Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Times baseball writer Marc Topkin reveals Hall of Fame ballot

No one said this was going to be easy. Voting for the Hall of Fame has been increasingly difficult and muddled the past few years with players from baseball's "Steroids Era" becoming eligible to join the ballot. And for those 600 or so of us with the honor and privilege — and yes, despite all the whining it very much is still so — this year was going to be worse.

It was obvious, with a class of polarizing additions led by Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, that lines were going to have to be drawn.

I just didn't expect mine to be so squiggly.

Some voters went absolutely hard core, refusing to vote for any player connected in any way — by admission, association, suggestion, even by speculation — to performance-enhancing drugs. (Or worse, in a petty protest, returned a blank ballot which penalizes all candidates since election is by percentage.)

In their view, whether citing principle, the vaguely worded but now in vogue "character" clause on the ballot, or their own morality, the Hall of Fame would not include the game's greatest home run hitter, one of its best-ever pitchers and at least a handful of other greats. Also, they ignore the reality that players already in the Hall used previous versions of PEDs, such as amphetamines.

On the opposite pillar are other voters, whom I find myself more aligned with, who — while admittedly conflicted, and with considerable consternation and distaste — have dropped their objections and thrown open the gates, voting simply for whom they consider the best and most deserving players.

In their view, there is no exception to be made for the methods, just the bottom line, regardless of whether there were obvious character or moral flaws, rules violations, or even, in the case of Rafael Palmeiro, a failed drug test. The Hall, they posit, is a museum to reflect the history of the game, not a cathedral to honor only those deemed worthy by arbitrarily holier-than-thou gatekeepers.

And from somewhere in the middle, I struggled and theorized and compromised and contradicted myself (and then did it all over again) and came up with the ballot you see below.

Did I feel it was right at the time I put it in the mail on Dec. 22? Not really. If anything, this is a process structured to leave you frustrated and with self-doubt. There are, at least under the current voting guidelines, no correct answers, no guiding lights. Do I feel any better looking at it now? Not really.

I do know that I don't feel right excluding a player based on innuendo, suspicion, or a tenuous moral scale. And that I don't feel qualified to determine what percentage of a player's performance could be attributed to possible drug use.

But yet, I drew those curvy lines.

To me, Bonds and Clemens were pretty quick yesses. They are two of the game's all-time best, and despite all the suspicion and seemingly obvious evidence, they were never proven to have done anything against the rules at the time. Similarly, I voted for Mike Piazza, though after considerable debate over the merits of his offense-heavy resume, and again for Jeff Bagwell and Mark McGwire.

But …

I couldn't bring myself to vote for Sammy Sosa, who was reported to have failed a 2003 test (that was supposed to be anonymous), whose career spike during his suspect seasons was excessive, who was caught using a corked bat against (of all teams) the Devil Rays. Nor, as the previous two years, for Palmeiro, who knew testing was in place, got caught anyway and then was defiant in his denial and testimony.

On to the ballot:

Jeff Bagwell

Complete player with 7 100-run/100-RBI seasons, MVP award (plus 5 other top-10 finishes), Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove.

Craig Biggio

May have best chance to be voted in this year; 3,060 hits, most doubles of any right-handed hitter, All-Star at C and 2B, 3 top-10 MVP finishes.

Barry Bonds

7 MVP awards, 8 Gold Gloves, 14 All-Star selections, .444 on-base pct., 762 home runs, 1,996 RBIs, 2,935 hits.

Roger Clemens

7 Cy Young Awards (plus 5 other top-6 finishes), 354 wins, 7 ERA titles, 2 triple crowns, MVP award (plus 5 other top-10 finishes).

Roberto Hernandez

Devil Rays' first closer deserves a nod if not a vote, ranked 11th all-time with 326 saves when he retired.

Edgar Martinez

A great hitter, but not a great overall player; 72 percent of his plate appearances as a DH.

Fred McGriff

493 homers the old-fashioned way should still count for something for the Tampa product.

