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My 2014 Hall of Fame ballot

Jan 8, 2014, 2:12 PM EST

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There is no greater honor in baseball than election to the Hall of Fame. And there’s no greater Hall of Fame in sports than the original, the one that first opened its doors in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1936. So you’d think the annual election of new members to baseball immortality would be a joyous occasion, one in which the greatest of the greats are celebrated for their remarkable careers.

Sadly, that’s no longer the case. The annual Hall of Fame election has become an exercise in misery, thanks to an unfortunate combination of steroid use in the sport for which there is no consensus opinion, an arcane rule that prohibits voters from selecting more than 10 players on a ballot and a growing and disturbing trend of voters and non-voters spewing all sorts of vitriol at each other over any opinion that dares to differ from their own.

I’d like to briefly address all three of those subjects before revealing my own ballot…

Steroid use: There remains no right answer to this dilemma. Everybody has an opinion, and none of them is wrong. There’s validity to the idea of voting for proven PED users, on the grounds that MLB didn’t do much of anything to stop guys from taking the stuff during their careers and that so many players were doing it that it’s impossible to know what effect any of it actually had. And there’s validity to the idea of keeping proven PED users out, on the grounds that the Hall of Fame’s longstanding criteria for election include “integrity, sportsmanship and character.”

I respect those who vote for the users, but I can’t do it myself. If I’m supposed to adhere to the Hall of Fame’s instructions, then I can’t in good conscience vote for anybody who knowingly broke the rules — yes, steroids have been banned by MLB since 1991 even though there was no testing until 2002 — and U.S. law in an attempt to enhance their personal performance. So, no to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro.

But I also can’t in good conscience deny votes to players who are merely suspected of PED use, with no actual evidence of use. So, yes to Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and others who may very well have broken the rules but haven’t been caught. Does that mean there’s a chance I’ve put PED users into the Hall of Fame? Yeah, but I have an easier time living with that fear than living with the fear I kept a worthy candidate out based purely on suspicion.

The 10-player limit: This hadn’t ever been a particularly hot-button topic, but it sure was this year and promises to be moving forward because the ballot has become so overstuffed with legitimate candidates that it’s almost impossible to whittle the list down to 10 players. In three previous years as a voter — by the way, you become a voter after serving 10 consecutive years as a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, and you’re entitled to keep that vote for life — I had never voted for more than six players. That changed this year, when I used up all 10 slots and might well have voted for an 11th player if the rules allowed.

I wasn’t alone in this regard. A record number voters submitted 10-man ballots, and many of those would have added more names to the list if allowed. And the problem isn’t about to go away, not with Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield joining the ballot in 2015 and Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez set to be included by 2017.

The BBWAA has created a committee to explore changes to the voting procedure, and there seems a good chance the 10-man limit will be gone, hopefully by next year. It certainly makes sense. There are twice as many MLB clubs (and players) now than there were when the original limit was instituted. We shouldn’t have to use any strategy in completing our ballots. There should be only one question to consider: Was Player X a Hall of Famer or not?

The vitriol: This, to be honest, bothers me more than the others and has taken more joy out of the voting process than the other issues. Too many people who write and talk about baseball — both BBWAA members and non-members — have turned the annual Hall of Fame vote into an excuse to trash each other. Why? Because they don’t agree with somebody else’s opinion.

Look, I don’t agree with somebody who didn’t vote for Greg Maddux or somebody else who did vote for Aaron Sele. But those people earned the right to vote with 10 or more years of service as a BBWAA member. And more than that, they earned the right to have an opinion. Just as we all have, voters and non-voters.

There were 571 ballots cast this year. Do we really expect all 571 ballots to look identical? Would anyone prefer that? Isn’t the point of having so many voters to prevent a couple of outliers from altering the election results? Best as I can tell, Greg Maddux isn’t being denied entry because he only received 97.2 percent of the vote instead of 100 percent. And Jacque Jones doesn’t have a plaque in Cooperstown because 1 out of 571 voters put a check next to his name.

Sadly, I’m afraid there will be more time wasted today arguing stuff like that than time spent celebrating the careers of the Hall of Fame’s three newest members: Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, each of whom surpassed the magic 75 percent threshold for election. I hope I’m wrong and that those three men get their day in the sun. Because they deserve it.

