It’s Time To Expand HOF Ballots

The BBWAA released the 2013 Hall of Fame ballots yesterday, and in a related story, writers from around the country made it clear that they weren’t going to vote for players that have been implicated in PED usage. Some even find it an annual tradition to be celebrated.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of PEDs and the Hall of Fame — and hopefully we can all agree that reasonable people can disagree on this — it should be pretty obvious that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are not getting inducted into Cooperstown this year. Jeff Bagwell probably won’t either. The contingent of voters who want to keep these guys out is large enough to block them from getting 75% of the vote this year, and probably for the foreseeable future.

However, the contingent who wants them to be voted in based on their on field accomplishments is large enough to keep them on the ballot. Even inferior performers with ties to PEDs — such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro — have a large enough base of support that they remain on the ballot. And so, as the Hall of Fame ballots go forward, they’re going to run into a significant overcrowding problem. They might be there already.

The official ballot mailed to voters lists spaces for 10 names. That is the maximum amount of numbers that any voter can support, regardless of how many players he thinks should be enshrined. And, it’s quite clear that for many voters, 10 spots are not enough.

For those who are in favor of voting for PED users, they’re going to want to cast ballots for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, and Jeff Bagwell, who are all obvious selections purely from a performance standpoint. That leaves only six spots left on the ballot for the non-PED newcomers and the holdovers from previous years. That means a voter could not support the PED group and also vote for all of Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines, and Kenny Lofton. They’re not allowed. They have to exclude someone from that group simply because of the size of the ballot. And if they support the candidacy of a guy like Jack Morris, they kicking two of that group off the ballot. If they support McGwire and Palmeiro, then they’re kicking out most of that group, even if they believe most of them belong.

Next year, this gets even worse. Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, and Tom Glavine all come up for induction for the first time. Any voter who rightfully acknowledges that they’re all deserving candidates is going to be left with six spots to fill, and nearly all of this year’s candidates will be on the ballot again next year. We’re heading towards a point where there are going to be 20 or more viable candidates on the ballot each year, and the BBWAA is simply not inducting candidates at a fast enough rate to stem the tide.

Alan Trammell and Kenny Lofton are classic bubble candidates. You can make an argument for them or against them and be on solid ground. But you can’t make a good argument that they should be less likely to make the Hall of Fame because they happen to be on the ballot at the same time the PED crowd has come up for induction. You can’t make a good argument that a player’s HOF worthiness should be decided because of the size of the piece of paper that is mailed to the voters. Lofton, Trammell, Raines, Martinez, Walker… these guys should be evaluated based on their own merits, their own accomplishments, and their own careers. And they shouldn’t be penalized because the ballot doesn’t contain enough empty spaces for voters to have their actual opinions registered.

Full ballots are going to be turned in this year, and those full ballots will be counted as no votes against every player who doesn’t appear in one of the 10 spots. Joe Posnanski is going to be forced to vote no on four players he wants to see in Cooperstown. He’s not the only one.

This is beyond silly. Give writers the ability to return a ballot with 15, 20, 25, even 50 names if they want. If they support a big Hall of Fame, that’s their right, and if they support PED candidates, that’s their right too. We shouldn’t take that right away from them simply because the PED issue is creating a logjam of viable candidates. We shouldn’t penalize players who have nothing to do with PEDs because they happen to be on the ballot at the same time as Bonds and Clemens.

Just make the ballot bigger. It’s an easy fix to a real problem.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


144 Responses to “It’s Time To Expand HOF Ballots”

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  1. Oliver says:

    I dunno if I’d call Palmeiro that inferior; he is in the 500-3000 club…

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  2. s_t_w says:

    If the “New Normal” for HOF voting is to be that the only thing that matters is on field performance, start by electing Pete Rose and go from there.

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    • Bob R. says:

      When will people recognize that the Pete Rose issue is entirely separate from this kind of discussion. There are 2 different factors involved in the question of Rose’s induction.

      1. The HOF has decided that anyone permanently banned from baseball may not be inducted. Do you agree with that decision? If not, then the first thing you have to do is get the HOF to change that ruling-and of course to open the door to Joe Jackson among other possibles. The point is, it is not the voters decision to exclude him; it is the decision of the Hall. Of course if you agree with that decision, then you cannot at the same time want Rose inducted.

      2. Because he violated a known rule, Pete Rose has been banned from baseball for life. Do you agree that players caught gambling on games should suffer that punishment? If you don’t, then you have to get baseball to change that rule (not to exempt Rose from it, of course). If it does, the voters for the HOF will be permitted to include his name-whatever version of the veteran’s committee that exists will anyway. But if you agree with that rule, then you cannot support his induction unless you want the Hall to change its rule.

      Please note that none of the players currently under discussion have been permanently banned from baseball, so there is no question about them not appearing on the eligible list. Now you may want such a rule created for baseball, but none of these players have been subject to such a rule. And there are rules now in force to suspend players, but the Hall does not preclude such players for consideration unless it is a permanent ban-and in any case, none of these players suffered such a penalty anyway.

