The 2011 National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot that must be submitted today by voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America lists 33 players. Here are the top contenders:
Years on Candidate MLB seasons ballot
Roberto Alomar 1988-2004 2nd
Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005 1st
Harold Baines 1980-2001 5th
Bert Blyleven 1970-90, 1992 14th
Kevin Brown 1986, 1988-2005 1st
John Franco 1984-2001, 2003-06 1st
Juan Gonzalez 1989-2005 1st
Barry Larkin 1986-2004 2nd
Edgar Martinez 1987-2004 2nd
Don Mattingly 1982-95 11th
Fred McGriff 1986-2004 2nd
Mark McGwire 1986-2001 5th
Jack Morris 1977-94 12th
Dale Murphy 1976-93 13th
Rafael Palmeiro 1986-2005 1st
Dave Parker 1973-91 15th
Tim Raines 1979-2002 4th
Benito Santiago 1986-2005 1st
Lee Smith 1980-97 9th
B.J. Surhoff 1987-2005 1st
Alan Trammell 1977-96 10th
Larry Walker 1989-2005 1st
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
This used to be easy.
Get the ballot, find four, five, maybe 10 ex-players who felt like Hall of Famers, check them off, send the ballot in and be done with it.
Sure, I’d study the stats.
But after a while the lists of .300 seasons, home runs, walks, saves, postseason strikeouts, multihit games and the like blur one’s brain the way the shampoo aisle at a supermarket does.
You grab what looks right and get out.
Now, it’s tougher.
Steroids have done that.
I’m voting for Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Dave Parker and Alan Trammell. All have been on the ballot before, and I have voted for all of them in the past, except Trammell.
I have good reasons for each player. And I’m putting Trammell in there — even though he got only 22.4 percent of the vote last year — because as time has gone by, I’ve become even more impressed with the skinny guy’s four Gold Gloves, six All-Star selections and 20 major-league seasons, all with the Tigers.
I doubt we’ll see a two-decade, one-team guy ever again. (And maybe his suffering as a Cubs coach figures in a tad.)
The trouble starts with the first-time-eligible players, many of them with tremendous stats.
Carlos Baerga, Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker and, above all, Rafael Palmeiro.
Timing is everything
Those guys could hit and run and field, but their misfortune was that, having retired just five years ago, they played into and through the heart of the Steroid Era. (And, by the way, nobody has declared that era over.)
But Palmeiro’s numbers are staggering — he averaged 41 home runs and 120 RBI in the nine seasons from 1995 to 2003 and finished with 569 career homers, 12th-most all time. He also had 3,020 hits.
Nobody with more than 500 homers or more than 3,000 hits is not in the Hall.
But Palmeiro was a juicer. He was suspended after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2005, only a few months after he defiantly told a congressional panel, ‘‘I have never used steroids. Period.’’
I was there at that hearing on Capitol Hill in March 2005, and I kinda, half-way believed Palmeiro. I mean, he was angry, almost ready to throw down, when he proclaimed his drug-free quality.
But words are cheap. And I can’t vote for Palmeiro. Just as I can’t, and won’t, vote for Mark McGwire, now in his fifth year on the ballot. ‘‘Big Red’’ was the poster boy for muscle-enhancers. Palmeiro is the poster boy for deceit.
Palmeiro still claims the anabolic steroid came from a tainted vitamin B-12 vial he got from teammate Miguel Tejada. (Love it when it’s a buddy’s fault.) ‘‘I was telling the truth then, and I am telling the truth now,’’ he told SI.com. ‘‘I have never [intentionally] taken steroids.’’
And I say that because I’m sick of being part of the apologists for athletes’ drug-taking lies over the years.
You hear Marion Jones or Tony Mandarich or any of a thousand pro cyclists tell you they’re clean with such passion and fervor, and then you find it’s just . . . baloney.
So Palmeiro is out. For me. Forever.
But the others?
You hear rumors, but what do you know?
Larry Walker all of a sudden hits 49 home runs in 1997? What was that all about?
It’s a real good question
Palmeiro asked the Washington Post rhetorically, “Why would I [cheat] in a year when I went in front of Congress and I testified that I told the truth? Why would I do this in a season when I was going to get to 3,000 hits? It makes no sense.’’
Correct. And your point, sir?
So the new guys are all going to be problems for us voters, at least those of us with moral constraints over blatant cheating. (And, no, I didn’t like Joe Niekro using a nail file on the ball, either.)
The standards for the Hall of Fame are lofty, nearly unattainable. But if you want to sit with Ruth, Gehrig, Mays and Aaron, you better bring the goods.
Consider that Robin Ventura was a pretty decent ballplayer, and he got 1.3 percent of the votes last year and was swiftly dropped from the ballot.
So I’ll pray and fill out my 2011 form with first-year guy Edgar Martinez (18 years, all with the Mariners, five Silver Slugger Awards, seven All-Star Games) and, what the heck, Harold Baines.
The old White Sox hitter has been on the ballot five years, and I doubt he’ll ever get in, but he sure never looked like a ’roider to me.
Funny how that can count for so much these days.