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Jake Robinson's 2013 MLB Hall Of Fame Ballot
While baseball has stood the test of time in our country amid scandals of drugs, gambling, racketeering and work-force strikes; nothing could have prepared the sport for the next set of obstacles they are about to endure. After years of burying their heads in performance-enhancing drugs; management, players and media alike will be keeping a close eye on the upcoming ballot for the 2013 Baseball Hall Of Fame.
While Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero have been the experimental guinea-pigs for Hall of Fame considerations with connections to steroids and other types of PED's, the class of 2013 ballot will be riddled with suspect players who are more worthy of the Hall than the two sluggers. To be clear, I have always considered Big Mac a fringe hall of famer at best. He was an average fielder who's range diminished greatly as his body filled out. He certainly has the power numbers to his credit as his 583 home runs places him 10th on the all-time list. However, for a player with so many bombs to his credit, his 1414 RBI is 421 less than Rafael's and his .263 career average confirms his one-trick pony status.
You almost get a sense that Mcgwire, Palmiero and Sammy Sosa represent the proverbial dipping of one's toes in a frigid pool before committing yourself by diving headfirst into your guilty pleasures. Every voter is bound to have vastly different opinions this year, which is not unlike any other year. However, this year's vote will be one of the most highly scruitinized and debated ever. Many of the same writers who chose to ignore the signs of steroids as far back as the late 80's have now taken a sanctemonious stand against the same players they so eloquently portrayed in their scribes from 20 years ago. As judge, jury, and executioner; many of these voters have taken it upon themselves to redefine the meaning of greatness. They will preach of the game's credibility and of moral compasses even though the Hall is full of bigots who kept the game lilly-white until 1947.They will scream to the hills about fair play and sanctity of records even though many records were set when people of color were not permitted to play.
When it comes to this dilema, I feel like it basically comes down to one of two options. You can either vote for no players from the steroid-era (guilty or not) or you can vote for all that are worthy. At this point , I have no idea about all the players who were on the juice and who weren't. Some guys failed test, some guys were exposed in court, some players are prone to speculation and innuendo while alot of players got away with it. In my mind, the era is what the era is. There was no drug-testing for PED's and everybody (including the fans) turned a blind eye. Besides, does anyone really believe that a player from that era who used but was never caught isn't already in the Hall? As I stated before,the era is what the era is, and with that caveat I have decided to vote for all the players that dominated that era.
The ballot is to contain up to ten names of players that each voter believes is worthy of the Hall Of Fame. My ballot has eight players recognized by the Baseball Writers Association of America and my list is as follows:
Craig Biggio 2B Houston Astros
If there is one player that will benefit from the steroid controversy as far as votes are concerned, it is Craig Biggio. I would be surprised if Biggio does not take advantage of the split decisions that will be cast over players like Bonds and Clemens and find himself among the immortals in the pantheon of the game. The gritty ballplayer began his Astros tenure as a catcher and finished as an outfielder, but it was his play as an elite National League second basemen that he will be forever remembered. He is one of only four players (Rod Carew, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins) to play the majority of their games at second with 3,000 hits. The seven-time All-Star, was a superb fielder with three Gold Gloves to his credit and five Silver Slugger Awards. When he retired, he was 14th all-time in Runs scored and 5th in doubles. By all accounts, there have never been whispers of PED's during Biggio's career and because of this and the fact that he has magical numbers like 3,060 hits, I expect Craig to become the 20th second basemen in the history of baseball to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Barry Bonds OF San Francisco Giants
Without question, Barry Lamar Bonds is the greatest baseball player I have ever seen, bar none. Most writers agree that Bonds' body of work began to change around the 2000 season when he broke loose with 49 home runs, but in all honesty Barry was already in select company before that season. He was already a 3 time MVP and his blend of speed, power and defense was equalled only by Ken Griffey Jr. at that time. He was also one of the most hated players in the history of the game on par with players like Albert Belle and Ty Cobb. His arrogant and aloof ways with the media will prove to be his demise, as voters will find it easy to exclude him from their ballots due to his cantankerous personality. However, his play on the field is what I judge him by and I can only imagine how many pitchers he went yard against that were juicing.
The 14 time All-Star won an unprecedented 7 MVP Awards in his timultuous career. He has the most home runs in a single season (73 in 2001) and is Major League Baseball's all-time Home Run king with 762. He also holds the record for walks (2,558) and intentional passes with 688. I find it very hypocritical that the same voters who voted Barry MVP an additional four times after the 2001 season, (even though the steroid scandal was in full swing) are now deciding to take a stand against Barry by keeping him out of the Hall. Love him or hate him, he was without question the most dominant player of the steroid era and his plaque in Cooperstown should reflect that fact.
Roger Clemens P New York Yankees
The most dominant power pitcher of his era and arguably one of the greatest hurlers to ever play the game, Roger Clemens' 24 year major league career includes 7 Cy Young Awards, 354 wins and a sterling 3.12 ERA. Like Bonds, the stench of steroids surrounds the "Rocket" and he will likely come up short of the necessary votes to be inducted into the Hall. Unlike Bonds, Roger went to court and smashed former trainer Brian MacNamee's testimony into circumstantial rubble. He was also found not guilty on six charges of lying to Congress in 2012.
