When it comes to the Hall of Fame, I can’t put it any better than a high-ranking club official did a few years back, on the condition of profane anonymity:
“It’s a [expletive] museum!”
For more than 60 years, Hall voters treated the “integrity, sportsmanship, character,” language as one regards a sprig of parsley on a dinner plate: Something to be ignored at best and resented at worst. Industry-shaking scandals came and went, and sinners of all types, as long as they weren’t banned from the game, strolled into Cooperstown without breaking a sweat.
Now we’re supposed to lay down the gauntlet on a generation that capitalized on technological advances to help its teams succeed? We’re expected to jump into player-on-player crimes and resolve intramural disputes regarding who used illegal performance-enhancing drugs and who didn’t?
Sorry. I’m not playing those reindeer games. When a 16-person committee organized by the Hall, featuring eight Hall members, let Bud Selig skate right in on his first try, even though Selig was thrice found guilty of colluding with his fellow owners to depress salaries — Selig even was called as a witness in the first collusion hearing — the Hall sent the loudest and clearest message possible: It’s a bleeping museum. All should be forgiven, even those like Selig who violated the collective bargaining agreement — three times! — in the interest of best presenting the game’s history.
(Best of luck to those voters who try to argue that illegal PEDs, used by players trying to win, damaged the game more than collusion, used by owners trying not to win.)
Here is my 2017 ballot:
1. Jeff Bagwell. Once Mike Piazza gained induction last year, Bagwell — like Piazza slowed down by understandable speculation he used illegal PEDs — became a seventh-year inevitability on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. Bagwell should be a slam-dunk, thanks to his 149 OPS+ over 2,150 games.
2. Barry Bonds. The game’s one and only home run king, in his fifth year of eligibility, appears to be climbing in the right direction, as per the tracking of public ballots by Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs on Twitter). Come on, now: Who made more money off the “Steroids Era,” Bonds or Selig? Don’t forget to deduct Bonds’ legal expenses from the U.S. government’s unsuccessful witch hunt of him.
3. Roger Clemens. Bonds’ fellow Steroids Era scapegoat, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner exhibited the courage to challenge and beat the allegations from the amateurish Mitchell Report. Also in his fifth year of this exercise, he and Bonds seem joined at the hip, rising in tandem.
4. Edgar Martinez. He has gained real traction in his eighth year, and great for him. His lack of defensive exposure can be overlooked once you appreciate just how much pop he provided for the Mariners. A 147 OPS+ in 2,055 games gets it done.
5. Mike Mussina. Another riser, in his fourth year here, and the egghead right-hander deserves the love. You could argue he belongs in the same conversation as Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, both of whom gained induction in their first try. Actually, I will argue that, thanks to his 123 ERA+ in 3,562 ¹/₃ American League innings.
6. Tim Raines. It’s the 10th and final go on the writers’ ballot for the man called Rock, and it will take a heck of a crater for one of the game’s best-ever leadoff hitters to not get the green light.
7. Manny Ramirez. I would have kept him off as recently as a year ago, thanks to his two violations of the game’s drug agreement. Credit the Selig Effect for altering my approach to the rookie candidate. Manny Being Manny provided the game with one of its best and most entertaining forces of nature, ever. What a hitter!
8. Ivan Rodriguez. What a catcher! His 2,427 games behind the plate place Pudge atop the all-time list, and he hit enough (106 OPS+) to provide value from that side, too. He might get in on his first year. Any chance he wears a Yankees cap on his plaque?
9. Curt Schilling.
9. Curt Schilling.I want him inducted for his 4.38 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 3,261 innings pitched and postseason brilliance. Schilling, in his fifth year, wants me murdered for my occupation, as he exemplified by embracing the “Rope. Tree. Journalist” meme on Twitter. Once more with feeling: It’s a bleeping museum.
10. Larry Walker. The seventh-year ballot occupant gets my vote every time. thanks to his well-rounded game that gets overlooked because of his time in hitter-friendly Colorado. Great candidates Vladimir Guerrero and Sammy Sosa unfortunately fell just short, with Jeff Kent and Gary Sheffield forming the next tier, as I used the maximum allotted spots.