly provide him with a place. He was versatile and loyal to the Astros throughout his remarkable 20 year career, and is a fan favorite whenever he steps into Minute Maid Park today. After coming up just two votes short of being inducted last year, I don't see how he fails to make it in again, and should be the third and (in my opinion) final member of the 2015 Class.
4. Jeff Bagwell (Stats)
People have already made claims that there are cheaters in the Hall of Fame. And there is no question that the "purity" the BBWAA says a player needs to have does not exist throughout all of the halls in Cooperstown. Ty Cobb was one of the greatest players in baseball history but was a racist and was charged with attempted murder. It was never verified, but Cobb along with Tris Speaker have been speculated as members of the KKK, and were involved with fixing games. It's a shame that Pete Rose is held out of the Hall of Fame while guys like Cobb, Speaker, and Gaylord Perry are in and respected as legends of the game.
So what does that have to do with Bagwell? Bagwell is one of the questionable steroid guys, although nothing has ever been close to proven. It feels like at a roundtable one day someone said "Jeff Bagwell is a big guy, he must've done steroids," and this rumor came about that has since excluded him from the Hall. It is said that he lifted weights like a body builder, which he has since regretted because it ended his career earlier than expected. But, with an MVP award, Rookie of the Year award, and 449 home runs, and no proof of steroid use, I don't understand how he hasn't garnered more consideration than he has. The American system (supposedly) is to be innocent until proven guilty, and what the writers are doing right now feels like a crime. If he was ever proven guilty of using PED's, so what? Put a little asterisk on his plaque to signify his "crime" and be on your way. Bagwell should be entering the Hall of Fame with his fellow Astro lifer Biggio regardless of suspicion, but it won't happen unless Biggio falls short this year.
5. Mike Piazza (Stats)
Piazza is the other mysterious steroid user whose name is being juggled by the jury, because he took a drug to cure his back acne. It's embarrassing to think that Piazza has had to make the world aware of his back acne problem in order to prove that his Hall of Fame case should be taken legitimately. Statistics prove that Piazza was the best offensive catcher in baseball history! He wasn't a very good catcher, but provided reliability while also crushing the ball for several teams in his 16 seasons. A 12 time All Star and 10 time Silver Slugger winner should have a spot reserved in the Hall, even if his back acne didn't make for the most attractive appearance. He won't be inducted this season, but I believe, regardless of any rumors, he should not be restricted from entering where everyone knows he belongs.
6. John Smoltz (Stats)
You may ask why Smoltz's name is not in bold along with Johnson, Martinez, and Biggio. I have a hunch that he's going to fall just a bit short of reaching induction in his first year on the ballot. I may be wrong, but if I am, I won't be off by a whole lot. I just feel like there is too much talent available to choose from, and recent sabermetric reports have shown that Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling should be held at a similar standard to Smoltz. Some may feel like they have to vote for all of them or none of them (which is absurd, but hey, if Aaron Sele can get a vote anything can happen). But don't criticize me, he's on my ballot and if he doesn't make it this year, he'll be inducted by next year. Between his dominance as a starter and reliever, along with one of the best postseason track records in history, I think it's only right that he joins his former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine with a plaque over time.
7. Curt Schilling (Stats)
I am not a Schilling fan by any definition of the word. I do wish him all the best facing oral cancer, because I don't believe anyone deserves to suffer through such a tragic illness, but I do not like the guy. Character is supposedly judged by the BBWAA, but as I mentioned before it has not seemed to be a critical point in voting until the Steroid Era players entered the ballot. Whether the sock was bloody or ketchupy though, this guy deserves to be in Cooperstown. I initially did not think he had the statistics, but advanced metrics have given him a boost that have changed my mind. I do not rely on sabermetrics to make or break my voting procedure, but sometimes the numbers are too striking to ignore. He was a fantastic postseason pitcher, which should be an added bonus as far as voting is considered (Bill Mazeroski does not belong in the Hall of Fame based on one monumental home run) but should be the deciding factor, along with having won 3 World Series; despite being a critical part of all three. All in all, Schilling barely made the cut on my list and knocked off one of my favorite players, which I will soon explain.
8. Tim Raines (Stats)
I wish Tim Raines started his career ten years later. Similarly to the way Bagwell and Piazza are blamed for rumors they had no involvement in, Raines has received an unfair factor as well by playing in the shadow of Rickey Henderson. Can we please acknowledge Raines' career OBP of .385 and stolen base percentage of 84.7%? Rock also may not have faced the pressures of drug use by starting his career later, but I think most people have since forgiven him for being involved in the cocaine scandal in the early 1980's. But let's focus on the performance, because although he may have stuck around in the game a bit too long (as did Henderson), he was dominant during his peak and always a valuable player to own. Raines would not be one of those top tier guys, and does not rank as high as Rickey Henderson, but should be recognized for his tremendous career, although I don't see it happening until the Veteran's Committee one day elects him.
