This is the eighteenth of our series where we here at Notinhalloffame.com, do what else?  Debate the merit of twenty-four men on the most loaded Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in our lifetime.
Last year, we did our first ever debate on Notinhalloffame.com where we tackled the Hall of Fame merit of twenty-four men who are on the Hall of Fame ballot, in what was in our opinion the most loaded ballot in our lifetime.

Since it was so much fun last time, we thought we would do it again!

One thing that has not changed is the number.  We will again debate twenty-four men who are on the ballot.

What has changed are the ones debating.  Last year I had the pleasure of having DDT, the curator of DDT’s Pop Flies blog and D.K. of the Phillies Archivist blog.  This year, Spheniscus, who has participated in past Rock and Roll discussions, will be joining me.



Chairman: I am going to try something a little different here with Curt Schilling, who is entering his fourth year on the ballot.  Rather than start with the statistical reasoning for Schilling’s induction (and I have a lot) something has changed for Schilling over the past year that I wonder if it will play out in this ballot. 

We know of Schilling’s failure in his gaming company and subsequent bankruptcy but he still had a high profile gig on television with ESPN.  Well, he did anyway.  In August he put out a very controversial tweet equating the Muslims with the Nazis by comparing radical Muslims to the percentage of Germans who were Nazis.  It was right up there in terms of the dumbest tweets of all time and it led to his suspension.  With what just happened in Paris and really throughout the world, this is a hot button topic that won’t help him get rehired quickly.

I ask you this.  Schilling gained back the ten percent the lost from the previous year and is coming off a 39.2% year.  This is still a ballot that is crowded and he could be just off the top ten on some people’s ballots. 

I know this stuff doesn’t matter, but it is humans voting for humans.  Could this affect him this year?

Spheniscus: I actually don’t think it does. Schilling is not a particularly liked person amongst many of the people who covered him. They seem him as a massive egotist. Which is part of why the whole bloody sock thing was thought to be faked. They actually think that is something he would do to make himself look better.

The voters who voted for him will do so again, bringing up the fact that Ty Cobb was one of the most terrible human beings this side of John Demjanjuk, and there is no morals clause. The people who didn’t vote for him weren’t going to be voting for him for personal reasons anyway.

I suppose it is possible that he was 11th on a few people’s lists last year and they move others in front of him, but I suspect he will in effect tread water this year. He’ll get around 40% give or take a point.


Chairman:  I don’t know.  By every account, Ty Cobb was a hideous human being, but one of the best baseball players of all time.  You can’t make a statistical argument against his induction.  With Schilling, you can, though a really good one.

Schilling was (and continues to be) a tool, and so are some of these writers, an industry where holding a grudge and personal agendas are almost a prerequisite.  Morals aren’t a prerequisite for the hall, agreed, but it isn’t one for being a voter either.  Schilling strikes me as a guy who rubbed enough people the wrong way to have a built in excuse to not put a check mark beside his name.

Stat wise (yep, I am finally going to talk about that), I think he is one.  The JAWS of 64.5 puts him over the Hall of Fame average, and if I use the other argument where I railed against Billy Wagner, when it counted (the playoffs), Schilling was outstanding.  He went 11 and 2, with 120 Strikeouts over 133.1 Innings, a 2.23 ERA and a WHIP under 1 (0.968).  Throw in the hardware (an NLCS MVP, World Series MVP and three World Series Rings) this is an incredible run! 

Saying that, your target vote is exactly what I predict for Mr. Personality.

Spheniscus: Speaking of writers holding a grudge, this is as good a place as any to complain about the Spink award winner. How in Holy Heck is Dan Shaughnessy, the CHB (Curly Haired Boyfriend) himself the Spink Award winner? You would be hard pressed to find someone more hated in Boston than Shaughnessy. Okay John Tomase, who somehow still has a gig covering the Patriots. But Shaughnessy is media enemy #2. Just a terrible decision.

Anyway, back to Schilling. He is a loud mouth and he is a winner. He is likely to be a Hall of Famer. But he didn’t do himself any favors over the past year.

As I said in the Mussina section, both Mussina and Schilling get a bump from the Smoltz, Pedro, and the Big Unit getting inducted last year. The majority of that bump is going to head to Mussina though. Schilling will pick up some votes, just not that many. If he can keep him mouth shut and rehab his image a little, he’ll start heading back up in greater numbers. Particularly as the 10 year limit starts taking its toll.


Chairman:  Asking Schilling to shut up is like asking Manny to stop being Manny.  Schilling doesn’t know any better.

But….

He will still rise in the voting, but not by as much as he should.  I will call it at 43%, and as this is not a vote on player’s ethics, intelligence or character, I give Schilling my pretend vote.

Spheniscus: Schilling gets both my pretend vote and my undying gratitude. And he will get that bump from not having Pedro and Randy on the list. I give him 42% and still think that Mussina will pass him. 

While the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot for this year was already known, it is worth noting that the names on the ballot have been made official and have been sent out to prospective voters.

Let’s go through the ballot and take a quick look shall we?

The new headliner is Ken Griffey Jr., who is expected by many (including us) to enter immediately.  He holds the “1C” rank on our Notinhalloffame.com baseball list.  It is worth noting that the ineligible Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson hold “1A” and “1B” respectively.

Griffey is not the only major star making his debut on the ballot, though he is the only one we think will get in immediately.  Closer, Trevor Hoffman and Outfielder, Jim Edmonds are also on the ballot for the first time.  Hoffman is second overall in Saves, and Edmonds is a former Silver Slugger and multi-time Gold Glove Winner, and they are ranked #47 and #44 on our Notinhalloffame.com baseball list respectively.

Billy Wagner, Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Mike Sweeney, David Eckstein and Mike Hampton are also intriguing candidates who could possibly gain a few votes on their debut ballot, but are not likely to get past this year.

Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, Mark Grudzielanek, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell and Randy Winn are also on the ballot, but are not expected to get any votes.

This group joins the following holdovers from last year’s ballot, which are:

Mike Piazza, (69.9%, 4th Year) Ranked #4 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Jeff Bagwell, (55.7%, 6th Year) Ranked #5 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Tim Raines, (55.0%, 9th Year) Ranked #7 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Curt Schilling, (39.2%, 4th Year) Ranked #9 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Roger Clemens, (37.5%, 4th Year) Ranked #2 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Barry Bonds, (36.8%, 4th Year) Ranked #3 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Lee Smith, (30.2%, 14th Year) Ranked #30 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Edgar Martinez, (27.0%, 7th Year) Ranked #16 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Alan Trammell, (25.1%, 15th Year) Ranked #13 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Mike Mussina, (24.6% 3rd Year) Ranked #6 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Jeff Kent, (14.0 %, 3rd Year) Ranked #45 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Fred McGriff, (12.9%, 7th Year) Ranked #29 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Larry Walker, (11.8%, 6th Year) Ranked #15 on Notinhalloffame.com

Gary Sheffield, (11.7%, 2nd Year) Ranked #19 on Notinhalloffame.com

Mark McGwire (10.0%, 10th Year) Ranked #12 on Notinhalloffame.com

Sammy Sosa, (6.6%, 4th Year) Ranked #18 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Nomar Garciaparra, (5.5%, 2nd Year) Unranked on Notinhalloffame.com.



As they have reduced the time on the ballot from fifteen years to ten, this will be McGwire’s last crack it.

Lee Smith and Alan Trammell were grandfathered under the previous rule, but this is also Trammell’s last shot as he is entering his fifteenth year on the ballot.

Who do you think will be the class that will be inducted next summer in Cooperstown?

We know this much, debates on who should get in will dominate the sports blogs and countless opinions will be given…including ours!

This is one of our favorite days of the year.

Today the Baseball Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2016 and two former baseball greats will be immortalized in Cooperstown.

As expected, Ken Griffey Jr. breezed through on his first attempt.  Griffey Jr. set a new record for voting percentage, receiving 99.3% of the vote.

Griffey’s Hall of Fame co-entrant will be former Catcher, Mike Piazza who enters on his fourth try with 83.0%.

While Griffey and Piazza are excited today, there are certainly a lot of disappointed former baseball stars that were hoping for a certain Hall of Fame call.

Longtime Houston Astro, Jeff Bagwell, continues to be snubbed.  Like Piazza, Bagwell is on his fourth year of eligibility however like many on this ballot, he received his highest vote total, with 71.6%.

It had been projected that this could have been Tim Raines year, but it was not to be as he finished fourth on the ballot with 69.8%.  Raines only has one more year of eligibility, as next year will be his tenth year on the ballot and under the new rules, the duration on the Hall of Fame ballot reduced from fifteen years to ten.  Still, this is the highest vote tally by far that he has received and this makes his vote next year the one with the biggest story attached to it.

Relief Pitcher, Trevor Hoffman made his Hall of Fame ballot debut and while he was not expected to enter on his first try, his 67.3% shows that he won’t likely have to wait long.

Curt Schilling made a sizable jump to 52.3%

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, the most decorated pitcher and hitter of the last thirty years have been snubbed to their association with Performance Enhancing Drugs.  With the elimination of voters who had not covered baseball over the past ten years, it was believed that both Clemens and Bonds would increase their vote totals, which they did.  Clemens had 45.2% and Bonds had 44.3%.  This is not a major increase for either, but it is the highest that both have posted thus far.

Edgar Martinez remains in DH purgatory at 43.4%, Mike Mussina nearly doubled his total to 43.0, and on his last year on the ballot, Alan Trammell had his largest total by a wide margin in 40.9%.  Veteran’s ballot, here he comes!

Lee Smith continued to tread water at 34.1%.  Considering the emergence of both Hoffman and Billy Wagner to the ballot, this tally is a mild surprise. 

At 20.9%, 16.6% and 15.5% respectively, Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent and Larry Walker remained in the same range and appear to be on a course to stay on the ballot for ten seasons without many significant jump to serious contention. 

Mark McGwire ends his ten year run on the ballot with a whimper with 12.3%.  If the reduction of the Hall’s voting to ten years was in fact intended to eliminate the PED users early, they have gotten rid of their first heavyweight in “Big Mac”.

Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa are clinging to the ballot with 11.6% and 7.0%.

A mild surprise occurred with the debuting Billy Wagner remaining on the ballot with 10.5%. 

There were some notable names who did not make the cut.

Jim Edmonds was hopeful to make the second year, but his 2.5% tally takes him off for good.

Nomar Garicaparra who was on the ballot last year, has now been kicked off on his second year with a serious drop off to 1.8%.

Receiving a vote(s) were Mike Sweeney (0.7%), David Eckstein (0.5%), Jason Kendall (0.5%) and Garret Anderson (0.2%).  Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Mike Lowell and Randy Winn did not receive any votes.

The ballot will crowd even more next year as Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez will become eligible.

We are in the process now of updating our Rock and Roll list and will begin work on revising our baseball list once the Rock one is complete.

Congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, and let’s continue to debate the next wave of immortals from the world of professional baseball!







Over the last forty-five days, both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame announced their latest classes.  Recently, we here at Notinhalloffame.com put together our latest list of the 500 plus Rock and Roll acts worthy of consideration for the vote that will take place in December of 2016.  Our Notinhalloffame.com baseball list is naturally next.

The 2016 vote saw Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza selected for Cooperstown, both of who were in our top five.  Obviously, they will be taken out of our Baseball 100, but there will be three new eligible former baseball players who will join them.

Let’s take a look at our new Notinhalloffame.com Baseball Top Ten.

Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson return as #1A and #1B.  Both Rose and Jackson are ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame however we felt it appropriate to include them.

This necessitated a “1C”, which was held by Ken Griffey Jr. last year.  Roger Clemens, who was #2 last year, takes over the #1C spot.

Barry Bonds holds the #2 spot and is followed by Mike Mussina, who made a sizable jump in our ranking and in the Hall of Fame vote to #3.

Tim Raines will be entering his final year of eligibility and he is enjoying his highest ranking at #4.  Jeff Bagwell, who at one time was the 1C choice, is ranked this year at #5. 

This year’s Veteran’s Committee candidate, Bill Dahlen, is ranked at #6.

Manny Ramirez is the highest new entry.  “Manny being Manny” debuts on our list at #7.

Curt Schilling returns on the list at #8 and Ivan Rodriguez make his first appearance on our list at #9.  Former Detroit Tiger, Lou Whitaker rounds out the top ten.

The other new entry on this year’s list is Vladimir Guerrero, who is ranked at #14.

We here at Notinhalloffame.com would like to encourage all of you to cast your votes and give us your opinions on these players and as always we thank you for your support.

Well, that is one less vote for Curt Schilling.

Boston Herald columnist, Dan Shaughnessy has stated that he will not be voting for Curt Schilling following a tweet that praised violence towards journalists.  Specifically, he tweeted a picture at a Trump rally of a man wearing a t-shirt that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist: Some Assembly Required” and captioned it “Ok, so much awesome here…”

“Count me out on Curt Schilling.  I have held my nose and voted for the Big Blowhard in recent years (11-2 in postseason, ridiculous walk/strikeout ratio), and he was up to 52.3 percent (75 percent required) last year, but I shall invoke the “character” clause this year. Schill has transitioned from a mere nuisance to an actual menace to society. His tweet supporting the lynching of journalists was the last straw for this voter. Curt later claimed he was joking. Swell.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame does state that character is a metric that should be considered, so Shaughnessy is in his right to do so. 

This is not the first time that Schilling has come under criticism for his social media posts and right wing beliefs.  It actually cost him his job as an analyst with ESPN.

The former World Series Champion has seen his totals rise to over fifty percent and he is entering his fifth year on the ballot. 



Will other Baseball Hall of Fame voters change their opinion on Schilling?  Don’t be surprised if a few more do just that.



This may not be Curt Schilling’s year. 

Boston Herald columnist, Dan Shaughnessy stated that he would not be voting for Curt Schilling following a tweet in which he captioned “Ok, so much awesome here…” while taking a picture of a man wearing a t-shirt that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist: Some Assembly Required” at a Donald Trump rally.

It would appear that this is not the only reporter with a Baseball Hall of Fame ballot that may not be voting for Curt Schilling.

Jon Heyman, who works as an insider for MLB Netowrk and for the FanRag Sports Network spoke to the SportsHub on 98.5 in Boston and had this to say:

“Two of the criteria in a very short paragraph are character and integrity, and I’m starting to feel sick to my stomach to even vote for this guy.  Some people can throw out character and integrity, and generally, I don’t put that much stock into it. I basically go on the on-field performance.

I dealt with [Schilling] and did not like him personally, but that doesn’t come into play. I usually like the guys but I’ve voted for a few people I do not like. I do not like Curt Schilling, at all.  It has nothing to do with his political views; it’s about character and integrity.

There is a line there to me and he crossed that line by espousing lynching. He did many things before that, and many of those things got him fired at ESPN. I was willing to ignore all of those things, but I can’t imagine why anyone would espouse lynching.  I don’t know what he believes. I saw him with some hateful rhetoric on TV and then he went and added this to it. If you think that’s a joke, it’s not a very good joke and it seems to line up with things he espouses.

If someone else wants to just look at his baseball career, I’d certainly understand that. To me, he belongs in the Hall of Shame.  I understand if you want to not count character and integrity. If you want to say it only applies to his character as a ball player, that’s fine. But to me, he’s crossed the line and I would not feel good voting for him.”

Ouch.

Schilling did go over the half way mark in votes but both Heyman and Dan Shaughnessy might represent a backlash of writers upset with Schilling’s latest comments.

Didn’t this Baseball Hall of Fame Vote get even more interesting?







This isn’t going to be Curt Schilling’s year is it?

