Beyond Golf — 05 January 2015 by Jim Street
HOF: Four first-timers on my ballot

Just like last year, three new names on the Hall of Fame ballot I received in the mail jumped out at me, and the easy part was putting a check-mark in the boxes to the left of the names Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

Another first-timer, former Red Sox star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, also received a check mark on my ballot, but his vote wasn’t a slam-dunk like the other three. Even so, in my book the always-dependable Nomar is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Then came the difficult part – deciding which of the other 34 names on the ballot are, in my opinion, worthy of Hall of Fame selection. I could have voted for six more, reaching the 10-vote maximum, but settled on five.

The election results will be announced at 11 a.m. (PT) Tuesday on the MLB Network.

As time moves on, and the list of candidates on the ballot compiled by a six-man Selection Committee of current and past members of the Baseball Writers Association of America changes, the urge to do my part to prevent the “suspected” performance enhancing drug (PED) users from receiving the 75 percent of the votes needed for selection, is waning just a little.

But I’m still not ready to take that step because of this paragraph of the BBWAA Election Rules:

Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Call me old-fashioned, but in my mind, integrity, sportsmanship and character are just as important as hits, runs, home runs, batting average, wins, losses and ERA.

The argument that steroids and other PEDs were not “illegal” during the so-called steroid era and therefore the players did nothing wrong still doesn’t fly with me. If there was nothing wrong, why have these “suspected” players refused to admit what they did and why they did it when there is a mountain of evidence that indicates they did?

Jim Street's HOF ballot

Jim Street’s HOF ballot

Therefore, my returned ballot for the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 does not include a checked box for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, all of whom were connected to PED use during their otherwise stellar careers.

McGwire has reached his next-to-last inning of eligibility. Due to a rules change effective this year, a players’ eligibility for BBWAA selection is for 10 years instead of the previous 15 years. This is McGwire’s ninth year of eligibility, leaving him just two more chances before moving on to the Veteran’s Committee. Good luck with that, Mac.

Three players on this year’s ballot – Don Mattingly, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell – are exempt from the new rule. Mattingly appears on the ballot for the 15th and final time, while Smith (13) and Trammell (14) also are on the verge of being eliminated from future BBWAA ballots.

My best hunch is that Johnson, Martinez  and Smoltz are certain first-ballot Hall of Famers. Johnson, in fact, might end up with about 95 percent of the votes cast. The record is Tom Seaver’s 98.84 percent in 1992.

My other votes went to:

Craig Biggio: Hopefully, the third time is the charm for the career Astro. The only player in MLB history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs, Biggio missed by just two votes last year of receiving the necessary 75 percent.

Edgar Martinez: This will be his sixth year on the ballot and he’s batting 1.000 when it comes to my vote. The majority of voters still diminish the former Mariner star’s accomplishments because most of his career was spent as the team’s Designated Hitter, a position he voluntarily moved to in order to make the team better. It’s a shame that he’s still be “punished” for putting his team ahead of himself.

Mike Piazza: The 12-time All-Star and record 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner among catchers, the only knock I can find against him was that he wasn’t a great defensive catcher, leading the National League in throwing out potential base-stealers just once (1993) in his 16-year career. He was mostly about offense and clearly was the best overall offensive catcher in the NL for most of his career.

Tim Raines: It still boggles my mind that Raines is 0-for-8 when it comes to the HOF. To me, he was the NL’s version of Rickey Henderson, disrupting defenses with speed, ranking second all-time in stolen-base percentage at 84.7 among those with at least 300 SB attempts.

Lee Smith: Although he retired 17 years ago, the closer-extraordinaire ranks third all-time in saves with 478. He was No. 1 when he retired. He had 40-plus saves three times, leading the NL each time, and at least 30 seven times and had a sub- 3.00 ERA eight times.

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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