On January 18th, we will find out who will become the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The notable candidates in the 2017 ballot include first balloters such as Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez, and Manny Ramirez. Some of the notable returning candidates include Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Fred McGriff, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith, and Larry Walker. For Lee Smith, it is his final year on the ballot.
If I were allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame this year, the players I’d vote for would be Guerrero, Raines, Bagwell, Hoffman, Ivan Rodriguez, McGriff, Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Schilling, and Lee Smith. If I were able to have more than 10 votes, I’d throw in Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, and Gary Sheffield. I wouldn’t vote for Larry Walker because I feel that his career offensive numbers were inflated due to the Coors Field effect. Walker had some of his best power-hitting seasons as a member of the Colorado Rockies, with vastly better numbers at home than on the road at that time. As for Bonds and Clemens, I feel that while they were likely future hall of famers before taking performance enhancers, they need to be punished for cheating their way into the record books. They need to be used as an example to other players about the costs of cheating under any circumstance. Along with Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro, Bonds and Clemens are the poster boys of the steroid era of Major League Baseball. They shouldn’t be rewarded for cheating their way through the record books. When kids look at the plaques in Cooperstown, they should be seeing players who earned their way into the Hall of Fame, by working very hard and without cheating. These players are meant to be role models. In my opinion, Bonds and Clemens should never be anyone’s role model.
In the case of Gary Sheffield, his name was found in the Mitchell Report in 2007. In Jose Canseco’s controversial book, Juiced, he claimed to have personally injected Pudge with steroids, though Pudge denied it. Manny Ramirez was suspended in 2009 for using PEDs, and faced another suspension in 2011 for again using PEDs. Additionally, the New York Times reported that Manny was 1 of the 104 MLB players that tested positive for performance-enhancers during MLB’s 2003 survey testing. As for Jeff Bagwell, while there was always suspicion that he used PEDs in his MLB career, it was never confirmed that he used them. These accusations mainly stem from the fact that while he was a member of the Red Sox organization, he wasn’t thought of as a prospect with a lot of potential. When he came up with the Astros, Bagwell became a star player for them throughout his entire career.
I am very hesitant to vote for Pudge and Sheffield due to them being linked to steroids at points in their careers. However, I’m partially willing to vote for them because the evidence surrounding them using steroids at this moment is thin. In Rodriguez’s case, it’s his word against that of Jose Canseco (who isn’t really the most reliable person). In Sheffield’s case, him being found on the Mitchell Report may be due to a workout he had with Barry Bonds in 2001. In the workout, a trainer applied a cream to Sheffield’s knee in order to heal ripped stitches from a knee surgery. According to Sheffield, he had no knowledge of whether or not the cream contained steroids, and had no reason to believe that it did. He also said that the cream had no effect on his knee, even noting how his numbers in the following season were mostly consistent with his career up until that point. Regardless, due to Sheffield’s poor attitude as a player to teammates and the media, it may be very difficult for him to get elected into the Hall of Fame in the near future.
Fred McGriff, in my opinion, is a player that has often been overlooked. He quietly compiled 493 career homers, with 2,490 hits, 1,550 runs batted in, and a .284 batting average to go along with a .377 on-base % and .509 slugging % in his 19 year career. Guerrero is a clear first-ballot hall of famer. Bagwell appears on track to get in, with his voting % steadily rising since his first appearance on the ballot, falling less than 4% short last year. Tim Raines is one of the greatest leadoff hitters and base stealers of all time. He probably has had to wait this long due to being overshadowed by Ricky Henderson throughout his entire career. After Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman has the most saves in the history of baseball. Lee Smith is right behind Hoffman. Edgar Martinez is one of the greatest designated hitters in the history of baseball. Mike Mussina was one of the best starting pitchers in the American League at the height of the steroid era. He, like Fred McGriff, quietly put together a great career, winning 270 games. While I don’t see Mussina getting in to the hall of fame in the near future, I feel he could get voted in at some point in his last few years on the ballot. In Curt Schilling’s case, the only thing keeping him out of the Hall of Fame is himself. Due to his controversial political opinions and outspoken nature, he has offended fellow teammates as well as reporters both during and after his baseball career. Many of these same reporters are potential hall of fame voters.
On January 18th, I expect that the class of 2017 will include Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Trevor Hoffman. I feel that Ivan Rodriguez will fall just short of making the hall of fame. I also believe that Bonds and Clemens will end up with between 45% and 55% of the vote. We’ll see how things turn out on Wednesday.