We have another Baseball Hall of Fame writer who has stated that he will not be voting for Schilling and furthermore, won’t be voting for anyone for the 2017 Hall of Fame Class.  That person is Wally Matthews, a former beat writer for the New York Yankees who had this say to say in a column regarding Schilling:


“If baseball’s Sabremetricians could come up with a way to quantify character, Curt Schilling’s would be a negative number.

But a guy’s personality is not supposed to be the criteria for voting, his performance is. However, voters are human beings and sometimes it is difficult to separate the man from the player.

That is where the question of Curt Schilling’s candidacy comes up for me this year. I have voted for Schilling in the past, based on his superior career WAR (80.7, higher than that of Tom Glavine, Don Sutton, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, and yes, even Sandy Koufax) and his outstanding post-season numbers.

His personal views have often troubled and at times offended me — he is an unabashed collector of Nazi memorabilia — but I have kept that out of my thought process.

Until, that is, about a month ago, when he retweeted a photo of a man wearing a T-shirt advocating the lynching of journalists, with the comment, “OK, so much awesome here . . .”

Beyond the offensiveness of any reference to lynching, which is profoundly racist in itself, is the threat to the men and women in my profession. That is something I take personally and if Curt Schilling really wants to “lynch” journalists, he can start with me, in a boxing ring with 10-ounce gloves on. That will put an end to his sick little fantasy.”


Did he just challenge Schilling to a fight?

This wasn’t all that Matthews had to say, as other comments showed how he was disheartened with the baseball players in general and their attitude towards the media in general:


“I thought I had reached my breaking point a couple of years ago when, while covering a Yankees road game in a Midwest city, a pitcher who had recently been voted into the Hall of Fame — he was a borderline candidate at best but I voted for him, I must admit, under pressure from some colleagues — came upon the Yankees beat crew waiting for the elevator down to the post-game clubhouse.

This borderline Hall of Famer looked at the group of people, many of whom had voted for him, and turned to a companion. “Look at all the sheep,” he said, derisively. Then he began making ridiculous bleating noises. I couldn’t decide whether to belt him in the mouth or refer him to a psychiatrist. All I know is in that moment, I was profoundly sorry I voted for him and his slightly-better-than average stats.”


We are not sure who sounds more bitter, Matthews, or the former baseball player he is describing. 

Matthews also vented about the hypocrisy of the Today’s Game Era Committee selecting Bud Selig for the 2017 Hall:


“As if trying to determine whose numbers are real and whose were inflated by artificial (read: chemical) and therefore illegal means weren’t difficult enough, the Hall has further complicated matters this year by voting in Bud Selig, a  co-conspirator with Donald Fehr and Gene Orza in allowing the steroid era to occur in the first place.”


While his argument on the induction of Bud Selig is sound, the fact that someone is just throwing away a ballot is absurd and juvenile.  Certainly there are other baseball journalists who would love to have this opportunity.

Either way, the tally for Schilling is not looking like it could possibly be higher than last year.   

You knew Curt Schilling couldn’t keep quiet right?

It seems like we have been discussing the potential drop off of Schilling’s votes from last year on a weekly basis as three Baseball Hall of Fame voters have openly stated that they will not be voting for him.  Curt of course was bound to respond and he had this to say to his former employer, ESPN.

He had the following to say:


“The Hall of Fame vote, to people like Dan and Wallace Matthews and Jon Heyman, is power to them.  That’s how it works when you give weak people power.  They want to ‘hold it over me’ or something like that? Please.  An arbitrary process done by some of the most vindictive and spiteful humans I’ve ever known?  One I stopped having control over nine years ago?

I sleep fine. My three World Series rings, trophies and 20-some years of amazing memories are all mine, and always will be.

I hate bullies, and I hate people who make other people feel bad on purpose. Clemens? Bonds? They ruined people’s lives to keep their legacies, which they eventually lost. I’ve never in my life done, nor will do, anything remotely close to something like that.

I know who I am, and this has been an amazing teaching opportunity for my children, and especially my three sons. They know me, so when they read about ‘racism’ and the other bulls— people spew, it affords us a ton of opportunity to talk about how the real world works.


Schilling isn’t wrong in that many baseball writers have taken a lot of moral high ground and there have been occasions where writers have given reasons not to vote for a candidate that have come off as self-righteous. 

Either way, Schilling’s vote are likely to drop and there is a war brewing between him and those who decide his Hall of Fame legacy…which whether he admits it publically or not does matter.
Our favorite day here at Notinhalloffame.com is always when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announces their annual Classes.  Our second day is when they announce their Baseball Hall of Fame Class.

That second day is here.

The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 has been announced and let’s get right to it as we have three new Baseball Hall of Famers

The highest vote getter this year is Jeff Bagwell who is selected on his 7th year of eligibility.  Bagwell received 86.2% of the vote, well up from his 71.6% last year.  It has been believed that his delay into getting into the Baseball Hall has been due to PED suspicion, but that is all there was in his case. 

Finishing second on the ballot is Tim Raines, who was on his last year of eligibility.  “Rock” had 86.0% and like Bagwell received a more than 15% jump.  For many Baseball fans, this is long overdue and many are thrilled to see him get his due.

Perhaps a bit of a surprise is that Ivan Rodriguez entered on his first ballot with 76.0%.  Statistically, I-Rod is Cooperstown worthy but he has a direct PED accusation from Jose Canseco though was never named in the Mitchell Report.

Overall, the PED users/suspected players have seen a rise in the totals, a lot of which can be attributed with the elimination of older and inactive baseball writers from the process and the induction of Bud Selig, who presided over the time that PED use arose in the game.

Let’s look at those who didn’t make the cut:


Trevor Hoffman: 2nd Year on the ballot, 74.0%

The prolific reliever did not make this year, but he was only a handful of votes away.  He finished with 67.3% last year and should get in next year. 

Vladimir Guerrero: 1st Year on the ballot, 71.7%

“Vlad the Impaler” was pegged by some as a first ballot inductee but it won’t take him long to get in.  He should be a lock next year.

Edgar Martinez: 8th Year on the ballot, 58.6%

Edgar has only two years left but this was a huge jump from the 43.4% he had last year.  Martinez was a Designated Hitter, a position that has hurt him in the past and the fact that three people got in to help thin the ballot somewhat does not hurt his cause.

Roger Clemens: 5th Year on the ballot, 54.1%

This was a huge jump for Clemens and the first time he eclipsed 50 percent.  This is up 8.9% from last year and perhaps for the first time we have a strong reason to think that the Rocket could get in. 

Barry Bonds: 5th Year on the ballot, 53.8%

See above.  Could we see in the future a year where both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens enters Cooperstown together?  A few years ago we wouldn’t have thought so, but now that seems like a possibility.

Mike Mussina: 4th Year on the ballot, 51.8%

Mussina doesn’t get a lot of attention as he is not a controversial choice, nor is he one that plays to the media.  He did however jump up past the 50% mark for the first time and is going in the right direction.

Curt Schilling: 5th Year on the ballot, 45.0%

Schilling dropped 7 percent, and we all know why don’t we?  He angered the media with his comments toward them and is this backlash was long expected.

Lee Smith: 15th Year on the ballot, 34.2 %

This is the end for Smith, who at one point was the all-time Saves leader.  Based on how he was trending, he was lucky to make it this far.

Manny Ramirez: 1st Year on the ballot, 23.8 %

This could be the biggest surprise.  The suspected PED users went up, but Ramirez was caught and suspended twice.  Maybe the writers thought “Manny being Manny” was not enough explanation.

Larry Walker:  7th Year on the ballot, 21.9%

While it doesn’t look like Walker will get in, he did jump up from his 15.5% from last year.

Fred McGriff:  7th Year on the ballot, 21.7%.

McGriff barely budged from his 20.9% from last year.  It isn’t looking good for the “Crime Dog.”

Jeff Kent: 3rd Year on the ballot, 16.7%

The former National League MVP moved up…0.1%.  Is there a Survivor Hall of Fame?

Gary Sheffield:  3rd Year on the ballot, 13.3%

Sheffield mildly improved but he on such a crowded ballot, he still has time to jump up considering his career stats.

Billy Wagner: 2nd Year on the ballot, 10.2%

Wagner actually went down from his 10.5% from the year before.  Realistically, just staying on the ballot is a win for him.

Sammy Sosa:  5th Year on the ballot, 8.6%

Sosa is still alive, so we are stuck debating him another year.

The notable player who did not make the 5% to stay on the ballot was former New York Yankee Catcher, Jorge Posada, received 3.8%.

Others who received votes were Magglio Ordonez (0.7%), Edgar Renteria (0.5%), Jason Varitek (0.5%) and Tim Wakefield (0.2%).

The others on the ballot who did not receive any votes were Corey Blake, Pat Burrell, Orlando Cabrera, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Carlos Guillen, Derrek Lee, Melvin Mora, Arthur Rhodes, Freddy Sanchez and Matt Stairs.

We here at Notinhalloffame.com would like to congratulate the latest Baseball Hall of Fame Class and we will be unveiling our next list in a month’s time.





Barry Bonds made a sizeable increase in Hall of Fame votes.

So did Roger Clemens.

Edgar Martinez had his highest increase and for the first time since he has been on the ballot looks like he has a real Hall of Fame chance

Trevor Hoffman inched closer.

Mike Mussina climbed over 50%.

Curt Schilling dropped seven percent and dipped below 50%.

We know why don’t we?  So does Curt Schilling, who this week on the Dan Patrick show sounded off on his snub:

We all know why.  Because I’m not — I’m not quiet. I think if I didn’t talk, I might have gotten in this time.

Listen, if that sacrifices the Hall of Fame, I don’t want to be in anyway… Schilling said.

If the writers that vote for the Hall of Fame are going to invoke, quote-unquote, the character clause, and they’re gonna randomly invoke it, then you know what, so be it. It wasn’t meant to be…If you want to invoke the character clause and vote for (players linked to performance enhancing drugs like) Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, kiss my butt”

It doesn’t sound like Schilling will stay out of our front page does it?

As always, it will be entertaining and we know we haven’t heard the last of the Baseball media Vs Curt Schilling!
Let’s try something new here.

We’ll combine a few news items that we think our noteworthy in the “Hall of Fame” world. 

Let’s start with the WWE.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Extra Mustard, former ECW World Heavyweight Champion was asked if he ever saw himself in the WWE Hall of Fame in the future.  He didn’t exactly imply he wanted in, nor did he have kind words to say about the institution itself:

“It’s such a fake Hall of Fame.  I’d only do it because I need the money. I don’t know if I would mother--- everyone or if I would take it graciously, but I don’t consider it a real Hall of Fame. It’s not like the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Football Hall of Fame. They let anybody in it, anybody who could draw money. The real wrestling Hall of Fames are in Iowa and Amsterdam, New York. They look for donations because they’re so broke, but they have s--- from the 1800s.

Vince’s Hall of Fame only has s--- from Vince’s company. If you didn’t work for his company, you’re not in the Hall of Fame. That’s nothing to do with how good you are, it only matters who owned them.”

Notably, Sabu inducted his uncle, The Original Sheik into the WWE Hall of Fame, and he is ranked currently #79 on our Notinhalloffame.com WWE List. 

In what is our constant news from the world of Curt Schilling, he told TMZ that he doesn’t care about the Baseball Hall of Fame anymore.

Whether or not he means that or not, the fact will remain that he will be intertwined with Cooperstown until he gets in.  Ironically, he will be less associated with the Baseball Hall of Fame if he were to get in.

As we have stated many times before, we know this story isn’t going away soon

Going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, former Head Coach, Lovie Smith has said that his former player, Devin Hester, who is expected to formally retire soon, goes down as one of the most prolific Returner in NFL history.  He is a three time First Team All Pro Selection, is 8th all-time in Return Yards and 3rd all-time in Punt Return Yards.  Hester was considered a game changer for years during his time as a Chicago Bear.

Should Hester retire, he will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022. 

As always, the world of Halls of Fames continue, and we will always be paying attention!  
When one Hall of Fame class is chosen it means it is time for us to start revising.  Now that the Baseball Hall of Fame has selected Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez to Cooperstown, we are now ready to put out our new Notinhalloffame.com Baseball List

As such, we took into account the following when looking at our Baseball Revisions:

Ranking the now eligible former players.  We already have them on our futures sections and your votes and comments have been taken into account. 

The votes and opinions that all of you have given based on those who are already on the list.

Remember, we encourage you to keep giving us your opinions and comments as this does alter our rankings as we continue.  Also, it is worth noting that we have expanded our 100 to 105. 

So, let’s get right to the Top 10!

If you are a regular visitor here, you know that we have a 1A, 1B and 1C on our to accommodate:

1A. Pete Rose:  The Hit King remains ineligible for the Hall of Fame due to gambling.

1B. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson:  Jackson remains ineligible after nearly a century has passed following the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.

1C. Roger Clemens:  It is either Clemens or Bonds in this spot.  Rocket gets the duke only because he has a slightly higher vote tally from all of you who voted.  Seriously though, can we get off the PED era already?

2. Barry Bonds:  The All-Time leader in MLB Home Runs remains #2.  While he does not have the vote total that others have who are ranked lower, like Clemens, this is as far as his (and Clemens) basement goes as far as Notinhalloffame.com is concerned, and yes, we know we said that we too take your votes into account!  With these two, we re going to hold firm right now.

3. Chipper Jones:  The career Atlanta Brave is considered by many to be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.  Jones has the stats, both traditional and advanced, a World Series Ring and is very well liked.  He is the highest rated new entry.

4. Mike Mussina:  Mussina may have dropped one spot, but he is still a major snub in our eyes.  The former Yankee and Oriole may have played in high profile markets but his profile is relatively low amongst those who think about Cooperstown.  Apparently it is low with the Baseball Hall of Fame voters too.

5. Bill Dahlen:  “Bad” Bill Dahlen also drops one spot.  Dahlen is one of the few legitimate omissions from the game’s early days and was surly as he was good…and he was very good!

6. Jim Thome:  Thome statistically should be a first ballot Hall of Famer, and probably will be, but for someone who smacked over 600 Home Runs with an OPS of .956, he is a player that could easily fall below the radars of voters on the first go around.  He is the second highest ranked of the new entries.

7. Manny Ramirez.  Manny is being Manny in Japan now, but he got a far higher vote in his first year of eligibility than many people thought he would.

8. Curt Schilling.  Schilling took a tumble with the voters this year, the biggest drop of anyone who was on the ballot.  It might be worth watching to see if he falls again.

9. Vladimir Guerrero.  “Vlad, The Impaler” had the biggest jump in our Top 20, moving up from 14 to 9.  Guerrero was very close to entering Cooperstown on his first try, and probably should get in on his second try.

10. Lou Whitaker.  The sabremetric darling of the Detroit Tigers infield remains in the #10 spot.

Chipper Jones and Jim Thome are not the only new entries on this list.

Scott Rolen debuts at #18.  The former infielder and seven time All Star brings a very interesting case to the Baseball Hall of Fame and we are very curious to see how his first vote goes.

Chipper Jones is not the only high profile former Atlanta Brave to make the top 50 as Andruw Jones debuts at #49.

Johan Santana debuts at #67 though we wonder how much higher he would be if he lasted just two more seasons. 

Omar Vizquel is another new entry.  The defensive star makes his first appearance at #76.

Johnny Damon and Jamie Moyer appear at #99 and #105 respectively.

You know what we want you to do!

If you haven’t cast your vote for these former baseball players on our list, please do so and offer your opinion!

As always, we here at Notinhalloffame.com thank you all for your support!
Ah, the road to the Class of 2018 is officially underway as the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot has been released with 33 candidates who are on the ballot.

