My Hall of Fame ballot is a nightmare.
I like my choices but hate my ballot. It’s beyond dissatisfying. It’s actually quite terrible.
I suspect almost everyone’s is.
We can blame it on the ballot, which is comprised of 26 very good to near great players, many of whom are borderline Hall of Famers, plus two bona fide, slam-dunk Hall of Famers on their accomplishments — two who were great but who aren’t going to get in, at least no time soon. (Note: borderline is no insult, it only means they’re in the top 1-2 percent of players ever to put on a big-league uniform.) We can blame the ballot or the system, but we the writers are partly to blame (more on that below).
I voted for neither of the biggest achievers, Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez, which is what makes this such a mess. A-Rod was handed the biggest suspension by games in MLB history (not counting the indefinite ban for Jenrry Mejia), which was shortened by an arbitrator to what was still the biggest suspension by games in MLB history. And Manny is one of only a handful of players to fail two PED tests.
It’s OK if others want to honor the drug cheats, and I won’t automatically rule anyone out based on chemical enhancement. I did wind up voting for Barry Bonds, who I’m convinced only started doing PEDs after Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa passed him via artificial means, and more importantly, put up Hall of Fame numbers before he started juicing. Once Bonds did start partaking, it’s no surprise he did that better than everyone else, too.
I don’t rule out PED users over morality. I simply don’t want to bestow baseball’s biggest honors on guys — talented though they were — who already enhanced their stats and résumés and bank accounts via illicit means by who knows how much.
Here’s who I did vote for …
1. Andruw Jones: He’s one of the two or three greatest center fielders in history and put up big numbers in the first decade of his career, before he fell off a cliff in LA.
2. Scott Rolen: Thanks to superb defense and a very good middle-of-the-order bat, he was a dynamo for three National League teams. His lifetime 70 WAR says he’s elite even if we didn’t necessarily view him that way in his day.
3. Jeff Kent: When a second baseman posts 100-RBI seasons in eight of nine years, I take notice (yes, I still count RBIs).
4. Jimmy Rollins: I know it’ll be tough for him with his 95 OPS plus, but he had impact. He was an MVP, a four-time Gold Glove winner who variously led the league in games, at-bats, runs, triples and stolen bases, and was the heart of some terrific Phillies teams.
No, thanks to steroids
5. Rodriguez: It’s likely he would have been a Hall of Famer even without the steroids. But he just couldn’t help himself.
6. Ramirez: One of the best right-handed hitters ever.
7. Gary Sheffield: His numbers are likely over the Hall of Fame line. But a borderline guy who was a Balco star? No thanks.
Very, very close
8. Carlos Beltran: He probably will make it eventually but he’s the one player named in the worst team scandal in a century. Hard to honor in Year 1.
Pretty darned close
9. Todd Helton: Terrific rate stats, but it feels like someone who played his whole career at Coors (mostly before the humidor) could have bigger career totals.
10. Billy Wagner: Amazing strikeout and WHIP numbers but didn’t quite make it here for being hit hard when it counted most (21 hits a 10.03 postseason ERA in 11 ¹/₃ innings).
11. Torii Hunter: One of the best defensive center fielders ever had a better career than I remembered.
12. Andy Pettitte: He had big impact but a PED brush is hard to overlook for another borderline guy.
13. Bobby Abreu: Really good numbers but a touch short on impact.
14. Omar Vizquel: Amazing defender, but offensive numbers tipped the scale the wrong way.
15. Mark Buehrle: Amazing consistency and some very memorable moments give me pause.
16. Francisco Rodriguez: Big moment early and 437 saves in total. Not bad.
The remaining 12 players had stellar careers and deserve to be on the ballot but are harder to make a case for (Jayson Werth, Jered Weaver, John Lackey, Mike Napoli, R.A. Dickey, Huston Street, Bronson Arroyo, J.J. Hardy, Andre Ethier, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Cain, Jacoby Ellsbury).
It’s all pretty messy, I know.
We only have ourselves to blame, for not working harder to uncover the steroid usage while it was happening.
So I’m not here to complain, only to admit. It seems wrong to omit the two “best” players. But I just can’t do it.
And so, my ballot really stinks.
But at least it’s not the worst one I saw. That’s gotta be the K-Rod only ballot. At least I didn’t do that.
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