With that, here’s how I voted on all 36 players on this year’s ballot. I don’t expect anybody to agree 100 percent with me, but I do expect everybody to respect the time and effort I and all of my fellow voters put into this endeavor and to respect our well-reasoned opinions…

A career .303 hitter with 332 homers, two Silver Slugger Awards, two top-3 finishes in MVP voting and six All-Star selections. A much better player than most probably remember.

Bagwell’s path to Cooperstown has unfortunately been slower than you’d hope (he’s been on the ballot four years now) and the only logical explanation for that must be whispers about steroids use. Problem is, there’s never been any actual evidence linking Bagwell to PEDs, only speculation from those who note his body type and power numbers. Could he have taken them? Sure. Did he take them? I have no idea. So unless somebody proves otherwise, I’ll keep voting for one of only 10 players in baseball history with 400 homers, 400 doubles and 200 stolen bases.

His name alone probably sends shivers down the spines of Orioles and Mets fans, but Benitez was a very good reliever for a long time. Unfortunately, more people likely remember his 59 career blown saves than his 289 career actual saves.

Like his longtime teammate Bagwell, Biggio unfortunately has seen his vote totals held back a bit by speculation of PED use. At least, I assume that’s the reason, because his baseball credentials are impeccable. He ranks 21st all-time in hits 3,060), 15th all-time in runs (1,844) and fifth all-time in doubles (668). He’s one of only seven players in history with 3,000 hits and 400 stolen bases. And he was an All-Star catcher, then a Gold Glove second baseman, then an everyday center fielder. One of the most versatile players ever. And, get this, he finished with 74.8 percent. He missed out by two votes. Wow. That is incredibly unfortunate, though I suppose you can take solace knowing he’ll get in soon, probably next year.

Obviously, his playing performance meets the Cooperstown standard. It clears the bar with as much room to spare as anybody in the game’s history. But when the Hall of Fame instructs me to consider a player’s integrity, sportsmanship and character when making my selections, I take that to heart. Bonds knowingly broke baseball rules and U.S. law for the sole purpose of enhancing his personal performance. To me, that keeps him out. For now. I may very well change my mind about this some day. But not yet.

Affectionately known as “The Mayor,” the always gregarious Casey was one of the better pure hitters of the last 15 years. He hit .302 over his career and hit .290 or better in eight of his 11 big-league seasons.

See my explanation on Bonds and just insert Clemens’ name. One of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, without question. But he knowingly cheated for his own personal gain. But wait, what about the federal jury that found him not guilty of lying to Congress? Well, they found him not guilty of lying, not of taking PEDs. I don’t question the validity of the Mitchell Report on this matter, not to mention Andy Pettitte’s implicating testimony.

A stalwart second baseman and leadoff man for the White Sox and Giants, Durham had the rare (and valuable) combo of power (711 career extra-base hits) and speed (273 career stolen bases).

Greatest season by a relief pitcher in history? Eric Gagne in 2003: 1.20 ERA, 55-for-55 in save opportunities, 137 strikeouts and only 37 hits allowed in 82 1/3 innings. But as is the case with so many relievers, he couldn’t sustain his success over a prolonged period. Was named in Mitchell Report for having purchased HGH from former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski.

This may come as a surprise, but Glavine wasn’t nearly the slam-dunk I expected him to be. Once I started looking at his career, it didn’t look quite as dominant as I would have guessed. He never won his league’s ERA title. He never lead his league in innings pitched. His 3.54 career ERA, while very good given the era in which he pitched, wasn’t nearly as good as the very best pitchers of his era (Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, John Smoltz). Now, having said all that, Glavine still did get my vote because while he wasn’t quite in that crust-of-the-crust group, he was only one notch below it. He won 305 games. He won two Cy Young Awards and finished in the top three in voting four more times. He made 10 All-Star appearances. And he had a strong postseason resume that included a 3.30 ERA in 35 starts. (Stop and think about that for a moment, by the way. Thirty-five starts is the equivalent of a full, big-league season. Glavine pitched a full season’s worth of postseason games. Remarkable.)

Gonzo was a fairly average big leaguer until he joined the Diamondbacks in 1999, after which he turned into one of the most productive hitters in the game. From ’99-’03, he averaged 34 homers, 115 RBI and a .969 OPS. He also got to live out the dream of every baseball-loving child: Game 7 of the World Series, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, tie game. Not a bad way to be remembered.

Ranked eighth in the AL in WAR in 2002. Sorry, that’s the only positive accomplishment I can come up with.