The candidates in alphabetical are:

Barry Bonds: Bonds is on his sixth ballot and enjoyed his biggest jump last year with a 53.8% finish. That increase gives a lot of hope to the PED associated players for Hall of Fame entry. He is ranked # 2 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Chris Carpenter: Carpenter is on his first ballot and the former Starting Pitcher went 144 and 94 and won the Cy Young Award in 2005. He was also a three time All Star.

Roger Clemens: Like Bonds, Clemens enjoyed a significant increase in his vote tally moving up to 54.1%. If the seven time Cy Young Award winner enjoys another gain in his sixth year on the ballot we could see him inducted before his time on the ballot ends. He is ranked #1C on Notinhalloffame.com.

Johnny Damon: Damon is on his first ballot and will struggle to make a second. He was a two time All Star and a two time World Series Champion. He is ranked #99 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Vladimir Guerrero: Guerrero is on his second year of eligibility and came off a 71.7% result. The 2004 American League MVP likely we will see enough of a rise to gain entry to Cooperstown. He is ranked #9 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Livan Hernandez: A two time All Star, Livan Hernandez had a career record of 178 and 177. This is his first time on the ballot

Trevor Hoffman: Hoffman was only one percentage point away from Cooperstown last year, thus only a marginal increase in his third year of eligibility should get him in. His 601 career Saves puts him second all-time and he is also a seven time All Star. He is ranked #20 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Orlando Hudson: Making his first appearance on the ballot, Hudson would go to two All Star Games and was a four time Gold Glove winner.

Aubrey Huff: Huff would accumulate 1,699 Hits and 242 Home Runs over his career. He is also a two time World Series Champion with the San Francisco Giants.

Jason Isringhausen: Isringhausen is also on his first year of eligibility and he was a two time All Star.

Andruw Jones: Jones is entering his first year of eligibility and brings a decent resume with eight All Star Games, ten Gold Gloves and 434 career Home Runs. He is ranked #47 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Chipper Jones: The career Atlanta Brave is debuting on the ballot and is the most likely newly eligible former player to get inducted immediately. Jones was the National League MVP in 1999 and is an eight time All Star. He won the Batting Title in 2008. He is ranked #3 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Jeff Kent: Kent is on his fifth year of eligibility and finished with 16.7% of the vote last year, his highest to date. The Third Baseman was the 2000 National League MVP and was a five time All Star. He is ranked #50 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Carlos Lee: Lee is making his first appearance on the ballot and was a two time All Star. He hit 358 Home Runs with 2,273 Hits.

Brad Lidge: The former Relief Pitcher recorded 225 Saves and was a two time All Star. He was also a World Series Champion with Philadelphia and he is entering his first year on the ballot.

Edgar Martinez: The former Designated Hitter is on his ninth try but his 58.6% gives him hope to possibly get in as it was a 15.2% increase from the previous vote. He is ranked #17 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Hideki Matsui: “Godzilla” was a two time All Star with the New York Yankees and was the 2009 World Series MVP.

Fred McGriff: It is not looking good for Fred McGriff who is on his ninth year of eligibility following a 21.7% vote tally last year. McGriff is a five time All Star with 493 career Home Runs. He is ranked #33 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Kevin Millwood: An All Star in 1999, Kevin Millwood is on the ballot for the first time. He went 169 and 152 with 2,083 Strikeouts.

Jamie Moyer: Playing almost to age of 50, Jamie Moyer makes his Hall of Fame ballot debut. Moyer was an All Star once and retired with a record of 269 and 209 with 2,441 Strikeouts. He is ranked #105 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Mike Mussina: Mussina is on his fifth year of eligibility and finished with a high of 51.8% of the vote. Mussina retired with 270 Wins against only 153 Losses. He would be named to five All Star Games. He is ranked #4 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Manny Ramirez: Manny debuted last year with only 23.8% of the ballot but the two time World Series Champion and 500 Home Run Club member should see an increase this year. He is ranked #7 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Scott Rolen: Rolen will be one of the most hotly debated new arrivals to the ballot as his sabremetric numbers far exceed his traditional ones. Still, this is a seven time All Star with a World Series Ring. He is ranked #17 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Johan Santana: Santana was a two time Cy Young Award winner and four time All Star. He is making his first appearance on the ballot. He is ranked #65 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Curt Schilling: Unlike many others who were on the ballot previously, Schilling actually trended downwards mostly due to his comments against the media finishing with 45% last year as opposed to the 52.3% he had the year before. Schilling is a three time Cy Young runner-up, two time World Series winner and a six time All Star. He is ranked #8 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Gary Sheffield: Sheffield is on his fourth year of eligibility and received 13.3% of the vote last year. He has 509 career Home Runs with nine All Star Game appearances. He is ranked #21 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Sammy Sosa: Sosa is entering his sixth year on the ballot following an 8.6% vote total. That is concerning as he has only finished in double digits on his first year of eligibility. He is ranked #30 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Jim Thome: Thome is on the ballot for the first time and brings five All Star Games and 612 Home Runs for consideration. He will likely get in but possibly not on his first try. He is ranked #6 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Omar Vizquel: Vizquel is also entering his first year of eligibility and the defensive specialist should receive enough ballots to remain on future ballots. He is ranked #76 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Billy Wagner: The seven time All Star is entering his third year on the ballot and he received 10.2% on the ballot last year.

Larry Walker: The 1997 National League MVP is running out of time. He is on his eight year of eligibility and he finished 21.9% last year. He is ranked #15 on Notinhalloffame.com.

Kerry Wood: The former flamethrower is on his first year of eligibility. Wood was a two time All Star and was the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year.

Carlos Zambrano: On his first year of eligibility, Zambrano was a three time All Star who finished with a career record of 132 and 91.

Not everyone who was Hall of Fame eligible for the first time made the ballot. This includes Miguel Batista,Francisco Cordero, Brian Fuentes, Adam Kennedy, Guillermo Mota, Carl Pavano, Scott Podsednik, J.C. Romero, Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan and Jack Wilson.

As always, we here at Notinhalloffame.com will be very interested to see what will transpire with this latest ballot and we will love watching all of the debates begin!
Strategic voting. What you have to do when you have too many choices and not enough time or opportunities to realize all those choices.

Sounds like voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the last few years, doesn't it?

The good news is that since the Shutout of 2013, when the eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) could not muster the 75 percent of the vote necessary to elect any one ballot candidate to the Hall of Fame despite a wealth of candidates from whom to choose (I counted 14), the BBWAA has sent a dozen players to Cooperstown. Based on that trend, and barring any unusual or unforeseen wrinkle, the writers are certain to elect at least one player for 2018.

The not-so-good news is this: There is still a ballot logjam, which looks to remain a problem for a few more years. And since the 2014 decision by the Hall of Fame that reduces from 15 to 10 the number of years a candidate may remain on the ballot, a player is more likely to exit the ballot without election even though he may indeed be a Hall of Famer. This is why strategic voting is both crucial and necessary now.

Compounding the issue is the return of opprobrium for players with known associations with performance-enhancing drugs (PED). If you think they are cheaters who don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, then this is not a problem. But if you think that the PED issue is much more complex and encompassing than punishing only the most visible contingent, the players, then this is a problem.

And compounding all of this is the certitude that the veterans committee (to use the generic term) is simply inadequate to redeem those players who fell off a BBWAA ballot before the writers could elect them. Which is why strategic voting is crucial.

2018 Returning Candidates

The following 14 players have had at least one voting round and are returning for 2018: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martínez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Billy Wagner, and Larry Walker.

The table below displays voting percentages for the 14 returning players on the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, including the number of years on the ballot (includes the current year, 2018), their first year on the ballot, their projected final year (provided they receive at least five percent of the vote each year), their voting percentage in their first year, their voting percentage in their latest year, their highest percentage, and their average percent.

Voting Percentages for Players on the 2018 BBWAA Ballot

Player

Years on Ballot*

Initial Year

Final Year

Initial Pct.

Last Pct.

Highest Pct.

Ave. Pct.

Bonds, Barry

6

2013

2022

36.2

53.8

53.8

41.2

Clemens, Roger

6

2013

2022

37.6

54.1

54.1

42.0

Guerrero, Vladimir

2

2017

2026

71.7

71.7

71.7

71.7

Hoffman, Trevor

3

2016

2025

67.3

74.0

74.0

70.7

Kent, Jeff

5

2014

2023

15.2

16.7

16.7

15.6

Martínez, Edgar

9

2010

2019

36.2

58.6

58.6

37.0

McGriff, Fred

9

2010

2019

21.5

21.7

23.9

18.9

Mussina, Mike

5

2014

2023

20.3

51.8

51.8

34.9

Ramirez, Manny

2

2017

2026

23.8

23.8

23.8

23.8

Schilling, Curt

6

2013

2022

38.8

45.0

52.3

40.9

Sheffield, Gary

4

2015

2024

11.7

13.3

13.3

12.2

Sosa, Sammy

6

2013

2022

12.5

8.6

12.5

8.4

Wagner, Billy

3

2016

2025

10.5

10.2

10.5

10.4

Walker, Larry

8

2011

2020

20.3

21.9

22.9

17.7

* Includes current year (2018).

In accounting, they call it LIFO—Last In, First Out: From the returning class, the two players best positioned to cross the 75-percent threshold into the Hall of Fame are Vladimir Guerrero, who notched 71.7 percent of the vote in his ballot debut last year (and whom I had pegged as merely a borderline candidate three years ago, although I thought he was a definite Hall of Famer), and Trevor Hoffman, whose two-year trend from 67.3 percent in 2016, his inaugural year, to 74.0 last year almost guarantees that he will be elected this year. (Hoffman, too, I had pegged as a borderline pick, but, as with Guerrero, I included him as borderline with respect to the voters' likely collective perceptions and not my own.)

Vladimir Guerrero 2018 HoF
Free-swinging slugger Vladimir Guerrero burst onto the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 2017--is he bound for Cooperstown this year?

After that, though, we start to shoot craps. Edgar Martinez had the next-best showing, but his 58.6 percent, a 15-point jump from his 2016's 46.4 percent, comes with only two years left on the ballot including this year's vote. Even the same jump this year will leave him just under the threshold as he could wind up like Tim Raines, elected by the BBWAA in his final year last year, or Jack Morris, who did not garner 75 percent of the writers' votes in his last year but who did win over the Modern Baseball Committee this year (although I determined that the Catfish Hunter of his era shouldn't get a Hall pass from the Modern Baseball Committee).

Of the four players with at least 50 percent of the vote last year, Mike Mussina seems poised to make the big move. First, he has shown a positive trend since his 20.3 percent showing in 2014, more than doubling that in three years. But more significantly, he carries substantially less baggage than do Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling. Schilling, whose anti-Muslim views may have made him an alt-right darling even if they cost him a slot on ESPN, was stuck a few ticks under 40 percent since his 2013 debut until cresting above the 50-percent line in 2016, only to slip back a few points the following year.

However, both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each broke above the 50-percent mark in 2017, the second year that both showed upward movement from their high-30s stasis of their first three years. And with the election of Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez last year, each with suspicions of performance-enhancing drugs, this may be why Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan implored BBWAA voters not to vote for players who used performance-enhancing drugs, thus putting Bonds and Clemens back into the PED doghouse along with Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa.

Moreover, Ramirez's 23.8 percent of the vote on his ballot debut was not only about equal to Mark McGwire's entire 10-year sojourn on the ballot, it was better than Rafael Palmeiro ever managed—and this as Ramirez failed two drug tests, the second of which forced him to quickly retire from baseball, with both test failures coming after Major League Baseball had instituted its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in 2006. No wonder Joe Morgan had to draw the line for BBWAA voters.

If enough writers heed Morgan's entreaty, Sosa could find himself dropping off the ballot this year while Ramirez and Sheffield could also take serious hits. Meanwhile, Billy Wagner and Jeff Kent have maintained marginal support, and while Kent has reached the halfway point of his maximum allotted time, Wagner is facing just his third vote. More seriously, though, are the fates of Fred McGriff and Larry Walker: McGriff, languishing with an average annual voting percentage of 18.9, has but two more tries to get to 75 percent—a faint hope—while Walker isn't much better off with one additional year than has McGriff.

And then come the candidates hitting the 2018 ballot for the first time—and how many of them are likely Hall of Famers?

2018 First-Time Candidates

Making their debut on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot are the following 19 candidates: Chris Carpenter, Johnny Damon, Liván Hernández, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, Carlos Lee, Brad Lidge, Hideki Matsui, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer, Scott Rolen, Johan Santana, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Zambrano.

The following two tables list the 33 candidates on the 2016 ballot, first the 19 position players, and then the 14 pitchers. They are ranked by their career Wins Above Replacement from Baseball Reference (bWAR) along with other representative qualitative statistics (explained below each table).

Here are the 19 position players on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by bWAR. First-time candidates are marked in bold italic.

Position Players on the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Position Player

Slash Line

wOBA

bWAR

fWAR

OPS+

wRC+

Bonds, Barry

.298/.444/.607/1.051

.435

162.4

164.0

182

173

Jones, Chipper

.303/.401/.529/.930

.397

85.0

84.6

141

141

Thome, Jim

.276/.402/.554/.956

.406

72.9

69.0

147

145

Walker, Larry

.313/.400/.565/.965

.412

72.6

68.9

141

140

Rolen, Scott

.281/.364/.490/.855

.368

70.0

70.1

122

122

Ramirez, Manny

.312/.411/.585/.996

.418

69.2

66.3

154

153

Martinez, Edgar

.312/.418/.515/.933

.405

68.3

65.6

147

147

Jones, Andruw

.254/.337/.486/.823

.352

62.8

67.1

111

111

Sheffield, Gary

.292/.393/.514/.907

.391

60.2

62.4

140

141

Guerrero, Vladimir

.318/.379/.553/.931

.390

59.3

54.3

140

136

Sosa, Sammy

.273/.344/.534/.878

.370

58.4

60.3

128

124

Damon, Johnny

.284/.352/.433/.785

.344

56.0

44.5

104

105

Kent, Jeff

.290/.356/.500/.856

.367

55.2

56.4

123

123

McGriff, Fred

.284/.377/.509/.886

.383

52.4

57.1

134

134

Vizquel, Omar

.272/.336/.352/.688

.310

45.3

42.6

82

83

Hudson, Orlando

.273/.341/.412/.752

.330

30.9

21.1

97

98

Lee, Carlos

.285/.339/.483/.821

.351

28.2

27.5

113

112

Matsui, Hideki

.282/.360/.462/.822

.357

21.3

12.9

118

119

Huff, Aubrey

.278/.342/.464/.806

.345

20.2

17.1

114

111

Slash Line: Grouping of the player's career batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).
wOBA: Weighted on-base average as calculated by FanGraphs. Weighs singles, extra-base hits, walks, and hits by pitch; generally, .400 is excellent and .320 is league-average.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
OPS+: Career on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 OPS+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.
wRC+: Career weighted Runs Created, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 wRC+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.

Here are the 14 pitchers on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by bWAR. First-time candidates are marked in bold italic.

