It's become fashionable in some BBWAA circles to lament the fact that voters for the Hall of Fame are limited to 10 players on the ballot annually.
If these voters had their way, Cooperstown would be building an annex every few years to accommodate all the immortals judged worthy of entrance.
Sorry, but I find such a stance laughable. The notion that more than 10 players on the current ballot are deserving of recognition as all-time greats, among the best to ever play the game, is beyond my comprehension.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That's both the beauty and the curse, I suppose, of surveying more than 500 eligible voters each December.
When it comes to voting for the Hall, I tend to fall on the other end of the spectrum. In more than a dozen years of voting, only once did I vote for more than three players in any one year. (That was in 1999 when I voted for Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, George Brett and Carlton Fisk).
In other words, I am considered a "small Hall'' voter, as opposed to some of my colleagues who would be classified as "large Hall'' voters. My approach isn't meant to be punitive in any way. I merely believe the standards for Cooperstown should be set -- and remain -- very high. Others are more inclusive. Viva la difference.
Most years, I have voted for, on average, two players. Once, I returned a blank ballot (1998) and nearly did so again this time before I had a change of heart.
Among the newcomers -- led by Bernie Williams -- there was no one I gave any strong consideration. And given the fact that, a year ago, I voted only for Roberto Alomar, there were no holdovers for whom I felt compelled to vote.
Upon further review, however, I changed that.
After giving some consideration to voting for Jeff Bagwell in his first year of eligibility, I ultimately passed on him. Bagwell has been suspected of PED use and that was enough for me to exclude him from my ballot.
But the more I thought about it, the more that decision seemed wrong. After all, Bagwell was not mentioned in the Mitchell Report. He wasn't implicated by our great moral arbiter, Jose Canseco. He has no links to other notorious steroid-era figures such as Kurt Radomski or Brian McNamara. And he didn't lie to Congress or a grand jury.
The case against Bagwell, such as it is, is that he hit four homers at Double A, then "blossomed'' into a slugger when he reached the major leagues.
But there's no evidence whatsoever that Bagwell ever used PEDs. Baseball history is full of players who, for a variety of reasons, perform far better at the major leagues than they did in the minors.
Taken on his numbers alone, Bagwell is very much a worthy Cooperstown candidate.
In 15 full seasons, he hit 449 home runs, or precisely one shy of avergaging exactly 30 homers for his career. He sported a career .408 on-base percentage and a career slugging percentage of .540 for an OPS of .948.
He had double-figures in steals 10 times and scored 100 or more runs nine times, including a staggering 152 runs in 2000, the most for a player since 1936. In fact, he's one of just 22 players since World War II to accumulate both 1,500 runs scored and 1,500 RBI in his career.
Bagwell was also a terrific defender, regularly among the league leaders for assists and putouts at his position.
In short, Bagwell's numbers unequivocally make him a Hall of Famer. The lone black mark -- if you can call it that -- is his rumored involvement with PEDs, though there's not a shred of hard, actual evidence to support that.
Here are the rest of the most talked-about candidates and my reason(s) for not giving them my vote:
JACK MORRIS: Morris was a horse and a terrific big game pitcher (think no further than Game 7 in 1991). But his 3.90 ERA, compiled almost entirely before the steroid era, would be the highest of any starter in the Hall. Clutch? Yes. Dependable? You bet. But all-time great? I don't think so.
BARRY LARKIN: Of all the players I didn't vote for on this ballot, Larkin represented the toughest omission. He hit .295 for his career, which is quite good for a shortstop. But --- and this is where it gets tough to quantify -- I view Larkin as a very good player, but one who nonetheless falls shy of Hall of Fame status. At no time during his career did I consider Larkin one of the very best players in the game.
ALAN TRAMMELL: Like Larkin, he spent his entire career with one team and like Larkin, was incredibly consistent. But in 20 seasons, he finished in the Top 10 for MVP voting just three times and in the Top 5 just once. To me, that's a few great seasons and a lot of good-to-very-good ones, leaving him shy of all-time status.
TIM RAINES: For a period -- say, from 1982-1987 -- Raines was a spectacular player, a leadoff hitter whose talent and numbers compare favorably with Rickey Henderson. But for a player who was supposed to be such a terrific table-setter and baserunner, Raines scored more than 81 runs exactly twice in his final 14 seasons. Sorry, but his period of dominance was way too short for me.