After eliminating the first-year candidates and the other players who don't fit on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, all that's left is to trim our list of 14 to 10:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Tom Glavine
Greg Maddux
Mark McGwire
Jack Morris
Mike Mussina
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Frank Thomas
Alan Trammell

The first to go, sadly, is Mark McGwire. McGwire was already a fairly easy cut under the "lost cause" rationale that saw Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, and others depart the ballot. He's in his eighth year of eligibility with only 16.9 percent of the vote last year, a large bloc of voters who have sworn he'll never see the Hall due to his admitted PED use, and the presence of other, better candidates at his position on merit alone, specifically Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell (and perhaps even Rafael Palmeiro, if we're going to get into the known PED users). Even though he played 16 seasons, McGwire is a peak-value case for the Hall -- he only recorded 701 PA from 1993-1995, for instance, had around 350 PA each of his last two seasons in St. Louis, and was a negative value player in the field and on the basepaths when he was playing full time. Had he been more durable or less one-dimensional, Big Mac would be a lock by the numbers.

That's what happens when you have a career triple-slash of .263/.394/.588 and 583 homeruns. However, McGwire has almost zero support from the crowd of voters who make their decisions based on milestones like the 500 homerun club, and given the state of the ballot, the players coming down the line in future seasons and our stated goal of helping get as many deserving guys into the Hall of Fame as possible this year, McGwire has to go. The Veterans Committee is likely to be kinder to him than the voters ever were; whatever incarnation the VC takes in 10 to 15 years will likely spend most of its time cleaning up the messes of this era.

Leaving the ballot under the same general circumstances is the guy who, along with McGwire, had to dodge them to last this long in the first place: Alan Trammell. Trammell was a standout candidate on a weaker ballot, but was neither so good compared to his contemporaries nor so outstanding compared to the newcomers on the ballot that propping up his candidacy, given that he hasn't made it even half of the way to the required percentage of votes in 13 years on the ballot, isn't something that we can do in good conscience. He should still find significant representation this year among voters who refuse to vote for candidates tainted by the use of PEDs, so he is in little to no danger of falling off the slate entirely until his time runs out in a few years, and should there be a spot for him on the ballot in his final year of eligibility I'd gladly put him back on -- but for now, there are higher priorities.

Such as Curt Schilling. If Jeff Kent was the last cut of the first-time eligible players, Schilling is the final cut of the returning candidates. Unlike Kent, Schilling is unquestionably a Hall of Fame caliber player who deserves enshrinement in Cooperstown and should eventually get it. But he also has a fairly safe support cushion to keep him on the ballot and has another decade or so of eligibility before it's time to start worrying about him, so he'll keep while we make sure the guy we're dropping him for, Mike Mussina, is more than one and done -- a distinct possibility given the logjam of pitchers currently facing voters.

And if Schilling is off the ballot, there's no chance that Jack Morris can remain on it. The traditional Jack Morris case for enshrinement in the Hall makes its bones off of Morris being an ace, a leader, and a postseason stalwart. That's actually Curt Schilling's case for the Hall of Fame: his career postseason ERA is 2.23 over 133 innings in the most offense-oriented period in the history of the game, as opposed to Morris's 92.1 IP of 3.80 ERA ball. Schilling threw 3261 regular season innings of 3.46 ERA ball in that same offensive environment, while Morris threw 3824 innings of 3.90 ERA ball in the eighties and early nineties. I've discussed Morris's shortcomings as a Hall of Famer before in extreme depth, and I think all of those old points still apply: Jack Morris's candidacy for the Hall has little to nothing to do with his actual pitching record. Were this Morris's fifth season on the ballot and not his final one, I might even advocate inducting the man just so that voters could finally turn their attention to more pressing matters and important candidates, instead of wasting so much time and energy on a very good -- but not great -- pitcher from the eighties. As it is, if Morris doesn't make it this year he'll most certainly find his way in thanks to the Veterans Committee, and for the purposes of our ballot it doesn't matter much either way.

With those final cuts made, the our ballot stands completed with the following names on it:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Tom Glavine
Greg Maddux
Mike Mussina
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Frank Thomas

On Wednesday, to wrap up this Hall of Fame series, we'll go through the ballot one by one and justify why every man on it deserves to be there.