Pitchers on the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, Ranked by bWAR

Pitcher

W-L (S), ERA

bWAR

fWAR

ERA+

ERA–

FIP–-

Clemens, Roger

354–184, 3.12

140.3

139.5

143

70

70

Mussina, Mike

270–153, 3.68

83.0

82.5

123

82

81

Schilling, Curt

216–146 (22), 3.46

79.9

83.2

127

80

74

Santana, Johan

139–78 (1), 3.20

51.4

45.3

136

74

81

Moyer, Jamie

269–209, 4.25

50.4

48.2

103

97

102

Zambrano, Carlos

132–91, 3.66

44.6

30.6

120

85

93

Carpenter, Chris

144–94, 3.76

34.5

39.1

116

86

88

Hernandez, Livan

178–177 (1), 4.44

31.1

34.5

95

105

103

Millwood, Kevin

169–152, 4.11

29.4

46.2

106

94

91

Hoffman, Trevor

61–75 (601), 2.87

28.0

26.1

141

71

73

Wagner, Billy

47–40 (422), 2.31

27.7

24.2

187

54

63

Wood, Kerry

86–75 (63), 3.67

27.7

23.7

117

86

87

Isringhausen, Jason

51–55 (300), 3.64

13.2

11.2

115

87

92

Lidge, Brad

26–32 (225), 3.54

8.2

11.6

122

82

75

W-L (S), ERA: Grouping of the pitcher's career win-loss record (and career saves, if applicable) and career earned run average (ERA).
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
ERA+: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA+ indicating a league-average pitcher, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.
ERA-: Career ERA, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 ERA- indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.
FIP-: Fielding-independent pitching, a pitcher's ERA with his fielders' impact factored out, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Negatively indexed to 100, with a 100 FIP- indicating a league-average pitcher, and values below 100 indicating the degrees better a pitcher is than a league-average pitcher.

The table below lists the Hall of Fame statistics for all 33 candidates on the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, ranked by JAWS (JAffe War Score system). Please note that the JAWS ranking is for the player at the position for which he has been ranked and is not a ranking across all positions, and also that the JAWS statistics for each player may include values generated at other positions. First-time candidates are marked in bold italic.

All 2018 Hall of Fame Candidates, Hall of Fame Statistics, Ranked by JAWS

Player

fWAR

bWAR

WAR7

JAWS

JAWS Rank*

HoF Mon.

(≈100)

HoF Std.

(≈50)

Bonds, Barry (LF)

164.0

162.4

72.7

117.6

1

340

76

Clemens, Roger (SP)

139.5

140.3

66.3

103.3

3

332

73

Jones, Chipper (3B)

84.6

85.0

46.6

65.8

6

180

70

Schilling, Curt (SP)

83.2

79.9

49.0

64.5

27

171

46

Mussina, Mike (SP)

82.5

83.0

44.5

63.8

28

121

54

Walker, Larry (RF)

68.9

72.6

44.6

58.6

10

148

58

Thome, Jim (1B)

69.0

72.9

41.5

57.2

10

156

57

Rolen, Scott (3B)

70.1

70.0

43.5

56.8

10

99

40

Martinez, Edgar (3B)

65.6

68.3

43.6

56.0

11

132

50

Jones, Andruw (CF)

67.1

62.8

46.4

54.6

11

109

34

Ramirez, Manny (LF)

66.3

69.2

39.9

54.5

10

226

69

Sosa, Sammy (RF)

60.3

58.4

43.7

51.0

18

202

52

Guerrero, Vladimir (RF)

54.3

59.3

41.1

50.2

21

209

58

Sheffield, Gary (RF)

62.4

60.3

37.9

49.1

23

158

61

Santana, Johan (SP)

45.3

51.4

44.8

48.1

84

82

35

Kent, Jeff (2B)

56.4

55.2

35.6

45.4

20

122

51

Damon, Johnny (CF)

44.5

56.0

32.9

44.4

22

90

45

McGriff, Fred (1B)

57.1

52.4

35.8

44.1

31

100

48

Zambrano, Carlos (SP)

30.6

44.6

39.0

41.8

131

30

23

Moyer, Jamie (SP)

48.2

50.4

33.2

41.8

132

56

39

Vizquel, Omar (SS)

42.6

45.3

26.6

36.0

42

120

42

Carpenter, Chris (SP)

39.1

34.5

29.6

32.0

235

70

26

Hernandez, Livan (SP)

34.5

31.1

27.8

29.4

276

41

16

Hudson, Orlando (2B)

21.1

30.9

27.2

29.1

61

20

18

Millwood, Kevin (SP)

46.2

29.4

24.8

27.1

308

34

20

Wood, Kerry (RP)

23.7

27.7

25.0

26.4

11

24

14

Lee, Carlos (LF)

27.5

28.2

23.4

25.8

72

78

35

Wagner, Billy (RP)

24.2

28.1

19.9

24.0

20

107

24

Hoffman, Trevor (RP)

26.1

28.4

19.6

24.0

21

159

19

Huff, Aubrey (1B)

17.1

20.2

22.5

21.4

114

30

20

Matsui, Hideki (LF)

12.9

21.3

21.2

21.3

106

36

21

Isringhausen, Jason (RP)

11.2

13.2

12.2

12.7

155

71

7

Lidge, Brad (RP)

11.6

8.2

12.4

10.3

243

48

10

* JAWS ranking is for the candidate at his position only and is not a ranking across all positions.
fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
WAR7: The sum of a player's best seven seasons as defined by bWAR; they need not be consecutive seasons.
JAWS: Jaffe WAR Score system—an average of a player's career WAR and his seven-year WAR peak.
JAWS Rank: The player's ranking at that position by JAWS rating.
Ave. HoF bWAR: The average bWAR value of all the Hall of Famers at that position.
Ave. HoF JAWS: The average JAWS rating of all the Hall of Famers at that position.
Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

Of the first-time candidates, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome are this year's most likely inductees. Ranking sixth in Jay Jaffe's JAWS system for third basemen, Jones, the 1999 National League's Most Valuable Player when he rattled off a .319/.441/.633/1.074 slash line, good for a 169 OPS+ and a 6.9 bWAR with 45 home runs and 110 runs batted in, was an eight-time All-Star with one World Series ring earned in 1995 with the Atlanta Braves, the only team the switch-hitter played for in a 19-year career.

Chipper Jones 2018 HoF
One of the greatest third basemen of all time, Chipper Jones seems a sure bet to be elected on his first ballot.

Ranked tenth by JAWS among first basemen, although he started only 1090 games at first in 2374 total starts, Thome became the seventh hitter in Major League history to reach at least 600 career home runs in 2011—however, I noted at the time that Thome's rare feat seemed to have gone relatively unheralded. That may have been because the slugging left-hander was then playing for the Minnesota Twins, not only in the media hinterlands even in the best of times, but in the midst of a 99-loss season, the worst record in the American League and ahead of the even more hapless Houston Astros (then in the NL) in the Majors. Nevertheless, Thome, who in addition to ranking eighth with 612 home runs is seventh in walks with 1747 and 26th in RBI with 1699, seems to be considered a no-brain pick now, particularly as he piled up all those round-trippers—six years with 40 or more homers, including a career-high 52 in 2002—"the right way": As with Frank Thomas, Thome played through the Steroids Era with never a taint of scandal.

Borderline First-Time Candidates

After Jones and Thome, though, the choices get more interesting, as I noted in a recent article examining the borderline candidates for 2018 and 2019. Scott Rolen has all the qualifications for the Hall of Fame—a solid, reliable middle-of-the-order hitter and one the best defensive third basemen in history, essentially a poor man's Mike Schmidt—except for the fame part as, like Thome, he was a Larry Lunchpail kind of ballplayer who showed up to do his job without fanfare; furthermore, Rolen has the unfortunate distinction of premiering on the same ballot as Chipper Jones—could BBWAA voters possibly elect two third basemen in the same year?

Similarly, Johan Santana looked to be well on his way to the Hall of Fame as the most dominant starting pitcher for a five-year period from 2004 to 2008. In that span, the left-hander won 86 games against only 39 losses, good for a pair of Cy Young Awards, first in 2004 and then in 2006, when he won the pitching Triple Crown with 19 wins, 245 strikeouts, and a 2.77 earned run average, essentially becoming the Sandy Koufax of his era. But like Koufax, Santana became hampered by injuries and lost that stranglehold on hitters. Was Santana's glory period strong enough to convince voters he is a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher?

Johan Santana 2018 HoF
Ace southpaw Johan Santana seemed destined for Cooperstown early in his career--was he dominant enough to justify a Hall vote?

Omar Vizquel has the opposite problem: The shortstop's defensive wizardry, for years a staple of the highlight reel, had countless observers herald Vizquel as a sure-fire Hall of Famer, the Ozzie Smith of his era, but on paper he does not seem to be an Ozzie Smith as much as a Rabbit Maranville, whom the writers did eventually vote into the Hall. Will Vizquel find himself having to sweat out several ballots before getting the call—or will he even get that call?

Then there is the case of Andruw Jones, whose own defensive wizardry in center field had him ranked higher than the immortal Willie Mays, at least according to advanced defensive metrics—his glove work alone was worth 24.1 wins by the reckoning of Baseball Reference's Defensive Wins Above Replacement—while with 434 career home runs, Jones supplied a strong power stroke. And for the first ten years of his career, Jones brooked comparisons to Ken Griffey, Jr. But then Jones fell off a cliff, leaving a messy second half of a career that truly puts him on the bubble.

Both center fielder Johnny Damon and starting pitcher Jamie Moyer had long careers with moments of distinction, Damon as one of the "idiots" who helped the 2004 Boston Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino with a World Series victory, and Moyer for, well, being Jamie Moyer, who had won only 46 games up to his age-30 season but retired after his age-49 season with 269 wins, 35th all-time and just 31 wins from the vaunted 300 wins. Damon too found himself fairly close to another Hall of Fame milestone mark as his 2769 hits, 54th all-time, is 231 hits shy of the 3000-hit circle. But despite longevity and flashes of excellence, both Damon and Moyer are compilers, not an insult as in an era of high talent compression they managed to stay on several Major League rosters, but hardly is it an endorsement for Cooperstown.

The Rest of the First-Time Candidates

With the continuing ballot logjam, it is an accomplishment for any candidate to make the Hall of Fame ballot, a distinction the 11 remaining first-time candidates can embrace as they make their only appearance on a writers' ballot in 2018. Notably, seven of those candidates are pitchers, four starters and three relievers.

One of those starting pitchers, Carlos Zambrano, was the modern-day Wes Ferrell: Zambrano's overall bWAR is 44.6, but 6.3 wins of that come from his batting prowess. The brawny switch-hitter batted .238 lifetime with 165 hits, 26 doubles, and 24 home runs as his career OPS+ of 62 is just 20 percent lower than Omar Vizquel's. In 2008, Zambrano rapped out a .337/.337/.554/.892 slash line, good for a 123 OPS+, as his career-high 28 hits in 83 at-bats included four doubles, a triple, and four home runs while he scored nine runs and knocked in 14. His oWAR (Wins Above Replacement for offensive play only) of 1.4 was nearly half the value his pitching contributed as he made his third (and final) National League All-Star team and collected the second of three Sliver Slugger Awards. And although he batted only .161 in 2006, six of his 11 hits were homers as he stole a base in his only career attempt.

Yes, but could he pitch? Zambrano finished in the top five of NL Cy Young voting three times including in 2006, when he led the NL in wins with 16, although his best year might have been 2004, when he posted a 16–8 win-loss record, a 2.75 ERA, and a 160 ERA+, the last two career bests; however, his 3.57 FIP, fueled by his MLB-leading 20 hit batsmen, reflects his tendency to give up gopher balls (14 home runs in 2004) and free passes to first (81 walks in addition to the 20 HBP) as he led the NL in walks in 2006 and 2007. The fiery right-hander, whose 12-year career was spent with Chicago Cubs save for his final season in 2012, with the Miami Marlins, is tied for 82nd all-time with 102 hit batsmen in 1959 total innings pitched as he found himself in scrapes with umpires, opposing players, and his own teammates alike.

When he was healthy, Chris Carpenter was the ace of the starting rotation, particularly during his nine-year tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals, which he had joined officially in 2003 as he recovered from elbow surgery following his start with the Toronto Blue Jays. But if the Cardinals were worried about taking a gamble on a .500 pitcher (Carpenter went 49–50 with a 4.83 ERA in his six years as a Blue Jay) with arm trouble, that gamble paid off: His first year after the surgery saw him post a 15–5 record and a 3.46 ERA, merely a prelude to his 2005 season when he won 21 games against just five losses with a 2.83 ERA, a 2.90 FIP, and a 150 ERA+, good enough to capture the NL Cy Young Award. Carpenter was third in Cy Young voting in 2006, leading the Cardinals to a World Series championship, including a Game Three victory, allowing the Detroit Tigers just three singles over eight shutout innings. He won another World Series ring in 2011 with two wins in three starts while posting a 2.84 ERA against a high-powered Texas Rangers team. Chris Carpenter reinvented himself with the St. Louis Cardinals, and he would merit serious Hall of Fame consideration had injuries not hampered his career.

The very picture of a workhorse pitcher, Livan Hernandez pitched for nine teams in his 17-year career while establishing some curious black ink. The big right-hander led the NL in innings pitched for three years in a row from 2003 to 2005, and he pitched at least 200 innings ten times, seven of those seasons consecutively, while also pacing the senior circuit in games started and complete games in two of those three years. But then Hernandez also led the NL in hits allowed five times and earned runs and losses once each. He was runner-up to Scott Rolen for Rookie of the Year voting in 1997 and made two All-Star squads, and when the (then-)Florida Marlins won their first World Series in 1997, Hernandez, who had outdueled the Cleveland Indians' Orel Hershiser twice to pick up a pair of wins in the seven-game series, was named series Most Valuable Player, this on the heels of his having been named MVP of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, when he had out-pitched no less than Greg Maddux in Game Five, a complete-game victory in which Hernandez struck out a record 15 Braves batters.

Another reliable innings-eater is Kevin Millwood, who won 15 or more games four times and threw 200 or more innings pitched five times in a 16-year career spent with seven teams starting with the Atlanta Braves until 2002. Pitching in the teeth of the Steroids Era, the right-hander had four years with an ERA under 4.00, two of those seasons with an ERA under 3.00, 1999, when he finished third in NL Cy Young voting with a 2.68 ERA, and 2005, when, pitching now for the Cleveland Indians, he led the American League in ERA with a 2.86. Millwood had four seasons with at least 15 victories while he went to the World Series once, in 1999, when the Braves were swept by the New York Yankees. Millwood allowed five runs, four of them earned, in the first three innings of Game Two as the Yankees under David Cone cruised to a 7–2 victory.

Kerry Wood exploded onto the baseball stage one month into his rookie season when the Chicago Cubs starter threw a one-hit shutout against the Houston Astros in May 1998 in which he struck out 20 batters, tying Roger Clemens for the most strikeouts in a nine-inning game (since matched by Randy Johnson and Max Scherzer). Finishing the season with a 13–6 win-loss record, 233 strikeouts, and a 3.40 ERA (his FIP was 3.16 while his ERA+ was 129), the fireballing right-hander took the National League Rookie of the Year honors over Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Alas, Wood soon proved susceptible to injuries: He missed all of 1999 recovering from Tommy John surgery and would be placed on the disabled list 14 times in his 14-year career. In 2007, he moved to the bullpen, where he was the Cubs' closer the following year, saving 34 games and striking out 84 hitters in 66.1 innings. In fact, Wood struck out 1582 batters in 1380 total innings for a ratio of 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, second only to Randy Johnson all-time. Like Chris Carpenter, Kerry Wood could have been a Cooperstown contender had he managed to stay healthy.

Injuries also dogged Jason Isringhausen, who, like Wood, began his career as a starting pitcher, Isringhausen in 1995 with the New York Mets, before taking a closer role when he was traded to the Oakland Athletics during the 1999 season. The right-hander blossomed in Oakland, recording 67 saves between 2000 and 2001 before he left for the greener pastures of St. Louis as he signed with the Cardinals after the 2001 season. (Isringhausen, along with Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, was one of the high-profile defections for which the A's had to solve as told in Michael Lewis's influential book Moneyball.) Isringhausen helped the Cardinals to two World Series appearances in 2004 and 2006, when St. Louis won it all against the Detroit Tigers, although he missed the 2006 season with a hip injury. For an eight-year stretch, from 2000 to 2007, Isringhausen averaged per year 61 appearances, 63 innings pitched, 58 strikeouts, 34 saves, and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings while posting a 2.81 ERA and a 154 ERA+. Injuries prompted Isringhausen to leave the Cardinals after the 2008 season, and he bounced from team to team until his final season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2012. His 300 career saves ranks 26th, tied with Fernando Rodney and Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter.

