Every year when the Hall of Fame discussion comes up, me and my wife (both die-hard Sox fans) have the same debate about whether the Hall should enshrine those players who have question marks attached to their careers. I feel like we are on the same page, but yet we can still debate for hours about this topic, year after year. With our beloved Big Papi coming on to the ballot this season, the discussion was as raucous as ever before.
Ultimately, for me, the Hall of Fame should represent one thing: the retelling of baseball through time. On a player level, it comes down to one simple question: can you tell the story of baseball without this player? Of course there are gray areas here, as there will be with any process, but the essence of what makes a player great is whether or not their impact on the sport (and it's fans) is big enough, important enough, to remember.
Before 'revealing' my ballot--a few key points. 1) I do not believe that confirmed steroid usage is enough to keep a player out of the Hall. I know this is a controversial one, and I see both sides of the argument, but steroids are a major part of the story of baseball, and keeping players out who bent the rules (and some who broke them--sure) doesn't do the sport justice. If you want to put them in their own wing, go for it. Put an asterisk on their plaque? Go for it. But its a part of the story. 2) Time on the ballot is irrelevant. I could spent 10,000 words describing my hatred for the baseball Hall of Fame process, but in lieu of going on for hours: the process sucks. If a player deserves the call to the hall, they should get it as soon as they are eligible. Just put the players in that deserve it. I'll stop here. I just cannot stand it. 3) I believe players can be elected for any number of reasons including but not limited to: successful long career, elite post season success, moderate success accompanied by great humanitarianism. I don't know how much this will apply but let me get into the players I would have on my ballot. They are listed in no particular order (except #1).
1. David Ortiz
This is a Red Sox community, so I don't need to explain this one in great detail. Has there ever been a more clutch player in sports history? Maybe some are equal, but none better.
2. Barry Bonds
He should have been in a long, long time ago, and its just total bogus that we are where we are now. He's one of the greatest home run hitters to ever live. I already discussed my stance on steroids, and if you agree with me, his enshrinement is long overdue.
3. Roger Clemens
See: Barry Bonds. One of the best pitchers to ever take the mound. Put him in.
4. Alex Rodriguez
I might get some flack for this one, and his year-long suspension for steroid usage certainly taints his argument. He's also one of the biggest...jerks...in baseball history. But Alex Rodriguez belongs in hall on his playing merit but he also redefined what MLB contracts could look like--his lasting legacy will almost certainly be more about HUGE contracts than it will be about his playing career (or his broadcast career).
5. Todd Helton
Are there any Rockies in the Hall of Fame? I feel like I typed that as a joke but I also feel like I should go check...oh yeah Larry Walker went in last year! Well, I'd say Helton's career numbers are borderline for what I'd expect but his fielding percentage at first base alone (8th all time) is impressive for a guy who also produced offensively. He also won the Rockies humanitarian award twice...which I'll use as a tie-breaker. Put him in, give the Rockies their two guys, and...well...good luck Colorado.
6. Sammy Sosa
My favorite Sosa fact is that he hit 60 or more home runs three times in a season but didn't lead the league in any of those seasons. One of the greatest hitters of his generation, and the race between him and McGwire falls squarely into the story of baseball. Steroids be damned, put him in. There was also that weird corked bat thing...yeah we need him for the story. Way too many interesting things happened involving him.
7. Curt Schilling
This one absolutely makes my skin crawl. one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, one of the most clutch postseason performers in MLB history, long successful career, etc. etc. Arguably not in the Hall because he ruffled some feathers. Lame. Put him in.
8. Billy Wagner
The debate about closers is another thing I don't understand. The guy has more than 400 career saves (and one win in a Red Sox uniform!) and was one of the best at his position. The only potential knock here is he had a 'relatively' short career but he made good on it by, you know, dominating.
9. Scott Rolen
Longevity and consistency. Rolen is a great example of a player who's peaks were great, but his valleys were also pretty damn good. He only hit below .250 twice in his career...in his last two seasons. The lowest of which is .242. Batting average isn't everything but it's one example of his consistency, which I feel is good enough for enshrinement.
10. Andruw Jones
He's in for what are basically the same reasons as Scott Rolen. Excellent consistency over a 17 year career and enough accolades to decorate multiple shelves.
11. Jeff Kent
I know you can only vote for 10 players but I'm ignoring that stupid rule and voting for 11. Kent was one of the best hitters in the league over his 17 year career and won an MVP award, plus received MVP votes 7 times over a 9 year span. His career numbers speak for themselves.
Honorable Mention: Gary Sheffield/Manny Ramirez/Jonathan Papelbon/Joe Nathan
I struggled with these players. There is an argument to be made for each of them, and honestly if you pressed me hard enough, all 4 really should probably be in. All have great career stats, it's just a matter of where you want to draw the line for excellence. Two of the three are closers, which should not be held against them. I'd be interested to hear if anyone feels strongly that one of these players deserves in or out.