Hall bal­lot un­af­fected by pitch

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Vot­ing for the Baseball Hall of Fame is a com­pli­cated enough process. You spend weeks col­lect­ing your thoughts, por­ing over stats (real and an­a­lytic), re­search­ing as many con­flict­ing points of view as you can find and some­times just star­ing at the bal­lot in your hand.

Then you open your email one Novem­ber day and Joe Mor­gan throws ev­ery­thing into a tizzy.

Yep, that Joe Mor­gan. Ev­ery Hall voter got a per­son­ally ad­dressed mis­sive from the Hall’s of­fi­cial ac­count with a sub­ject that said, “The Hall of Fame is Spe­cial – A Let­ter from Joe Mor­gan.”

And in more than 1,000 words over 23 para­graphs came a from-the­heart talk from Mor­gan, the long­time sec­ond base­man of the Cincinnati Reds and now one of the most pow­er­ful ex-play­ers in the Hall. He serves as its vice chair­man.

It was a plea to not al­low steroid users in, clearly di­rected at Barry Bonds and Roger Cle­mens.

“I care about how good a player was or what kind of num­bers he put up,” Mor­gan said. “But if a player did steroids, his in­tegrity is sus­pect; he lacks sports­man­ship; his char­ac­ter is flawed; and, what­ever con­tri­bu­tion he made to his team is now dwarfed by his self­ish­ness.”

Mor­gan also sent the darker mes­sage that long­time Hall mem­bers will stop com­ing to Coop­er­stown each sum­mer if steroid users get elected. Imag­ine a Bonds or Cle­mens in­duc­tion with no one sit­ting on stage be­hind them.

I get Mor­gan’s point and it was in­ter­est­ing to note that this was the first of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion the Hall has ever given to writ­ers on steroids/PEDs. But I’ve cho­sen the in-one-ear-and-out­the-other ap­proach to Mor­gan’s let­ter.

While I ap­pre­ci­ate his pas­sion and his points, why did the Hall al­low one of its com­mit­tees to in­duct Bud Selig last year? The for­mer com­mish was the No. 1 man who looked the other way dur­ing the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa party that brought baseball back in a big way in 1998. If he’s in, I don’t re­ally see how the steroid guys can au­to­mat­i­cally be out.

And then there’s the hypocrisy of Mor­gan’s let­ter as well. The Hall’s mem­bers in­clude plenty of mis­cre­ants guilty of a va­ri­ety of of­fenses. Plenty

Iwishthe Hall would lis­ten to the writ­ers and al­low for a max­i­mum of 12 play­ers to make your bal­lot.

of play­ers dur­ing Mor­gan’s time sub­sisted on am­phet­a­mines to get through the sched­ule and those are now banned. We’re not yank­ing them from the Hall.

The steroid ques­tion is a dif­fi­cult one as it is. But the threat of walk­out by ex-play­ers is not go­ing to decide my vote. Mor­gan’s email was too lit­tle, too late. Should have come years ago. Cer­tainly should have pre­ceded any in­duc­tion of Selig.

It’s filed away for pos­ter­ity. It had no bear­ing on what I did.

I wish the Hall would lis­ten to the writ­ers and al­low for a max­i­mum of 12 play­ers to make your bal­lot. That pro­posal con­tin­ues to be shot down and we’re still al­lowed a max­i­mum of 10 choices from a bal­lot that was 33 play­ers long this year.

There is no min­i­mum. No write-in can­di­dates (Pete Rose, for in­stance). You must re­ceive 75 per­cent of the votes for in­duc­tion. There are ex­pected to be around 425 bal­lots cast, so a player will need in the neigh­bor­hood of 320 votes for in­duc­tion.

Play­ers are al­lowed to stay on the bal­lot for only 10 years and those who get less than 5 per­cent drop off the bal­lot, no mat­ter what year they’re on it.

Vot­ing is done by qual­i­fied mem­bers of the Baseball Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica, who are vet­ted each year. You must be a mem­ber for at least 10 years to get a bal­lot and you vote only for for­mer play­ers in their first 10 years of el­i­gi­bil­ity. Writ­ers do not vote for man­agers, GMs, own­ers or other con­trib­u­tors and are not re­spon­si­ble for snubs like for­mer union boss Marvin Miller. Com­mit­tees, like the Mod­ern Era Com­mit­tee that has al­ready elected Alan Tram­mell and Jack Mor­ris for in­duc­tion this sum­mer, elect all those con­trib­u­tors as well as play­ers who were not cho­sen by the BBWAA.

Vot­ing is done by mail. You get a bal­lot from the Hall and must re­turn it in a self-ad­dressed en­ve­lope to be post­marked by Dec. 31, 2017. The re­sults will be an­nounced live on MLB Net­work on Jan. 24.