With a powerful fastball in the high 90s and an equally devastating slider, Brad Lidge was one of the most dominant closers of the 2000s. The right-hander began as a setup man for the Houston Astros in 2002, striking out 97 hitters in 78 appearances and 85 innings pitched in 2003, before Billy Wagner's and Octavio Dotel's departures enabled him to move into the closer's role. Lidge took full advantage in 2004, striking out 157 batters in 80 appearances, a ratio of 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and 94.2 innings pitched as, following Dotel's mid-season departure, he posted 29 saves and a stingy 1.90 ERA, 1.97 FIP, and 228 ERA+.

The Astros' full-time closer in 2005, Lidge helped lead the team to its first World Series appearance with a career-high 42 saves, a 2.29 ERA, a 2.13 FIP, and a 185 ERA+ while striking out 103 in 70.2 innings pitched, the second of three consecutive seasons with 100 or more strikeouts. Yet Lidge was buffeted in the 2005 postseason: Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals crushed a three-run homer off Lidge in Game Six of the National League Championship Series that may still be in orbit, and Lidge was on the hook for two losses against the Chicago White Sox as they swept the Astros in the World Series. Dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for the 2008 season, Lidge helped guide the Phillies to a World Series victory with 41 saves, a 1.95 ERA, and 92 strikeouts in 69.1 innings pitched. In 39 postseason appearances, Brad Lidge posted 18 saves, a 2.18 ERA, and struck out 62 in 45.1 innings pitched.

Winning four Gold Gloves with three different teams, second baseman Orlando Hudson was truly a journeyman, toiling for six teams in an 11-year career that saw him chosen for two All-Star squads, representing a different team each time. The slick-fielding switch-hitter was 18 runs above average for Total Zone total fielding runs in his career while he was worth 99 defensive runs saved, with a defensive WAR (dWAR) of 12.9. Hudson was also a decent if unspectacular hitter, with five years with a batting average of .270 or better in seasons in which he was qualified for a batting title, four consecutive years with an OPS+ of 100 or better, six consecutive years with 25 or more doubles, and four consecutive years with 10 or more home runs.

Nicknamed "el Caballo," "the Horse," Carlos Lee was indeed a workhorse during his 14-year career, split largely between the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox with stops at three other teams. Lee played in 150 or more games per season ten times, mostly as a left fielder although he did start playing at first base once he slowed up. Hitting for both average and power, the right-hander was a reliable performer at the plate, collecting 150 or more hits in a season nine times, 30 or more doubles nine times, 25 or more home runs eight times, 90 or more runs scored five times, 90 or more runs batted in nine times, and, for a big man, 10 or more stolen bases eight times. He hit .290 or better seven times in years in which he was qualified for a batting title, and for a power hitter, Lee had a decent eye at the plate, striking out 90 or more times only twice. Lee ranks 85th all-time in home runs (358), tied with Hall of Famer Yogi Berra; 89th in RBI (1363), tied with Bobby Abreu; 89th in doubles (469); and 162nd in hits (2273). Lee is also seventh in grand slams, tied with Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams with 17. Carlos Lee was a solid lineup fixture if never the franchise player.

After Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui is the best Japanese hitter to play Major League Baseball, and the gap between the two illustrates how challenging it has been for Japanese hitters to succeed in American baseball. "Godzilla" did not enter the Majors until his age-29 season in 2003, two years after Suzuki's debut, and he soon rattled off a streak of 518 consecutive games played as a left fielder and designated hitter for the New York Yankees, ended only when he broke his wrist on a fielding play in May 2006. The left-handed power hitter was the American League runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 2003 when he posted a .287/.353/.435/.788 slash line with 42 doubles, 16 home runs, 82 runs scored, and 106 runs batted in. He nearly doubled his home run total the following season while batting .298 and again knocking in 100 or more runs (108), the second of four seasons with 100 or more. Matsui won a World Series ring with the Yankees in 2009 in grand style, rattling off a scorching .615/.643/.1.385/.2.027 slash line with three home runs and eight RBI, impressive enough to earn him Most Valuable Player honors for the series, which saw the Yankees defeat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

Aubrey Huff was a solid performer for much of his 13-year career, which began with the Tampa Bay (then-Devil) Rays in 2000, with whom he remained until a mid-season trade to the Houston Astros in 2006. The left-handed-hitting corner infielder and -outfielder swaggered to prominence in 2003 with a .311/.367/.555/.922 slash line from a career-high 198 hits including 47 doubles, 34 home runs, another career-high, 91 runs scored, and 107 runs batted in. He put up near-identical numbers five years later with the Baltimore Orioles, but it was when he signed with the San Francisco Giants in 2010 that Huff's fortunes rose, posting a .290/.385/.506/.891 slash line with 35 doubles, 26 home runs, 100 runs scored, and 86 RBI as he helped the Giants into the postseason—Huff's first postseason appearance as a Major League player. In the World Series, he unspooled a .294/.368/.588/.957 slash line with two doubles, one homer, three runs scored, and four runs driven in, helping the Giants to a five-game World Series victory over the Texas Rangers, the Giants' first world championship since 1954. Huff signed a two-year deal with San Francisco, with whom he finished his career and earned another World Series ring in 2012, although by then Huff was a bench player.

As has been the case for the past several ballots, it is an accomplishment for these 11 candidates to even make the 2018 ballot. None of them stand a chance of being elected, which might have been the case anyway were there not a ballot logjam, but is certainly the case now, when there is a plethora of candidates from which to choose. But before we get to strategic voting, we must address the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, the specter of which has haunted the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for more than a decade and has pushed itself into the forefront once again this year.



"Times Shouldn't Change for the Worse"

One day after the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released, BBWAA voters received an email from Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan imploring them not to vote for candidates with connections to performance-enhancing drugs (PED).

Morgan was careful to delineate players with concrete connections—"[p]layers who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in . . . the Mitchell Report"—from players merely suspected of having PED connections, but the impetus for his letter, after the PED furor had abated over the last few years, is quite clear: Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and Ivan Rodriguez had all been elected to the Hall of Fame in the last two years, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens—both poster children for PED—had both crossed the 50-percent vote threshold in 2017, and Manny Ramirez, who had retired from Major League Baseball in 2009 after failing his second drug test, debuted on the 2017 ballot with 23.8 percent of the vote, about as strong a showing as Mark McGwire ever managed during his 10 years on the ballot.

Joe Morgan 2018 HoF
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan implored voters not to vote for PED-connected candidates--will his plea affect the vote?

Although Morgan is a vice chairman of the Baseball Hall of Fame and is a member of its board of directors, he claimed not to be speaking on behalf of the Hall or even on behalf of all current Hall of Famers, but he did state that he was representing the view of many of them who believe that admitting steroids users "will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn't bear."

Whether Morgan is leading the charge or is simply the cat's paw for others is unclear; Jon Shestakofsky, the Hall's vice president of communications and education, distanced the Hall from Morgan's statement, noting that it was "a Hall of Famer initiative" while adding, "That being said, we were aware of it." And at least one Hall of Famer disagrees with Morgan: Willie McCovey stated that the bulk of Morgan's missive was aimed specifically at Barry Bonds, whom the San Francisco Giants' former first baseman believes should be elected to the Hall of Fame, adding that with respect to PED, "Guys took things ever since baseball existed."

Thus the palace intrigue continues, but the ramifications are quite apparent, particularly in Morgan's denunciation of steroid users who cheated the game, cheated other players, cheated themselves: "[S]teroid users don't belong here. What they did shouldn't be accepted. Times shouldn't change for the worse."

Well, bravo, Joe. But have you gone far enough? It is easy—far too easy—to blame the players for cheating, for taking PED. After all, they are the direct beneficiaries, first of the increased capabilities afforded to them through the artificial enhancement provided by PED, which in turn lead to increased opportunities in MLB, and thus in turn to increased opportunities to establish their legacy.

The pinnacle of that legacy, for the very few who qualify for it, is a berth in the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is what concerns Joe Morgan and the presumed others for whom he purports to speak: "There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America."

Morgan even closes his letter with a postscript appeal to family values:

"Families come to Cooperstown because they know it's special. To parents, it's a place they can take their kids for an uplifting, feel-good visit. It's a place where kids can see what true greatness is all about. It's a place where youngsters can dream that one day they too might get in. This place is special. I hope it stays that way."

In other words, let's perpetuate the myth that baseball exists only in some magical cornfield of dreams in Iowa and is immune from the corruption of reality that taints every other human endeavor. Morgan even alludes to this by referring to the "sanctity" of being elected to the Hall of Fame, and he is hardly the only one as we speak of Hall of Fame "enshrinement" and of the Hall itself as being "hallowed."

But the cold, hard reality is that baseball is a business whose primary goal is to remain a going concern while, ideally, showing a profit, and to do so means that every team must put the best product possible onto the playing field every season using a very precious commodity: Major League-level baseball talent.

Undoubtedly, the pressure to first reach the Major Leagues, and then to stay in the Majors, has tempted many players to use PED to give them that edge over a field of competition that has a high talent compression: There are many qualified players in the Majors, and there are only a limited number of slots available on Major League teams—the temptation for players on the talent margins to use PED can be enormous.

Yet to think that the players are the only actors guilty in the PED scandals, to the point that they alone deserve to be banished from the Hall of Fame for "cheating," for "put[ting] up huge numbers [that] made great players who didn't cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame," as Joe Morgan alleges, is to ignore all the other actors in the business of baseball who enabled those players to continue to participate in Major League Baseball—after MLB had codified its drug policies, the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, in 2006, and after specific players had been suspended for violating those policies, yet were able to find work in MLB after their suspensions.

There are two kinds of hypocrisy in the stance taken by Joe Morgan and those he purportedly represents: One is to castigate by banishment from the Baseball Hall of Fame only the players associated with PED while ignoring the front offices that hired them, the on-field managers who guided them, the leadership of baseball such as the Commissioner of Baseball who oversaw them, and the Baseball Writers Association of America that bestowed awards upon them.

The second kind of hypocrisy is the ongoing employment and recognition by those parties of players who have been caught cheating in order to put the best possible product on the field after those players have served their suspensions but before they get to the stage of being banned permanently. Morgan can bemoan the "huge numbers" PED users generated, which are individual accomplishments, but they ultimately serve a collective purpose—to win baseball games. How many divisional championships have been tainted by PED? How many league pennants have been tainted by PED? How many World Series titles have been tainted by PED?

We talk about putting asterisks next to the individual player records to indicate that those records have been tainted by the players' having used, or had been suspected of using, PED, of creating a special wing in the Hall of Fame for the Steroids Era. But don't their teams and the very infrastructure of Major League Baseball belong there too? Players do not perform in a vacuum, and they do not unilaterally put themselves into baseball games. They are hired by front offices, they are inserted into lineups by managers, they are recognized for their accomplishments by organizations such as the BBWAA, with all of this overseen by the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball—all of whom are just as culpable as the players.

Before we explore this non-player culpability, let's explore the environment that continues to enable "cheaters" to "prosper" before their cheating grows so egregious that they are banned permanently from baseball, while they can still help teams put the best possible product on the field, a product that could conceivably deliver a World Series championship.

Baseball Business as Usual

Before the 2006 Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program was established by the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, goes the conventional wisdom, drug policies and penalties were "the Wild, Wild West," with murky parameters as to what substances were illegal and what the consequences were for that illegality.

After 2006, the parameters were now clearly defined including the penalties, which eventually grew to include an 80-game suspension for the first positive test result for PED, a 162-game suspension for the second positive test result, and a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball for the third positive test result. To date, the only MLB player with a lifetime ban is pitcher Jenrry Mejía, banned in February 2016, although he can apply for reinstatement and be eligible for reinstatement two years after banishment. Middle infielder Neifi Pérez failed three tests by August 2007, but as the substance was amphetamine and not a PED, he was not banished although his poor offensive performance combined to effectively end his career anyway.

Yet even with the codification of drug policies and penalties after 2006, Major League players continued to be caught in the dragnet of drug testing—but despite this stigma, they continue to work in Major League Baseball.

Two of the most notorious players are Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez. Ramirez served a 50-game suspension after testing positive for the first time in May 2009 and then, two years later, he received a 100-game suspension for a second positive test, whereupon he immediately retired, just as immediately fueling observations that as far as his legacy was concerned, his goose was effectively flambeed—his sudden retirement was seen as an admission of guilt, and guilt in the post-Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program agreement era was an unequivocal acknowledgement of cheating the game. There could be no "game of shadows" of hiding behind murky, ill-defined rules and penalties—the 2006 agreement spelled those out, and had even strengthened them in subsequent years. By the time Ramirez would arrive on his first Hall of Fame ballot, it was said (including by me), he would undoubtedly disappear faster than Rafael Palmeiro.

Manny Ramirez 2018 HoF
Slugging left fielder Manny Ramirez is one of the candidates Morgan has singled out for boycotting--will Manny lose votes in 2018?

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Hall of Fame ballot: Between Ramirez's retirement and his first ballot appearance in 2017, a lot of players began to test positive for PED and other substances, and despite the escalating penalties, that did not seem to stop them from getting work in the Majors. The marquee example is Alex Rodriguez, who on the basis of those numbers that appear to be preventing Joe Morgan from getting a good night's sleep lately is one of the greatest baseball players of all time: Third all-time in runs batted in (2086), fourth all-time in home runs (696), 16th all-time in wins above replacement (117.7; Baseball Reference version), 20th all-time in hits (3115), and so on.

Rodriguez had already admitted to having used PED back in the Wild, Wild West days, during the 2001 to 2003 seasons, with Rodriguez winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2003, with the Texas Rangers, for the first time after being the runner-up the previous season. The 2002 AL MVP winner, Miguel Tejada, later appeared on the Mitchell Report list of admitted and suspected PED users in 2007; he was later suspended for 105 games in August 2013 for testing positive for amphetamine; Tejada, already in his age-39 season in 2013, had his MLB career effectively ended as a result.

Then, in 2013, Alex Rodriguez was one of 13 players suspended in connection with the Biogenesis of America scandal, in which an anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, Florida, was accused of supplying Major League players with PED such as human growth hormone. Rodriguez's suspension was initially 211 games, although Rodriguez appealed the suspension—the only player to do so—which allowed him to play to the end of the 2013 season and reduced the suspension to 162 games, in other words, all of the 2014 season, when after a lengthy, contentious arbitration process the suspension was upheld in January 2014.

Rodriguez returned for the 2015 season, posting in his age-39 year a .250/.356/.486/.842 slash line with 131 hits, which saw him reach the 3000-hit plateau and become just the fifth player in MLB history to collect at least 3000 hits and at least 500 home runs; 33 home runs, which saw him pass Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list; and 86 runs batted in, which saw him pass Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds for fifth and fourth, respectively, on the all-time list—all while the New York Yankees paid him $22 million for the season as part of the 10-year, $275 million contract he signed with them in 2007.

Yet Rodriguez is only the most auspicious of the 13 players suspended in 2013 as a result of the Biogenesis scandal. Ryan Braun, a five-time All-Star, received a 65-game suspension while some of the 11 players who received 50-game suspensions included Antonio Bastardo, Everth Cabrera, Francisco Cervelli, Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta; Cabrera, Cruz, and Peralta had been chosen as All-Stars in 2013. In addition, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colón, and Yasmani Grandal had all received 50-game suspensions in 2012 for their involvement with Biogenesis.

