Breaking Down the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, Part 3: The Whole Truth

Who will join these men in Cooperstown?

Who will join these men in Cooperstown?

By now, I’m sure you can agree that this is a stacked Hall of Fame ballot. If you don’t, you should probably go back to watching whatever sports are popular in your tiny, remote-as-balls corner of the world. (Probably Beulah, Wyoming.) This year, the ballot was so deep that when filling out my own choices, I had to leave people off because you’re only allowed to vote for ten. The following players are whom I voted for on my official IBWAA ballot, results to be announced in January:

  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Craig Biggio
  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Tom Glavine
  • Barry Larkin***
  • Greg Maddux
  • Tim Raines
  • Curt Schilling
  • Frank Thomas

***Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame last year, whilst Barry Larkin has yet to be elected by the IWBAA. Because of this minor technicality, in this ballot, replace Larkin’s name with Piazza’s, as far as my voting intentions would be regarded for the BBWAA’s 2014 Ballot.

There are a couple of notes here that I have to discuss.

1) Not voting for Jack Morris was difficult, yet at the end of the day, I feel comfortable in my decisions. As far as I’m concerned, Morris was a great pitcher, but the problem with this ballot is that, in my eye, there are ten other candidates who are more deserving, specifically players such as Tim Raines who don’t get enough credit while Morris is somewhat overpraised because of his sympathetic hall case.

2) I voted for Bonds and Clemens, in spite of federal investigations, in spite of accusations, in spite of PED use. Why? Because they played to the legal ends of the system, they were already superstars when they started using, and because the sooner they go away, the sooner we can move on with players who actually need to be properly discussed for the Hall of Fame. I feel like the case on Bonds and Clemens (best respective players of their era) is closed – in addition, they were never caught cheating once baseball started testing. Clemens showed up in the Mitchell Report, alongside names such as Paul Lo Duca, but unlike Paul Lo Duca, Clemens actually had talent and a magnificent career. I’ll be the first to concede that there are arguments for and against both sides of the PED case as far as these two players are concerned, and that holes can be poked in both arguments as well. What this comes down to is a matter of conviction – I believe Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are Hall of Famers. Nobody threw a big game with more menace and surefire domination than Clemens. Bonds’ home runs were unlike any other home runs I’ve ever seen – they had a sense of majesty, even if you knew that the player hitting them was a scumbag. Put them in, and let everyone remember what they did (may have done/actually undoubtedly did), but remember that it’s a Baseball Hall of Fame.

(Pete Rose? Different story. Ask me later.)

3) Leaving Mike Mussina off the ballot was painful. Leaving Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, and Larry Walker off was painful as well. Leaving Crime Dog off made me cry inside, but I can acknowledge when a man isn’t a Hall of Famer. I really do feel like I missed the Alan Trammell party, because I had no qualms leaving him off.

4) I can’t believe Barry Larkin isn’t in this Hall of Fame yet. Mike Piazza making it over Craig Biggio last year is weird, too, but hey, at least he belongs there. Maybe the writers will take a hint this year?

5) Maybe dogs and cats will live together in peace.

Essentially, if you take my three columns and search them for a point (and not for the abandoned Ghosts of Baseball Hall of Fame Ballots Past, Present, and Future themes, which I realized too late were silly), it is this: the ballot is becoming dangerously overcrowded. Deserving players will be stockpiled for years, waiting for either an election or to drop off to a lesser Veterans Committee. And this problem will keep getting worse. Next year, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz will be added. After that, it’s Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, and Vlad Guererro. This is just going to get worse and worse.

There is a small sliver of hope, which is that several players will get in all at once. The problem with that hope is the simple fact that the writers have never elected more than three players at a time in the history of the Hall of Fame. Getting 500 people to agree on anything is impossible. Getting 400 to agree on 5 players is almost equally impossible. It’s just not going to happen. What might happen is three or four years of three players making it each year, with deserving players falling by the wayside, or in danger of off the ballot entirely (Something I fear will happen to Tim Raines).

This is equally unfair because of what I’m calling the Marvin Miller Principle. As many baseball fans know, Marvin Miller is the man who headed the first player’s union, helped to destroy the reserve clause that kept players bound for all eternity to one team, and ushered in free agency, essentially creating the game the way we see it today. In terms of impactful figures, he’s one of the five most important men in baseball history, along with Ruth and Jackie Robinson.

Yet he’s not in the Hall of Fame, mostly because of a cadre of owners who loathe the man for wresting control of the game from their clutches. He’s slipped by on multiple Veterans Committee ballots, usually missing by a sliver each time. Before he passed away, he stated that he would rather never go into the Hall of Fame, if they didn’t have the grace to elect him while he was alive. His family has continued to express those wishes, which is probably why he wasn’t elected on the most recent ballot (and who would want that? Poor Ron Santo had the same thing happen to him – elected to the Hall only when he couldn’t enjoy it anymore, proving that baseball writers/electors are terrible people).

The whole point I’m trying to make here is that election to the Hall of Fame is only good for everyone if the player to be elected is still alive. The player gets to bask in the honor, make a speech, and share one of the best days of his life with his family and friends. The family gets to see that player on one of the happiest days of their lives. Fans get to make the trek to Cooperstown to observe the recognition of one of their most favorite players. Cooperstown gets the added business. Baseball looks good. Everybody wins.

Nobody wins if the player is deceased. (I refer you to last year’s election, specifically to my column here.)

If you put a gun to my head, I’d say that Maddux will make it in this year, possibly joined by Glavine and Biggio as the most likely candidates. However, I can also see Glavine debuting in the mid-to-high 30’s, as Schilling did last year. There is also a scenario where Morris makes it into the Hall, though as I pointed out in the first column, I believe that ship has sailed. There are multiple players I believe who deserve to make it in, though I won’t be blinded by sentimentality – the writers sure aren’t.

Here’s hoping that, when the players are announced, it isn’t a repeat of last year, with nobody making it. I’d even prefer them not to repeat the year that only Barry Larkin made it. For this to be a successful ballot, two or more players need to make it.

Otherwise, these columns are going to become impossibly huge. Ugh.

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the original founders of the Addison Recorder. He writes about baseball, movies, and music, among other topics. He resides in a hole in the ground near Wrigley Field.

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