The lone in­struc­tion from the Hall to vot­ers: “Vot­ing shall be based upon the player’s record, play­ing abil­ity, in­tegrity, sports­man­ship, char­ac­ter, and con­tri­bu­tions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

At least, that was the only in­struc­tion to come from Coop­er­stown un­til Mor­gan’s email.

With that as the back­ground, here’s how my bal­lot broke down:

First-bal­lot ap­proval

Chip­per Jones: One­ofthe great­est switch-hit­ters of all-time. A for­mer NL MVP who bat­ted .303 with 2,726 hits and 468 home runs in 19 sea­sons for the Atlanta Braves. Also bat­ted .287 with 97 hits and 13 home runs in 93 post­sea­son games, mak­ing the Oc­to­ber party in the first 11 years of his ca­reer.

Jim Thome: One of nine play­ers to hit more than 600 home runs, al­beit the only one to never win an MVP award. Had 12 30-homer sea­sons and six with 40-plus while serv­ing as a key cog to the mon­ster line­ups the In­di­ans put to­gether from 1995-2001. Never a hint of PED use and one of the class acts in the game. Even re­habbed with the Bisons dur­ing the 1998 Gov­er­nors Cup fi­nals against Durham.

Tough ‘no’ calls

Trevor Hoff­man: My non-vote aside, I’d bet he’s go­ing to get in this year and that’s fine. He had 601 ca­reer saves, although I’m not huge on that stat and his post­sea­son work was hardly Hall stuff (1-2, 3.46, four saves). As far as closers go, you have to be trans­for­ma­tional like Mar­i­ano Rivera, Bruce Sut­ter or Goose Gos­sage to get this vote. Not many oth­ers will get the nod.

Omar Vizquel: Here’s the one first-year guy who’s go­ing to get a lot of de­bate over sev­eral bal­lots. Is he a Hall of Famer or a com­piler of stats through longevity? He’s the all-time leader in games at short­stop (2,709) and field­ing per­cent­age. He played 24 sea­sons and had 2,877 hits. He won 11 Gold Gloves and I can re­port he’s the great­est de­fen­sive short­stop I’ve ever seen as I cov­ered vir­tu­ally all of those In­di­ans play­off games in the 90s. I could see Vizquel get­ting my vote in a fu­ture year. Just too tight a bal­lot right now.

No, but maybe wor­thy

Jef f Kent: A for­mer MVP who hit an all-time record 351 of his home runs while play­ing sec­ond base. Not much of a baserun­ner or de­fen­sive sec­ond base­man, how­ever.

Billy Wag­ner: See Hoff­man for the closer ex­pla­na­tion. A 2.31 ca­reer ERA with 422 saves and 1,196 strike­outs in just 903 in­nings. Other than the saves, his num­bers are bet­ter.

Gary Sh­effield: Had 509 home runs, 2,689 hits. Lots of walks, dou­bles and steals. But he was av­er­age de­fen­sively, was named in the Mitchell Re­port, and never seemed to be a su­per­star Hall type. He’s Hall of Very Good.

Manny Ramirez/Sosa: Un­like Bonds and Cle­mens, Ramirez got dinged for PEDs af­ter test­ing. Too bad. He was one of the most feared hit­ters of his day and has a Hall­wor­thy bat. To this view, Sosa’s ca­reer is a mi­rage with PED sus­pi­cion all over. Av­er­aged 34 home runs a year from 1993-97 (ages 24-28). Av­er­aged 58.4 home runs from 1998-2002 (ages 29-33). Not buy­ing it. Oth­ers might.

Re­turn­ing to my bal­lot

Bonds/Cle­mens: As I pointed out last year, if the Hall is go­ing to let Selig in, then it’s open sea­son for the writ­ers to vote steroid guys in as they see fit. These are the dom­i­nant play­ers of their era and a duo that had Hall­wor­thy ca­reers be­fore they be­came shrouded in PEDs.

Bonds had 762 home runs, a .607 slug­ging per­cent­age, a 1.051 OPS and a Wins Above Re­place­ment fig­ure of 162.4 bested only by Babe Ruth. Cle­mens compiled 354 wins, 4,672 strike­outs and seven Cy Youngs. And let’s not for­get that he was hardly pitch­ing against bat­ters who were clean ei­ther.

You can ar­gue against these two and you’d have a good case. There’s no right or wrong here. I’m vot­ing yes to both of them.

Edgar Martinez: He’s the great­est DH of all-time, at least un­til David Or­tiz gets on the bal­lot. And they might be the only two to make the Hall for a long while. A ca­reer .312 hit­ter with 2,247 hits and an iconic player for his fran­chise, which is an in­tan­gi­ble that holds a lot of weight to me. When you think of the Mariners, you think of Ken Grif fey Jr., Randy John­son and Martinez.

Vladimir Guer­rero: He should have made it last year but fell 15 votes shy. He should make it eas­ily this time. A .318 hit­ter with 2,590 hits – off so many bad balls – and a can­non from right field. We should be all look­ing for­ward to see­ing his son, Vlad Jr., play­ing for the Bisons, per­haps as soon as 2019.