Furthermore, Braun had allegedly tested positive for testosterone in 2011, an allegation that would have netted Braun a 50-game suspension but that Braun successfully challenged on procedural grounds, raising questions about how test collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr., handled the test sample. Braun won the 2011 appeal, but his actions during and after the appeal netted him the additional 15 games as part of his 2013 suspension, which would have been the same 50 games meted out to the 11 others.

Nevertheless, Braun picked up where he had left off with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014, for whom he continues to play and for whom he was named an All-Star in 2015. Melky Cabrera continued to find work after his suspension, picking up with the Toronto Blue Jays before signing with the Chicago White Sox in 2015, for whom the switch-hitting outfielder batted .296 with 42 doubles and 86 RBI in 2016. Jhonny Peralta had received his 50-game suspension as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2013—which didn't stop the St. Louis Cardinals from signing the hard-hitting shortstop to a four-year contract at the end of that year, with the Cardinals declaring that they were not the "morality police" and that Peralta had "paid for his mistakes" before disclaiming, "obviously if he were to make another [mistake], then it would be a huge disappointment."

Nelson Cruz has proved to have been anything but a disappointment following his 50-game suspension, although the PED taint did seem to dog him initially after he turned down a $14 million qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, to whom he was contracted when he had been suspended. Just prior to the start of spring training in 2014, the slugging right fielder and designated hitter signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles, with whom Cruz led the Majors in 2014 with 40 home runs while driving in 108 runs. His stock on the rise, Cruz rejected the Orioles' qualifying offer of $15.3 million for a four-year, $57 million contract from the Seattle Mariners. With the Mariners, Cruz has hit 126 home runs and driven in 317 runs over the past three seasons, leading the AL in RBI in 2017 with 119 while being chosen as an All-Star in 2015 and 2017 and finishing in the top ten for MVP voting in those two years as well.

Meanwhile, Bartolo Colón has managed to keep working in MLB even at the age of 44. The big right-handed starting pitcher has posted a 79–63 win-loss record with a 3.95 ERA (and a 3.89 FIP and 98 ERA+) since 2012, when he received his 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone while with the Oakland Athletics. In 2013, Colón's age-40 season, he won 18 games for the A's against only six losses for a .750 winning percentage while posting a 2.65 ERA, a 3.23 FIP, and a 147 ERA+ as he made the AL All-Star team and finished sixth in Cy Young balloting. With the New York Mets in 2016, Colón was named to the National League All-Star squad as, in his age-43 season, he posted a 15–8 win-loss record, a .652 winning percentage, with a 3.43 ERA, 3.99 FIP, and 117 ERA+.

Since the Biogenesis scandal, Major League players who have been suspended for violating MLB's drug policies include outfielder Cameron Maybin, a member of the 2017 World Series champions the Houston Astros; right-handed starting pitcher Ervin Santana, a 2017 All-Star with the Minnesota Twins who posted a 16–8 record with a 3.28 ERA while leading the Majors in complete games (5) and shutouts (3); Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello, currently a free agent who has not played in the Majors since his suspension; second baseman Dee Gordon, who with the Miami Marlins led the National League in 2015 in hits (205), batting average (.333), and stolen bases (58) before testing positive for PED in 2016; outfielder Marlin Byrd, whose second positive drug test in 2016, resulting in a 162-game suspension during his age-38 season, effectively ended his career; and Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte, whose 2016 All-Star campaign was followed by an 80-game suspension in 2017.

While some players on the margins, Marlin Byrd or Chris Colabello, have had their careers effectively ended as a result of positive drug tests, others have experienced only a blip in their careers as teams seem to accept a failed test as simply a cost of doing business, such as a manufacturing company that pays a fine for polluting but continues on unabated. A failed drug test is simply a cost of doing business, part of the price of putting the best product possible on the field, with the aim of bringing a world championship to the city that hosts the team.

Alex Rodriguez helped to bring a world championship to the New York Yankees in 2009, the team's 27th World Series championship, by far the most in MLB history. When Rodriguez appears on his first ballot in 2022, no doubt that Joe Morgan will once again be urging voters to vote their consciences with respect to "cheaters" like Rodriguez, who like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Manny Ramirez is ridiculously overqualified for the Hall of Fame in terms of the hallowed "numbers" of baseball, the individual statistics that moral arbiters such as Morgan believe, implicitly or explicitly, deserve an asterisk next to them to indicate that the numbers have been tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

But what of the "numbers" of games won by the teams that hired or retained these players after they had been suspended for using PED? What of the "numbers" of division titles, or league pennants, or world championships, that resulted from the teams that strived to put the best product on the field, even if that "product" included players with PED associations? Moreover, what of the "numbers" in terms of the millions of dollars that these teams earned from putting the best product on the field, even if the cost of generating that revenue included the suspensions of those players with PED associations? As the St. Louis Cardinals acknowledged after signing shortstop Jhonny Peralta following his suspension resulting from the Biogenesis scandal, the team was not the "morality police."

No, that "morality" is left to the Hall of Fame, the final arbiter of legacy. Granted, inclusion in the Hall of Fame—with "inclusion" often described by the hallowed term "enshrinement"—is a privilege, not a right, a privilege awarded by a private institution dedicated to preserving and celebrating the legacy of baseball. It is a legacy that attempts to create a mythos of baseball, that of the national pastime as a reflection of what is good and great about America, an illusion of hard work, fair play, and excellence embodied in the careers of the individuals who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. As Joe Morgan stated in his letter: "For over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls honor those who played the game hard and right."

But why stop at those who played the game, Joe? Why not include all those who make the game possible, the owners, the front-office executives, the on-field managers, the commissioner, the writers who chronicle the game and bestow its awards? Without all these enablers, there would be no players to play the game—and the Baseball Hall of Fame has blithely ignored the culpability of these non-players who stood shoulder to shoulder with the players throughout this "tainted era where records were shattered," as Morgan put it.

Instead, the Baseball Hall of Fame has given a number of them a literal pass, a pass into the "hallowed halls" with nary the scrutiny it has given to the players even though they bear as much responsibility, if not more so, as do the players. We turn now to these enablers.

The PED Enablers in the Hall of Fame

Baseball players do not magically appear on the rosters of baseball teams and on the lineup cards of the teams as they take the field. They are hired and acquired by front-office executives and selected to play by the on-field managers, as part of a system called Major League Baseball that is overseen by the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball. Affiliated with MLB are the media, specifically, the baseball writers who belong to the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), who vote on various seasonal awards such as the Most Valuable Player Award and the Cy Young Award for the American League and the National League, as well as voting on the players eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

All of these parties have enabled the use of PED, and all except the BBWAA have had representatives be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame after having benefited from players who have used PED—but unlike the players, they have undergone little if any scrutiny for their role in "[t]he cheating that tainted an era [and] now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too," to quote once again from Joe Morgan's letter.

Let's break down these enablers in turn.

Managers. In 2014, the Expansion Era Committee voted unanimously to induct Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre into the Hall of Fame. Let's note that one of the 16 committee members who voted unanimously was none other than Joe Morgan. All three managers are among the top five all-time in wins, and all three won at least one World Series championship.

And all three managed players with PED connections who helped to win all those games and titles that put Cox, La Russa, and Torre into the Hall of Fame.

I am indebted to ESPN columnist Rick Reilly for this insight, who made this connection between the newly-elected managers and their PED-connected players not long after the Expansion Era Committee vote had been announced. Reilly notes that as of late 2009, the three managers "oversaw at least 34 players who've been implicated as PED users and never noticed a thing wrong." Of the players on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot Morgan alludes to but does not cite by name, Bobby Cox managed Gary Sheffield while Joe Torre also managed Sheffield along with Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez; next year's ballot will mark the debut of admitted PED user Andy Pettitte, who helped Torre win four World Series championships for the Yankees.

Roger Clemens 2018 HoF
Roger Clemens (shown with the Boston Red Sox) helped Joe Torre win two World Series. Torre is in the Hall of Fame; Clemens is not.

Meanwhile, Tony La Russa managed Mark McGwire both with the Oakland A's and with the St. Louis Cardinals, including McGwire's record-breaking 1998 season; McGwire's 2001 retirement put him at the forefront of the PED backlash, but seven years on the BBWAA ballot seemed to have no effect when La Russa appeared on the 2014 Expansion Era ballot, although McGwire got no pull-through from La Russa's election three years later when McGwire appeared on the Today's Game ballot.

The three managers were inducted at the 2014 ceremonies along with players Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas. Thomas was the lone active player to speak on the record to the Mitchell Committee as a long-time opponent of PED, and during his Hall of Fame eligibility period he was equally adamant about declaring that he had, echoing Joe Morgan's language, played the game the "right way," which makes his recent commercial endorsement of the over-the-counter testosterone booster Nugenix a rather droll one.

Executive. One of two candidates elected on the 2017 Today's Game Committee ballot was John Schuerholz, who had been the general manager of the Kansas City Royals from 1981 to 1990 before filling the same position for the Atlanta Braves from 1990 to 2007, and then becoming the Braves' president from 2007 to 2016. He won World Series with the Royals in 1985 and with the Braves ten years later, and, like Cox, he oversaw the winning of 14 consecutive division titles with the Braves during his tenure.

He also hired and acquired the same PED-associated players whom Cox managed on the field including Melky Cabrera, David Justice, and Gary Sheffield. Other players who passed through the Braves organization during Schuerholz's tenure include Matt Franco, Kent Mercker, Denny Neagle, and Mike Stanton, all of whom appear in the Mitchell Report.

Schuerholz was elected by all 16 members of the Today's Game Committee. Among those members were Bobby Cox and Frank Thomas.

Commissioner. Appearing with John Schuerholz on the 2017 Today's Game Committee ballot was Allan "Bud" Selig, who had been the Acting Commissioner of Baseball from 1992 to 1998 before officially becoming the ninth Commissioner of Baseball in 1998, holding that position until he stepped down in 2015. Selig received all but one of the committee's votes to be elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try.

Selig was the Commissioner of Baseball all through the Steroids Era, from the Wild, Wild West to the 2006 adoption of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program to the appointment of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to lead an independent investigation into PED that same year. By 2006, much of the damage had been done, and the Mitchell Commission, which focused exclusively on the players and not the infrastructure of baseball that enabled the players to use PED, was essentially Selig's public relations mechanism to make it appear as if MLB was taking decisive action, as Baseball Prospectus writer Joe Sheehan maintained in 2007.

Selig himself told different stories to different audiences regarding his awareness of the PED problem. In 2005, he claimed to reporters that he had never even heard about steroids until 1998 or 1999, on or just after Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had re-ignited baseball with their 1998 home run chase. But in 2006, as he testified to Congress, Selig claimed that he had spotted the PED problem as early as 1994, and by 1998 he was already working on a "strategic plan" to eliminate PED from the game.

The bottom line is that Bud Selig did little to stem the flood of PED into MLB until the problem blossomed into a seemingly perpetual issue, one that is likely to remain an issue for years to come. As a former franchise owner, of the Milwaukee Brewers, Selig had been squarely the owners' commissioner ever since, as an owner, Selig engineered the removal of his predecessor Fay Vincent over the issue of collusion in the late 1980s, when owners teamed up to depress free-agent salaries and discourage the signing of free agents, with team owners agreeing in 1990 to pay the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the players' union, $280 million in damages. Selig continued that de facto loyalty to the owners throughout the PED era, focusing on the players' behavior while ignoring the infrastructure of baseball in which the players operate.

For his loyalty, Bud Selig was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017, two years after he retired as commissioner.

Notice that we have not mentioned anything about the players' union, which had as much culpability as any party in the PED issue and that had to cooperate with Selig in order to facilitate a drug-testing agreement.

To date, the MLBPA has no representation in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In late 2017, the Modern Baseball Committee met to vote on a slate of ten candidates, nine players and one executive, Marvin Miller, the Executive Director of the MLBPA from 1966 to 1982, who was instrumental in dismantling the Reserve Clause, introducing modern free agency, and increasing the salaries of baseball players, making Miller one of the most important figures in the history of baseball. Miller received seven votes from the 16-member Modern Baseball Committee, which included Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz, five short of the 75 percent necessary to be elected, this marking the eighth time that Miller, who died in 2012, has failed to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Cox and Schuerholz and Selig were all voted in on their first try.

Baseball Writers' Association of America. The BBWAA is an indirect party in the PED issue in that it makes no policy with respect to regulation or enforcement. However, it is culpable in that the BBWAA supplies the voters for the players' ballot and is the group targeted by Joe Morgan's letter imploring those voters not to vote for players with confirmed PED connections, specifically, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Sheffield, with Sammy Sosa a shadowy candidate whose PED connections are not as clear as the others.

Starting with the 2016 election, the Baseball Hall of Fame amended the voting rules for the BBWAA, requiring that voters must have been active BBWAA members within 10 years prior to the election. This sloughed off emeritus voters who had not been keeping up with baseball, including the PED furor, and the effect was immediate: Mike Piazza, dogged with usage of androstenedione ("andro") early in his career, although andro was legal and available over the counter at the time, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016.

The following year, Jeff Bagwell, long dogged with rumors of PED usage, was elected to the Hall along with Ivan Rodriguez, elected on his first ballot even though he too had been implicated with PED going back to Jose Canseco's 2005 tell-all book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. Moreover, Manny Ramirez, whose Hall of Fame goose seemed to have been burned to a crisp way back in 2011, when he failed his second drug test, received 23.8 percent of the vote on his first ballot while both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens nosed past the 50-percent mark for the first time.

Clearly, the streamlined BBWAA votership had abandoned the moral dudgeon that had marked BBWAA voters in years past, which then necessitated the PED smack on the nose administered by Joe Morgan and the unnamed other Hall of Famers he purported to represent to keep the voters in line.

But the BBWAA had been guilty of hypocrisy for years. Recall that the BBWAA also votes on the seasonal awards including the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards. The BBWAA had been voting those awards to PED users all along—and not just in the Wild, Wild West days, either, when Bud Selig either didn't know about any PED problem or when he already had a solution to the problem, depending on which story he was telling.

During his career, Barry Bonds won seven MVP Awards, the most ever by any MLB player in history. He won four of those awards consecutively, from 2001 to 2004, when everybody had realized that there was a PED problem and Bonds appeared to be in the thick of it. Similarly, Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards, the most ever by any pitcher in MLB history. He won two of those consecutively, in 1997 and 1998, when the PED issue was beginning to manifest itself, and then in 2001 and 2004, when there was clearly a PED problem in MLB, with Clemens, in his age-41 season in 2004, a seeming beneficiary of the problem.

Barry Bonds 2018 HoF
The BBWAA voted Barry Bonds a Most Valuable Player an unprecedented seven times but has not elected him to the Hall of Fame.

How could the BBWAA vote awards for Bonds and Clemens, in essence stating that they were the best position player and pitcher, respectively, for that season, and then refuse to vote for them for the Hall of Fame?

Granted, that is a collective charge levied against a group of individual voters, and I do not know how many, if any, members who voted on the seasonal awards also have a Hall of Fame vote. Nevertheless, the BBWAA is the arbiter of both seasonal awards and career legacy, and it smacks of hypocrisy to say, in essence, yes, you were the best player or pitcher in a given year, and thus we'll recognize that, but your overall conduct prevents you from entering the Hall of Fame, which is for the best players who kept their noses clean because baseball has standards.

Baloney.

Say It Ain't So, Joe

By now, it is clear that as long as a player does not get himself banned permanently from baseball, he can still find a job on an MLB team even if he does get himself suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. This is simply the cost of putting the best product possible on the field, much like a company pays a fine for exceeding emissions or pollution standards during the course of manufacturing. After all the moral thundering and posturing that has been done about PED, it has done little to alter baseball's business as usual.

