Editor’s Note: All three golferswest.com writers, Bob Sherwin, Jim Street and Kirby Arnold, covered baseball for various newspapers and the Internet long enough to earn the privilege of voting for Baseball’s Hall of Fame. It is something we all take very seriously every year. The HOF announcement of the 2014 Class will be next Wednesday. These are the links to Sherwin and Arnold and below is Jim Street’s perspective on his vote:
The steroids controversy that reared its ugly head a year ago, putting a dark cloud over the process of selecting the Hall of Fame Class of 2013, might not be as polarizing this year because of an impressive number of first-time HOF-eligible candidates on the 36-player ballot.
Unlike last year, when the suspected performance enhancing drug users on the 37-player ballot received most of the attention, leading to a rare a shutout by the voters, there is a plethora of first-timers who undoubtedly will receive the necessary backing to be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y., next summer.
In fact, there are so many newcomers this year — 20 first-timers on the ballot — that I was able to select the maximum 10 players and not give the suspected PED users a second thought.
Thank goodness for that.
As a sportswriter who covered MLB for 40 years – 1971-2010 – I understand the importance of everyone performing on a level playing field. When a player deviates from that path, he should pay the price, which Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa did in a big way last year in their first year of HOF eligibility.
Despite having HOF career numbers, none of them came close to the 75 percent needed to be selected to the sport’s highest honor. To that, I say “hurrah” to the majority of voters, a group of Baseball Writers Association of America members who covered MLB for at least 10 consecutive seasons during their careers.
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, along with PED suspects Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, received enough votes last year to remain on the ballot. But none of them are expected to be selected this year, and I would feel good about that.
It’s an honor and privilege to be among the HOF voters and I take the annual selection process seriously. Always have and always will.
It is my responsibility to vote my conscious and select the players I believe deserve to be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y. And until the Hall of Fame, or Major League Baseball, decides to include a sentence or two on the plaques of players voted into the HOF that were associated with PEDs during their careers, I will not vote for any of them, period.
One of the beauties of the Hall of Fame voting is opinion. A player worthy of the Hall of Fame to me might not be worthy by another voter. That could explain why no player in the history of Major League Baseball has been unanimously selected to the Hall of Fame. Tom Seaver holds the record with 98.2 percent of the vote in 1992, being selected on all but five of the 430 votes cast.
We all have our opinions. For example, I never voted for Gaylord Perry, who threw an illegal pitch (spitter) for most of his career. But he’s in the HOF because more than 75 percent of the voters disagreed with me in 1991 – his seventh year of eligibility.
That makes Gaylord a Hall of Fame player and I respect that. Good for him.
In the meantime, the annual voting process continues and here, in alphabetical order, are my HOF selections for the Class of 2014:
1. Craig Biggio: (2nd year on the ballot). He was small in stature but huge in production during a 20-year career with the Astros. He was a seven-time All-Star, once as a catcher and six times as a second baseman. He also played the outfield and finished in the Top 10 of National League Most Valuable Player Award three times. But he was productive off the field as well, winning the Branch Rickey Award, the Hutch Award and the Roberto Clemente Award. His 3,060 career hits makes him a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
2. Tom Glavine: (1st year on the ballot). The left-hander had five 20-win seasons during a 22-year career with the Braves and Mets, winning two NL Cy Young Awards (1991-‘98). Glavine was a 10-time All-Star with the Braves, led the league in games started six times and ranks 21st all-time with 305 victories. He also won four Silver Slugger awards as the top-hitting pitcher in the NL.
3. Greg Maddux: (1st year on the ballot). Among the first-year candidates, Maddux is a sure-fire First Ballot selection and might even challenge Seaver’s record for highest percentage of votes received. He holds the MLB record for most consecutive seasons (17) with at least 15 wins and captured four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards – 1992-95. Maddux is one of only four pitchers to have more than 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks.
4. Edgar Martinez: (5th year on the ballot). The seven-time AL All-Star spent his entire career with the Mariners, winning two batting titles, five Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five in on-base percentage 10 times. He is one of only 10 players in MLB history with at least 300 home runs, 500 doubles, a career batting average of .300, career OBP of .400 and career slugging average higher than .500. Skeptics point to the fact that most of his career was spent as a Designated Hitter, but that was his position because his managers decided that the team was better with Edgar as the DH than at third base, his natural position. I am 5-for-5 in voting for Martinez, but am becoming more convinced each year that he’ll become the second DH inducted – after David Ortiz.
5. Jack Morris: (15th year on the ballot). This is Morris’ final year on the ballot, the last time writers can vote him into the Hall of Fame. The right-hander was a 254-game winner in his career and pitched 175 complete games. When he had a lead going into the eighth inning, he would turn it up a notch and negate the need of a closer. Morris led all MLB pitchers in the 1980s with 162 wins, 133 complete games, 332 starts and 2,443.2 innings.
6. Mike Piazza: (2nd year on the ballot). He is not quite in the all-around class of Johnny Bench, but Piazza was a 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner, the most among catchers in MLB history. Piazza was the premier offensive catcher in the NL from 1995-2003, hitting at least 38 home runs and drove in at least 104 runs in each of those nine seasons.
7. Tim Raines: (7th year on the ballot). I remain loyal to the player regarded by many as the NL version of Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. Raines played 23 seasons for the Expos, White Sox, Yankees and Athletics, hit 170 home runs, drove in 980 runs, led the NL in stolen bases four times during the early 1980s, and hit .300 or better seven times. He walked 1,330 times and struck out 966 times. He is ranked second all-time in stolen base success rate at 84.7 and made five postseason appearances, including one World Series.
8. Curt Schilling: (2nd year on the ballot). The right-hander gets my vote for the second straight year because he was steady and productive throughout his 20-year MLB career. He had three 20-win seasons, three seasons with at least 300 strikeouts (matching Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan for the most in MLB history), led his league in strikeout-walk ratio five times and is one of only four pitchers to strike out at least 3,000 and walk fewer than 1,000 batters. Schilling also ranks fifth on the all-time list for postseason victories, pitching for three World Series champions. Off the field, he received the Branch Rickey Award, the Hutch Award and the Roberto Clemente Award.
9. Lee Smith: (12th year on the ballot). The right-handed closer who seemingly took forever to walk from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound is taking his sweet time getting into the Hall of Fame as well. Smith ranks third on the all-time saves list with 478 and was named Fireman of the Year in both the National and American Leagues. Smith was named to seven All-Star teams and had 13 consecutive seasons with at least 20 saves, some of them when a reliever had to pitch at least three innings to get a save. On top of all that, he was a fine fielder, holding the NL record for most consecutive errorless games by a pitcher – 546.
10. Frank Thomas: (1st year on the ballot). The Big Hurt is my third first-year-eligible selection. Until this past season, Thomas was the most recent big-leaguer to win back-to-back Most Valuable Player honors, doing so in 1993 and ’94 – an accomplishment duplicated by the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera the past two seasons. Besides his two MVP awards, Thomas finished in the top 10 seven other times during his 19-year career, most of them with the White Sox. He holds the MLB record for most consecutive seasons (seven) of at least 20 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks and a .300 batting average.