Ebene Magazine – Kevin Gorman: My 1st Hall of Fame ballot is for the best available players

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Ebene Magazine - Kevin Gorman: My 1st Hall of Fame ballot is for the best available players

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Voting for the Hall of Fame for the first time was an exercise I found more challenging than expected, mainly because I didn’t expect a Hall of Fame vote until the end of November.

As a 10-year-old member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, I was eligible to vote for the first time this year. But I didn’t know I was eligible until I was asked if I would like to vote.

Before that year, when I hit my first hit as a Trib’s Pirates Beat Writer, I was a columnist on baseball. So I’m far from a seamhead. And it seems like this process turned my head.

There is a difference between an opinion in the Hall of Fame and a vote. For a long time I believed that the hall was only for the best of the best, but this attitude has softened with some newcomers. I also spoke out for Dave Parker who had a remarkable five year run as one of the greatest all-round players and the longevity that came with it.

And I was at odds over how to handle voting for players whose statistical cases were compounded by the likely use of performance-enhancing drugs. MLB has long turned a blind eye, but baseball writers are expected to protect the integrity of the game?

I don’t think the steroid cheats deserve automatic inclusion in the hall so I wouldn’t be voting for one in his freshman year. I’m also in favor of their badge containing their indiscretions, be it for performance-enhancing issues or for incidents outside the field. Put an asterisk next to their numbers if you want.

But I am voting for the players who I believe are the best on the ballot. And they gave me 10 votes so I used them all. I checked boxes for Barry Bonds, Mark Bührle, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, and Billy Wagner. Five pitchers and five position players.

Bonds was on the move for the Hall of Fame before hiring Greg Anderson as a coach in 1998 and getting embroiled in the BALCO scandal. Bonds was a three-time MVP in 1993, completing 374 home runs from 1986 to 1997. His numbers improving over the next 10 seasons – an average of 0.314 and 388 homers – resulted in Bonds overtaking Hank Aaron’s home run record. Not only did Bonds meet 762 Homer, he also drew 2,557 walks (688 on purpose), nearly 500 more than Babe Ruth.

Clemens is a seven-time Cy Young Award winner and has won two Triple Crowns, 354 games (one less than Greg Maddux) and recorded 4,672 strikeouts. He was a dominant power pitcher long before using steroids in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Schilling got 70% of the vote last year, just 20 votes before the election, and was another botch. He was 216-146 with an ERA of 3.46 and three seasons with 20 wins, but dominated the postseason (11-2, 2.23) and was a World Series MVP.

So I couldn’t ignore the careers of dominant players like Ramirez (555 Homer), Sheffield (509) and Sosa (609). Ramirez and Sheffield won the hit titles. Sosa has the weakest case of any player I voted for, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that he’s the only player to have three 60 homers seasons.

Where these three got into their bats, Rolen made his case with his glove. Only Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt won more gold gloves in third place than Rolen, who had eight in 17 seasons. He is one of seven third basemen with more than 300 homers (316) and an OPS plus of 120 or higher (122).

Not only does Billy Wagner finish sixth all-time in saves (422), his average of 187 against and 11.9 spikes per nine innings is the best ever, and his ERA of 2.31 is after Mariano Rivera ranks second among pitchers who have thrown 750 innings. Rivera, Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman opened the hall door for helpers like Wagner.

Pettitte and Bührle are interesting. Pettitte won 256 games, including two seasons with 20 wins, and played on five World Series teams, but was embroiled in the PED scandal. Bührle won 214 games, threw more than 200 innings for 14 seasons in a row (and had another with 198 2/3), led the White Sox to a World Series, threw a perfect game in 2007 and a no-hitter in ’09 and won four golds Gloves.

There is also the following: It is Bührle’s first year of eligibility, so he needs at least 5% of the votes to stay on the ballot. I think he’s Hall-worthy, so I checked the box for Bührle.

And I struggled to bypass Jeff Kent, who has the most homers from a second baseman (377); Todd Helton, a career hitter of .316 who won a hit title with a hit of .372 in 2000; and Andruw Jones, a 10-time gold glove winner in the middle, who hit 434 Homer but faded once he hit 30.

The only thing I trust is my eyes, and these players passed this test when it was time for me to vote. Maybe in the future I will be more critical with my ballot and only vote for selected players. Maybe I use all 10 voices every year. That’s the challenge.

Kevin Gorman is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or on Twitter.

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