But while the PED stigma may follow a player significant enough to merit serious consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame, that stigma does not appear to apply to the front-office personnel who hired or acquired the player, or to the on-field management who penciled the player onto the lineup card as the team sets out to win games, divisions, pennants, and world championships. That stigma also does not apply to the Commissioner of Baseball who presided over the rise of performance-enhancing drugs and who did little to arrest the rise until it became an endemic and systemic problem.

The simplistic moral outrage expressed in Joe Morgan's letter to the voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America mirrors the personal-responsibility mantra that falls squarely and exclusively on the players while ignoring the infrastructure of baseball without which players would not even have a venue in which to play, let alone "cheat."

In that respect, Morgan is the ideal spokesman for the Hall of Fame, which reflects the primacy of the owners while treating the players as employees who should be grateful for the privilege of being allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. After all, the BBWAA, which votes for the players, is subject to various strictures with respect to their voting—in 2018, every voters' ballot will be made public. By contrast, the various veterans committees do not have to disclose their members' ballots, and the veterans committees are the ones that vote on the managers, the executives, and the commissioners.

As an active member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Joe Morgan has been a tool to orchestrate conduct that reflects the attitude of the owners, an attitude that strives to create that "uplifting, feel-good" atmosphere about the national pastime overseen by the beneficent owners of baseball, who treat the players as if they were precocious children who must be punished when they are willful or disobedient while they themselves do not have to be held to account for enforcing segregation in baseball, for holding its players like chattel through the Reserve Clause, for colluding to discourage the hiring of free agents once the Reserve Clause had been abolished, and who looked the other way at the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs as long as their business continued to be profitable, and when the outrage over PED finally forced baseball to address the problem, the owners continue to employ PED violators as long as they have not been banned permanently from the sport.

You evaluate the baseball you have, not the baseball you wish you had, not the baseball that conforms to some childish, whimsical conception of baseball as a pure and innocent pastime immune from the corruption of the society that spawned it. Performance-enhancing drugs are as much a part of baseball as the gambling and brawling that marked its beginnings, the racism—individual and institutional—that marked its development until the middle of the 20th century, and the indentured servitude that marked its economic model until the 1970s and the abolition of the Reserve Clause and the rise of free agency.

And to think that only the players are responsible for PED is to fail to recognize the infrastructure of baseball that enables the players to participate in the first place. While the opprobrium over PED has raged in the foreground over the legacies of players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro, the non-players who also compose the infrastructure of baseball have quietly waltzed through the back door into their places in the Hall of Fame: Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre, the managers who inserted those players into their lineups, day after day; John Schuerholz, the front-office executive who hired and acquired those players; and Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball who watched the entire distasteful PED era unfold under his guidance of baseball.

Once inside the Hall of Fame, these non-players begin to serve on the various veterans committees appointed to evaluate players and non-players alike for their inclusion in the Hall, working with Hall of Famers such as Joe Morgan in what begins to look like a star chamber that determines the legacy of baseball. And if that sounds too conspiratorial, then these veterans committees should have to make public their ballots, their complete record of who they did or did not vote for, as will the voters of the BBWAA starting with the 2018 ballot.

"Times shouldn't change for the worse," Joe Morgan writes in his letter imploring BBWAA voters not to vote for players with established ties to PED. Indeed, they shouldn't. With the recent rules changes by the Baseball Hall of Fame, from requiring that BBWAA voters make public their ballots to the 2014 rule change that limits players' maximum allotted time on the BBWAA ballot to ten years, the various veterans committees will now assume greater responsibility for voting players and non-players alike into the Hall of Fame.

This means a far smaller body of voters, half of whom already members of the club for which they are deciding additional membership, with another quarter of that body composed of the executives in direct service to the business of baseball, meeting in private to cast their ballots, which they do not have to disclose to anyone; all we see is a partial tally of the top vote-getters. This is in essence a peer vote that does not have to be shared with the public, many of whom will come to the Baseball Hall of Fame for, as Joe Morgan terms it, "an uplifting, feel-good visit."

Is it "uplifting" to know that baseball legacy is being concentrated into fewer, less accountable hands exercising a selective morality when it comes to players and non-players? Is it a "feel-good" experience to know that the perception of baseball is being shaped by the minority that controls the infrastructure of baseball at the expense of the majority that labors within that infrastructure?

Say it ain't so, Joe.



Strategic Voting

The renewed furor over performance-enhancing drugs highlights yet again an ongoing problem with determining baseball legacy, but there is still another problem that is a bigger one regardless of your attitude toward PED: There is an ongoing ballot logjam in which there are more qualified candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame than there are slots in which to vote for them.

That number of qualified candidates can vary depending on how you feel about candidates with known or suspected PED association. For me, I count 17 players whom I would vote for if I had a Hall of Fame ballot from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The maximum number you can vote for is ten. A candidate must receive at least five percent of the vote in order to remain on the BBWAA ballot, and a candidate can remain on a BBWAA ballot for a maximum of ten years before being removed permanently from the ballot.

This can then lead to the situation of strategic voting, which is what you have to do when you have too many choices and not enough time or opportunities to realize all those choices. You have to prioritize your voting based on those restrictions.

So, for example, if I had a 2018 BBWAA ballot, I would not vote for Chipper Jones or Jim Thome. Not because I think that either or both is not a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but precisely because each of them is absolutely a Hall of Famer: I am counting on at least 75 percent of the other voters to check the box for Jones and Thome so that I can use those votes for other candidates who are likely to receive less support for their candidacies.

There is the danger of the "Ken Griffey Effect" in this strategy, particularly now that every voter who submits a ballot will have his or her ballot made public. In 2016, Griffey received 99.3 percent of the vote, with all but three of 440 voters casting a ballot for Griffey, thus denying him from becoming the first-ever BBWAA candidate to be elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame. (Griffey had to settle for merely having the highest voting percentage ever accorded to a candidate.) This failure launched the stirrings of a witch hunt to find the three voters who didn't cast their ballot for Griffey, with rumblings that those voters did not deserve to have a Hall of Fame vote since they were clearly incompetent in not voting for such a blindingly obvious candidate.

Fortunately, baseball's version of The Ox-Bow Incident never occurred, but it may have cast a chilling effect on subsequent voting, particularly now that a voter's ballot is required to be made public. (Many voters have willingly disclosed their ballots to the public in decades past.) There is an authoritarian air to the requirement that a ballot must be made public now, a threat of peer pressure to unduly influence a voter's choices—exacerbated by Joe Morgan's letter to voters imploring them not to vote for PED-associated players.

For the record, I would have been one of the three voters not to have voted for Griffey, for precisely the same reason why I would not vote for Jones and Thome this year—yes, Griffey is a blindingly obvious candidate, so I would expect at least 75 percent of the voters to choose him while I use that vote for Griffey to support a less obvious, but equally deserving, candidate.

That is strategic voting, which I believe is necessary given the logjam of qualified candidates, and which I believe will continue to be necessary until the logjam dissipates. When will that happen? Hard to say, except that BBWAA voters need to elect candidates at the pace at which they have been doing since 2014 in order to thin the ballot and reduce the logjam, unless the Baseball Hall of Fame elects to increase the number of votes that can be cast on a ballot, increase the amount of time a candidate can remain on a ballot, or decrease the voting percentage needed to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

The Hall has previously rejected a request to increase the number of votes that can be cast, it is unlikely that it will reverse its 2014 decision to limit the number of years a candidate can remain on the ballot, and it is equally unlikely that the Hall will reduce the voting percentage needed to be elected. And at least for that last one, that is as it should be—it should be hard for a candidate to get into the Hall of Fame, and we hope that in time it won't be thought necessary to increase the number of votes that can be cast. Restoring the number of years a candidate can remain on the ballot to 15 years is not only a good idea—it should not have been changed in the first place.

The good news, in a sense, is that the number of bona fide Hall of Fame candidates looks to be slowing in the next few years. Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera are the most likely Hall of Fame inductees in 2019, with Lance Berkman, Todd Helton, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, and Michael Young among the borderline candidates. Derek Jeter is the only no-doubt pick in 2020, while the 2021 class offers no clear-cut candidates. Meanwhile, the presence of David Ortiz and especially Alex Rodriguez on the 2022 ballot is sure to get Joe Morgan's pen scratching another urgent missive to BBWAA voters cautioning them not to vote for PED performers.

But as for the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, here is how I would vote, were I to have a ballot.

2018 Hall of Fame Candidates on the Bubble

Although I would not vote for the following candidates even given the opportunity to do so, I do believe that they are truly on the bubble: Were any of them to be elected to the Hall of Fame, I would not complain as I believe that each has a legitimate case for the Hall, but it is one that I do not agree with. At least, not yet—as we will see below, I have shifted my position somewhat on one candidate for whom I was previously equivocal, not clearly coming out in support of his candidacy, which I am doing this year.

If the defensive metrics are to be believed, Andruw Jones is one of the greatest center fielders of all time, and at least for the first ten years of his career, he looked to be on his way to Cooperstown as a top-notch defender and a first-class slugger. Then his career tumbled over a cliff, and the former king of center field found a hard time simply securing a job as a corner outfielder. Was Jones's peak dominant enough to compensate for his stumbling to the finish line? I don't think that it was, but does carry some weight.

Already a consistent performer just as the PED era was getting underway, first baseman Fred McGriff seems to be penalized for not posting the eye-popping numbers of that inflated era, which in turn is used as evidence that McGriff played the "right way" and is more worthy of the Hall of Fame than the cheaters. I've been looking at McGriff for the past eight ballots, and I still see a player on the bubble, consistently very good but not great, not the marquee player. McGriff has just two more chances on the Hall of Fame ballot. Would the full fifteen years players used to have on the ballot have helped to build the case for McGriff? If so, is it a case of Ralph Kiner? Or Jim Rice? I suspect the latter.

Fred McGriff 2018 HoF
Languishing on the lower reaches of the Hall of Fame ballot, slugger Fred McGriff already seems like a relic of a bygone era.

Brian Kenny of MLB Network recently made the case for right fielder Gary Sheffield as being comparable to Vladimir Guerrero, and thus a Hall of Famer as Guerrero seems certain to be voted in this year, and it think it is a valid comparison—their numbers are very similar, and Sheffield certainly has a strong case for the Hall of Fame. Yet Sheffield, always an important cog, never seemed to be in the spotlight in the same way that Guerrero seemed to be. Sheffield was the runner-up to Guerrero in American League voting for the 2004 Most Valuable Player Award, with Sheffield playing for the New York Yankees while Guerrero toiled for the (then‑)Anaheim Angels—Guerrero just edged out Sheffield in several categories. It is a small margin, but sometimes that is the margin between being on one side of the threshold and the other.

2018 Hall of Fame Candidates I Would Not Vote For—But Do Consider Hall-Worthy

Again, as part of the strategic voting approach, I consider these seven candidates to be worthy of the Hall of Fame, but I would not vote for them this year, largely with the expectation that other voters would vote for them.

Just as I gave right fielder Vladimir Guerrero the edge over Gary Sheffield above, I now state that I would not vote for Guerrero on this ballot. I had already pegged him as a Hall of Famer back in 2014, and his garnering of 71.7 percent of the vote last year in his ballot debut heralds well for his chances to be elected this year. As part of the big dice-rolling that occurs with strategic voting, I am betting on at least 75 percent of the voters to check the box for Guerrero and elect him this year.

Similarly for Trevor Hoffman, I identified him as a Hall of Famer as well back in 2014, and as the first reliever to notch both 500 and 600 saves fell just one percent shy of election last year, his second year on the Hall of Fame ballot as he debuted in 2016 at 67.3 percent, I am also betting that at least 75 percent of the voters will choose Hoffman this year and send him to Cooperstown.

Trevor Hoffman 2018 HoF
Already knocking on Cooperstown's door after two years on the ballot, reliever Trevor Hoffman seems a sure bet to be elected.

Of course Chipper Jones is a Hall of Famer—Jay Jaffe's JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) system lists him as the sixth-best third baseman in history with a classic 3-4-5 slash line, .303/.401/.529, with a .930 OPS and 141 OPS+, 2726 hits, 549 doubles, 468 home runs, 1619 runs scored, and 1623 runs driven in, and he walked 103 more times (1512) than he struck out (1409). The 1999 National League Most Valuable Player also played his entire 19-year career with one team, the Atlanta Braves, which may be the last time we see that occurring for a while.

About the only thing Manny Ramirez didn't accomplish on his way to becoming one of the greatest right-handed batters in MLB history was to win a Most Valuable Player Award, although he did finish in the top five of MVP voting four times and in the top ten nine times. All right, the left fielder was never going to win a Gold Glove as his Total Zone total fielding runs above average for his career was –109. And then there is the whole PED issue as he failed two drug tests after MLB had codified its drug policy in 2006. Thus the fact that Ramirez garnered nearly one-quarter of the vote on his 2017 ballot debut must have sent Joe Morgan scurrying for his pen. Ramirez is just starting his tenure on the Hall of Fame ballot, and unless Morgan's persuasive skills are better than they seem, Ramirez will be back after 2018.

However, that might not be the case for Sammy Sosa, who prompts the question, "Why does a hitter with 609 lifetime home runs and 1667 runs batted in not feel like a Hall of Famer?" The slugging right fielder is the only hitter in MLB history to have hit 60 or more home runs in three different seasons, and although he never led the league in home runs in any of those years, he did lead the National League in homers in two other seasons, in runs batted in twice, and in 1998, the year in which Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris's single-season home run record with 70 long balls, Sosa, who had hit 65 homers, was named the NL MVP. Sosa was the MVP runner-up to Barry Bonds in 2001 when he hit 64 round-trippers, drove in a league-leading 160 runs, and managed to top Bonds in both total bases (425) and in intentional walks (37) as Bonds broke McGwire's single-season home run record by three homers.

Sammy Sosa 2018 HoF
All but forgotten after his glory period during the PED heyday, Sammy Sosa could easily fall off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2018.

Yet in 18 seasons, Sammy Sosa generated just 58.4 wins above a replacement player, with just six seasons of 5.0 bWAR or better, indicating an All-Star level of value. Sosa was a good right fielder, with 104 fielding runs above average, and a career dWAR of –1.0, which is more a factor of positional adjustment for right field, borne out by Sosa's career oWAR of 49.6. All those gaudy numbers seemed not to count for much. Sosa is a conundrum irrespective of the PED taint, and I feel that I should include him in my strategic voting because he has been hanging onto his place on the Hall of Fame ballot by his fingernails, with his 8.6 percent of the vote last year a marginal improvement over the previous year's 7.0 percent, and he is in his sixth year this year with time and support running out. Somehow, though, there seems to be so many other candidates who are more deserving.

However, the other guy with 600 home runs on this ballot, Jim Thome, doesn't have that problem, although I wondered in 2011, when the left-handed first baseman and designated hitter reached the 600-homer plateau, whether he was getting any recognition for reaching this milestone. That doesn't seem to be a problem now as Thome, truly one of the great Three True Outcomes hitters of all time—eighth in home runs (612), seventh in walks (1747), and second in strikeouts (2548)—appears to have plenty of support on his first ballot, which is likely to be his only ballot as he starts to write his Cooperstown acceptance speech.

