I do not have a Hall of Fame vote, and I do not want one. Part of this is the old Groucho Marx maxim -- attributed mostly to Woody Allen, even though Woody explicitly credited Groucho with it when he said it -- of not wanting to be a part of any club that would have me as a member. But I also am still not quite certain writers should have this responsibility in the first place. It is our job to document what happens in baseball, both on and off the field, not to affect what happens on the field. The idea that a retired baseball player would have to appeal to a bunch of frazzled sportswriters to plead his Hall of Fame case seems … undignified, to both the player and the writers. We should all write about who we think belongs in the Hall of Fame. I'm still not quite sold that we should have the power to actually decide such a thing.
But it's not that big of a deal, and all told, I'd rather Keith Law and Jay Jaffe and Jeff Passan and Richard Justice and Derrick Goold decide who makes the Hall of Fame than, say, Mike Matheny or Hawk Harrelson. (And I'm loving this ballot from my old Sporting News boss Mark Newman.) So I can live with it. The BBWAA has made some moves to correct some of its larger voting inefficiencies -- purging from the rolls voters who haven't covered baseball in years, bringing in younger, less ideologically rigid voters -- so I don't find this whole process as demoralizing as I used to. This resembles something fun again.
So, I thought for the second time after dabbling last year, I'd get my Hall of Fame picks down, for the record. Again, I don't have an actual vote -- so there's no need for Ryan Thibodaux to put me in his invaluable HOF Ballot Tracker -- but as an exercise, it's worth getting one's picks, and reasoning, down. (I am a member of the IBWAA, which doesn't mean anything but at least gets me thinking about this sort of stuff.) I'll adhere to the BBWAA restrictions in this list: I can't choose more than 10 players, even I have more than 10 players I'd like to vote for.
Here's my "ballot."
Jeff Bagwell. It's a little bewildering that he's not in already, particularly in an age when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are seeing huge upticks in votes. (Finally.) It's not even fair to sniff Bagwell with the same suspicion as those two, but hey, He Wuz Big. All I know is that those Astros teams were just super fun time amazing, and Bagwell was the best player of all them. It'd be awfully fun if he were inducted this year and came back to Minute Maid Park to say hi to his old teammate (and new Astro, and future Hall of Famer) Carlos Beltran.
Barry Bonds. I'm not sure I've ever said anything as clearly as when I made Bonds' Hall of Fame case last year, so I'm just going to repeat it here, if you don't mind: I personally believe that PED outrage is mostly self-righteous historical revisionism meant to mythologize an idealistic time that was not in fact any better or worse than right now. I personally believe future generations will look at the way PEDs were used in our time, and the way they are discussed, and think of us as philistines. I personally believe that the glorious baseball experiences that were given to us by Bonds, and Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens, were real and mattered and should not be apologized for. But even if I didn't believe all of that: Bonds might have been the greatest baseball player of all time, and a Hall of Fame that doesn't include maybe the greatest player of all time honestly doesn't have much point in existing.
Roger Clemens. Jeff Passan thinks he and Bonds are gonna make it. I'm not quite as certain, but it's worth reiterating, with Clemens as with Bonds, that if the Hall of Fame doesn't have perhaps the greatest pitcher of the last 50 years, it doesn't make much sense to have a Hall of Fame.
Edgar Martinez. Four players I voted for last year aren't on the ballot this year: Ken Griffey Jr. (elected), Mike Piazza (elected), Alan Trammell (dropped off ballot) and Mark McGwire (dropped off ballot five years earlier than he should have been). I have faith that McGwire will eventually get in via the veterans committee, or whatever it's called now, after Bonds and Clemens are in and all that dust settles. But now I have a spot for Edgar Martinez, a player whose candidacy I resisted for years but have finally come around on (and finally can fit on my ballot). I understand people being wary of specialists -- it's why you'll see no closers on my ballot this year -- but Edgar's speciality was "hitting," which is a pretty big part of baseball, you know. I'm using all three of my new spots, because I'm a big Hall guy. Let everybody play! Let everybody in! Anybody still voting for Jim Deshaies?
Mike Mussina. I'll confess to being more into those who compile fantastic stats for a long time than those who are lightning flashes who burn out quickly, but Mussina wasn't just a compiler: There was a stretch when he was basically a quieter, more cerebral, less sexy-time Justin Verlander. He also came within 30 wins of 300, and that's never happening again for a long, long time.
Tim Raines. Holy crap, it's finally gonna happen. Ryan Thibodaux has him at 90 percent, and even allotting for the annual falloff from public votes to final tallies -- which won't be a problem from now on, thanks to the new BBWAA rule that all ballots must be public -- it looks like he's going to make it. Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines, saved by All The Young Nerds. Long, long overdue.
Ivan Rodriguez. It was a bit unseemly how long he hung on just to compile stats, but who cares? You're gonna penalize a catcher for hanging on too long? Or anyone for that matter? If I were a professional baseball player, I'd stay out there until they called security. I don't mind that he was a below-average offensive player for the last seven years of his career, and you shouldn't either.
Curt Schilling. He's the best non-PED-tainted pitcher on the ballot, and that's before you account for his postseason heroics and dominance. You're really not gonna vote for him because he's an idiot on Facebook? Do you know what percentage of active baseball players you're cheering for or lionizing feel the exact same way about the world as he does? It's embarrassing that Schilling keeps losing votes because of things he has said, off the field, years after he retired. No matter how stupid the things he says are. (And they are very stupid.)
Sammy Sosa. I guess I'm gonna have to die on this hill. How do you tell the history of the last 30 years of baseball without Sosa? The guy got his own parade down the Canyon of Heroes! The guy was friends with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton! He hit 609 home runs! He hit 63 homers or more three times! The total lack of interest or excitement behind Sosa's candidacy never fails to baffle me. I love Vlad Guerrero, but I'd vote for Sosa over him 30 times a day and 80 times on Sunday. Get with the program, people! It's Sammy Sosa! Did you all forget?
Larry Walker. Speaking of Vlad, I'm now officially sold: Walker deserves to go in before Vlad does. He has only three years left on the ballot, and he's getting fewer votes than Lee Smith. There might not be time left for a Raines-esque resurgence. But if anybody gets one, it'll be him.
If there weren't a 10-person ballot, I would have also voted for Guerrero, and that would probably be it. Maybe the ballot's about to clear out after all.
But a reminder: Please do not ever give me a vote.