Fred McGrif f: He’s not go­ing to make the Hall, as he was at 21.7 per­cent last year and this is his ninth year on the bal­lot. But I don’t let chances of in­duc­tion de­ter­mine who I vote for. And I feel it’s im­por­tant to vote for McGriff and his 493 home runs. It’s a bad look on the vot­ers who ig­nore him, es­sen­tially say­ing he should have cheated to maybe get over 500 or into the 600 range.

Larry Walker: He’s get­ting more sup­port but I also think he will fall short as this is year eight. He was at 21.9 per­cent last year but the word is he will see a sub­stan­tial jump this year. He had 2,160 ca­reer hits and 383 home runs and not all of them were at Coors Field, a com­mon fal­lacy that rides his can­di­dacy. Was a seven-time Gold Glove win­ner. I see no rea­son to change on him.

Mike Mussina: Had 270 wins, 2,813 strike­outs and won 20 games at age 39 for the 2008 Yan­kees. Could have eas­ily kept go­ing and added to those to­tals. Did all this at the height of the PED era in ball­parks that fa­vored hit­ters. I won­der if he ever gets in but he’ll keep get­ting my vote.

The Schilling ques­tion

Curt Schilling’s post-ca­reer be­hav­ior, es­pe­cially on so­cial me­dia, has been rep­re­hen­si­ble at times and I cited that last year as a rea­son to keep him off the bal­lot. Ad­vo­cat­ing the lynch­ing of jour­nal­ists wasn’t get­ting a free pass from this cor­ner. But I said it was prob­a­bly just a one-year point I was mak­ing and I’m stick­ing to that.

Schilling gets my vote this year. He is the great­est post­sea­son start­ing pitcher of our gen­er­a­tion, prob­a­bly of the last 50 years. Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 post­sea­son starts with a strike­out to walk ra­tio of 4.80.

And go­ing past the num­bers, think about his big mo­ments: The Bloody Sock game against the Yan­kees in the 2004 ALCS, Game Seven of the 2001 Ari­zona-Yan­kees se­ries (and he would have won Game Four had Byunghyun Kim not fa­mously blown the save), the bril­liance of Game Two of the 2007 World Se­ries against Colorado, a shutout for the Phillies in Game Five of the ’93 World Se­ries against Toronto.

Schilling is an un­usual can­di­date, with only 216 reg­u­lar sea­son wins and a 3.46 ERA. But he had 3,116 strike­outs and just 711 walks. He never won a Cy Young Award, fin­ish­ing sec­ond three times, never won an ERA ti­tle. He doesn’t get in with­out his post­sea­son num­bers, but they are so spec­tac­u­lar that they tip the scales in his fa­vor.

Schilling was at 45 per­cent last year. This is his sixth year on the bal­lot. My guess is he keeps climb­ing and makes it, per­haps as soon as next year.

Thanks for play­ing

It was easy to say “no” to the fol­low­ing 12 play­ers: Salute them for fine ca­reers and for mak­ing the bal­lot for the first time, but they don’t pass the Coop­er­stown test to these eyes:

Chris Car­pen­ter, Li­van Her­nan­dez, Or­lando Hud­son, Aubrey Huff, Ja­son Is­ring­hausen, Car­los Lee, Brad Lidge, Hideki Mat­sui, Kevin Mill­wood, Jamie Moyer, Jo­han San­tana, Kerry Wood and

Car­los Zam­brano. I would imag­ine none of them stay on the bal­lot.

It was not so easy to say “no” to

An­druw Jones (10 con­sec­u­tive gold gloves in cen­ter field, 434 home runs);

Scott Rolen (2,077 hits, eight Gold Gloves at third base); and Johnny Da­mon (2,769 hits and post­sea­son magic with the ‘04 Red Sox and ‘09 Yan­kees). They’re all nos – for now. I would hope they get at least 5 per­cent to stay on the bal­lot for con­sid­er­a­tion in fu­ture years. My guess is Rolen does but that Jones and es­pe­cially Da­mon are in trou­ble in that re­gard. They would be un­de­served first-year knock­outs in the same vein as re­cent bal­lot losers Car­los Del­gado, Kenny Lofton, Jorge Posada Jim Ed­monds.

Still, the bal­lot is sim­ply too crowded to give them a look this year. At 12 votes in­stead of 10, they would have had a much bet­ter chance.

The happy re­cap

With this sec­tion’s ti­tle an ode to late Mets broad­caster Bob Mur­phy’s sig­na­ture phrase prior to his nightly postgame show, the al­pha­bet­i­cal list of who got my 10 votes this year reads like this:

Barry Bonds, Roger Cle­mens, Vladimir Guer­rero, Chip­per Jones, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Larry Walker. It’s see you next year for Rivera and Roy Hal­la­day.

Getty Images file photo

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