By Max Toth
The Baseball Hall of Fame has released the ballot for this year's induction and the group of hopeful hall-of-famers is.....interesting.
Between the underwhelming batch of new candidates (sorry Nick Swisher, but you’re no Derek Jeter) and the usual band of juiced up steroid era sluggers and flamethrowers, there is a real chance that for the first time in 61 years, no players on the ballot will be given the “call to the hall.”
So let's look at this VERY interesting Hall of Fame ballot.
First things first, who would I vote for if I was a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America? To me, there’s only one player I’d automatically select: Andruw Jones. Someone who hit 434 home runs, drove in 1,289 runs and slashed .254/.337/.486, all while accumulating 62.7 Wins Above Replacement, seems like a hall of famer to me. Factor in his title as the consensus greatest defensive outfielder of all time and you start to wonder what baseball writers have against the former Brave.
The biggest knock on Jones, and the main reason he’s been shunned from the Hall for the past three years, is his rapid decline once he left Atlanta and surpassed age 30. But allowing an admittedly terrible five seasons to overshadow an excellent twelve campaigns is downright silly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Jones will be getting in this year, as he owns just 43.1% of the vote on ballots that have been made public, which places him far away from the 75% he needs. However, the chances of Jones making the cut on future ballots are pretty great, since he’s gained 16 new votes so far this year.
Outside of Andruw Jones, there aren’t really any other players I’m high on. With that said, there are a few interesting players out there, for better or worse.
Curt Schilling, for example, is one of the clutchest pitchers of all time and would already be in the hall if it wasn’t for some unsightly comments and actions towards journalists and avid support for a certain not-so-popular United States president.
Jeff Kent likely wouldn’t be a hall of famer anyway, but he’s definitely not helping his case with his own frosty media relations and an underwhelming 10th place finish on the reality TV show Survivor.
Come on, Jeff.
You were the 2000 National League MVP, but you can’t beat a bunch of accountants in a relay race?
How about Scott Rolen? Like Jones, Rolen is in his 6th year of Hall of Fame eligibility, but only holds 65.3% percent of the vote in all public ballots. Rolen is also hand-in-hand with Jones in the fact that he has unadulterated Hall of Fame stats and accolades without any off-the-field or steroid issues. He’s a 7-time gold glover at third base and a career .284/.364/.490 hitter, but has likely been shunned due to a lack of star power.
To be brutally honest, that sort of makes sense.
I mean, when you think hall of famer, do you really think Scott Rolen?
I know I don't. Although, to be fair, the only time I saw Rolen play in person was when he suited up for the Blue Jays in 2009. But I was only 4-years old back then and the only Jay I was really interested in at the time was Ace.
Now, from warm and fuzzy baseball mascots, let's move on and talk about the big, bad MLB steroids issue.
The argument for allowing alleged steroid users like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens into the Hall of Fame does make some sense; even if the "everyone was doing it!" defence is one of the lamest excuses of all-time.
But for the sake of argument, let's say that "everyone WAS doing it!".
Why, then, victimize the players who happened to excel against all of these fellow steroids users?
As I mentioned, though, you'd have to be a pretty talented lawyer to convince me that EVERY player in MLB was on the juice.
With that said, I do think there is a Hall of Fame case to make for Barry Bonds. He won two MVP trophies in Pittsburgh as a slim and trim five-tool player. Sure, Bonds hit for power in a Pirates uniform, but he didn't become an absolute home run monster until he signed with the Giants and magically turned into the Incredible Hulk. Based on his Pittsburgh performance, Bonds could be a Cooperstown candidate. His tainted home run records, however, should definitely be returned to Roger Maris and Hank Aaron.
Bonds aside, though, the dream of steroid users in the Hall of Fame probably died forever in 2015 when Mark McGwire’s eligibility ran out. If any steroid user was going to make the Hall of Fame, it was likely McGwire. Unlike other big-name juicers, “Big Mac” actually fessed up and apologized for using steroids. McGwire also had a good relationship with the media and was never accused of being a selfish jerk (or worse) like some of the claims against Bonds.
So, at the end of the day, this year’s Hall of Fame ballot could be full of cricket sounds.
But next year?
Controversial figures such as Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens will all be entering their tenth and final years of eligibility, which will give them the best chance at making the cut since their first year on the ballot.
Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez will make his debut appearance as a Hall hopeful next year.
And I’m sure A-Rod's Cooperstown credentials won’t be divisive at all…..