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Here is the only correct Hall of Fame ballot

Stop arguing about the Hall of Fame. I've figured out the only correct ballot.

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It's probably a good thing that I don't have a Hall of Fame ballot.

But let's pretend that I did. There are 19 players on that list who I would at least consider. Here's one possible ballot:

  1. Trevor Hoffman
  2. Larry Walker
  3. Billy Wagner
  4. Sammy Sosa
  5. Gary Sheffield
  6. Curt Schilling
  7. Jeff Kent
  8. Fred McGriff
  9. Mark McGwire

It wouldn't be the worst ballot submitted. It would have some of my personal favorite candidates, like Jeff Kent and Curt Schilling. It would throw a vote to underrepresented, qualified candidates like Larry Walker and Fred McGriff. No, it would be a fine enough ballot. Except these are the nine players that I had to leave off my fake ballot. That's two 500-homer players, a 600-homer player, and over 1,000 combined saves. Sorry. No room.

What a silly system. I get that not everyone is a Big Hall proponent, but if 75 percent of the voters believe that a player is a Hall of Famer, why should a 10-player maximum keep that player out? It's presenting a hurdle for candidates that previous Hall of Famers didn't have to leap over. If Jim Rice and Andre Dawson were on the current ballot, they wouldn't get in, even though absolutely nothing would have changed about the baseball careers of Jim Rice and Andre Dawson.

Here are the 10 players I would have voted for if I had a ballot. This list includes a player who I'm not sure should be in the Hall of Fame. I'll explain at the end.

1. Ken Griffey Jr.

Like I'm going to be one of the dinks keeping him from being a unanimous inductee. Here's a question that I'll probably tackle after he's elected: At what point in his career did Griffey become a no-doubt Hall of Famer? There's no right answer, but I'll say that he would have been inducted even if he retired after 1997. He had 294 career home runs by then, a career 150 OPS+, 59 career WAR, eight All-Star appearances, eight Gold Gloves, and an MVP.

He was 27.

2. Barry Bonds
3. Roger Clemens

Two of the absolute best players in baseball history. Clemens and Bonds both would have picked up my vote if they retired after 1996, which means there is an open question about how much performance-enhancing drugs helped their Hall candidacy. Did they start before '96? After? The PEDs might have helped them get into the Secret Hall of Fame that's inside the Actual Hall of Fame, the inner circle of inner circles, except that isn't anything we should care about.

Reminder that people who vote for Bonds and not Clemens are only slightly weird, but people who vote for Clemens and not Bonds are completely bonkers. It's hard to find careers that are more perfectly parallel than these two, right down to the court cases. I can't imagine picking one but not the other.

4. Jeff Bagwell

Even though I wrote the definitive guide on why Bagwell shouldn't get in, I've come around. He has the stats, and that's even if you don't adjust for the Astrodome. Which you should. Beyond the stats, he was my personal Jim Rice, the player who scared me more than any other when he faced my team. He was a combination of intelligence and violence at the plate, and he was one of the best first basemen to ever play.

5. Mike Piazza

If he were a touch more slender, like Ken Griffey Jr., he would be in already. If his frame was a little more organically Kyle Blanks-ish, like Frank Thomas, he would be in already. Instead, he was large and strong in an aesthetically uncertain way, so a lot of the voters just can't bring themselves to vote for him.

Please reread that last paragraph, but this time while thinking, "This is the stupidest paragraph I have ever read." It helps. I have never understood the distinction between "This guy is clearly dirty" and "Well, you can just tell this guy was natural." When a player with 15 career homers in 1,387 plate appearances got busted for steroids, we should have all taken a step back and realized that the eye test is fatally flawed.

Hard evidence, or leave it outside, please. Heck, I'll settle for soft evidence. Any evidence at all, as long as it's more damning than acne.

6. Tim Raines
7. Alan Trammell

Both are struggling, though at least Raines still has a chance to get in. Trammell will fall off the ballot this year, which is an absolute shame. The only thing worse than that is remembering that Lou Whitaker fell off his first ballot. Both of them deserved to be inducted into the same class, possibly while wearing Jonathan Broxton's pants.

The reason that Raines and Trammell are lumped together is that they're both out for the same reason: They played at the same time as similar-but-legendary players who did everything better. Raines had Rickey Henderson, and Trammell had Cal Ripken.

