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My Hall of Fame ballot

bondsBRADENTON, Fla. — I was 7 years old when Roberto Clemente died and, as far as I can recall, I saw him play just once at Three Rivers Stadium. Honus Wagner, arguably the greatest Pirate of all time, ended his playing career nearly a half-century before I was born. So when people ask me who was the best Pirates player I ever saw, I reply it was Barry Bonds. I became engrossed in baseball in the mid-1980s and watched Bonds in action with the Pirates and San Francisco Giants dozens of times from his rookie season in 1986 until his final season in 2007. When he bolted from Pittsburgh as a free agent after the 1992 season, I already firmly believed Bonds was on a path toward the Hall of Fame.

I’ve been covering baseball for the Trib since 1994, but this is just my second year as a Hall of Fame voter. It was my first chance to vote for Bonds, to ratify what I had judged him to be more than two decades ago. I take the voting process very seriously. I evaluate candidates throughout the year by poring over stats, doing research on the Web and seeking input from former MLB players and execs as well as fellow reporters. And I consider more than just raw stats; the instructions from the Hall make it clear that a player’s character and respect for the game should be taken into account. By making the Baseball Writers Association its voters, the Hall has sort of made us caretakers of the game’s history and reputation. The results of this year’s voting will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

My ballot arrived in early December. I mulled the list of 37 candidates for another week before making my picks (each voter can choose up to 10). I selected six players: Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Lee Smith. I did not vote for Barry Bonds, the best Pirate — perhaps the best player — I ever saw.

I believe Bonds was a Hall of Fame talent in 1992. I also believe Bonds later enhanced his skills to monstrous proportions by stepping beyond the bounds of what is ethical. I believe he cheated the game. Bonds’ stats are famous, but the aura around him is infamous. He seems to care everything about the former and nothing about the latter, which is why I couldn’t bring myself to put a check next to his name on my ballot. Bonds still could get into the Hall someday — actually, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t happen. I’ll keep an open mind about him next year and every one after that until he is either elected for falls off the ballot. But, I also think a player getting inducted the first time he is on the ballot is a special thing. It’s a sort of ring of honor among an already elite group of men. Clemente deserved that. So did Wagner. Not Bonds.

OK, end of sermon. Here’s a bit more about the fellas I did vote for … Morris, Bagwell and Smith were on my ballot last year. Morris was the template for a successful pitcher in the ’80s. Smith sticks in my mind forever as a dominant closer, a guy no one (well, except Bonds) wanted to face with the game on the line. I saw Bagwell play when he was still in Double-A and even then his slugging was eye-opening. I bypassed Raines on my ballot last year and regretted it. He was one of the finest leadoff batters of all time, maybe the best ever in the National League. Biggio and Schilling are newcomers to the ballot. Biggio could flat-out play as a hitter, fielder, runner and leader. Schilling was durable, nasty on the mound and nails in big games.

Comments

  1. Luke Snatchko says:

    So Bonds cheated the game but Bagwell and Schilling didn’t? Very weak if you ask me considering at least 80 percent of players were on some sort of enhancement drugs including 2 of the people you voted for.

  2. Mike Greer says:

    Jack Morris? This guy wasn’t even close to being a top 5 pitcher during the time he played. He has no Cy Young awards or no dominating out years. Is he a model of constancy? Yes, but he is further proof that wins and not talent can get you into the HOF. Case in point, his career ERA of 3.90 came in a era of poor offenses during the late 70′s and 80′s. I really am glad you broke down the statistical data as much as you could but wins to a pitcher don’t always measure up to the players overall talent. Fortunately or unfortunately in sports we do have outliers where some people defy what the basic fundamental laws of the hallowed benchmarks of greatness (3000 hits, 300 wins, 600 hr’s) and Jack Morris though solid, unfortunately defied this. If steroid players need to be assessed during their era so do pitchers that pitched during poor offensive era’s.

    I must say he most likely will get into the HOF but its because most old school and new era baseball writers will not breakdown the data more than it needs to.

  3. dsnelquendo says:

    Why the love for Jack Morris and not for David Wells? The two couldn’t be more similar statistically, and as big of a game as Morris pitched in game 7 of the World Series, Wells pitched a perfect game at Yankee stadium on the day that Yogi Berra returned there after a 20 year hiatus…with Don Larsen throwing out the first pitch to him no less.

  4. gregenstein says:

    Thanks for being honest, Rob. I’m more of “big Hall Museum” kind of guy. I like your votes, though personally Lee Smith doesn’t quite do it for me. I’d add Bonds, Clemens, Trammell, Sosa, and Piazza while removing Smith.

    I’d be curious why you don’t feel Piazza is a HOF’er. Suspected cheater or lack of defensive ability?

  5. radio wave says:

    Glad you voted for the killer b’s.

  6. pirates1fan says:

    Agree with your posts. Probably would have voted for Piazza, but beyond that, I agree with yours. I don’t suspect Bonds will get more than 25% vote.

  7. gregenstein says:

    “I must say he (Jack Morris) most likely will get into the HOF but its because most old school and new era baseball writers will not breakdown the data more than it needs to.”
    ——————————–
    Jack Morris pitched more innings and more 7+ (and 8+) inning starts than anyone else during the 80′s. It’s not even close. There’s something to be said for that. Combine that with all the Game 1 post season starts, Game 7 1991, the 3 AS Game starts, and over a dozen opening day starts…yeah, he meets my definition of an Ace even though his ERA wasn’t the best.

  8. I appreciate the comments, pro and con, about my ballot. Thanks, also, for keeping it clean and respectful of everyone’s opinions. Trust me, marking that ballot was not a fun exercise this year … and probably many years to come, too.

  9. Joel says:

    Are all of the voters selected ballots eventually published, or are they only released at their own will?

  10. RumBunter says:

    Thanks Rob, enjoyed your take

  11. John Lease says:

    Bagwell, another steroid taker. I certainly agree about Jack Morris and Tim Raines. Also Lee Smith. No love for Dale Murphy?

  12. @Joel — IT’s up to each voter whether or not to release his/her ballot. The BBWAA asks us to make them public and provides a page on bbwaa.com for anyone who does. I figure, if I was willing to stick a sign in my front yard telling folks that I voted for either Obama or Romney, I might as well be transparent about the HOF vote as well.

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