Edgar Martinez DH Seattle Mariners
This is Edgar's fourth year on the ballot and the only thing that holds him back is the fact that he was a Designated Hitter for the majority of his career. Much to the chagrin of this baseball fan, the DH has been a way of life in the American League since 1973. However, other than Jim Rice and Paul Moliter, no player who has played 25% of his career games as the Designated Hitter has yet to make the Hall. 73% of Edgar's games came at the erstwhile position and with all apologies to Harold Baines and Jim Thome, he is a DH pioneer and the greatest ever at his craft. Edgar was paid to rake and that is what he did. He won two batting titles and three times led the league in on-base percentage, Martinez is one of only ten ballplayers in Major League history with a career .300 average, .400 career on-base percentage, 300 plus home runs, 500 doubles and at least 1,000 walks, thus solidifying his status as the greatest player to ever play his position.
Rafael Palmiero 1B Baltimore Orioles
Another year of Rafael Palmiero's name on the Hall Of Fame ballot, and another year of him being considered as a mere afterthought. His stellar 19 year career came to an abrupt end when he tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2005, just months after protesting his use of steroids before a congressional panel and just days after notching his 3,000 hit. Throwing then teammate Miguel Tejada under the bus with claims of recieving tainted B12 shots from him probably doesn't bode well in the mind of the voters as well. However, Palmiero is adament to this day that it was not an excuse but the facts of his downfall. I tend to believe that Palmiero played the majority of his career clean. He never seemed to take on the Hulk Hogan like physiques that were marching out of dugouts across baseball, his head never took on cro-magnon proportions and anyone who ever saw his beautiful swing could only wonder why anyone who has that in their arsenal would need to use steroids. It is hard to quantify Palmiero's game unless you saw it day in and day out. He never enjoyed the popularity of a Mark McGwire, but Big Mac could only wish to be the complete player that Raffy was. He is only the fourth player in Major League history to have 500 home runs and 3,000 hits joining Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Eddie Murray.
Mike Piazza C New York Mets
Next to Negro Leagues' legend Josh Gibson, Mike Piazza is probably the greatest hitting catcher who ever lived and certainly the most feared in Major League history. The slugging catcher was selected in the 69th round of the 1988 Amateur Baseball Draft with the 1,390th pick as a favor to his Godson by Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. The youngster blossomed after moving from first-base to catcher and the rest, as they say, is history.
After winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1993, Piazza would go on to win 12 Silver Slugger awards and participate in 12 All-Star games while winning the MVP in the 1996 Mid-Summer Classic. Although his career behind the dish paled in comparison to Ivan Rodriguez and Johnny Bench, his bread was buttered when he stepped into the box. He went on to hit 30 or more homeruns every season from 1995-2000.
Even though he never tested positive for PED's, nor was he named in the infamous Mitchell Report, there are some who doubt the validity of his 427 homeruns, 1,335 RBI and .308 batting average. I for one will be watching for the results of this vote with great anticipation. While there has never been hard proof, there is plenty of scuttlebut about the credibility of Piazza's numbers.
Tim Raines OF Montreal Expos
Baseball in the 80's will always signify the era of the lead-off hitter. RIckey Henderson, Vince Coleman, Willie Wilson, Ron Leflore, Al Bumbry, Steve Sax, Paul Moliter, Pete Rose and Tim Raines are just some of names that come to mind when I think of that era. The game for the most part revolved around sound pitching, outstanding defense and speed on the basepaths. With the exception of Rickey, Tim Raines is the greatest lead-off hitter I have ever seen.
In his 22 year career the Rock carried a solid .294 average to go with his on-base percentage of .385. Once he was on the basepaths, he created chaos to opposing catchers and pitchers by stealing 808 bases and only being caught 146 times. His 84.7% stolen base success ratio was the best in the history of the game for any player with at least 300 attempts. Raines batted over .300 seven times in his career and won the National League Batting title in 1986, with a robust .334 average. The impressive switch-hitter also had six full seasons in which he had an on-base percentage above .390. He has the fourth most stolen bases in the history of baseball behind Hall Of Famers Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock and Ty Cobb. The thing that seems to hurt Raines' induction is the comparisons to Rickey who has always overshadowed Raines.
Lee Smith P Chicago Cubs
Besides the Designated Hitter, the one area where the voters have been negligent has been for the all-time great closers in the game. However, with the inductions of Dennis Eckersley and more recently Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter, it does feel like the writers are beginning to come around on the notion of Hall of Fame firemen. With Trevor Hoffman and Mariano RIvera on the horizon. it is due time for the powers that be to recognize Lee Smith's greatness. Maybe the ninth time is the charm.
An imposing, impressive, and intimidating player Smith routinely challenged hitters with his electric fastball and more times than not, he prevailed. By the time his 18 year career came to an end after the 1997 season, Smith retired with 478 saves which was a record until 2006 when Hoffman shattered the mark. His 3.03 ERA is more than respectable considering the mileage he put on his powerful right arm and he average 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings in his career. Smith was every bit as dominant as Gossage and Sutter were in that era and it is high time he is recognized for that fact.
- Why Tim Raines Belongs In The Baseball Hall Of Fame
Tim Raines is perhaps the most underrated baseball player of the past 30 years. He could hit for power in some cavernous ballparks, and he could steal bases at a higher success rate than Rickey Henderson. Tim Raines should be in the Hall of Fame.
- Cooperstown's National Baseball Hall of Fame
If you've not visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, then now is the time.