The next class of baseball immortality will be announced Wednesday at 6 PM. One ballot, everybody knows the rules. HOWEVA, there is an added twist this year, as former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was elected to the Hall this past December. He took over during some of baseball’s darkest days, which included a strike-shortened 1994 season, an All Star game that resulted in a tie, and a bogus rule change to try to make All Star games matter. In his attempt to make baseball great again, Selig turned a blind eye towards the ‘bulk’ of the league ingesting performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) of all shapes and sizes. These roided-up metahumans were hitting and pitching balls harder, better, faster, and stronger than ever. Bud Selig’s election makes this year’s election a hot button issue. If the main enabler is let into the pearly gates of the Hall, then I see no reason why PED users should be left behind.
First of all, performance enhancing drugs were not illegal for at least part of these players’ careers. There wasn’t even drug testing in the MLB until 2003. Half of the allegations attached the these players is hearsay that hasn’t been proven in over two decades. These men took a legal competitive advantage and (most of them) stopped once their actions became banned. The Hall of Fame currently has members that threw spitballs, stole signs, were openly racist, and even were members of the KKK. So if the Hall of Fame is trying to hold out PED users citing some character issues, they have to take a long look down their own hallway to see what kinds of people they have let in previously.
Lets take a look at this year’s ballot. If the rules are TL;DR, you get to vote for up to 10 players. If a player gets at least 75% of the total votes, they’re in. If a player gets less than 5% of the total votes, they are off of the ballot for good. This year’s ballot has 15 returning players, and another 19 new players.
Here’s who I think belongs in the Hall this year. They’ll just be in alphabetical order to keep things simple.
That batting stance always baffled me, but Bags held it down for 15 years in Houston. He could hit for both power and average, as he totaled 449 career HRs while maintaining a .297 career batting average. He was a model of consistency, and has a Rookie of the Year award and MVP on his mantle to prove it. He just missed out last year with 71.6% of the vote, so I think he’s a shoo this year.
The Home Run King. Barry Bonds has been the main face of the MLB’s witch hunt to tackle former PED users. However, he never failed a drug test (as far as the public knows), so he should be given the benefit of the doubt. He holds the career record for HRs, walks, and was awarded the MVP award 7 times over his career. He is also the only player in MLB history to have 500+ home runs and 500+ stolen bases. For about 12 years, every at bat that Bonds had was must watch television. As the voters get younger, and the ballots become more and more public, I think more voters will start to check off Bonds. I think he’ll end up in the 69% (nice) range.
Where to begin with Roger Clemens. He’s the most dominant Red Sox pitcher not named Pedro Martinez to take the mound for them. He won 354 games and struck out 4,672 while maintaining a 3.12 career ERA. His rivalry with Mike Piazza was truly one of a kind, and it would’ve been incredible for the duo to be elected into the Hall together last year. Roger won 7 Cy Young Awards while also winning the MVP in 1986. I hope that this is the year that the voters get it right, but Roger may still be a year or two away from the Hall.
If you look up “free swinger,” a picture of Vladimir Guerrero pops up. Vladdy would routinely swing at pitches well out of the zone and poke them into the outfield for a hit. What is even more impressive is that he never struck over 95 times in a season, and hit .318 for his career. He also boasted an absolute cannon of an arm in right field and could throw a strike from 300 feet away. He ended up tied with Jeff Bagwell with 449 career HRs. I want Vlad to get in this year, but I think he falls just short of the 75% mark.
Trevor Hoffman never got the credit that he deserved primarily because he pitched during the same time period as Mariano Rivera. While MO was the sexy closer around the league that warranted a whole retirement tour, Hoffman finished ‘only’ 51 saves behind him in his career, tallying 601. He and Mariano were two of the first real closers in the MLB and their impact on the game is very prevalent today. I think that Hoffman should get in this year.
Manny’s legacy is largely tarnished due to two failed drug tests in 2009 and 2011. However, those both took place during his final days in the league (his rookie year was 1993). Manny Ramirez’s swing was the second most pure and beautiful behind newly inducted Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. He totaled 555 career home runs and 1,831 RBIs while hitting .312 for his career. He was a colorful personality both on and off the field, and will forever be remembered as one of the integral parts of the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that reversed the curse. I’m interested to see how the voters decide with Manny, as this is his first year on the ballot. I’d estimate a little under 50% select him.
Pudge could very well be the best defensive catcher to ever play the game. Not only did he have a cannon for an arm, he sustained a 21 year career at one of the most physically demanding positions in all of sports. He won 13 gold gloves! Pudgey could swing the ball as well. He put up 311 homers, a .296 career average, while winning the MVP in 1999. Put him in this year.
Pretend Curt Schilling never created a Twitter account. That may be the one thing holding him back from entering the Hall of Fame. Curt’s become a very right winged voice on the Internet and has found himself out of ESPN’s broadcasting booth because of it. But, don’t let the tweets fool you; Curt Schilling was a phenomenal pitcher in an era that was damn near impossible to pitch in without an edge (PEDs). Schilling had a Maddux-like approach and ended up walking only 711 batters compared to his 3,116 strikeouts over a 20 year career. Without being able to blow by hitters, Schilling relied on incredible poise, control, and nasty stuff to win games. He was able to strikeout 300 batters in a season 3 times, and will most likely be remembered for his performance in the 2001 World Series vs. the Yankees, and of course, the ‘Bloody Sock Game’ during Boston’s 2004 World Series run. Given his social media presence, however, I think that Curt is still a couple years out (if he doesn’t make things worse).
Sheff had the big gold chains, the big arm in the outfield, and an even bigger swing.
Sheffield played from age 19 to age 40 on a slew of teams. After a phenomenal season in San Diego in 1992, Sheff was stuck behind on the Florida Marlins’ depth chart and was unable to truly showcase his talents again until 1996. The next year, the Marlins won the World Series. Had Sheffield been given a better opportunity to play during those 4 years, who knows what he could have done. He ended up with 509 HRs while batting .292. He also won up 5 Silver Sluggers over his career. It might take him a couple years to get the required 75% of votes, but he should eventually get in.
Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire may have single handedly saved baseball in the summer of 1998. It wasn’t a matter of IF one of them was going to break Roger Maris’ single season home run records, it was a matter of WHO and BY HOW MANY. McGwire ultimately won the race, but the buzz circulating the duo was much needed in winning back the fans. Sosa was a spark plug for the Chicago Cubs and his bunny hop after roping a shot into the streets.
He’s been trending downward in recent years, but with Selig’s election, hopefully Sosa gets headed back in the right direction towards the Hall.
Well, there you have it. Depending on who you ask, up to 8 players on this list have been linked to rumors of using performance enhancing drugs. While only a couple of these cases have actual evidence, the circumstances surrounding their situations should be enough to green light these men into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The ‘Steroid Era’ will forever be a part of baseball history, and it’s memory should be celebrated like any other era, without an asterisk or any of that other nonsense.
P.S. Larry Walker, Jeff Kent, and Tim Raines were close to making this list. Tim Raines might actually get elected this year in his final year of eligibility, but I wasn’t around for the majority of his career. Besides his 808 stolen bases, his stats don’t jump off the paper, and I also don’t have a grasp of what his impact on the game was.
P.P.S. Let Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame.
P.P.P.S. Let Mark McGwire in the Hall of Fame.