Oct 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants former player Barry Bonds waves to the crowd during the World Series victory parade on Market Street. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The Baseball Hall of Fame vote will be announced today, and the general consensus seems to be that there are too many worthy candidates and not enough ballot space to elect them all. Lingering steroid controversy surrounds many of the top names, too, which complicates the voting process for many. For me, though, it seems simple: if you were among the best of your era, and for a long time, you’re in.
More from Cincinnati Reds
- Johnny Cueto Trade: Reds Winners?
- Reds Recap: Win to Start the 2nd Half
- Does MLB Enslave Pete Rose?
- ICYMI: MLB All Star Weekend
- Reds Recap: Brewers’ Fireworks
Here then, are the 10 guys that I would vote for if I had a real ballot.
Barry Bonds – This dude was one of the five greatest hitters who ever played the game, and would have been a Hall of Famer without the late-career surge. Bonds dominated his era and should be in.
Roger Clemens – Like Bonds, Clemens was the best in the business during his prime, and it was a long prime. You could count on one hand the pitchers in MLB history who were better than Clemens, and he should be in.
Mark McGwire – Yes, McGwire is the poster boy for baseball’s PED era, but that’s mainly because his power was so awe inspiring in the late 1990s. He was the face of the homer craze and defined an era like no one else.
Mike Piazza – Piazza was not a great catcher, but he was good enough behind the plate to keep his bat in the lineup. And that bat revolutionized catcher production, yielding 427 home runs and a .922 OPS+ over 16 seasons.
Randy Johnson – Nearly as good as Clemens by many measures, Johnson has managed to avoid the PED taint even though he pitched at a high level into his mid-40s.
Pedro Martinez – Pedro’s decline was steep in his 30s, but his peak was amazing and just long enough to make up for an early exit.
Craig Biggio – Biggio was an offensive force at second base for the better part of two decades, and his 3000 hits get him in.
John Smoltz – Smoltz was something of a latter-day Dennis Eckersley, transforming from Cy Young starter to All-Star closer when injuries hit. The amazing thing about Smoltz is that he then went back into the rotation and finished sixth in CY balloting in 2007 at age 40.
Alan Trammell – Before baseball’s offensive explosion, Trammell was maybe the best-hitting shortstop ever not named Ripken. He was also a great, steady fielder who stabilized the Detroit Tigers for 20 years.
Jeff Bagwell – Along with Biggio, Bagwell helped to revitalize the Houston Astros in the 1990s. Bagwell lasted only 15 years, but he generated nearly 80 WAR in that period and should be in the Hall.
Those are the guys I would vote for, the ones I thing SHOULD be elected to the Hall of Fame this year.
But who will get in?
Well, I suspect that Johnson and Martinez will sail in, and that Smoltz will likely make it, too. Given that Biggio was named on 74.8% of the ballots last year, he seems a good bet to get in.
And then, that’s probably it.
Whether through some sense of sanctimony or because they have a different take on what constitutes baseball greatness, enough voters will leave the rest of my top 10 off their ballots to keep those players on the outside. Piazza and Bagwell have the best chance outside of the top tier, but they’ll fall short.
And so, when Ken Griffey, Jr., comes up for the first time next year, we’ll be having much the same conversation. Too many solid candidates, too few slots, even fewer votes.