You want a preview of the 2013 Hall of Fame results? Usually, I would simply refer you to previous year's balloting. But this time around, I'm not sure that's really so useful. Not with a huge number of highly qualified candidates joining the ballot next winter.
Fortunately, MLB.com has polled their 16 Hall of Fame voters about the 2013 ballot, thus giving us, if not a perfectly representative sample, a pretty good cross-section of the voters' various thought processes. I've chosen to focus on Craig Biggio, because among the first-timers on next year's ballot, he seems to have the least complicated case.
Oddly, only eight voters explicitly state their intentions to vote for Biggio. Three voters -- Dick Kaegel, Marty Noble, and Lyle Spencer -- say they will consider (seriously, in two cases) Biggio. Two voters -- Terrence Moore and Carrie Muskat -- offer no hints at all. Which leaves three voters who flat-out will not vote for Biggio next year.
I will not vote for anyone linked to steroids. Never! That means Bonds, Clemens, Sosa fall into that category and will not get my vote. I do not feel Piazza, Schilling and Biggio are legitimate first-ballot candidates. So the only candidate at this point I'm certain I'll vote for will be Morris -- in his 14th try.
Man, I'll just say this now ... the Hall of Fame really should add something to the voting guidelines. These are the only two rules that guide the voters:
5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
6. Automatic Elections: No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted.
I propose another rule:
7. A voter shall not place any special weight on a player's tenure on the ballot; a player should be considered in his first year on the ballot exactly the same as any other year.
I won't pretend that Hal Bodley and his ilk would actually pay attention to a rule like that. But it's worth a shot. There might be two or three guys out there who give a damn about the rules.
Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Piazza, Smith.
One more time: Since nobody knows for sure who used PEDs and who didn't, it's all or nothing. Eliminate everybody who played in the steroids era or accept that the use of banned substances was rampant and judge accordingly. To vote for candidates just because their names didn't turn up in the Mitchell Report assumes an omniscience that simply doesn't exist.
I'm glad Hagen is willing to vote for Bonds and Bagwell (more on them in a few moments). But I'm troubled by his "all or nothing" approach. There's something to be said for consistency, I suppose. But isn't there something more to be said for careful reflection? Can one not even imagine a scenario in which one might care if a player cheated?
Perhaps not. It just makes me a little uneasy when someone just stops thinking. You know like this...
I'm not voting for anybody from the steroid era.
And boom goes the dynamite.
That's how I read that, anyway.
Some BBWAA members will simply not give a pitcher even a 10th-place vote on an MVP ballot. Which is in direct contravention of the rules, and those voters should be prohibited from voting.
My personal opinion is that a voter who simply disqualifies an entire generation of players from the Hall of Fame should, in turn, be disqualified as a voter. He may use his media platform to make his point, but he shouldn't be allowed to essentially make up his own rules.
Meanwhile, of course it's not looking good for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. While few voters take Gurnick's stance, it's obvious that most voters will not vote for players known to have used certain performance-enhancing drugs. Among our 16 MLB.com writers, only five plan to vote for Bonds and Clemens next season. But that doesn't include the voters who won't commit to anybody yet. My guess: Bonds and Clemens both garner somewhere between 40 and 50 percent next season. Which a) bodes well for their eventual enshrinement, and b) bodes ill for Jack Morris's chances.
Jay Jaffe now describes Morris as "a virtual lock"; he's real close now, and there's definitely a bandwagon effect as candidates who get close c) gain more attention, and d) elicit sympathy from voters who don't want to be the one to keep a guy out. Because, you know, who cares about the integrity of the institution or whatever.
Jay knows a lot more about the Hall of Fame than I do. But the glut of overqualified first-timers on the ballot next year will certainly cost Morris some votes. We just don't know how many. I am tentatively predicting that Jack Morris will not be elected next year, or in 2014 when four more brilliant candidates join the fray.
That might be wishful thinking, though.