When you think of the great closers of the late ’90s and early 2000s, you think of names like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner. Todd Jones isn’t a name you think of.

Part of me feels bad, because this guy deserves serious consideration but wound up getting lost on this overcrowded ballot. Kent hit more homers (351) than any second baseman in history, and his .509 slugging percentage trails only Rogers Hornsby among all second basemen. He was a big-time power producer at a position not known at all for producing power hitters. Problem is, there were tons of more-productive offensive players during his era. Among all qualifying hitters during his career, Kent ranked 74th in batting average (behind Frank Catalanotto and Mark Grudzielanek) and 49th in slugging percentage (behind Carlos Lee and J.D. Drew). And he really didn’t bring much else to the table, not in the field and not on the bases. I’m certainly willing to reconsider him in the future, but this feels like somebody who is going to get lost in the shuffle.

There was a time when Lo Duca was one the best offensive catchers in baseball. Sadly, that was long before Jim Bowden gave him $5 million to catch for the Nationals, a signing that was announced two days before Lo Duca was named in the Mitchell Report.

Who’s the greatest pitcher of the last 50 years? I’m not saying it’s definitely Maddux, but he’s unquestionably in the conversation. I could fill up this space with his overwhelming career achievements, but you don’t need me to convince you he’s a Hall of Famer. So instead let me share a personal memory of this wizard of the mound. In the summer of 1997, I was an intern at the now-defunct Daily Southtown, a suburban Chicago newspaper. And through pure dumb luck, I wound up getting to spend most of that summer covering an awful Cubs team (which, as it turned out, was managed by a fellow named Jim Riggleman). On July 22, the Cubs hosted the Braves for a doubleheader, and Maddux pitched the opener. He completely carved up Chicago’s lineup, allowing one run on five hits without walking anybody, to earn the win. He wound up with a complete game. On 76 pitches. Yes, a 76-pitch complete game. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again. Congrats to the Mad Dog on his near-unanimous selection as a Hall of Famer.

I’ve always maintained I would reconsider guys I didn’t vote for in previous years, and truth be told, this guy was the No. 1 reason I said that. For three years, I tried to convince myself he was a Hall of Famer, and each time I couldn’t get past the fact that his career totals were a tad flimsy because he was a late bloomer. And given the fact he spent the vast majority of his career as a DH, I felt like he needed overwhelming offensive numbers to win me over. Well, I’m happy to report I changed my mind this time around. What swayed me? A couple of things. First of all, I took a closer look at Martinez’s early career, before he became a full-time big leaguer. I assumed the Mariners didn’t play him more either because of poor performance or because of injury. I was wrong. He played in 276 games at Class AAA between 1985-89, during which time he hit an astounding .344 with a .450 on-base percentage! Why wasn’t he promoted? Because Seattle had a logjam on the big-league roster, with Jim Presley entrenched at third base. It wasn’t until after Presley was traded to Atlanta in 1990 that the door opened up for Edgar, who then turned into one of the very best offensive players in baseball history. He finished with a .312 batting average, two AL batting titles, 514 doubles, 309 homers and a stunningly good .418 on-base percentage. That last number was key for me, and here’s why: Among all major leaguers who have ever stepped to the plate as many times as Edgar Martinez, only 11 owned a higher OBP. Ten of those 11 are Hall of Famers, including the now-elected Frank Thomas. And the 11th is Barry Bonds. Frank Thomas earned a place in Cooperstown because he was one of the two best DHs in history. Edgar Martinez was the other, and for that he deserves to join the Big Hurt some day.

From 1984-89, Mattingly’s offensive numbers were off the charts: .327/.372/.530, averaged 27 homers and 114 RBI. Then came the ’90s, which were not nearly as kind to Donnie Baseball: .286/.345/.405, averaged 10 homers and 64 RBI. Had he just sustained his peak pace a bit longer, he’d have a strong case here.

A very good, and consistent, power hitter over a long period of time. But he just didn’t stack up to the truly elite hitters of his generation.

I’ve been surprised to see so many voters bypass Big Mac not because he was an admitted PED user, but because they don’t think his playing performance met the Cooperstown standard. Wow, really? The man hit home runs with more frequency than anybody in baseball history, once every 10.6 at-bats. And you can’t say his record-shattering run in 1998 didn’t have a tremendous impact on the sport. You can, however, say he was an admitted PED user, and so you can (as I do) choose not to vote for him on those grounds alone.

