The headline from the latest Hall of Fame voting is that writers are more willing to forgive players accused of using PEDs — but not all players. Let’s look at some of the highlights:
— Jeff Bagwell finally got in after seven years on the ballot. He should have been a first-time inductee, but was done in by steroid whispers. There was never any evidence against him, yet he was punished for innuendo.
— Tim Raines was elected on his final year on the ballot. I still don’t think he is a Hall of Famer and never voted for him on the IBWAA ballot. Raines was outstanding in the first seven years of his career, not so much in his final 16 seasons. He just was not good enough for a long period of time, in my opinion.
— Ivan Rodriguez got in on his first ballot. He becomes the first player elected with more than just steroid whispers haunting him. Jose Canseco says he injected him with steroids and he showed up to Spring Training when drug testing started noticeably slimmer than he ever was. He was no longer “Pudge.” Yet he got in on his first attempt. I thought he would get in eventually, but thought the writers would punish him by not making him a first ballot guy. As a Mets fan, I resent Rodriguez getting in on his first attempt while Mike Piazza had to wait four years. But as I wrote above, it shows the changing view of steroids.
— Trevor Hoffman missed election by five votes. He will get in next year. But ex-Met Billy Wagner, who was far more dominant that Hoffman ever was, got just 10% of the vote. Wagner was a poor postseason performer — a whopping 10.03 ERA in 14 games. He might have needed a strong playoffs career to make up for his 422 saves, which puts him sixth on that list behind Mariano Rivera, Hoffman, Lee Smith (who failed in his 15th and final attempt this year), Francisco Rodriguez (!) and John Franco (lots of former Mets).
— Vladimir Guerrero missed by 15 votes. This was a stunner to me; I thought he was a no-doubt-about-it first ballot inductee. A .318 batting average, 449 home runs (the same as Bagwell), an MVP award, a nine-time All-Star, a cannon for an arm and hardly ever struck out despite swinging at everything. I really cannot understand why anyone would vote against him. He’ll get in next year.
— Edgar Martinez climbed to 58% on his eighth year on the ballot. Will someone explain his appeal to me? He was a fine hitter (.312 batting average and a .418 on base percentage) and he had a great swing. And I know his fellow players consider him one of the better hitters of the era. But was he really elite? His numbers are actually very similar to those of Magglio Ordonez, and he garnered just three votes in his first year and dropped off the ballot.
— Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds each got about 54% of the vote, gaining 10% over last year. However, it is 10% less than the 65% at which they were trending. They each have five years left; their induction appears inevitable.
— Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling are seeing their Hall of Fame fortunes reversing. Mussina climbed 9% to nearly 52%, while Shilling fell to 45%, dropping 7% from last year. Schilling is basically a moron and is falling victim to his own recent asinine statements. But can anyone say Mussina was a better pitcher than Schilling? Whom would you want on the mound in a big game? Schilling’s postseason career puts him over the top for me, while Mussina was a very good pitcher who does not belong among the elite.
— Manny Ramirez received nearly 25% of the vote. His case is different from Clemens and Bonds because he actually tested positive for PEDs. Twice. It is unlikely voters will forgive him for violating the rules.
— Gary Sheffield, though, admitting to inadvertently using steroids; unwittingly duped one off-season by Bonds and his trainer. Yet voters do not seem to believe him, giving him just 13% of the vote. Sheffield’s 509 homers should be enough to get him in, but he also batted .292 and had close to 2700 hits and 1676 RBIs. That RBI total (so out of vogue with today’s sabermetrics snobs, I know) ranks him 28th all-time. His numbers scream Hall of Fame, but the voters will not forgive his transgression. Yet Rodriguez, who likely used for more than just one winter, gets in on his first attempt.
— That forgiveness also does not extend to Sammy Sosa, who continues to hang on with nearly 9% of the vote. I do not understand how one can vote for Bonds and Clemens and not for Sosa. They probably use the “he was a Hall of Famer before he started using” while “Sosa was a product of PEDs” argument. To me, they all fall is the same boat — they never failed a test and thus should not be excluded.
— Jorge Posada, who I thought would get more support, dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot after getting just 3.8% of the vote in his first appearance.
So there you go. First-timers next year include likely inductees Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, as well as Johan Santana, Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones. So let the arguing begin.