The 2013 Hall of Fame class will be announced on Jan. 9 so it’s time, and while there is very little I like more than celebrating the game, we can’t do it this year because the steroid thing gets in the way because Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are no doubt Hall of Famers whom everyone knows did steroids.
I hate this. I hate the fact that we have to talk about it. I hate the fact that I have to think about it because I hate where it leads me.
There are a lot of despicable cretins in the Hall of Fame. It pains me to say this about a game I love so much but a lot of the people who made the game what is is are just plain horrible people.
Kennesaw Mountain Landis probably takes the cake simply because his racism closed the game to African American players for decades. Tom Yawkey makes the list because his racism was one of the biggest contributing factors to the Red Sox not willing the World Series in his tenure.
And they’re the tip of the iceberg. Babe Ruth was hanging around with gangsters and you can’t tell me he wouldn’t be doing every drug available if he were alive today.
I end up being forced into the conclusion that character questions don’t matter. When you tell me that steroids impacted their play on the field, I’ll tell you that all the other drugs, uppers, cocaine, whatever, also impacted their play on the field. I don’t know where to draw the line so I draw it at what was done on the field.*
So I look at the field of candidates (which you can find here) and the first names that strike me as no doubters are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mike Piazza. Their qualifications are obvious.
Curt Schilling: He pitched enough, twenty years, three thousand innings, four hundred starts. He pitched pretty well overall, a 127 ERA+ and he’s got post season heroics on his resume from both Arizona and Boston. Good enough for me.
Craig Biggio: Twenty years, first as a catcher, then as a second baseman, lots of black ink, lots of gray ink, a little light in the power but a .363 career OBP. As a second baseman and a catcher. He gets a vote.
Jeff Bagwell: Why did he not get in last year? A career .948 OPS and OPS+ of 149. Yeah, it’s a power position and has higher standards. He met them in spades. He gets a vote.
That’s six votes, max is ten, who’s left?
Larry Walker: Big offensive numbers, largely put up in Colorado, at a power position. Yes, he did well outside Colorado, but he doesn’t even hit 400 homers. I’ll pass.
Allen Trammel: Not a ton of black or gray ink, but he’s a shortstop. Gold gloves, lots of MVP votes, good offensive production at a defensive position. He’s worth a vote.
Tim Raines: Not a ton of power, but holy mother of all that is holy did he get on base. Six years with an OBP over .400 and five more over .390. Eight hundred steals with an 85% success rate. He’s worth a vote.
Kenny Lofton: In a lot of ways he’s Tim Raines light. Light on the power, not as much of an on base machine as Raines, only five years higher than .390 OBP. He went to the post season almost every year for a decade and his overall performance is nothing special. I’ll pass.
Edgar Martinez: An offensive force who would probably be an easy vote if he had any defensive value. He played two thousand games, less than six hundred of them in the field. For comparison’s sake, both his career WAR and his seven year peak WAR (BBREF version) are lower than Kenny Lofton’s. I’ll pass.
Mark McGwire: He’s all about the home runs. Lots of black ink, mostly from home runs, less gray ink. He had prodigious power while playing a power position. He played in forty-two post season games over ten series and overall didn’t perform terribly well. I think it comes down to whether the 586 career home runs and the 70 in 1998 are enough to get him in on their own. I have a little sympathy for that position, but I’m not quite there yet.
Sammy Sosa: Similar to McGwire, his candidacy is based on the homers. He hit over 60 three times and didn’t lead the league in any of those seasons. He didn’t get a chance to do much in the post season. His career homer total is over 600. Thing is, his peak was pretty short. He was nothing special defensively. Again, sympathy, but I’ll pass.
And that’s pretty much it. None of the other guys really have much of a case. Maybe you can make a case for Palmeiro or Bernie Williams but I’m not seeing it yet.
So there it is. Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Schilling, Trammel, Bagwell, Biggio, Raines.
*And yes, this means Pete Rose should be in the Hall.