I feel bad for Morris, I genuinely do. All the guy did was pitch his rear end off for 18 seasons, serve as the ace of three World Series champions and win maybe the greatest game in World Series history. Yet he has been subjected to more scrutiny than perhaps any player in the history of the Hall of Fame ballot. This was his final chance at election via the BBWAA, his 15th time on the ballot, and he again came up a little bit short. I, like the other Morris dissenters, couldn’t get over his career 3.90 ERA (during a time in which a 3.90 ERA was not something to brag about). I also couldn’t get over his postseason record, which wasn’t nearly as dominant as legend would have you believe. Yes, he twirled that famous, 10-inning gem for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. But of his 13 career postseason starts, only eight met the minimum standard to be considered a “quality start.” And in only three of those 13 starts did Morris allow fewer than two earned runs. Compare those numbers to Curt Schilling (see below) and you realize there is no real comparison between the two. I’m sorry Morris wound up a figure of such derision these last few years, but in the end he just wasn’t quite good enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

A colleague of mine in the Baltimore-Washington sports media corps has insisted for years that Mussina was a Hall of Famer, a statement I always greeted with mock. (Mock directed at my colleague, mind you, not Mussina.) I just didn’t think of him as a Hall of Famer, and I was sure the overwhelming majority of fellow voters would feel the same way. Well, a funny thing happened once I actually started examining Mussina’s career last month: I realized he truly does have a case. He may not have the awards and reputation of Tom Glavine, but the two were quite similar pitchers. No, he never won the AL ERA title, but he finished in the top five an impressive seven times. He has one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in history. He’s got a strong postseason record. And, yes, he pitched his whole career in hitter-friendly ballparks against tough AL East lineups. (Though I think that last point is exaggerated a bit. He didn’t have to face the Orioles’ explosive lineup while pitching for Baltimore, and he didn’t have to face the Yankees’ modern murderer’s row while pitching for New York.) But I will admit I seriously considered this guy and might very well have voted for him … if not for that pesky, 10-player limit rule. Mussina was definitely the 11th guy on my ballot. If I was allowed to vote for 11 players, I very well might have included him. But I’m only allowed to vote for 10, so he unfortunately got caught in the numbers game.

Remember Nomo-mania? It was real, and it was spectacular, but it didn’t last very long. After going 29-17 with a 2.90 ERA in his first two seasons with the Dodgers, he went 53-54 with a 4.57 ERA over the next five seasons with five different clubs. He did have a nice little bounce-back late in his career, including his second career no-hitter: April 4, 2001, with the Red Sox at Camden Yards. True story: That was my second game ever as a baseball beat writer, my first night game on deadline. My head is still spinning from the chaos of that night and my complete lack of unpreparedness for it. But it’s the only no-hitter I’ve ever witnessed, and for all I know it’s the only one I’ll ever see in person.

As is the case with McGwire, I don’t understand why so many voters say he wasn’t a good enough player to get in. As if 3,000 hits and 500 homers weren’t automatic tickets to Cooperstown for anybody unconnected to PEDs. Raffy, of course, famously told Congress he never took steroids in his life, then shortly thereafter tested positive and was suspended by MLB. I know he insists something fishy happened and he was wronged. But until he makes a compelling case for himself, I just can’t vote for him. And, sadly, I can’t vote for him anymore anyway, because he failed to crack the 5 percent minimum needed to remain on the ballot. That is incredibly unfortunate.

The greatest-hitting catcher of all-time came up a bit short in his first crack on the ballot, but he figured to be right around the 75 percent mark this year. Turns out he wasn’t that close, getting 62.2 percent. Those who didn’t vote for Piazza likely did so because of suspicions of PED use. But just like Bagwell, there has never been any actual evidence against Piazza, only whispers about body type and skin conditions. Is there a chance he took PEDs during his career? Yeah, of course. Can anyone say say definitively that he did? Nope. I can’t deny him a vote based on that.

Ah, my favorite Hall of Fame pet project. Though I’m certainly not alone in this camp, because Raines has become a highly popular choice over the last few years and keeps inching closer to the magic 75 percent mark. He’s not there yet, but I do believe he’ll get there some day as more and more voters come to appreciate just how great a player he was. Raines combined power and speed during a time when few others did. Only 22 players in history have stolen 500 or more bases. Of those, only seven recorded more extra-base hits than Raines: Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Paul Molitor, Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan, Honus Wagner and Lou Brock. All Hall of Famers, except for Bonds. And Raines wasn’t just any old basestealer. He was the greatest basestealer in baseball history. Yes, his 85 percent success rate tops everyone else, and nobody else is even close. I’ll leave you with another of my favorite stats: Tim Raines reached base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn did in an almost identical number of plate appearances.