Whether Omar Vizquel enjoys that same level of support is doubtful although he is sure to spark ongoing debates between the numbers geeks, who claim that the durable shortstop was a steady compiler on the offensive side while the defensive metrics don't quite make the Cooperstown case for him, and the "eye-test" traditionalists who point to the stacks of highlight reels and say, "there's your case, pal." My own take is that Vizquel is somewhere between Ozzie Smith and Rabbit Maranville—he doesn't have the glowing defensive case that got Smith elected on his first ballot in 2002 (on a ballot that was not nearly as strong as Vizquel's first ballot despite the presence of eight candidates who were subsequently elected to the Hall of Fame), yet Vizquel's case is nevertheless stronger than Maranville's, still one of the most gratuitous selections that the writers have ever made. Vizquel will not get elected in 2018, but he will get at least five percent of the vote and live for another year of debate.

My 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Strategic Ballot

I will admit at the outset that a couple of my votes are quixotic ones, for candidates who are truly on the bubble and could easily be replaced by the three candidates above, whom I identified as being on the bubble as well. The other eight, however, are sure Hall of Famers.

  1. Scott Rolen (First year on ballot)
Scott Rolen has everything for the Hall of Fame except the fame part. Rolen ranks tenth in Jay Jaffe's JAWS system for third basemen, a consistent middle-of-the-order power hitter and run producer whose eight Gold Gloves rank behind only Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt—in fact, Rolen is really the poor man's Mike Schmidt.

Rolen's two biggest challenges are that fellow third baseman Chipper Jones debuts on the Hall of Fame ballot this year as well, and that Rolen played in the shadow of other, high-profile stars as a blue-collar, Larry Lunchpail kind of player who did not establish their kind of fame. It will take a few tries for Rolen to get into the Hall of Fame. That starts here, because he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

  1. Johan Santana (First year on ballot)
Here is the first of my two quixotic picks. Certainly for the first half of his career, Johan Santana seemed to be writing his ticket for Cooperstown, and for a five-year peak, the left-handed starting pitcher had a run that was as comparable for his era as was Sandy Koufax's for his era. That might be a bold statement to make, and it may not be fully justifiable, but given the nature of baseball in the 21st century, and especially the nature of starting pitching, I think that we need to re-evaluate how we measure legacy in a period of high talent compression, and we start by examining what Santana was able to accomplish in the space of five years, when he was arguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball.

Injuries contributed to Santana's ineffectiveness after 2010, his age-31 season, and he was out of baseball after the 2012 season (although he did throw his only no-hitter that year), but he was worth 50 wins above a replacement pitcher over 12 seasons, with 35 of those coming during his five-year period of dominance, an average of seven wins a season for his 34 starts each season. Had Johan Santana not won three ERA titles, three strikeout titles, and two unanimous Cy Young Awards during that five-year span, I would not consider him a viable candidate for the Hall of Fame, which typically requires that a candidate be very good for a very long time. Santana is the exception who proves that rule, and the test comes from how much he was able to accomplish during his relatively brief career.

  1. Billy Wagner (Third year on ballot)
The second of my quixotic strategic votes, Billy Wagner would seem to require his maximum time on the ballot to allow his case to build among voters. The first stigma comes from his being a relief pitcher—to date, there are only five relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame, with one of those, Dennis Eckersley, a starting pitcher in the first half of his career. Lee Smith, arguably the model of the contemporary closer, spent 15 years on a BBWAA ballot and got at best 50.6 percent of the vote (in 2012) before being eliminated last year. Wagner's second stigma comes from a seemingly light workload—the fireballing left-hander may be sixth all-time in saves with 422, but he made 853 appearances for 903 total innings pitched, which would make him the first reliever in the Hall with fewer than 1000 innings pitched.

Billy Wagner 2018 HoF
Fireballing southpaw reliever Billy Wagner has managed to hang onto the ballot--does he stand a chance of being elected to the Hall?

When I evaluated Billy Wagner as a borderline candidate in 2014
, I was so sure that he would not survive his first ballot that I dismissed his case as a foregone conclusion even as I touted his sometimes-amazing record. Well, Wagner has survived two ballots with about 10 percent of the vote, far from the 75 percent that he needs but enough to keep him in the discussion. Wagner's 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings pitched is better than either Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera, while his 187 ERA+ is topped only by Rivera's 205 ERA+, with both about even with respect to WHIP—Wagner sports a 0.998 to Rivera's 1.000. Furthermore, Wagner held batters to a .187 batting average, again besting both Hoffman and Rivera, each with a .211 batting average against. As with the re-evaluation of contemporary starting pitching as exemplified by Johan Santana, we need to re-evaluate contemporary relief pitching as exemplified by Billy Wagner.

  1. Mike Mussina (Fifth year on ballot)
Mike Mussina has qualities that impress traditionalists and stat geeks alike. For traditionalists, the career starting pitcher—he made only one relief appearance in 537 games pitched—won a lot of games, 270 of them, and with just 153 losses, he has a great winning percentage of .638. The right-hander was in double digits for wins in all but his first of 18 seasons as he notched 57 complete games, 23 shutouts, and in 3562.2 innings pitched he struck out 2813 batters against only 785 walks for a sparkling 3.58 strikeouts to walks ratio. His ERA was fairly high, 3.68, but he pitched his entire career in the American League East—and, besides, Jack Morris is in the Hall of Fame now with his 3.90 ERA.

For the stat geeks, Mussina's FIP is 3.57 and his ERA+ is 123, while his 83.0 bWAR is nearly ten wins better than the 73.9 average of 62 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and his JAWS ranking is 28th, better than Tom Glavine, Nolan Ryan, Jim Palmer, and, well, 34 other starting pitchers already in the Hall of Fame. Mussina never won a Cy Young Award, but he finished in the top five for Cy Young voting six times and was the runner-up to Pedro Martinez in 1999. That is not a bad place to be—who was going to top Pedro in 1999, with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts in 213.1 innings pitched? No one.

  1. Jeff Kent (Fifth year on ballot)
Back in 2011, I profiled five players whom I thought were bound for Cooperstown but who would face a tough time of it because of the ballot logjam. Two of those were Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas, who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. The other three were Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Jeff Kent. Both Mussina and Schilling are around the two-thirds mark in terms of vote percentage, but Kent has been hovering around the 15-percent mark—and he is at the halfway point of his time on the ballot.

Jeff Kent 2018 HoF
Another ballot-basement dweller, slugging second baseman Jeff Kent has not impressed voters with his Hall of Fame credentials.

As a second baseman, Jeff Kent hit 351 home runs, the most at the position, and 377 home runs overall, 74th all time and more than Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner, Joe DiMaggio, and Johnny Mize. Kent drove in 1518 runs, 54th all time and more than Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Billy Williams and certain Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero. And Kent played his entire career at a position that was more difficult than any of them. Kent was the 2000 National League Most Valuable Player, no small feat considering that not only was runner-up Barry Bonds in the same league as Kent, he was on the same team as Kent. We may be looking at the current Alan Trammell, and while Trammell just received some Cooperstown justice from the Modern Baseball Committee, it is not too late for the writers to elect Jeff Kent themselves.

  1. Curt Schilling (Sixth year on ballot)
It is, quite frankly, puzzling as to why Curt Schilling has not only not been elected to the Hall of Fame yet, but why he has been climbing so slowly up the percentage ladder. Not all of that can be ascribed to his personality or to his political views, neither of which were on prominent display when he was on the field, which is the primary—if not the only—consideration when evaluating a candidate for the Hall of Fame.

The right-handed starting pitcher was the runner-up for the Cy Young Award three times, twice to Randy Johnson and once to Johan Santana, and there is no shame in that. Schilling struck out 300 or more batters in a season three times and came within seven of that plateau once; his 3116 career strikeouts, one less than Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, are 15th all time, while his strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 4.38 is fourth-best in the live-ball era. That is just in the regular season. In 19 postseason games, Schilling won 11 of those with just two losses while posting a 2.23 ERA; in seven World Series games, he won four and lost only one with a 2.06 ERA and one shutout as he won three World Series rings. Curt Schilling ranks 27th among starting pitchers according to JAWS. Sounds like a Hall of Famer to me.

  1. Roger Clemens (Sixth year on ballot)
Now we get to the PED portion of our program and to one of the players who spurred Joe Morgan to write his letter. Yes, Roger Clemens is one of the poster children for the entire Steroids Era. It happened. Get over it and start dealing with it. It is not going to go away just because you close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and hum "la-la-la-la-la." It is a part of baseball history, and it occurred not only because players like Clemens took performance-enhancing drugs but because the infrastructure of baseball enabled it.

Managers like Joe Torre penciled in Clemens's name onto the lineup card with regularity, particularly in 1999 and 2000, when Torre's New York Yankees won back-to-back World Series behind Clemens. Executives like John Schuerholz hired and acquired players like Clemens with regularity. Adjudicating bodies such as the Baseball Writers Association of America awarded the Cy Young to Clemens seven times, more than any other pitcher in baseball history. And Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig presided over the entire era.

Schuerholz, Selig, and Torre have all been elected to the Hall of Fame since Roger Clemens first appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot in 2013. Baseball history as told by the Hall of Fame is a fairy tale with little grounding in reality. Get real and elect Roger Clemens.

  1. Barry Bonds (Sixth year on ballot)
As parents squire their children through the Baseball Hall of Fame during that "uplifting, feel-good visit" so beloved of Joe Morgan, what do they say when the children ask, where is the plaque for Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball history, or for Barry Bonds, the all-time home run king of MLB?

Bonds and Rose are integral to baseball history, and even their absence from the Hall of Fame is problematic because of their centrality—why aren't they in the Hall of Fame for their accomplishments? Do parents employ the "few bad apples" explanation, which implicitly exonerates the barrel as being blameless in causing apples to go bad? Or do they attempt to explain that the barrel, which we should recognize as being the infrastructure of baseball, enabled the apples to go bad?

Actually, the most accurate explanation would note that the "apples" are part of the infrastructure, but the Baseball Hall of Fame, although its marquee elements are the players (does anyone go to see Pat Gillick's plaque apart from his family members?), is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the institution of baseball, which makes a structural critique unacceptable. No, better to take the "personal responsibility" approach and place the blame squarely on the moral failing of the player.

Barry Bonds is on the other half of the PED poster from Roger Clemens, with the same infrastructure that supported Clemens supporting him. The BBWAA saw fit to name him the National League's Most Valuable Player seven times, and in the two years in which he was the runner-up MVP, he could easily have been named the winner.

You could look it up—that's baseball history, warts, "bacne," shrunken testicles and all. The Baseball Hall of Fame shouldn't be a fairy story to lull children into a fantasy version of baseball in which storks deliver baseball players and Santa Claus rewards the best of them with Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards. That is denying a reality that will only be more painful when they grow up. Celebrate the baseball you have, not the baseball you wish you had.

  1. Larry Walker (Eighth year on ballot)
First they said that Larry Walker benefited unfairly from having played 30 percent of his career at Denver's Coors Field, a hitters' paradise, during the nine-and-a-half seasons the left-handed hitter played for the Colorado Rockies. Now they say that he never played enough games during any given season, that during his 17-year career, the right fielder, whom JAWS ranks 10th all-time among players at that position, only played 140 or more games in a season four times.

Larry Walker 2018 HoF
Ranked 10th by JAWS among right fielders, Larry Walker is watching his Hall of Fame chances disappear like a ball hit at Coors Field.

How many more excuses are they going to come up with for why Larry Walker is not a Hall of Famer? In a very real sense, it doesn't matter because Walker, with only three more years left on the BBWAA ballot, has garnered just about 20 percent of the vote in any given year, and he would have to secure nearly four times that number to be elected. It's not impossible, just very improbable, which is a shame given that Walker was a five-tool player who still played more games than Kiki Cuyler or Chuck Klein, two right fielders who are both in the Hall of Fame. Larry Walker isn't better than either of them? Nonsense.

  1. Edgar Martinez (Ninth year on ballot)
Of course, the knock against Edgar Martinez is that he was a designated hitter for much of his career. Never mind that the award given to the top DH in the American League each season is named for him.

The good news is that Martinez was bubbling under the 60-percent vote mark on the 2017 ballot. The bad news is that the right-handed hitting star has just two chances to get to the 75-percent threshold for election. On the other hand, Tim Raines was just about where Martinez was in his eighth year, and he was able to close the gap in his final two years. But why take the chance? The first box I'd check would be for Edgar. He not only deserves it, he needs it.

Last At-Bats

Despite the fact that performance-enhancing drugs are the herpes of the Baseball Hall of Fame—just when you thought they had gone away, here they come again—with Joe Morgan delivering the latest outbreak with his letter to BBWAA voters urging them not to vote for candidates with connections to PED, and that the ongoing ballot logjam necessitates strategic voting in order to accommodate the optimal distribution of votes to an overflow of qualified candidates, I am, curiously enough, wildly optimistic about the 2018 Hall of Fame vote.

In fact, I will go out on a limb and predict that BBWAA voters will elect not three, not even four, but five—count 'em!—five candidates to the Hall of Fame this year.

All right, I think there will be four for sure, with the fifth a strong possibility although not outside the realm of probability. Granted, BBWAA voters have voted for five candidates in a year only once, in 1936, which was the inaugural vote, but they have voted for four candidates four times, the most recent being in 2015.

The five candidates I think could pass the 75-percent threshold are:

Chipper Jones: 86.7 percent
Jim Thome: 83.2 percent
Trevor Hoffman: 81.4 percent
Vladimir Guerrero: 79.5 percent
Edgar Martinez: 76.2 percent

Jones and Thome are the LIFO candidates—Last In, First Out—as the generally acknowledged first-ballot Hall of Famers among the 2018 first-timers. Hoffman debuted strongly with 67.3 percent in 2016 and edged up to the threshold with 74.0 percent last year—it's a brief trend but a positive one, and he should slip past the threshold this year. Guerrero debuted with a bang in 2017—71.7 percent—which seems too definitive to simply be an initial enthusiasm that will wane; he looks to be elected to the Hall this year.

Martinez might not make that 17-percent jump in one year, although voters may indeed be heeding the lessons of Jack Morris's last three years on the BBWAA ballot, ultimately failing to make it via the BBWAA, as well as Tim Raines's last three years, who did make it on his final year on a BBWAA ballot, and give Martinez the push over the line before his final year in 2019.

Edgar Martinez 2018 HoF
Will designated hitter Edgar Martinez find himself elected to the Hall of Fame before he runs out of time on the ballot?

But if Martinez does not make it this year, he will likely be very close as a few other candidates start to make their move:

Edgar Martinez: 73.1 percent
Mike Mussina: 69.6 percent
Curt Schilling: 64.3 percent
Roger Clemens: 61.4 percent
Barry Bonds: 60.7 percent

Joe Morgan's PED missive will likely give a few voters pause, but it will equally be likely to produce a backlash among voters who might not be enthusiastic about supporting Bonds or Clemens but who resent being told how to vote even by a current Hall of Famer.

As for the remainder of candidates, I do not see any new or returning candidates getting to the 40-percent mark, let alone the 50-percent mark. Omar Vizquel may get into 30-percent territory while Scott Rolen and Johan Santana may debut in the 20- to 30-percent range as Larry Walker remains within that range too.

Among the newcomers, Andruw Jones may get at least five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot although recent center fielders from Jim Edmonds to Kenny Lofton have not survived their first vote. Among the returnees, Manny Ramirez could drop into the 10- to 20-percent range, Fred McGriff is likely to hold his place as is Gary Sheffield, while this may be the year that Sammy Sosa pulls a Rafael Palmeiro and exits the ballot with less than the five percent needed to hang on.

All of which might turn out to be utter garbage when the results are announced on January 24, but I can guarantee that the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot will return for 2019 with even more opportunities for strategic voting.

8. Curt Schilling

For the record, we love outspoken athletes. They may not always be popular with fans (and other players), but they sure make for far better sound bites than “we gotta go out there and give 100 percent” or other such statements from the “Athlete’s guide to dealing with the Media”. Ironically, Schilling is now part of the media, but remains as outspoken as ever.