Look inside McAdam's Hall of Fame ballot

Look inside McAdam's Hall of Fame ballot
January 7, 2014, 10:45 am
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By now, surely, you've heard it from any number of those with a Baseball Hall of Fame ballot: "Voting isn't fun anymore."
    
And, sadly, there's some truth to that. Instead of a great sense of anticipation when the ballot arrives, there's now an unshakeable feeling of dread.
    
What was once a simple process of sorting through career achievements has morphed into a far more complicated task involving speculation, innuendo and ethics.
    
Welcome to the PED Era. Or post-PED era. Or wherever it is we are.
    
Who cheated? For how long? Can we prove he cheated? Are we sure someone didn't cheat?
    
Beyond that, there's the increasing reliance on advanced metrics that suggests that the old methods of evaluation (batting average, RBI, wins) don't mean nearly as much as OPS, WHIP and other numbers.
    
While more complicated, metrics offer a more comprehensive and telling picture of a player's career. More data, in theory at least, should lead to a more informed electorate.
    
Still, I find the notion that some are determining how "right'' or "wrong'' some ballots are to be off-putting -- at the very least. Voting is, by definition, entirely subjective. To suggest otherwise is the very antithesis of the process.
    
That said, I would classify myself as a "small Hall'' voter -- one who typically votes for a smaller number of candidates than others. To me, Cooperstown is reserved for the truly great, the best of the best.
    
That's not meant as a slight to, say, Jack Morris or Tim Raines. But neither rises to the level of among the greatest to ever play the game. They have very, very good careers, but to my way of thinking, fall short of the game's best.
    
I have a policy of disqualifying those players whom I'm reasonably certain used PEDs in their careers. That includes players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who continue to maintain their innocence and never failed tests administered by Major League Baseball.
    
Is that discriminatory? Unfair? Perhaps.
    
But as I've maintained in the past, this isn't a court of law. I'm not putting Bonds or Clemens behind bars; I'm simply witholding my vote because I'm reasonably certain that some of their achievements were aided and abetted by PED use. The same goes for Sammy Sosa.
    
Others (Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro) were eliminated thanks to either admission of their own or failed tests.
    
Some of my fellow voters complain that the rule which limits them to 10 players is too constricting. I've never experienced that problem.
    
I tend to place great value on a player's standing relative to his era, and beyond sheer numbers, I often turn to award voting. If a player wasn't regularly in consideration for either MVP or Cy Young balloting, then to me, he wasn't dominant.
    
This year, I placed five names on the ballot, three of them newcomers. In 15 years of voting, that's the most number of players for whom I've voted.
    
My ballot, in alphabetical order:

1) Jeff Bagwell    
Bagwell was an MVP (unanimously) once and finished in the top five in NL MVP balloting two other times. He was durable, accomplished in the field, and hit for power.
    
And yes, I know there exist PED rumors about Bagwell. But they remain just that -- rumors. And if the most damning bit of evidence is that he hit just four homers in his last minor league season before hitting 449 in his major league career, I'm willing to take a chance.
         
2) Tom Glavine
Glavine had a .600 winning percentage, won two Cy Young Awards and finished in the top three four other times. In other words, in a 10-year span, he was among the handful of best pitchers in the game more times than not. Along with Randy Johnson -- eligible next year -- Glavine was one of the two most dominant lefties in the game for nearly 15 years.
    
3) Greg Maddux    
The easiest selection on the ballot, Maddux won four Cy Young Awards and was a top-five finisher in six other seasons. In addition to 355 wins, he earned 18 Gold Gloves.
    
Any questions?
    
4) Curt Schilling    
Sure, his 216 wins seem a bit low. But his strikeout-to-walk ratio is the second-best in history and he had better than 3,000 career strikeouts. What pushes Schilling across the finish line, of course, is his post-season body of work: 11 wins, an .846 winning percentage and a career ERA of 2.23, compiled against the best teams.
         
5) Frank Thomas    
Thomas, too, seems like a no-brainer. He was a two-time MVP, a lifetime .301 hitter with a .555 slugging percentage and is 10th in career walks. The one argument against him, it would seem, is that he played almost 60 percent of his games at DH. But in a year in which the DH rule turned 40, aren't we beyond such silly talk?
    
Omissions:    
Jack Morris: Put aside the argument over the true value of wins, and it boils down to this: if elected, Morris would own the highest ERA (3.90) of any pitcher in the Hall. That's a disqualifier for me.
    
Tim Raines: My argument against Raines is that his era of dominance was too short. After 1994, when he was 34, he had one season in which he played more than 115 games. And he had just two Top 10 MVP finishes in 23 seasons.
    
Mike Piazza: Piazza may be the best hitting catcher of all time, although he was decidedly below average as a receiver. But I'm more troubled by the incessant PED suspicion which, while not definitively substantiated, is alarming enough to make me wait.
    
Mike Mussina: A very good pitcher who was remarkably durable and pitched his entire career in the offense-crazed A.L. East. Still, in 18 seasons, Mussina finished in the top three in Cy Young voting exactly once, which suggests that while consistent, he was never dominant.