2018 MLB Hall of Fame
For the 20th consecutive year, I dropped my Hall of Fame ballot in the mailbox in advance of the Jan. 1 deadline. It is an honor I don’t take for granted, even after two decades, and I spend plenty of time putting in due diligence before making my selections.
Voting has become especially more challenging in recent years for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is the performance-enhancing drug issue. Should players who were caught using steroids or suspected of cheating gain entry in the Hall of Fame?
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
A case can be make either way and it is an emotional issue for many. I do not automatically disqualify candidates because of PEDs. My thought on the matter, as simplistic as it sounds, is I’m a sportswriter, not a moralist.
The PED issue has also led to another difficulty in voting. The BBWAA voters elected just seven players over a seven-year period from 2008-14 as many grappled with how to deal with players from The Steroids Era. Thus, that led to a backlog of candidates remaining on the ballot, a situation exacerbated by the Hall of Fame limiting the electorate to voting for a maximum of 10 players a year.
That backlog of candidates has started to ease now after 12 players were elected in a four-year span from 2013-17. When the 2018 class is announced at 5:15 p.m. ET Thursday, the logjam should be further broken.
With the results due to be announced in just hours, here is a look at the 10 players I voted for — listed in alphabetical order:
Barry Bonds: I saw his greatness up close for the first five years of my career from 1988-92 when he played for the Pirates and I was a beat writer for a newspaper north of Pittsburgh. He was a great player then, even before his head started growing to an unnatural size. Though some fans and media members don’t want to acknowledge the fact, his 762 career home runs are the major league record.
Roger Clemens: The same goes for Clemens as does Bonds. Clemens was a Hall of Famer before he reportedly began using chemistry to help his performance. Love him or hate him, one cannot deny his record of 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA in just over 700 career starts.
Trevor Hoffman: Closer is always a tricky position to deal with as a voter as their value to a team is measured more psychologically than statistically. The Padres felt good during the 15 seasons Hoffman wore their uniform as he had 549 of his 601 career saves with them.
Chipper Jones: A no-doubter in his first time on the ballot as he was one of the greatest third baseman in history, hitting .303/.401/.529 with 468 home runs in 19 seasons, all with the Atlanta Braves. Remarkably, he will join Ken Griffey Jr. as just the second No. 1 overall draft pick to reach Cooperstown.
Mike Mussina: His candidacy is gaining momentum and it looks like he could eventually make it, though likely not this year. It seems odd that a pitcher who won 270 games, including 20 in his final season, has been overlooked for so long.
Manny Ramirez: Yes, he was suspended twice for PEDs but it happened after he was well past his prime. He didn’t always come across as the brightest guy but he was a hitting savant and a nightmare for opposing pitchers because there was no way to consistently get him out.
Curt Schilling: He was a drama queen as a player and his obsession for trying to command attention in retirement is annoying. However, he was one of the best pitchers of his generation and there will always be the Bloody Sock Game in 2004 World Series.
Jim Thome: Another no-doubter in his first year on the ballot as he played 22 seasons and posted a slash line of .276/.402/.554 with 612 home runs. Furthermore, he was one of the game’s true gentlemen and never had a hint of controversy during his career.
Omar Vizquel: I found out how unpopular this selection was last month when I originally posted my vote on Twitter and got filleted by fans for the better part of two days. I know the metrics aren’t great but the game isn’t always about numbers. Vizquel won 11 Gold Gloves — that counts in my mind — and helped transform a laughingstock of a franchise in the Cleveland Indians into a powerhouse.
Larry Walker: Like Mussina, voters are finally starting to recognize Walker as one of the best players of his generation. Walker was a true five-tool player and getting dinged for spending 10 seasons of his 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field is unfair. He shined at altitudes under 5,280 feet, too.
And, finally, breaking down the players I did not vote for into two categories:
Wanted to or at least considered voting for but was restricted by the 10-player limit: Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner.
Good but not Hall of Famers: Chris Carpenter, Johnny Damon, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Carlos Lee, Brad Lidge, Hideki Matsui, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer, Scott Rolen, Johan Santana, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano.