The 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot is intriguing. The election marks the first time Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa appear. It also includes strong first time candidates such as Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio. Additionally, it appears Jack Morris may final receive the call on his 14th try. Overall, there are 37 former players eligible for induction in 2013. Steroid users cheated and have no business in the Hall of Fame. However, if I had a vote, I would induct the following eight players.
Jeff Bagwell received 56% of the vote last year. Voters have been reticent to warm to his candidacy. It seems to be guilt by association. Bagwell had big muscles and played in the steroid era. However, there is no evidence linking him to PEDs. As a result, his career numbers should equate with induction. Bagwell hit 449 home runs, drove in 1549, hit .297, and finished with a .948 OPS. He also won the 1991 Rookie of the Year and 1994 Most Valuable Player.
Bagwell’s long time teammate, Craig Biggio, is a slam dunk Hall of Fame player. Biggio totaled 3060 hits in his career and every eligible player with 3000 hits except Rafael Palmeiro has made the Hall of Fame. Palmeiro tested positive for steroids and has been shutout thus far. Biggio has never been implicated in the scandal.
Jack Morris’ career ended during the steroid era. The pitcher came tantalizingly close to election receiving 66.7% of the vote in 2012. No player with that high a vote total has ever been excluded. The New York Times claims that Morris’ odds are very good for 2013. His candidacy has brought some controversy. Despite leading the majors in wins in the 1980s, and establishing himself as a big game pitcher, voters shied away from Morris’ career ERA. Many believe 3.90 too high for induction. However, as The Times also reported, Morris pitched to score. On top of this, his ERA began to rise as steroids became more prevalent in the game.
The steroid controversy also effected Mike Piazza. Like Bagwell, no evidence of drug use exists with Piazza. Unlike Bagwell, a whisper campaign ensued implicating the catcher. Since no real evidence exists, Piazza deserves induction. Quite frankly, Piazza is the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history. For his career, he hit .308 with 427 home runs, 1335 RBI, and a .922 OPS. He appeared in 12 All Star Games, won 10 Silver Sluggers, and the 1993 Rookie of the Year.
While Piazza stood apart from other catchers, Tim Raines spent his career in Rickey Henderson’s shadow. On top of this, some of his best years occurred in Montreal. As a result, voters forgot how good he was. In 2008, he garnered only 24.3% of the vote. The last two years, Raines support increased to nearly 50%. Raines hit .294 with a .385 OBP and 808 stolen bases. Additionally, he totaled 2605 hits, won the 1986 batting crown, and walked 1330 times compared with 966 strikeouts. The walk-to-strikeout ratio is amazing considering the era.
Like Raines, Curt Schilling may not have had enough dominating seasons for some voters. However, he played in the steroid era and dominated when healthy. On top of this, he emerged the greatest big game pitcher of his era. Although he won just 216 games in 20 seasons, he accumulated 3116 strikeouts, three 20-win seasons, four 300-strikeout campaigns, led the league in complete games four times, and finished 11-2 in the postseason. In 1993, he carried the Phillies to the pennant, won the World Series MVP in 2001, and led the Red Sox to two world championships ending the Curse of the Bambino.
Lee Smith never ended a curse, but retired as baseball’s all-time saves leader. However, voters seem unimpressed. As a whole, relievers have had difficulty earning voters’ respect. Smith accumulated 478 saves and led the league four times. He pitched 90 or more innings five consecutive years. Perhaps voters do not consider him dominant enough for induction or perhaps they remember Steve Garvey’s home run in 1984. If the latter is true, then Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, and Bruce Sutter should have been excluded as well.
Alan Trammell is on his 12th ballot. His candidacy seemed to have stalled until he upped his vote totals to 36.8% last year. Some in the advanced metrics community have supported Trammell leading to the increase. However, it is still very short of the 75% needed for induction. Tram suffers from playing in the same era with Cal Ripken and Robin Yount. However, he was a superior player to Ozzie Smith who was inducted. Unfortunately, Trammell did not do backflips.