As you know, the BBWAA elected Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Tom Glavine to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame today. In accordance with the Unwritten Internet Rules, I'm supposed to weigh in on this with my own Fake Ballot.
As Rob Neyer pointed out earlier this week, the ballot has an enormous amount of talent on it. Absent the PED controversy, it would be hard enough to narrow this down to 10 candidates.
Try as I might, I have a hard time working up a sufficient outrage over the PED issue. Not that I think cheating is a good thing or that it should be condoned. The problem I run into when considering Hall of Fame issues is that cheating has never been a disqualification before; otherwise, admitted cheater Gaylord Perry and God knows how many greenie users from the 60s and 70s would never have been elected.
Does that mean PED usage should never be considered? Ultimately I have to agree with Rob Neyer: it does matter, but only as part of the whole package. As Rob says, "If you've got two candidates for the last slot on the ballot with similar résumés but you're 90-percent sure that one used drugs and the other didn't ... I don't know that you shouldn't let those opinions inform your decision. Along with all the rest of your opinions."
Perhaps this is the cynicism of middle age talking, but the Hall of Fame has never been about who is a good person or a bad person. From my current point of view, it is not about heroes or character or fairness either. I can't say that any of my heroes are sports figures at this point of my life. Seeing Kirby Puckett devolve from Greatest Guy Ever to woman-abusing creep destroyed any idealism I had in that regard.
Anyway, here is what my ballot would look like. My reasoning is similar to Rob's although the exact names differ.
Barry Bonds, OF: Greatest hitter I ever saw in person, before the steroids. I completely agree with Rob on this.
"Make him the fifth-greatest left fielder instead of the greatest. Still no way to keep him off the ballot."
Roger Clemens, RHP: Cut six years off his career as "steroid penalty" and he still qualifies.
Greg Maddux, RHP: Duh. Open/shut case.
Frank Thomas, 1B: Monster hitter and not tainted.
Tom Glavine, LHP: Like Maddux, seems open/shut case to me.
Mike Piazza, C: Clearly ranks as one of the greatest catchers who ever lived, top-notch offensive player and good-enough on defense.
Tim Raines, OF: What I'd call a second-tier Hall of Famer but still worthy of induction; certainly one of the top leadoff men who ever played. It wasn't his fault that Rickey Henderson was there at the time. I don't think this is just 80s nostalgia but I think he's waited long enough.
Alan Trammell, SS: Raines was overshadowed by Henderson and Trammell was overshadowed by Cal Ripken. The case for Trammell has been made for years and I agree with it.
Jeff Bagwell, 1B: Frank Thomas of the National League.
Mike Mussina, RHP: I wish I could vote for both Mussina and Curt Schilling. I'd vote for Schilling next year.
(I counted this wrong initially and listed 11 players instead of 10. So put Biggio on the list for next year).
Craig Biggio, 2B: Just missed on the real ballot and I can't imagine he doesn't get in next year.
To me, the great frustration with guys like Bonds and Clemens is that they didn't need PEDs to be Hall of Famers. They were immortals already.
For next year, I would definitely vote for Biggio, Schilling and Larry Walker to go with Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. I would strongly consider John Smoltz and Edgar Martinez. I also think Lee Smith deserves strong consideration.