... (Barry) Larkin was never overshadowed by anyone other than an aging Ozzie Smith. In the arena of visibility, Trammell was contending with two first-ballot Hall of Famers and a double-play partner who was a perennial All-Star.

If Alan Trammell played from 1966 to 1980, he would have been elected on the first ballot. But he had to compete with Robin Yount and Ripken, so he was easily overlooked. Hopefully whatever they're calling the Veteran's Committee in two decades will make amends.

8. Mike Mussina

I get the argument that he wasn't ever the best pitcher in the league while he was active, which is why I will never ever vote for him for the Hall of Best Pitchers In the League While They Were Active. When it comes to a selection of the greatest baseball players ever, though, Mussina fits right in. He picked up Cy Young votes in nine different seasons -- impressive, especially when you consider that only three pitchers can be on a Cy Young ballot. That speaks to his consistency and longevity.

The worst part of Mussina's likely doomed candidacy? It's hurt by the high-offense era he played in. His career ERA of 3.57 isn't much better than, say, Yovani Gallardo's, who is no one's idea of a Hall of Famer. But 3.57 back in the '90s meant a lot more than it does today. In 2000, when Mussina led the AL in innings pitched, there were only five qualified AL pitchers with an ERA under 4.00. The only one with an ERA under 3.00 was Pedro Martinez.

One reason the offense might have been out of control is probably because of the steroids and PEDs.

Right, which is why we can't vote for any hitters who might have looked strong back then.

But shouldn't you give extra credit to the pitchers of that era, then?

Are you crazy, look at that ERA!

But that ERA might be so high because of all the PEDs.

Right, which is why we can't vote for any hitters who might have looked strong back then.

Just ... look, just forget I brought it up.

9. Edgar Martinez

This argument from 2011 still stands:

There is a position called the designated hitter. It's in the rules and everything. Therefore, those baseball players should be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame. You don't get to remove the gannet from Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds because they wet their nests, and you don't get to eliminate DHs entirely from the Hall of Fame.

If Martinez played a miserable first base for his entire career, he would be in the Hall of Fame already. That makes no sense. It's not like the Dodgers would have sat him on the bench for 18 years because he made too many errors. He happened to sign with the Mariners back in 1982, and they had a spot for him for his entire career. That wasn't his fault, and it shouldn't hurt his candidacy.

This argument also applies to closers, but I get to weasel out of deciding on Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner this year because of the 10-player limit.

10. Jim Edmonds

I'm not sure if Edmonds is a Hall of Famer, but I would vote for him anyway. Only under the current Lewis Carroll-inspired rules does that make sense.

Edmonds is likely to fall off the first ballot, putting him in that inner-circle, Lou Whitaker class of snubs. That means we don't get to consider him for the next nine years, even if we're on the fence. I want to go back and forth with him, like I've done with Fred McGriff and Larry Walker over the years.

Edmonds was a Gold Glove centerfielder with a career .284/.376/.527 line and 132 OPS+. That should be enough to make him a Hall of Famer, but he usually missed 20 or 30 games every year, and while his outfield defense was excellent when he was in his 20s, it was still overrated. I don't know. Catch me on a different day, and I'll argue vehemently on his behalf, the same way I flip-flop with Walker.

Except we won't get that chance. He's gone, most likely. And even though I think Curt Schilling and Mark McGwire are more essential to the story of baseball, that's why Edmonds gets my last spot. It's half protest vote, half pragmatism. Trevor Hoffman wouldn't need my help, but Edmonds probably would.

I still care about this silly Museum of Arbitrary Heroes and Invented Requirements. So help me, I still care. Even though I would rather visit a hypothetical Hall of Barry Bonds out of spite, I'm still wholly invested in this messy National Baseball Hall of Fame business. And my fake ballot would look like this:

  1. Ken Griffey Jr.
  2. Barry Bonds
  3. Roger Clemens
  4. Jeff Bagwell
  5. Mike Piazza
  6. Tim Raines
  7. Alan Trammell
  8. Mike Mussina
  9. Edgar Martinez
  10. Jim Edmonds
It's the only correct possible ballot. Please don't leave suggestions in the comments. I have it figured out already.

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