'Tis the season, so let's race through another Hall of Fame ballot before the votes are revealed later this month.
If there are small-Hall adherents and big-Hall adherents, put me in the medium-Hall middle. I believe Cooperstown should mainly be populated by the no-doubt superstars like Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera, to name three recent inductees.
But there's also room for quirkier, more personal choices. I happen to believe that Gary Sheffield is one of the five most fearsome hitters of my lifetime. Am I biased by the fact that he played in New York and I saw him regularly, vs. say, Todd Helton, whom I did not? Most definitely. But I'd put Sheffield's menacing bat waggle among the most iconic swings in the game, and it produced numbers that make him a top-30 slugger all-time. I can find room in my Hall of Fame for that.
I similarly give considerable weight to postseason credentials. Curt Schilling is the best big-game pitcher maybe ever, and his playoff numbers (11-2, 2.23) back it up. On the hitting side, the same goes for David Ortiz, whose postseason exploits are legendary. They're both easy yeses for me.
I'm also moved by players being the best at something important, which is why I may come around on Andruw Jones one of these years. There are compelling arguments naming him the best defensive center fielder since Willie Mays, and certainly the best of the modern era. He won 10 Gold Gloves and even if he was washed up by his 30th birthday, he still packed over 400 homers and some monster postseasons onto his resume.
Steroids complicate and ruin everything and my approach to them is admittedly inconsistent. I'm a yes on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens because they were simply transcendent. Did they have pharmacological help? Almost certainly. So did most of their opponents. Did anyone else win seven MVPs and seven Cy Youngs? Nope. They're monumental figures and they should be recognized.
I can't say the same, at least not yet, for Alex Rodriguez. The only player of this generation with anywhere close to the talent of Bonds, A-Rod disgraced himself off my ballot with the Biogenesis scandal that cost him the entire 2014 season. I'm willing to be lenient with players who committed transgressions during the pre-testing era, which we now know was the Wild West. If baseball didn't care about the worst-kept secret in the game, then why should I hold it against anyone 20 years later?
But you've got to draw a line somewhere, and for me it's at repeat offenders. A-Rod not only chose to use again, he denied it until the evidence became overwhelming. Commissioner Rob Manfred dropped the hammer and so for A-Rod's first year on the ballot, I'm a no.
Manny Ramirez falls into the same category, except at a clear level below Rodriguez. Some have argued that every Rodriguez voter should be a Ramirez voter, too, but I strongly disagree. A-Rod won two Gold Gloves at an impact defensive position, stole over 300 bases, and claimed three MVPs. Ramirez, for all his greatness, doesn't compare. It's reflected in their lifetime WAR totals -- 117.5 for A-Rod and 69.3 for Ramirez. The latter total is easily Hall-worthy for a player without baggage. Unfortunately, Ramirez twice ran afoul of the PED police late in his career when there were no longer any excuses. So he remains a no.
So that's my ballot: Bonds, Clemens, Ortiz, Schilling, Sheffield. Until next year, when first-time nominees will include Carlos Beltran and old friend Jacoby Ellsbury, have at it in the comments!
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