Mark McGwire

Beyond the 70 homers in '98, hit 583 total (10th most), averaged all-time best 10.6 at-bats per homer, had 10 90-plus RBI seasons.

Jack Morris

A compelling case as a true ace, and his PR campaign has helped, but there's still that 3.90 ERA that would be Hall's highest.

Dale Murphy

Getting support in final year on ballot, but wasn't good enough long enough.

Mike Piazza

Being the best-hitting catcher of all time outweighs his defensive deficiencies.

Tim Raines

A very good player for a long time who had a few great years, just not a Hall of Famer.

Sammy Sosa

Those three 60-plus homer seasons sure stand out.

Curt Schilling

A great postseason pitcher, but has only 216 wins, no Cy Youngs and a career 3.46 ERA.

Lee Smith

Sure, he hung around, but those 478 saves (No. 1 when he retired, 3rd most now) can't be ignored.

Alan Trammell

Similar to Raines, a very good player worthy of consideration but not election.

Larry Walker

Probably deserves more credit, but it's hard to ignore Coors Field effect on stats.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing Cobb, weather permitting

For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing Cobb, weather permitting

The Rays are set to get their first look at an old friend tonight, as Alex Cobb will be on the mound for the Orioles, weather permitting.Heavy rain is forecast for the Baltimore area, though Orioles officials seem confident there will be a window for...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays up next: at Orioles, 7:10 Tuesday

Rays up next: at Orioles, 7:10 Tuesday

Tuesday:  at Orioles7:05, Camden Yards, BaltimoreTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish) Probable pitchersRays:  RH Jake Faria (1-1, 5.82)Orioles: RH Alex Cobb (0-2, 15.43)On Faria: Coming off quality start vs. Rangers, allowing ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays prospect Adames hits for cycle

Rays prospect Adames hits for cycle

Willy Adames, the Rays top position player prospect, touched all the bases in hitting for the cycle in Triple-A Durham's Monday's win over Buffalo.Adames doubled in the first inning, singled in the fifth, tripled in the sixth and completed the rare f...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Former Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar “progressing well’ after surgery

Former Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar “progressing well’ after surgery

As former teammates with the Rays and throughout baseball share thoughts and prayers, RHP Danny Farquhar is "progressing well" in a Chicago hospital after suffering a hemorrhage caused by a brain aneurysm on Friday.The White Sox on Monday released th...
Published: 04/23/18
Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

ST. PETERSBURG — Absolutely, Alex Cobb was saying over the phone, it's going to be weird pitching Tuesday against the Rays.The organization that he owes so much for rearing him since high school, standing by him through assorted injuries, enabl...
Published: 04/23/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays win on Carlos Gomez’s walkoff home run

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays win on Carlos Gomez’s walkoff home run

Carlos Gomez, who had been struggling, delivers a two-run, walkoff home run as the Rays sweep the Twins for the first time at Tropicana Field. Rick Stroud discusses the moment and the celebration that followed Gomez's first career walkoff hit in toda...
Published: 04/23/18
Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

ST. PETERSBURG — Good pitching and hitting go hand in glove, but the Rays did not look like a team that could swing the bats very well until this completed homestand.In their series sweep over the Twins, Tampa Bay scored 8, 10 and 8 runs. ...
Published: 04/22/18
Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Rays-Twins

Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Rays-Twins

–Yonny Chirinos may be the Rays fourth starter, but it seems to be in name only. He was lifted after pitching 4 2/3 innings against the Twin on Sunday, the shortest start of his career and his second-shortest appearance.  "Going into the g...
Published: 04/22/18
Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG — With every swing, there is a chance Carlos Gomez is going to do something extraordinary with the baseball bat.He may swing so violently that he spins himself into the ground as if he were an oil drill. Or, you could see him sna...
Published: 04/22/18
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos is no longer just part of a bullpen day, he's the No. 4 starter and who goes to the mound at 1:10 p.m. against Phil Hughes to try to help Tampa Bay attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Twins.Catcher Wilson Ramos g...
Published: 04/22/18