9. Barry Bonds (Stats)
When Bonds first debuted on the ballot in 2012, there was no chance I ever envisioned myself supporting him. Fresh off of the Steroid Era and constant news of indictment and court, I absolutely despised the man. Time does appear to heal all wounds though in my case, as here I am including him on my ballot for 2015. I still have no respect for the man, but I don't find it fair that there are criminals in the Hall of Fame and he won't be let in. As much as some of you may hate to hear this, Bonds has still never been proven of failing a drug test, and has only admitted to using a cream to assist his arthritis. Before and after his supposed steroid use he was one of the best (if not the best) player in baseball history. But everyone knows that, and seeing his name on my ballot wouldn't surprise anyone if not for the PED's. I don't see Bonds being inducted for years to come, but I think given the "purity" of the Hall of Fame was tarnished in its first Induction Class of 1935 when Cobb was inducted, cheaters should be recognized and inducted. I'll let the Hall of Fame decide how they will go about displaying their plaques, because it should be noted on his plaque that he was one of the core players of the Steroid Era of Baseball. It should not be a celebrated part of the Hall, but I think it's only right that the Home Run King* is in the Hall of Fame.
10. Roger Clemens (Stats)
For many of the same reasons I have included Bonds on my ballot, I also included one of my least favorite Yankees of all time, Mr. Clemens. I do this with an understanding that these players will probably not be inducted until the baseball writers forgive them (an official admission would go a long way), but also because it's impossible to imagine this generation of baseball without thinking of both of these guys. You can not forget that these players existed, and it is only right that they eventually get their due. Plus, it may help Pete Rose's case if these players are forgiven, which I would fully support despite his betting on baseball. And on top of it all, when I walk my kids around the Hall of Fame one day, I want to be able to show them all of the history of the game and not just what the MLB chooses to display. Hiding history is not healthy for America's pastime, and I believe by having Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Rodriguez, and possibly McGwire in the Hall of Fame will elevate the legacies of Ruth, Mays, Mantle, and Aaron even more. "These players needed to use amphetamines to compete with each other, but these other players didn't even have to use those drugs to compile the same statistics". I don't like any of these guys, but the Hall of Fame is not as clean as it claims to appear and it should instead embrace the history of the game, or at least do something to display an era they may not like to show off.
*Bold = Predicted to Be Elected on January 6th
Mike Mussina (Stats)
I really had a hard time keeping Mussina off the list. I kept Schilling on my list over Moose only because I think Schilling was more dominant over the course of his career. However, I view Mussina as a Hall of Famer, and he was my #11 pick, thus showing my distaste for the current voting system in place.
Alan Trammell (Stats)
I did not get to watch Alan Trammell, and it appears that his case has been based around his intangibles and performances rather than solely on statistics. I think Trammell should be in because Larkin and Ozzie Smith are in, but I still don't quite understand the hype surrounding Larkin and why he was as big of a lock as he was.
Fred McGriff (Stats)
"The Crime Dog" has been robbed by so many other players throughout the years of votes, and while he isn't a dominant player, he would've hit 500 home runs without steroids if the 1994 season didn't end early due to the strike. He was a quiet player but was a premium power player who would've been looked at differently if he played in another era.
I also believe Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire should be inducted over time if Bonds and Clemens get in, although it didn't appear that Sosa would've been successful had he not cheated all throughout his career. I don't like them either, and I don't have that connection to their home run race because I was only two years old at the time, but if those guys get in, they should too. Edgar Martinez was a great hitter but is devalued for having been a DH. Larry Walker was also great but often injury prone, and playing his career in Colorado seemed to have elevated his statistics. A case can be made for so many players on the ballot, including even Don Mattingly on his last year of voting, and Gary Sheffield on his first year of voting; who may not even get the 5% needed to remain next year. With the amount of talent currently on the ballot, feelings are going to be hurt and deserving players may never get their opportunity to take the podium and celebrate their careers for the Cooperstown faithful. But if I had to pick 10, I took in my opinion the players with the ten best careers (with exception of Sosa and McGwire who won't get in unless Bonds/Clemens make it). You may not like my list, but it's my list, remember? I'm willing to forgive the steroid players enough to let them in but not without making all Hall visitors aware of what they've done.
As far as the actual vote goes tomorrow, I'm going to guess due to the huge amount of talent that Smoltz barely misses the cut, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm wrong. I'll be looking forward to seeing the results, and I would love to chat in the comments below! Let me know your thoughts!