Analyzing 2012 Hall of Fame Ballot

This year’s Hall of Fame ballot released on Wednesday could be the lamest one in recent memory. The ESPN.com headline on its story says it all:

Bernie Williams, Bill Mueller Top Ballot

No disrespect to Bill Mueller, but when he tops any ballot, you can rest assured the remaining names are not very impressive. Hell, no one even knows how to pronounce his last name (it’s like Miller, I think).

These, of course, are only the first-timers on the ballot. Other notables include former Mets Edgardo Alfonzo and Jeromy Burnitz. None of them should be making Cooperstown reservations for July. Sure, Yankees fans will make some noise about Williams, and while he had an excellent career, is just not Hall of Fame worthy.

There are plenty of holdovers, most of whom are also reasonably unimpressive (if not they wouldn’t be holdovers). And perhaps we need this down year because next year we will have the mother of all ballots with which to contend — Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, and Craig Biggio will all be up for consideration.

But a few players have a good chance of being elected this year. Here are the top candidates:

Barry Larkin
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This will be Larkin’s third try, and likely his last because I predict he will be elected. Many people thought he was a slam-dunk first ballot HOFer, but they turned out to be wrong. He got 62% last year, and with little competition this year he will get in. He is certainly deserving — he was the dominant shortstop in the National League in the 1990s, winning the MVP in 1995. Larkin was a 12-time All-Star, won nine Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves.

Jeff Bagwell
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I think Bagwell will also get in. On his first time last year he garnered a surprisingly low 41% of the vote. There were a lot of articles written at this time last year about Bagwell and steroids. Nobody ever accused him of taking them, but some criticized him for never speaking out against them, which is just absolute nonsense. I think many writers punished him for that by denying him first ballot distinction. Just like they punished Roberto Alomar for his infamous spitting incident and then elected him the second year, I think the same thing will happen with Bagwell. Bagwell was a Rookie-of-the-Year and an MVP winner. He hit 449 home runs in a 15-year career.

Jack Morris
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Time is running short for Morris. This is his 13th year on the ballot — only two more years left. Morris got 53% of the vote last year, and I don’t see it going any higher. Morris had a fine career, winning 254 games, but his 3.90 era would be the highest of any Hall of Fame starter. He never won a Cy Young, finishing as high as third twice.

Lee Smith
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His 10th year on the ballot, he got 45% last year. He retired as the all-time saves leader, but two players have already surpassed him, and by more than 100 saves. He has no shot.

Tim Raines
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A lot of people love Raines, calling him the National League’s Rickey Henderson. I think he falls well short of that. He’ll never get in.

Steroid Guys
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Mark McGwire will get his usual 20% or so, Rafael Palmeiro will get enough votes to remain on the ballot, but Juan Gonzalez may not even get that much. None of these guys is getting in.

It will be interesting to see what happens next year, though. It is unlikely that the writers will elect Bonds, Clemens or Sosa, but if they do get in, does that open the door for all of the steroid guys? And what about Piazza? There have been whispers for years about possible steroid use but no evidence, not even circumstantial evidence. Mets fans pray this is not true. But do the writers ignore the whispers, or is he lumped in with the players who have failed tests or where the evidence can reasonably point to steroid use? These are all questions for next year.

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