      So whatever you think about the legitimacy of Bonds, Clemens et al candidacy, it is entirely irrelevant to the case of Pete Rose.

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      • Rick says:

        Agreed, definitely irrelevant. People either forget or are unaware at how the Black Sox scandal almost destroyed baseball. It took Babe Ruth to save it. Being that gambling has such an effect on the integrity of the sport, Pete Rose should NEVER get in. Regardless, it was gambling and it was well known to not be allowed.

        However, PEDs were legal and I don’t recall ANY of those names serving a suspension. If these writers want to be pissed at someone, direct it at Donald Fehr where the venom belongs. Bonds et al deserve to be in.

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      • ausmax says:

        regardless of the difference between gambling and PED use, Bonds deserves to go in before Rose…if we’re not counting PED use against him, Bonds is arguably the greatest player in the history of the game, and in-arguably one of the two greatest players in the history of the game. Rose is awesome and deserves to get in if we’re soley considering performance, but not as much as Bonds does.

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  3. chuckb says:

    Posnanski or someone else with a similar opinion should just write in his own spaces beneath #10 (or on the back) for numbers 11-14.

    It’s gotten beyond absurd, not just the outcry against those even SUSPECTED BUT NEVER SUBSTANTIATED PED users (Piazza, Bagwell, for example), but also that some will only vote for 1 player for the Hall regardless of other players’ accomplishments. It’s really difficult to make an argument that only 1 player from that list belongs in the Hall but that’s still how some will vote, just b/c they don’t believe in letting people in the first year or b/c they think only 1 person should be inducted, period.

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    • Cuban X Senators says:

      Pos could do that at the peril of his vote being invalidated. But the best strategy for someone trying to see 14 players get in is probably to vote for those you support who have a real chance to get in this year (thus clearing them from the ballot), then voting for those who might fall below 5% (trying to keep them on the ballot)& leave off your mid-range guys.

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  4. jsolid says:

    what a great point. thanks to PED purgatory, we are about to see a logjam the likes of which we have never seen before, and may never see again.

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    • And the logjam is only going to get worse and worse.

      2014 1st time eligibles: Maddux, Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mussina

      2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro, Smoltz, Sheffield

      If the HOF keeps up with their 1-2 guys gaining entrance per year rate, we might have over 20 solid choices on the 2015 ballot.

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      • B N says:

        Well, it only gets that much worse if guys aren’t inducted. Lets have N_t be the number of guys eligible for the ballot at year t. So then:

        N_(t+1) = N_t + 25 New Guys – Guys inducted – Guys with less than 5% – Guys who are in their 15th year of voting

        Dale Murphy is in or out this year, so that’s one down. I’d say that Maddux, Glavine, Johnson, and Pedro will all be first-ballot guys. Smoltz is a possible first ballot, likely second ballot, and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t in within 3 cycles. So we’re really talking about adding two guys in 2 years.

        And adding a couple of guys is not going to axe legitimate candidates. I’d say Bernie Williams, Don Mattingly, and Larry Walker will take the hit. I like all those guys, but I can’t say the Hall of Fame would be incomplete without them. I also don’t see how they would have ever been elected anyway. Same with Schilling and Moose, honestly. They were never going to hit 75%, so they’re just hitting 5% faster.

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      • stan says:

        Sheffield is clearly in that steroid category though, and it doesn’t help that he was a first class jerk. He’s going to have to wait a looong time if he gets in at all. We can put him in the Dick Allen/ Albert Belle wing, potentially with Clemens and Sosa.

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      • Jim says:

        Frank Thomas seems to me like he should be a dead lock for a first ballot induction. Aside from his hitting prowess, he was always the single most vociferously anti-steroid voice among players throughout the steroid era. If you’re in favor of keeping Bonds, Clemens, Sheffield, Sosa, et al. out of the Hall (and I personally am in favor of keeping them out), then Frank Thomas should easily slide in as a counter to that.

        Wholly aside from the fact that he’s one of the five or so best right handed hitters of all time (I’d put him behind only Hornsby, Pujols, and Foxx, possibly Aaron).

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      • Wil says:

        It’d be a shame if Frank Thomas doesn’t get in on a first ballot. Guy was just exactly what you want from a baseball player. Produced, was a great guy and cared.

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      • B N says:

        I liked Thomas a lot too, but I don’t know if I see him going in on the first ballot. Basically, he’s got three knocks against him:
        1.He’s a great candidate, but not a runaway candidate (e.g. Rickey Henderson).
        2. He played a lot of DH, which they will ding him for.
        3. Being a huge, hulking slugger is going to hurt him due to PED issues, regardless of if he used. After all, the writers can always point to Clemens and say “Well, he swore he didn’t use either.”

        I still see him getting in on the 2nd or 3rd shot, but I think those issues will slow him down a step.

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      • B N says:

        Also, I don’t see Sheffield making it in. He was already a guy who might be in or out. The PED issue is going to make the answer “out.” I think he’ll be one of those guys who was always fun to watch but who never makes the cut.

