I guess I've put my contractual obligation to pretend I have a Hall of Fame vote and tell you who would make up my ballot about as long as I can, huh? Honestly, I don't even have very much energy for arguing this topic anymore, so instead of deep examinations of each candidate, I'm just going to share some quick thoughts about the players who, in my opinion, are worthy of enshrinement. Besides, since none of these guys are going to make it anyway, we'll have at least another year to scream at each other about their merits.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: Given my none-too-secret feelings about juicers, I don't think these two really need any explanation. A couple of inner-circle greats who should probably be required selections for any voter who wants to retain the privilege, and yet neither of them are likely to reach 60%. A heck of a way to start this off!
Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza: Not on the same level as Bonds and Clemens, but the same basic problem. Both of these guys are no-doubt Hall of Fame players in terms of the calibers of their careers, but neither is going to be enshrined thanks to "suspicion" of steroid use. I've defended Bagwell at length, and the case for Piazza is basically the same: he's the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, an easy first ballot Hall of Famer based on his numbers, and the whisper campaign against him has no solid basis in evidence on the public record. Well, unless you count his alleged "bacne."
Craig Biggio: I've seen some "small Hall" arguments to the effect that Biggio didn't have a high enough peak to earn residence in Cooperstown, but that just goes to show how silly the exclusionary view of the Hall has become as far as I'm concerned. As far as historical precedent goes, that he has 3,000 career hits alone is enough to earn him a rubber stamp vote. Forget just being in the Hall, amongst players who have hit that milestone only Rafael Palmeiro has failed to get elected on the first ballot. But Biggio also hit 668 career doubles, was a seven time All-Star, and placed in the top five in MVP voting twice. He's not an inner-circle guy by any means, but a Hall of Fame not big enough to include Biggio would be an utter farce.
Tim Raines: Raines has sort of become the poster boy for the sort of player who was under-appreciated for much of his career, due to both the tyranny of counting stats and being overshadowed by a more prominent player who was very similar to him. Often called a poor man's Rickey Henderson, but that seriously sells Raines short. He didn't rack up big hit totals thanks to his proclivity for taking walks, and he didn't cross the 1,000 steals plateau, but his stolen base percentage and .385 career OBP are still outstanding, and it's long past time for Raines to be enshrined.
Edgar Martinez: The steroid hysteria is bad enough, but you could easily argue that the prejudice against the designated hitter that's holding Martinez back is even more offensive, and shows how too many Hall voters arbitrarily change their supposed standards to fit their desired outcomes. Until Edgar hit the ballot, it was routinely stated that a DH could be voted in, but he'd have to be a particularly superb hitter to make up for the lack of defensive value. Well Martinez is arguably the greatest DH baseball has seen, and hit an outstanding .312/.418/.515 with a 148 wRC+ for his career. That wRC+ ranks 24th all-time among players with at least 6,500 career plate appearances, and 18th amongst players with at least 8,500 career plate appearances, just ahead of Honus Wagner, Mike Schmidt, and Willie McCovey. Put simply: there's no basis for keeping Martinez out of the Hall of Fame unless you think spending a lot of time as a designated hitter simply makes a player ineligible for enshrinement.
Alan Trammel: I increasingly find myself wondering how differently people would view Trammel if he played in today's media environment, and not the leaner 1980's. A great player who was basically overshadowed by Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith, my sense is that he didn't get the national attention he would have if the internet and ESPN had been around to give him more air time, and that's hurt his candidacy with a lot of the voters. I also find it curious that the Jack Morris brigade hasn't been more supportive of Trammel, but I guess that's between them and The Great Mustache.
Larry Walker and Kenny Lofton: This is where things get ridiculous, and the Hall of Fame should really begin to pay attention to what exactly is going on in the voting process these days. I definitely think they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but if I ranked the ballot from top to bottom, they'd both probably fall out of the top ten. So why would they be on my ballot? Tactical voting. Thanks to the clutter, I wouldn't be able to vote for everyone I feel deserves to be in thanks to the ten vote limit, and Walker and Lofton present the most overlap between being deserving and being likely to fail to get enough votes to earn a return appearance on the ballot. So they get my vote, and other historical luminaries get left off, for purely political reasons. This is what the Hall has brought itself to.
A quick word on the other worthies who wouldn't appear on my ballot:
Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro: Obviously these are three cases heavily impacted by the steroid issue, but equally obviously, that has no bearing on my opinion. I wrote about Sosa's case the other day, and honestly if I ranked everyone top to bottom, only McGwire would likely fall in the top ten for me. That said, I'm pretty sure McGwire and $Sosa will get at least 5% of the vote, and I like Palmeiro's odds more than those of Walker and Lofton, so here we are.
Curt Schilling: Another candidate who's easily in the top ten for me, but I'm extremely confident that he'll both clear the 5% mark and get voted in some day, so he's actually the first guy who gets cast aside based on tactical considerations. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who turns in a ballot that includes a vote for Morris but not for Schilling should have their voting rights rescinded immediately, and I'm not even remotely kidding about that.