Not being a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, I don't get to vote for the Hall of Fame. And really, that's fine. I like what I do. The lack of membership and a vote doesn't mean I lack an opinion on who should be enshrined in Cooperstown, though. Now, I'm not going to get into a whole spiel about why I'm totally correct and everyone who doesn't agree with me is wrong because my opinions are actually facts. That's just exhausting, for myself and for you. I will, however, go through an imaginary ballot with you, picking out the 10 players I would vote for, were I in possession of a vote.
The actual Hall of Fame results will be announced at 2 pm eastern today on MLB Network, but until that time, we can all picture what we would do were we in the shoes of someone with a voice on the matter. This isn't by rank or preference, or anything like that. I'm just working off a list and adding when I see someone I'd vote for, one through 10.
1. Jeff Bagwell: While his career was cut short by injury, with Bagwell retiring after his age-37 season, in which he played just 39 games, the sum is still a sight to behold. Bagwell finished his 15-year career roughly 50 percent better than an average player, and, in his worst full-season campaign, still hit .266/.377/.465 with 27 homers and 96 walks. He averaged 119 walks per year over a seven-season stretch, went deep 449 times despite playing the first half of his career in Texas' version of the Grand Canyon, and, in the ultimate display of Bagwelldom, hit .368/.451/.750 with 39 homers in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. This doesn't even bring up that he was an excellent defensive first baseman, and a surprising effective base stealer for much of his career, too.
2. Tim Raines: He might not have hit the shiny round numbers, collecting "just" 2,605 hits in his career while going deep just 170 times, but Raines stole 808 bases with an 85 percent success rate over 23 years, finished his career with a .385 on-base percentage, and walked 1,330 times. Raines is arguably the second-greatest lead off hitter of all-time, and has both the peak and longevity to make him an easy Hall selection.
3. Edgar Martinez: DH or no, Martinez could hit, and if someone had just let him take the field out of his game sooner, he might have finished up with even better numbers. Not that he actually needs them: Martinez is the owner of that most aesthetically pleasing career line, the .300/.400/.500, coming in at .312/.418/.515. He went deep 309 times, was on base over 3,500 times between his hits and walks, but never got the recognition he deserved for his abilities even when he did play. It's easy to see him getting lost in the shuffle now, but he deserves this imaginary vote.
4. Mark McGwire: McGwire is something of a paradox, given so many out there cry for transparency and honesty from their steroid-era players, and McGwire, who admitted to what was in his locker at the time it was discovered -- a legal supplement, mind you -- has been cast out and is unlikely to ever be enshrined. It's cool, Mark, I remember when Major League Baseball let you save it with home runs, and I'll remember when they also helped to ruin your legacy once you were no longer needed, too.
5. Barry Bonds: Bonds is the greatest baseball player that ever lived, regardless of what he ingested or applied or injected. That and listing him here is all that needs to be said on the matter.
6. Roger Clemens: Clemens is probably a jerk, based on the interactions he's had with, like, everyone. But he wouldn't be the first jerk in the Hall, and there isn't one in there who can pitch like he could, either. His Red Sox career alone is Cooperstown-worthy.
7. Mike Piazza: Piazza might not have had Carlton Fisk's glove, but he had his bat, and 16 years of that see you immortalized in bronze.
8. Curt Schilling: Schilling's regular season career, on its own, merits the attention of the Hall of Fame. What's strange is that he's the kind of pitcher that those who worship Jack Morris should be paying attention to, since he actually has the numbers to back up The Legend. Schilling's 133 playoff innings, attached to a 2.23 ERA, 4.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 11-2 record, are an excellent season unto themselves, appended to a career that doesn't even need the boost. It gets it, though, and the fact he has this extra credit will only make the delay for his inclusion that much more puzzling.
9: Craig Biggio: The tail-end of his career had its problems, as he and the Astros held on a little too long, but even with that, his career is astounding. He drew well over 1,000 walks and collected over 3,000 hits, making him one of just 39 players all-time to reach base over 4,000 times. (In fact, Biggio ranks 28th, just nine times on base behind Lou Gehrig.) On top of that, he was also a great defensive second baseman for a long time, after a run as a catcher, and while the end of his career as a center fielder was unfortunate, the total package is still more than Hall-worthy.
10: Larry Walker: Yes, Coors Field helped out. Yes, he's at least, in part, a product of his era in that numbers were crazy for lots of hitters. Even adjusting for that sort of thing, though -- as statistics like OPS+ do, thanks to park effects and measuring players against their competition -- we can see that Walker was a monster, as he finished with a 141 mark. Sure, he hit like crazy with the Rockies, but unlike the Dante Bichettes and Vinny Castillas of the world, Walker hit everywhere. He hit with the Expos, he hit with the Cardinals, and his career road line was .278/.370/.495. In a lot of ways, he was best-case-scenario J.D. Drew, but with a cannon for an arm. And, since it's "best-case-scenario" Drew, 17 years and nearly 2,000 games played, almost all of them great.
I've left off a couple of worthy players, but that's what happens when there is this much talent and only so much space. Alan Trammell is Cooperstown-worthy, for instance. Kenny Lofton likely is as well, though, it's not as much of a slam dunk for me as Trammell or the 10 above. Sammy Sosa isn't, but if there were space on the ballot, he'd get a vote simply for being as close as he is. (A continual vote? Probably not, lest he accidentally get in sometime.) Rafael Palmeiro is somewhere in between, where the total sum of his career is impressive enough, but in a year as stacked as this one, it's hard to justify voting for him.
In a year where there were absolutely not 10 candidates deserving of a vote, fun players like Ryan Klesko and David Wells would get the acknowledgment of Thanks For Being You Vote. As there isn't even enough room for the legitimate candidates, though, they'll have to settle for just imaginary imaginary votes.