A true workhorse, “The Gambler” started 30 or more games 12 times in a 16-year span. Unfortunately, he posted a sub-4.00 ERA in only five of those seasons. Even in the inflated offense era of the ’90s and early 2000s, that’s just not going to cut it. No worries, Kenny did enjoy a profitable second career churning out tasty rotisserie chicken!

Plain and simple, one of the very best pitchers of his generation and one of the very best postseason pitchers ever. Among those who pitched during his time, Schilling’s 3.46 ERA ranks behind only Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Kevin Brown and Roger Clemens. His 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks behind nobody in baseball history (unless you want to include Tommy Bond of the 1870s Worcester Ruby Legs). His 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA in 19 career postseason starts (4-1, 2.06 in seven World Series starts) is staggeringly dominant. As is the fact he allowed one or fewer earned runs in 12 of those 19 postseason starts. Put that all together, and Schilling is a Hall of Famer.

That he appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot at age 38 underscores just how abruptly his career ended. Slugged 242 homers between his age 24-31 seasons. Slugged just 33 more after that before retiring.

Yes, he was one of the best closers of his time. But he wasn’t one of the very best closers of all-time. Smith’s career save rate of 82 percent ranks behind Armando Benitez and Jason Isringhausen.

A six-time Gold Glover, Snow just never really hit enough (career .268 batting average, .784 OPS) to be considered an elite first baseman. He did, however, save Dusty Baker’s son’s life during the World Series. So he’ll always have that going for him.

He hit 609 homers, drove in 1,667 runs, made seven All-Star teams and finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting seven times. Plus there was that whole joint pursuit of Roger Maris’ home run record with Mark McGwire. I say he’s got the stats to send him to Cooperstown. But he won’t be going there anytime soon, if ever, because he was one of 104 MLB players who tested positive for PEDs during what was supposed to be an anonymous drug program in 2003 but was uncovered by the New York Times in a thorough report whose validity has never been questioned.

How great of a hitter was Frank Thomas? Here’s how great: With only five more doubles, he would have been the sixth player ever to hit .300 with 500 homers and 500 doubles, joining a club that includes only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Manny Ramirez. I won’t hold those lack of five more doubles against the guy. Besides, he clears the bar in several other ways, such as his two AL MVPs, his 1997 AL batting title and the four times he led the league in on-base percentage and OPS. Also consider this: During his first eight major-league seasons, the Big Hurt hit .330 and slugged .600. I mean, the guy owned a .330 batting average eight seasons into his career! Yes, he spent most of his career as a DH, and the times he did wear a first baseman’s mitt weren’t pretty. But this is a case of a player whose offensive production was so immense, it didn’t matter what else he did on the field. And my colleagues agreed, sending Thomas off to Cooperstown on his first ballot.

Quick: Name the best setup man in baseball history. This guy would certainly be in the conversation. Occasionally a closer, Timlin put together one of the most consistent and impressive performances by any reliever who didn’t regularly pitch the ninth inning, finishing with a 3.63 ERA over 18 seasons. That doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer, but that doesn’t diminish what was a very strong career.

A lot of people make some very compelling cases for Trammell, but I’ve just never been able to get over that hump. During his career, he ranked 47th in the majors in batting average (behind Johnny Ray and Steve Sax), 58th in OBP (behind Bill Doran and Rance Mulliniks) and 98th in slugging (behind Von Hayes and Roy Smalley). Trammell was an incredibly good, all-around shortstop for a long time. One of the best ever. Just not one of the very best ever as far as I’m concerned.

And we close this year’s ballot with my other annual pet project, a player who either is severely under-appreciated or is unfairly punished for playing a chunk of his career at Coors Field. His .565 career slugging percentage ranks 13th all-time. His .965 OPS ranks 16th all-time. Over the 13 best years of his career, Walker had a higher batting average, OBP and OPS than Alex Rodriguez did over his best 13 years. Yeah, that’s right. He also was a three-time batting champ, a seven-time Gold Glove winner and he stole 230 bases. Truly a complete player. Now, about that Coors Field conundrum. Yes, his career numbers there were video-game-like (.381/.462/.710). But his career numbers in every other ballpark he ever played in were really good, too (.282/.372/.500). And why do we feel the need to punish someone for playing in one specific, hitter-friendly park but not others? Ted Williams hit .361 in his career at Fenway Park. Ernie Banks’ OPS was 113 points higher at Wrigley Field than it was anywhere else. And Sandy Koufax’s career ERA at Dodger Stadium was 1.37 … and 3.38 everywhere else. Has anyone ever claimed those all-time greats were merely a product of their favorable home ballparks? No. So why should we hold it against Walker, who was a fantastic ballplayer no matter the venue.

