baseball hall of fame

The Hall of Fame

In two days we’ll find out who (if anyone) makes this year’s Hall of Fame. It’s obviously a strange time … maybe the strangest in the Hall’s history. But, since I’ve been asked repeatedly, here are my thoughts on the candidates, and how I’d vote. To me, there are two guys who should get in.

Let me make this clear: I don’t have a vote. Because of that, my words mean nothing. I am aware of this, and you should be, too. It’s not worth trying to sway me, because, well, I’m powerless.

Jack Morris: I go back and forth on Morris. He was really great for a bunch of years, had some brilliant playoff outings. But is he an all-time, all-time, all-time elite pitcher? Probably not. No.

Jeff Bagwell: Look, we’ve all gone back and forth on this one. I’ve spoken with two scouts and several retired players who laugh at the idea that he was clean. That said, the other day Morgan Ensberg, his former teammate, Tweeted that he believes in Bagwell. Would I vote for him? No. But does he have the numbers? Absolutely.

Lee Smith: He’ll never get in, and probably shouldn’t. But he is, unquestionably, one of the Top 10 closers of all time. Which, I suppose, doesn’t mean as much as it should. He also received a stat boost from lasting forever. No.

• Tim Raines: Yes, yes, yes—and it bothers me how people forget that this guy, at his best, was the NL’s Rickey Henderson. Raines was a better player than Lou Brock, who is a Hall of Famer. One day, the veteran’s committee gets this right. Yes.

Alan Trammell: No, but he sure was terrific.

• Edgar Martinez: Once spent some time with him for an SI piece. Warm man, very polite and friendly. Damned by the whole DH thing. Another member of the Hall of Very Good. No.

• Fred McGriff: I lean slightly yes, but still no. Right on the cusp of 500 homers, and I’ve never heard a single person suggest he was dirty. Was he a better player than Dale Murphy? Eh … not so sure.

• Larry Walker: Canadian Hall of Fame—Yes. Otherwise, no.

• Mark McGwire: I believe Tom Verducci when he says Mac is a good guy who’s filled with remorse. But, well, sorry. I can’t help but think back to when Mac broke Roger Maris’ single-season record, and he gave that whole “I touched his bat next to mine” press conference, tears streaming. And yet, he cheated. To break an all-time, all-time important record. No.

• Don Mattingly: If not for a bad back, he’d be right there with a powerful Tony Gwynn. Alas … no.

• Dale Murphy: Dude was really, really, really good. Converted catcher who became a to-shelf outfielder. Lots of pop. Did a million things. You know what—to me, Murphy was right there with Andre Dawson and Gary Carter in 80s players. Yes.

• Rafael Palmeiro: As odd as this sounds, not sure he’s a genuine HoFer even had he been clean. I know … I know—stats! Stats! But was he ever—ever!?—thought of as a top-10 player? No.

• Bernie Williams: A joy to watch, a joy to cover. But no.

• Sandy Alomar, Jr.: People forget how good he was. But no shot.

• Craig Biggio: I struggle with this one. I interviewed a scout who, like Bagwell, laughed at the suggestion Biggio was clean. But, well, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t clean, right? Right. Oy. Complicated times. No.

• Barry Bonds: Took the most important number in sports history (755), pumped up his hat size and destroyed it. No way in hell (and, for the record, Bonds was always a gentleman with me. This is not a personal grudge. It’s a baseball grudge).

• Jeff Cirillo: Little known fact—married into a mattress empire. No.

• Royce Clayton: Man, I loved Royce Clayton. Very smart, excellent quote, exceedingly nice. Replaced Ozzie Smith with class and humility. But he’s a poor man’s Garry Templeton. No.

• Roger Clemens: Ha, ha, ha, ha. No.

• Jeff Conine: Were there a South Florida Sports Hall of Fame, this one would be easy. But … no. (great situational hitter, though).

• Steve Finley: Friggin’ brilliant defensive center fielder with some big pop. Magical for the Padres in ’98. But simply goes down as a good player. No.

• Julio Franco: Somewhere, at age 765, Julio Franco still twirls the bat above his head. Very similar career to Rusty Staub. No.

• Shawn Green: Shawn is an all-time favorite. Like, an all-time, all-time favorite. A. Because he was cool; B. Because he was Jewish. But, sadly, no.

• Roberto Hernandez: There’s always the one guy who votes for a Roberto Hernandez. Just to be the one guy to vote for a Roberto Hernandez. No.

• Ryan Klesko: John Rocker’s pal. No.

• Kenny Lofton: It’s funny, seeing him laugh and tell stories in a recent interview. But he was an absolute dick to the press back in the day. No.

• Jose Mesa: Lovely man. No.

• Mike Piazza: Mets fans hate this. I get it, I get it, I get it. But there’s just no way in hell this guy was clean. No.

• Reggie Sanders: One of the most Zen-like guys I ever covered. Soft-spoken, fitness freak, journeyman for no good reason. No.

• Curt Schilling: Interesting debate—big game, do you start Morris or Schilling? I go with Schilling. However, not for the Hall. No.

• Aaron Sele: Great personality. No.

• Sammy Sosa: The. Biggest. Fraud. In. Baseball. Most teammates rightly loathed him—see Kerry Wood and the destruction of his radio. No.

• Mike Stanton: Uh … no.

• Todd Walker: Wow. Didn’t see his name coming. Did you? Once part of the Twins youth movement with Hunter, Chad Allen, etc. No.

• David Wells: Wells hated me, and I always thought it was a big, fat misunderstanding. No.

• Rondell White: Such a lovely guy. I mean, one of my true go-to quotes. No.

• Woody Williams: Famously traded for Joey Hamilton. Well, not famously. But traded. No.