I’m just going to start by noting that I think the ballot is still stuffed with over-qualified candidates, and there are something like 15-20 candidates who’s careers would look quite normal slotted into Cooperstown.
If I were a BBWAA voter, I would of course be tracking the early results to inform my decision, since there are still more deserving candidates than ballot slots. Helping the top candidates get in would probably be the first priority, since that will do the most to clear out the ballot. That means Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina (who looks like he’ll be teetering right at the 75% line up to the announcement).
That also means Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker. Getting them closer to 75% sets them up well for future years, even if likely none of them will make it this year (although Walker’s climb from 34% last year to likely over 60% this year is amazing).
I’m also inclined to give a vote to Scott Rolen, who’s also seen his numbers tick up quite a bit in his second year. He could be another beneficiary of more ballot spaces next year, and some strong early-growth numbers could set him up well for down the road.
My last space comes down to I think Andy Pettitte, Andruw Jones, or Todd Helton, since that’s where I think it could do the most good. I think Jones and Pettitte deserve to stay on the ballot, and both are near the 5% line. Helton isn’t in danger of falling off, but like Rolen, a strong 2019 could have him picking up even more votes down the line. Ultimately, I think Helton’s need is less urgent, since he will undoubtedly be around next year.
Pettitte versus Jones is difficult, though. Jones is a little closer to hitting 5%, but I think Pettitte will do better with the voters who don’t reveal their ballots (having a lot of pitching wins, postseason success, and seasons with the Yankees). I could also leave Rivera off (since he’s still at 100%) and vote for both if I really wanted to try and game things, but instead I’ll just include Jones and hope my gut instinct on Pettitte is right.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, Andruw Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker
A boy has to have some standards, and my standards involve whether or not a player was actually caught using PED’s under the agreed-on criteria at the time of the infraction. And so, I exclude Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada despite them being otherwise in the conversation.
Unfortunately, due to the number of quality players remaining on the ballot, that means there will be several excluded by the 10-player limit that I absolutely believe should get enough consideration to stay on for next year. This includes two of my all-time favorite Astros, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Both have a solid, but not bulletproof, case to be at least sticking around for many years on the ballot. But neither will make it past this year, because the voting is stupid.
And so my ballot starts with the greatest batter of all time, Barry Bonds, and the greatest right-handed pitcher of all time, Roger Clemens. Following them, arguably the greatest postseason pitcher of all time, Curt Schilling. To me, all three of these guys should have been no-brainer first-ballot, but we all know the issues against Bonds and Clemens. The negativity around Schilling is stupid political claptrap that has nothing to do with baseball, and the writers should be ashamed that he’s not already in the Hall.
Next on my ballot is Gary Sheffield, who was the most fearsome hitter I have ever seen play. He ticks the boxes: 509 home runs, 253 stolen bases, a career 141 wRC+ in 21 seasons. What more does he need? Then, I’ve got Mike Mussina, who wasn’t great by an individual season measurement but needs inclusion for his tremendous longevity and total career value. Followed by Larry Walker, very underrated.
My last four? It’s hard. I’ll cast one for Scott Rolen, who is criminally underappreciated in this voting class, and I’m not voting for Omar Vizquel, who is criminally overrated. Roy Halladay is right on the edge of what defines a Hall of Fame pitcher for me, only due to his “short” career, not because of his performance. I’ll vote for him.
And what to do with the last two? Do I vote for the greatest Designated Hitter of all time in Edgar Martinez? Do I outrage the masses by NOT voting for Mariano Rivera, the greatest “closer” of all time? This is getting long, but I’m not voting for either. Edgar had great plate discipline for a very long time, but didn’t play the field, had merely “good” power numbers, and provided no baserunning value. He’s tops in my Hall of Very Good. I acknowledge Rivera is the best at what he does, but I personally am not voting for a pitcher based on “Saves”, or even his tremendous performance, which came in half as many innings as Oswalt. I just don’t like the idea of single-inning relievers in the Hall.
So a vote is going to Andruw Jones, one of the greatest defensive Center Fielders of all time, and who blasted 434 home runs in his career. And finally, I am holding my nose and voting for Sammy Sosa, who has to be enshrined for his 609 home runs. He wasn’t caught, so he fits my criteria. No, I take it back. I’ll give Fred McGriff my last spot, who would have had a higher WAR than Edgar if he had played DH, but he played everyday in the field, and so boosts my esteem.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker, Scott Rolen, Roy Halladay, Andruw Jones, Fred McGriff