  1. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    great job Mark and thanks for sharing. only one I would argue is Mussina. Walker’s case baffles me more and more as I come to know his numbers.

    • tcostant - Jan 8, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      All I know is I watched a lot of baseball during the prime of Glavine and Mussina careers, and I always though of Mussina as the better pitcher. I’m not sure either is a HoFer, but it interesting that Mussina retired early and could have stuck around two more years and got 300 wins, which Glavine chose to do. I’m not sure that is enough for me.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 8, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        Just looking at 162 game average stats for both pitchers, Mussina is clearly ahead in all categories from wins, IP, K/BB, WHIP, ERA+. Glavine may have benefited from being one of the best rotations of all time.

  2. Section 222 - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    This is one of my favorite posts each year. Thorough, persuasive, humorous, and gracious. Just what we’d expect from our host. Thanks Mark.

  3. natsfan1a - Jan 8, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    These posts are also faves of mine. They’re real, and they’re spectacular. (What?)

    • mauimo22 - Jan 8, 2014 at 9:24 PM

      nice touch! one of my fav episodes too.

  4. Adam - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    One of my biggest pet peeves about how players are valued is the “save”. Hopefully a day will arrive when we can recognize relievers who were successful in high leverage situations instead of just those accumulating stats based more on a broad game context than any specific performance. What if Tyler Clippard keeps up his current level of performance for another 5 years? He likely won’t accumulate saves but he will have consistently entered games in high leverage situations against quite often the heart of the opponents lineup. How will we look back at his career?

  5. micksback1 - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    I have read a lot of posts the past few days to try to get caught up and ran across a few attacking Coach sjm. I am not sure why, but let me say as someone who knows Coach whose nieces and nephews swam for him back in the early to mid 90’s, it is way way off base. He is an excellent coach and I would have been honored to have had any of my kids swim for him, however they belonged to a different club. He is old school, fair and a great teacher. I guarantee, he would have nipped the RGIII situation quickly or, better yet he never would have taken the job under such a boss. Also remember, Coach is in situation where he is coaching coed athletes so the environment and how you deal with an athlete is little different. Overall, the attacks on him are baseless

    • sjm308 - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:31 PM

      Thanks Mick, you didn’t need to do that, but you just need to use good ignoring skills. Great thing about baseball is I can have a different view or opinion from another poster and pretty much know that whoever it is will also be rooting for our team. You and I don’t always agree but we love sports and we love opining on sports which is why I love reading the comments. Would not be honest if I didn’t say it was hurtful but again, why worry about it.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jan 8, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        308, I found the posts to be so absurd that I didn’t feel that there was any merit in responding to them. I’m sure that you won’t, but don’t lose sleep over them.

      • sjm308 - Jan 8, 2014 at 4:46 PM

        thank you both!

      • natsfan1a - Jan 8, 2014 at 6:16 PM

        I only saw one such post (maybe I missed some). The one I did see put me in mind of one of our former commenters, and I had an inclination similar to Joe’s.

      • Sonny G 10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:03 AM

        sjm308, I was boiling mad when I read that crap. I came within an eyelash of responding, but noticed no one else responded and remembered our mantra of “Don’t feed the trolls”. This person obviously wanted some attention and I’m glad we didn’t give him any. We got your back, coach!

  6. Section 222 - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Clipp has been a full time reliever for five years, starting in 2009. He appeared in over 70 games in all but the first of those years, when he appeared in 41. His stats during that time are off the charts. ERA 2.72, WHIP 1.038 (!), ERA+ 146 (!!). K/9 10.3(!!!) My guess is that if Clipp keeps doing what he’s doing for five more years, he’ll be a closer by then, probably for another team.

    And if he does it for five years after that he’ll be a strong Hall of Fame candidate.

