Here we are. The homestretch. We've been talking about the Baseball Hall of Fame for the past month-plus and now the big reveal comes on Wednesday of this week. BBWAA voters can vote for zero to 10 players on the ballot and now I'm here to write about who I'd have on my ballot. If you hate me or my fictional votes here, you can rest easy knowing that I've only been in the BBWAA for two years and you don't get a Hall of Fame vote until having been in for 10 consecutive years. So my votes don't count for another eight.
Regardless, I need to start getting into the decision-making practice and this exercise helps. Jonah Keri already ran through his and now it's my turn.
First up, my stance on the character clause can be read here. My stance on PEDs is that if a player was suspended while the Joint Drug Agreement was in place, he's out for me. If not, I'm not going to get into deciding which players to punish and which ones to not punish. We don't know everyone who used, when they started/stopped using and it annoys me when so many people assume they know certain players were definitely clean -- notably some players already in the Hall of Fame. There are those who will oppose this stance and I'm 100 percent OK with that fact. It's a subjective vote, after all.
My self-imposed rule means I would have never voted for Rafael Palmeiro, but I would have voted for Mark McGwire. It also means that on this particular ballot, I'm throwing out Manny Ramirez for his two positive tests before we even get started. All others on this ballot are being judged on their playing careers only, because Manny's the only one who violates my rule.
As such, you won't see me mention PEDs here again.
My 10 (fictional) votes
[NOTE: I'll link each player's name to his Hall of Fame case if anyone is interested in a bigger explanation about the player's merits -- in fact, there will be lots of links because of how much I've covered many of these guys the past several years]
See my above rule. That makes these guys absolute no-brainers.
The people who don't think he merits induction based upon his playing career are really remembering him incorrectly. An easy yes.
The second greatest leadoff man of all-time. The biggest crimes on his stat sheet are the years he played -- that is, at the same time as the greatest of all-time in Rickey Henderson. Being the second-best at one of the most important lineup spots merits induction. He should have been in years ago.
As I wrote last year, an entire generation of pitchers aren't getting their due in the Hall of Fame. Mussina and Schilling have been almost criminally underrated in Hall voting. There are arguments to be made that both of these guys were better than current Hall of Famers and generational peers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, too.
He's one of the five greatest catchers of all-time by almost any substantive or subjective measure. In fact, he's probably top three along with Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.
Slashed .312/.418/.515 in his career despite playing mostly in pitcher-friendly ballparks. I don't dock players greatly for being sub-par defenders, nor do I dock them greatly for being specialists. A DH is a specialist and sees a hell of a lot more playing time than, for example, closers. Also, by not fielding, Martinez was more valuable to his team. If I was on the fence before, seeing the large number of his contemporaries stump for him (see his HOF case for examples) would easily sway me. Game knows game.
Sosa's over 600 homers, 1600 RBI and had perhaps the single greatest five-year power peak in MLB history. He was one of the biggest nation-wide spectacles in baseball for those five years and it's kind of amazing how underrated he's become since retiring.
Sheffield slashed .292/.393/.514 with 2689 hits, 509 homers and 1676 RBI. He was as feared as he was patient (he walked 304 times more than he struck out) and that famed bat wiggle is some pretty fun gravy.
Even among the new-school voting bloc that isn't worried about the links to PEDs for these players, support is very low thanks to both players scoring out as poor defenders and, as a result, being lower than players like Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith in WAR and JAWS.
In looking at their names and remembering them as players, though, I don't know how I could justify not voting for either without using revisionist history. They were transcendent back in their respective primes. Go back to, say, 2003 and ask yourself who you thought was a more-worthy Hall of Famer between these guys and Larry Walker. I don't even think the sentiment at the time was close.
Vladimir Guerrero was the toughest one, but I have him just a small nose behind Sheffield for my 10th spot. If there were unlimited votes -- or even if it were just pushed up to 12 -- Guerrero is an obvious yes and my hunch is next year he'll easily move into my top 10 with at least four names coming off the ballot (three or four will make it while Lee Smith comes off the ballot) and only Chipper Jones and Jim Thome as automatic yes votes among next year's first-timers.
Larry Walker would be my number 12 and many people have him above Sosa and Sheffield even without the character clause based upon WAR, JAWS and other advanced metrics that figure all-around play. Here's the thing, though: When we were watching this generation of players, Sosa and Sheffield were far bigger deals. I know many people will hate the lack of substance in the argument, but votes are subjective and the way I remember watching this generation I just couldn't justify voting in Walker over Guerrero, Sosa or Sheffield. They have better counting stats, too.
The closers just don't impact as much of the game as the 10 players I voted for above, but I wouldn't be opposed to including Billy Wagner, Trevor Hoffman and/or Lee Smith if there wasn't a 10-vote maximum (and that's how I'd order them, as I value dominance over compiling saves).
If I had unlimited votes, I'd give Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff and Jorge Posada very strong looks -- they are just outclassed here with my 10-vote maximum. If any of the three made it, they'd be far from the worst players in the Hall of Fame, but we have to have the best players not in the Hall, too.
Still, if given a "yes or no" type vote for every single player, I'd have said yes to the 18 names above. I'm a Big Hall guy as opposed to Small Hall based upon the established standards. Further, one voter putting yes for 18 names doesn't mean all 18 are going to get in. It's flawed logic to believe something along those lines. People would still disagree player to player and hundreds of voters already don't even vote for the maximum of 10. Getting anyone to 75 percent of the vote is difficult. These are simply the names I feel worthy of consideration, so they'd all get my votes without a 10-vote max.
I didn't consider anyone else, though I'll tip my cap to players like Magglio Ordonez, Derrek Lee, Mike Cameron, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek and Carlos Guillen for various levels of admirable careers.
So how'd I do? Feel free to tell me how terrible I am: MattSnyderCBS on Twitter or email@example.com.