The Hall of Fame vote is never easy. Nor should it be.
The Hall of Fame ballot is always a great topic for debate. As it should be.
I vote for Jack Morris. You vote for Bert Blyleven.
I can't say you're wrong, just that I don't agree with you. You shouldn't say I'm wrong (although many of you will).
Is Alan Trammell a Hall of Famer? Borderline, but just short, in my opinion, although every year he has been on the ballot, he's been by far the hardest name for me to leave off.
|Jack Morris won World Series titles with three different teams. (Getty Images)|
And I think back to watching the player during his career. Did I watch and say, "This guy's a Hall of Famer"? If not, there's a good chance he's not (or at least that he won't get my vote).
No matter the reason, I've always felt that I should be able and willing to defend my vote publicly. When I didn't vote for Edgar Martinez last year, I wrote an entire column explaining why, and detailing the rest of my ballot.
This year I won't. This year I can't.
The problem is steroids.
There are players I'm not voting for this year because I strongly suspect they built their credentials by cheating. And I've decided, after much consternation, that I'm not going to vote for them.
Who are they? I can't tell you.
You'll guess some of them. Rafael Palmeiro failed a test. Mark McGwire admitted he used.
But with others, it's just strong suspicion, or word of mouth. It's nothing I can prove, and nothing I'd feel professionally comfortable writing in a story.
I can't accuse someone without real proof. But I can't in good conscience vote for that person if I believe he cheated.
So here's the compromise: I'll tell you who I voted for, and even why I voted for them. I won't tell you why I didn't vote for anyone else.
It's not perfect, but for now, it's the best I can do, while still feeling good about my vote.
And that's where this all came from.
The last three years, or as long as McGwire has been on the ballot, I've voted for him. I never felt comfortable with that vote, but I also knew there was no chance my vote would put him in the Hall (because enough other voters were already public in their opposition).
I voted for him simply because I thought there were going to be more and more players on the ballot who might also have cheated, and that it wasn't fair to exclude McGwire if I didn't exclude all of them. And at the time, I didn't think I'd be able to exclude all of them.
I still might not. There's still a chance that someone I vote for used steroids, and I just didn't suspect it. I'll live with that, but that's more comfortable than living with the idea that I'm voting for someone I feel doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame.
And you'll have to live without my explanations of why I left some players off my ballot, at least until we get through the players who appeared during baseball's steroid era.
So with that, here's my 2011 Hall of Fame ballot:
Roberto Alomar: He really should have been voted in last year, when he just missed, with 73.7 percent (75 percent is required for election). He made the All-Star team 12 straight years. He won 10 Gold Gloves. He played for championship teams. He's one of the best second basemen of all time. An easy yes.
Jack Morris: He was the top starting pitcher in the 1980s, and while that's an arbitrary 10-year span, anyone who dominated for that long deserves consideration. He gets extra credit for his postseason brilliance, including winning World Series with three different organizations (and being a huge part of two of them). His ERA (3.90) was high, but he hurt it by continuing to pitch until he was 39 (had he retired at 37, it would have been 3.73). He also pitched at the beginning of the steroid era.
And that's it.
Please don't assume that anyone left off used steroids. But also understand that my ballots the next few years will be shorter than usual (we're allowed to vote for as many as 10 per year), in large part because of steroids.
It won't be fair to some, because my suspicions won't always be right. But I still believe it's a better solution than voting for players who I believe cheated.
There are a handful of them on this year's ballot. There will be more on the ballots to come.
I'd love to debate them with you, because debate is what the Hall of Fame elections are about. But accusations without proof are not what our business should be about, and not what this country should be about.
For now, this is the best I can do.