Well, here it is — the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, the mother of all Hall of Fame ballots. It includes the all-time home run champ, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, one of just eight players to hit 600 or more home runs, a member of the 3000-hit club, and the greatest hitting catcher of all time. All slam dunk, first-ballot hall of famers, and most of them will likely not be voted in because of those pesky PED allegations. Let’s analyze:
Since this is a Mets site, we’ll begin with Piazza. Of course he is worthy — no catcher has ever hit like he did. But then there are the steroid whispers that began after he retired. There was talk of back acne (a steroid side effect) that suddenly disappeared once drug testing began, questions about how a 62nd round draft choice can suddenly become such a prolific hitter and speculation about how huge he was (I saw him in the clubhouse once; his arms were as big as my legs).
However, there has been no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, to prove any kind of PED connection to Piazza. Unlike other players, he did not show up in the Mitchell report, has never been linked to steroid deliveries or providers and never tested positive.
There really is no justification for keeping Piazza out of the Hall of Fame, except for writers who might think, “I just know he did it.” Without any kind of proof, that is just not fair. The same type of sentiment has, however, kept Jeff Bagwell out of the Hall. But Piazza and Bagwell are different cases because Bagwell is not a sure-fire nominee, while Piazza is.
I think while many writers will not vote for Piazza because of their suspicions, enough will and Piazza will be elected to the Hall of Fame. And he will wear a Mets hat on his plaque.
Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens
Bonds and Clemens will be the litmus test that will decide whether steroid users ever get voted into the Hall of Fame by the writers. Both stood trial and were acquitted (Bonds was convicted on one count, but not of taking PEDs), but in both cases, there were mountains of evidence that they did indeed use PEDs. There is justification for keeping them out based on the hard evidence.
You could argue that a Hall of Fame without Bonds and Clemens would be a joke, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I don’t think either one will get in this year, and perhaps they will never get in. If they do, that would open the doors to all steroid users, and I don’t think the writers want to do that.
The evidence against Sosa is less clear than Bonds and Clemens. First there was his dubious testimony to Congress when he suddenly forgot how to speak English. Then he was reported to have been one of the 104 players who tested positive in the 2003 round of survey testing that was supposed to be anonymous.
All of this is circumstantial at best, but it will likely be enough to confirm suspicions that Sosa was a PED user and keep him out of Cooperstown. After all, Mark McGwire offered similar lame testimony on that fateful day and the writers refused to vote for him because of it (it was only later that he admitted HGH use).
Now, thankfully, let’s get to some non-steroid players. Biggio amassed 3060 hits in his career. He was never really a dominant player — he was an All-Star only seven times in 20 years and he only had 200+ hits once. He never came close to an MVP award. But in addition to his hits total he is fifth all-time in doubles, so he will likely be elected in his first year of eligibility, and deservedly so.
Schilling is an interesting case. He was only 216-146 in his career. He only made six All-Star teams and never won a Cy Young award (he finished second three times). He did, however, have a solid ERA of 3.46 and struck out 3116 batters (including 300+ three times). But Schilling shined in the post season while everyone was watching, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts with one infamous bloody sock, winning three World Series titles. It is his post season performance that will get Schilling elected; not this year, though. Schilling really doesn’t meet the criteria of a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he will eventually get in after waiting a few years.
Now to the holdovers. None of them are getting in, simple as that. Jack Morris, appearing on his 14th ballot, just isn’t a Hall of Famer. Neither are Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez or Larry Walker. Bagwell will probably get in some day, but not this year. McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have their obvious steroid issues.
And now to Fred McGriff, about whom I have written in the past:
McGriff is never getting in… He was never a particularly dominant player…
Well, I am starting to warm to McGriff’s candidacy. He finished seven home runs shy of 500, but I like to look at individual seasons as well as career totals. McGriff had 30+ home runs 10 times and 100+ RBIs eight times. To put that in perspective, Carl Yastrzemski had 30+ home runs three times and 100+ RBIs five times. Dave Winfield had 30+ home runs three times and 100+ RBIs the same eight times. Obviously those players each had 3000+ hits, but the point I am trying to make is that McGriff was better than most people think and measures up well to some of the great players in the game. I don’t think McGriff will get in, but I think he deserves a closer look.
So to sum it up, Piazza and Biggio will be the only ones elected from this incredible Hall of Fame ballot. And things don’t slow down next year — we get Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent.