After two years in a row without any huge contenders, and the older nominees rising to the front, we have ourselves an incredibly tricky ballot this year. For one thing, you have great new players like Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza, but you also have the dreaded three, Sosa, Bonds and Clemens, all three accused of taking steroids. It's a tough year for members of the voting board, and it's a year in which I'm glad I'm not part of it. Though, a lot of great players could be swept under the couch next year, when Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine predictably enter the Hall of Fame together.
But this isn't about Greg Maddux. This is about the ten players that I feel are deserving of baseball's highest honor, enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. I'll rank them in the order of probability of entering this year.
Craig Biggio. Of all the newbies, this is the one that's been getting the most buzz, and it's easy to see why. He's one of the more consistent 2nd basemen of the game, spanning nineteen seasons without too many huge injuries. He's on the 3000 hit list, and has the most doubles of any baseball player. He doesn't have a championship ring, but he made it to the Series once, in 2005, which was good enough. I think that he's an obvious Hall of Famer, and it's only a matter of when he gets in. Odds of making it this year: 2:1
Jack Morris. All the sportswriters have been yammering about Jack Morris for the last decade or so, and while even I got tired of it, toward the end there I started to see they were right. Jack Morris, in his prime, was a hell of a pitcher. He was the star of the 1984, 1991 and 1993 World Series'. He has quite a few rings, but that's besides the point. When he was on target, he was on fire. He was a hard-throwing strikeout pitcher who was at the top of his game for a while. The only reason it's taken him this long to be really considered is the fact that...I dunno, Bruce Sutter and Bert Blyleven needed to go in first? Odds: 4:1
Mike Piazza. This guy was one of baseball's biggest stars for a very long period of time. He won the Rookie of the Year, got an MVP (I think), and is the hardest hitting catcher of all time. Johnny Bench, Jorge Posada, Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk all hit less home runs than Mike Piazza. That alone should solidify the guy. He never won a World Series, and though he got to one, his performance in it is overshadowed by the infamous 'bat throwing' incident, inflicted on him by Mr. Clemens. And also, people seem to think Piazza took steroids, but I don't. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame right next to all those catchers I mentioned. Odds: 4:1
Jeff Bagwell. If Biggio is already considered as a lock for the Hall, then Bagwell is sure to get in soon. He was more of a hitter than Biggio, he hit more homers than Bagwell, and he might have been a bigger star than Bagwell. What's gonna slow Bagwell down is his lack of consistency, as he was injured a lot of the years he could have been huge. But I think he'll get in eventually. If not this year, then eventually. Odds: 5:1
Tim Raines. A lot of the sportswriters really love this guy, and I can see why. He's one of the best base-stealers of the 80's, had a nice string of hits, and played the outfield really well. I think his lack of relevance in the 1990's may slow him down a bit, but he'll probably get in eventually. Odds: 6:1
Curt Schilling. If you wanna talk about one of the most dominating pitchers of the last two decades, Schilling is your man. He was the anchor of three straight pitching staffs, from Philly to Arizona to Boston, and managed to win three World Series' between the three (more specifically, between Arizona and Boston). He was the only reason to go to Phillies games in the 1990's after Kruk left. He and Randy Johnson defined the art of pitching in the early 2000's. He might not have the sense of 'aw yeah, he's a Hall of Famer' like the other five do, but he'll gain it over time. Odds: 6:1
Edgar Martinez. I really hate all the people who don't think Edgar belongs in the Hall. He's the Greatest DH of All Time, for frick's sake. I don't care if the Hall only likes position players, he was a great hitter for a decade. He made Mariners games fun in the time before and after they had all those stars. His hitting abilities alone should propel him in, but since some sportswriters don't care about DHs, his expectancy is low. Odds: 8:1
Dale Murphy. This is Dale's last year on the ballot, and while he probably won't get in, part of me wants him to. For the Braves, he was a great hitter, a great defensive player, and a great person to root for. A lot of Braves fans want him in, and that I understand. I think he's...okay, and I'm putting him on the ballot because there's a chance he might get in, but I don't know if he will. Odds: 10:1
Bernie Williams. I highly doubt that Bernie will make it to next year's ballot, but I wanted to give him some of the respect he deserves. During the World Series run the Yanks had, he was the most productive hitter. He was a great home run hitter and outfielder in the 90's. He was the star of the team, really, during the season after Mattingly retired, just as Jeter was coming up. I doubt he'll make the hall, but he'll always have that Grammy. Odds: 25:1
Barry Bonds. This is the most controversial item on my list, because everybody else is torn about it. I'm against steroid abusers, but I didn't think anyone else had a good reason for the hall.So, I'll go with Barry, who hit the most home runs of all time, had the most single season home runs, and just so happened to take PEDs. Just for this instance, I'll use this metaphor. The Beatles were high on acid when they made albums like Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, and high on other drugs when they made everything else together. Yet they still recieved a number of Grammys and awards. You could argue that they cheated, and say they couldn't have made the music they did without being under the influence of those drugs, but at the end of the day, they still made the music and they still should be commemorated for it. Barry Bonds is still one of the greatest hitters of all time, despite the fact that he cheated. I doubt he'll get in this year, but he might eventually. Odds: Too Close to Call
As for everyone else, I left out a lot of people because they didn't really deserve it. Don Mattingly finally left my gaze, and I doubt he'll make it. Alan Trammell I never liked. Lee Smith doesn't have the credentials needed to make the hall. Fred McGriff came so close, but he just barely misses. Larry Walker isn't a Hall of Famer. Kenny Lofton needs to wait a few years. Clemens, Sosa, Palmiero and McGwire will only get in if Bonds does, or if any of them do. Shawn Green, while a great hitter, just isn't a Hall of Famer.
Everyone else isn't qualified, and will probably leave the roster this year. Unless the small community of Woody Williams fans garners ballots.
So that's it. I expect Craig Biggio and Jack Morris to get in this year, though I'll settle for any of the ten I listed. It'll take me a while to settle for Bonds, but if he's elected, alright then.
Until the 2014 ballot nears, that's all on the matter. Then Greg Maddux will get 100% of the vote.