    • NatsLady - Jan 8, 2014 at 10:54 PM

      Said that a few years ago, when Storen came on the scene. Storen was fine, but fire-balling relievers come and go in a few years. Clipp the only player on our team (this was before Stras and Harper) that I thought had a chance at the Hall. Of course, it’s a long road and you have to stay healthy on that road…

      I hope Rizzo doesn’t let him go. You don’t let a guy go who has greatness in him, they don’t come along very often.

  7. bowdenball - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    Thank you, Mark. I agree with virtually all of your ballot. But more importantly, you gave us a yes or no vote on every single player with reasonable explanations, and you did it on a blog that allows for comments. It’s great to see some of the members who understand that the Hall ultimately belongs to the fans and that they should be allowed some insight into the process and even a forum to express their opinions to the gatekeepers. Some of your peers do the same, I wish more of them did. Three cheers for Zuckerman.

    • NatsLady - Jan 8, 2014 at 10:55 PM

      Agree! Thanks, Mark, for sharing.

  8. sjm308 - Jan 8, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    What a great article and I really learned so much more about each athlete. Thanks Mark!

    I think, because of you, I started championing Raines to my friends (unfortunately, none of us has a vote). I might have put Mussina on my ballot and taken Schilling off but that is about it.

    The one wish I have and I am betting I am in the minority on this is I would love to see Pete Rose get his plaque but have that plaque state his crimes against baseball as well as his accomplishments. He truly was an incredible player (tell me some of you don’t think of Pete when you watch Bryce run the bases?) and while betting on the game obviously earned him his banishment, I think he should be recognized. Again, I realize this is not the popular opinion and I can live with that.

    Go Nats!!

    • jd - Jan 8, 2014 at 5:20 PM

      I will take a different stance on Pete Rose. He bet on baseball which puts into question the very basics of the game. In Sports if there is a question of ‘rigging’ the result there is no point to having the competition. It’s the most serious crime you can commit against the sport.

      • sjm308 - Jan 8, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        JD: I am totally aware of your stance and don’t disagree. I just think if the plaque states exactly what you say, you can find a spot for the guy with the most hits in the game

    • Sonny G 10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:15 AM

      Coach, I agree with you on Pete Rose. I would like to see him elected to the HoF. I don’t think he bet on baseball when he was a player and it is as a player that he should be in Hall of Fame. I just think that future generations should know what type a player he was.

      • exposednats - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:01 AM

        +1 for me… (sort of)

        The only reason I feel this is Pete’s gambling didn’t help him hit all those baseballs fair. His ability and hustle was hall of fame worthy…no question.

        Bonds, et al…Performance Enhancing Drugs kinda says it all.

        Unfortunately, as a coach once said to me… “you’ve got the tools, you just don’t have the toolbox”…(sigh)

  9. Joe Seamhead - Jan 8, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    I’m with you on Pete. Maybe there needs to be a Hall of Asterisks.

    I think that Tommy John should be inducted at some point. His on the field career records are reason enough, but being the first to not only get the ligament replacement surgery, but also the first to work his way back were historical. And before anybody calls me out, I know that he didn’t perform the operation. Just my 2 cents worth.That and another 98 cents might get you a copy of the local newspaper.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 8, 2014 at 11:16 PM

      “Maybe there needs to be a Hall of Asterisks.”

      That would be a Hall of Achievements.

  10. jd - Jan 8, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    I think that Raines is a no brainer hall of famer; much much better than Andre Dawson for example. I don’t agree about Biggio, I think he compiled his numbers by playing for a very long time. I don’t think he was ever near the top of the league in any category, I think he was a very good even excellent player for a long time but I don’t think that this is what a hall of famer should be. I think you need to be exceptional, one of the very best in something.

  11. Eugene in Oregon - Jan 8, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Mark Zuckerman: An excellent ballot.

    General point: Those who voted against Greg Maddux for the HoF should have their voting privileges revoked.

    • sjm308 - Jan 8, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      Even worse were the 12 voters who left Hank Aaron off their ballots. Had to be somewhat racially motivated don’t you think?

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 8, 2014 at 9:10 PM


    • natsjackinfl - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:23 PM

      Eugene. In truth, they have forfeited their right to vote, at least for Maddux. Now that he’s in, they’ll never be able to vote for him.

      But I agree . They show a total disrespect for the privilege they have earned and should have it revoked.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 8, 2014 at 11:04 PM

      Well, I don’t know who that was, or what they were thinking, but I can imagine that, like Mark, they wanted to get 11 or even 12 votes in, and since there was no question of Maddux not getting elected, they chose to put the vote toward somebody who, in their mind, “needed” it more. Just a thought.

