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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Later this month the newest class of the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced via the voting of the Baseball Writers’ Association of American (BBWAA). The ballot is packed with big names, and although I personally don’t have an official vote, I still wanted to get in on the fun. So, keeping in mind that each voter can choose up to 10 inductees, here is who I would cast my lot for if I had the opportunity.

Roger Clemens, Pitcher: The PED allegations are there but so is the murkiness over who did what and when in baseball over the past several decades. At the end of the day my vote is going to be what was done on the field and the big Texas right-hander did plenty with 354 career wins and a record seven Cy Young Awards.

Barry Bonds, Outfielder: I’m giving the mercurial slugger the same treatment as Clemens. A true five-tool talent, Bonds hit the most home runs (762) of any major leaguer in history and it is reasonable to surmise that he is a top-ten player of all time. The controversy and his reputation for being a difficult personality have not helped him but it is impossible to deny the way his talent impacted the game.

Manny Ramirez, Outfielder: Suspended multiple times for PEDs and a reputation for behavior that could only be described as “Manny being Manny” short changes this all-time great more than it should. Perhaps the best right-handed hitter of the past 50 years, he hit .312 with 555 home runs over his 19-year career. An indifferent fielder at best, his true calling card was his wonderful bat, which terrorized pitchers regularly without prejudice.

Tim Raines, Outfielder: About to fall off the ballot, this vastly underrated player deserves to get in. Spending the bulk of his career in a smaller baseball market (Montreal Expos), he was a terrific defensive player who stole 808 bases and walked more than he struck out in every one of his full seasons except one. The lead-off hitter reached base 3,977 times in his career, still good for 48th all time.

Jeff Bagwell, First Baseman: Unsubstantiated PED rumors and a 15-year career spent entirely with the Houston Astros (without a World Series win) have relegated the right-handed slugger to the bubble of ballots over the past few years. This is a travesty, as he was a true five-tool player and an all-time great. His counting stats (.297, 449 home runs and 2,314 base hits) don’t leap off the page compared to some others in Cooperstown but his career offensive WAR of 74 is 49th all time and his 1,788 runs created are 41st.

Vladimir Guerrero, Outfielder: If Ramirez is the best right-handed hitter of the past 50 years, Guerrero is probably a close second. He hit .318 with 449 home runs in a 16-year career, which ended at the relatively young age of 36 because his body had begun breaking down after years playing on artificial turf in Montreal with the Expos. A notorious bad ball hitter, he was also a surprisingly nimble fielder with a powerful arm. This is his first year on the ballot and as of one of the most memorable and distinctive players in recent memories, he is a shoo-in for me.

Ivan Rodriguez, Catcher: The best catcher of the past generation, he combined jaw-dropping defensive skills with an often-forgotten potent bat that produced a .296 batting average, 2,844 base hits and 311 home runs over a 21-year career. His arm was a marvel, as he led the league in throwing out runners (percentage) nine times and caught 46 percent for his career. He was known for snap throws to the corner bases and catching runners napping with throws from his knees.

Curt Schilling, Pitcher: I am diametrically opposed to many things that Schilling says and stands for but this vote is based on what he did on a baseball diamond, not what he has done off it. A gritty right-handed starter, he won 216 games in his career and was a shutdown force in the postseason, producing an 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA in such contests. His “bloody sock” start in the 2004 ALCS for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees remains one of the most memorable moments in baseball history.

Jeff Kent, Second Baseman: A classic under-the-radar guy, he was a consistent producer during his 17-year career. Unfortunately, he spent his prime playing in the shadow of his larger-than-life teammate, Bonds. At the end of the day, the mustachioed right-hander hit a combined .290 with 377 home runs and 1,518 RBIs, which rank him in the upper echelon among his peers at his position. He was also a steady fielder who deserves more credit for what he did.

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