The Sunday Read: Breaking down how I voted for the Hall of Fame
All eight players who were on my ballot a year ago are on it again, and I chose two others.
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The time has arrived once again for me to submit my Hall of Fame ballot, and, in the spirit of transparency, offer an explanation for why I voted the way I did.
This is my fifth ballot. A maximum of 10 players made my ballot this year after only eight last year. A player must be on 75% of all ballots to be enshrined.
Here’s the big one, the one that compels some people to hop on Twitter or respond in the comments section with their displeasure over my ballot: Some players linked to performance-enhancing drugs made the cut and some who are linked to PEDs did not.
And here’s the explanation: Baseball was complicit in the rise of performance-enhancing drugs by not pushing sooner, and the players union is complicit because it didn’t do anything to stop its members for using.
They finally did, after a public outcry that ultimately involved Congress and made not having drug testing too bad for business. So, in 2004, the sides came to an agreement on a joint drug policy that started to punish players who tested positive for PEDs.
And that’s one of my two lines: Anyone who failed a test after 2004 will not get my vote. They broke an explicit rule. Those who likely would have failed a test before 2004 get my vote because they weren’t doing anything that they weren’t allowed to do.
They didn’t break a rule.
The other line: There is no erasing history. The proliferation of PEDs is the mess baseball and the union allowed to happen, and this is the bed they have to sleep in.
I wish it was different. No one from the Hall of Fame has mandated that those suspected of or guilty of using PEDs are not eligible for enshrinement. There are players suspected of using PEDs already in the Hall of Fame, including Texas Rangers great Ivan Rodriguez.
He never flunked a test.
Now, here’s my ballot.
Holdovers: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner.
Newcomers: David Ortiz, Jimmy Rollins.
Bonds, Clemens, Ortiz and Sheffield have been linked to steroids, two of them in court. Sheffield admitted to using before the current drug policy was implemented.
Schilling doesn’t want writers voting for him, but I’m doing it anyway because he deserves it.
Jones was a terrific center fielder who helped my the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame pitchers better. He could hit, too. Kent is one of the best second basemen ever, and Rolen, Rollins and Wagner are among the best third basemen, shortstops and closers.
My last slot came down to Ortiz and Todd Helton. It was close because Ortiz failed a PED test — but not under the current policy — and was a full-time designated hitter. In an era when players are often valued only by their all-around ability, including defense and base running, Ortiz is a one-trick pony.
This one really toed my voting line. But he tested clean after MLB and the union got tough, and the DH is part of the game. There’s a chance it will be universal as soon as 2022. There needs to be a place for full-time DHs in the Hall.
Helton didn’t get my vote, even at the risk of my sister kicking me out of her house while I’m in Colorado this week, but will next year. The ballot is going to lose Schilling, Bonds and Clemens, who are all in their 10th and final years on the ballot, and Ortiz has a good chance at getting voted in.
The potential newcomers to the 2023 ballot is thin. There will be room for Helton, whose PED was the high altitude at Coors Field but he had an .855 OPS on the road.
So, those are my 10.
One last note: Make sure to follow Ryan Thibodaux on Twitter. He once again is providing a Hall of Fame tracker, which at last count showed Ortiz, Bonds and Clemens barely making the cut.