      • Sonny G 10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:18 AM

        Hey, that’s not a bad observation, sofa. I could see that happening.

    • natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:35 AM

      Not that it matters what I think, but I’d be more inclined to revoke the voting privileges of this guy:

      • natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:55 AM

        Just to be clear, seeing as how comment nesting may muddle things, my reply was meant for Eugene’s 5:19 post.

  12. Section 222 - Jan 8, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    There really are all kinds of rationales for these votes. No one has a monopoly on the “right” way to do it. Bowdenball makes a really good point that the most we can expect is for the voters to make their votes public and explain their votes. Here’s a voter who laments Biggio’s near miss because he would have voted for him if he could vote for more than 10 players. Included on his ballot — Clemons and Bonds. He voted for McGwire last year, but not this year. Go figure.

    Dave Cameron thinks the 10 player max will be repealed before last year, prompted in part by Biggio’s near miss and the at least 3 voters who said they would have voted for him if they could vote for more than 10:

  13. Another_Sam - Jan 8, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    Thank you, Mark. Nice piece; thoughtful work.

  14. Joe Seamhead - Jan 8, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    I agree with all of the above positive comments directed at Mark’s post and his reasoning regarding his votes. I don’t personally feel that if I was voting for 10 members that my votes would have been exactly the same, but all of his votes were justified.
    Amazing: The “Say Hey Kid” appeared in 24 All-Star teams won 12 Gold Gloves and two MVP awards during his memorable career. After retiring with 660 home runs and 3,283 hits, Mays received just short of 95 percent of the vote in 1979.
    Tell me how there was any justification to not vote Willie Mays in on his first ballet?

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 8, 2014 at 10:38 PM

      honestly I don’t mind if no unanimous player is ever voted in on first ballot.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 8, 2014 at 11:13 PM

      “Tell me how there was any justification to not vote Willie Mays in on his first ballet?”

      Tutu true. Right en pointe.

      • natsfan1a - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:31 AM

        I will say without pas, that was one of the best comments, barre none.

  15. 98tarheel - Jan 8, 2014 at 8:50 PM

    I think if baseball felt steroids disqualified someone from eligibility, then they would remove Bonds and Clemens names from the ballot the way they did with Rose. If they are eligible for the hall, then I think you have to include the greatest right-handed hitter ever and the second or third best RHP ever.

  16. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 8, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    I feel bad for guys like Bonds and Clemens, especially Bonds. These guys had all the talent in the world to put HOF-worthy numbers but they chose to do it the wrong way. Bonds was such a great talent that without steroids, he could have acheived 500 SB, 500 HR, and .300 BA. I guess being godson of Mays comes with some pressure.

  17. Section 222 - Jan 8, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    You’re entitled to your opinion on whether Bonds should be in the Hall. There’s no debating, however, that he was left handed.

    • 98tarheel - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:21 PM

      Whoops, you’re right. My point remains.

  18. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 8, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    If they do stay with the 10-vote limit, and if they ballot stays this crowded (I don’t think it will, but if), I wonder if the voters mightn’t get some pressure to move it along, and get guys like Biggio (or Jack Morris) off the ballot by voting them in instead of leaving them hanging year after year, and tying up votes that could go to other players. .

  19. Jw - Jan 8, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    Question for Mark: Do you vote for Pudge Rodriguez in a few years, or do his slim PED ties prevent you from doing that?

    • Mark Zuckerman - Jan 8, 2014 at 11:34 PM

      Well, I don’t have to make that decision for 3 more years, so I reserve the right to change this stance, especially if some new info surfaces between now and then.

      But based on what we know at this point, I would vote for Pudge. He hasn’t admitted or been proven to have taken PEDs. The only association I know of is Jose Canseco’s claim that he injected Rodriguez while the two were teammates. While I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if it turned out to be true, that alone isn’t nearly concrete enough for me to withhold a vote for Pudge.

      But check back with me in Jan. 2017!

      • blovy8 - Jan 9, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        As much as I hate to admit it, Canseco’s accusations seem to have been very reliable.

  20. Section 222 - Jan 8, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    Did Paul Lo Duca get any votes? That may be the most disqualifying act for a voter out there this year.

  21. Sonny G 10 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    Mark, I really enjoyed reading your votes and reasons. You are the best!!!





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