        With that said, I can always think back to how he waggled the bat around in his stance like a rattlesnake as he waited for a pitch. I’m shocked he never accidentally hit someone, given how vehemently he shook the bat as he waited. I also remember during his walk year when he started the season as the hottest hitter on the Mets and the most “adventurous” fielder. Needless to say, that was not a great season for the Mets, but he was fun to watch at least.

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      • Jim says:

        @B N: It’s not just that Thomas swore he didn’t use. Thomas was something of a crusader against steroids, going out of his way to talk about how harmful they were for the game and how much he despised the fact that players were using them. Frank Thomas on steroids would be like Nancy Reagan smoking crack. The writers will have absolutely zero concern that he was ever a steroid user.

        As to him not being a “runaway candidate”: He’s a two-time MVP; the entire list of two-time MVP’s who aren’t in the Hall of Fame is Roger Maris, Dale Murphy, and Juan Gonzalez. He had over 500 home runs, which has always been a lock for the Hall in the non-steroids division. He’s 14th in career OPS, just behind Stan Musial and Joe DiMaggio.

        He put up .300/.400/.500 lines with at least 100 BB, 100 R, 100 RBI, and 20 HR for seven straight years, and put up .300/.400/.600 with 35 HR, 100 R, 100 RBI, and 100 BB for five straight years.

        I’m an A.L. fan, so I’ve seen very little of Albert Pujols (before this year, I’d only ever seen him play in the World Series), but Thomas is far and away the best hitter I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Better than Manny, better than ARod.

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  5. Bill says:

    Raines definately deserves to be in, at first glance he’s similar to Lofton and trammel, but as his RC bears out he was significantly better, particular during a 10year period from 81-90.

    I would put trammel in based on the fact that he was a good fielding SS too. No Schilling, Walker, Martinez or Morris, thank you. Biggio should go in too, and I’d strongly consider Bagwell. The others should get in as well, though I’d make them wait. Yes, they abused steroids and put up ridiculous numbers, but it wasn’t all steroids. Expansion in 93 and 98 really reduced the number of quality pitchers throughout baseball and had a huge affect on those numbers as well, more so than steroids. that and smaller parks.

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    • BookWorm says:

      I’ve never understood the “I’d make them wait” argument and the “Not on the first ballot” argument that you sometimes hear. If someone’s on the ballot and “should get in,” as you put it, then why the need for delay? This is an honest question — I’m not trying to pick fights, just curious how other people see it.

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      • stan says:

        I think that’s part of the problem here. A guy who under previous standards “would have to wait X years” in one writer’s estimation is going to get bumped altogether. Its not like the Veteran’s Committee can’t let them in, but still.

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      • Underlying issue says:

        Part of the reason that the 10 vote limit needs to be fixed is because of the utter silliness that is the “make them wait” line of thought (probably more like a circle or vortex of thought). Somewhere between 4-10 of the returning nominees should already be in the hall and then the 10 vote limit wouldn’t even matter.

        I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life but since this year’s vote is already locked in as a complete debacle, I refuse to ever set foot in the Hall.

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      • Bill says:

        it’s a fine line, but a first time HOF election denotes absolute dominance within the game. While Bonds, Sosa and Clemens would normally all qualify under this guideline, their association with PED’s tarnishes their legacy where I wouldn’t want to ‘reward’ them with a first time ballot.

        However, with that said, it’s very difficult to distinguish between the cheats in this era, and thus I would vote for them on ballot 2.

        My ballot this year would be:

        Trammel
        Raines
        Biggio

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  6. Aaron (UK) says:

    Right, and the logical response from sportswriters who want to promote “marginal” candidates is not to waste their vote on the “obvious” ones. This seems is ludicrous.

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    • jason B says:

      But it’s stupid to have to make them pick 10, regardless, when the problem would be solved by simply expanding the ballot.

      Otherwise what if Maddux would get 95%, but since so many voters decide not to waste their vote on such an ‘obvious’ pick, he only gets 55% and misses induction? It’s a stupid problem with a mind-numbingly obvious, easy solution. (which of course means it will probably never happen…)

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  7. Justin says:

    I think Biggio is a first ballot HOFer,i’d also vote for the Crime dog, and Jack Morris. I’d also love to see the day when Shoeless Joe Jackson finally is allowed into the HOF.

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  8. Eminor3rd says:

    craziest thing is you know there are only gonna be like two people in each year

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  9. Adam Dunn says:

    I believe the 10 player ballot was introduced in the 50s. Given that there are nearly twice as many teams now than there were then this seems also to be a problem of the ballot not expanding in proportion to the league.

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    • Jim says:

      That doesn’t really make any sense. If you’re one of the ten best baseball players alive over a given period, you (should) make it to the Hall of Fame, and it doesn’t matter if there are 16 teams in MLB or 160 teams in MLB.

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      • Zen Madman says:

        That doesn’t make sense. If there are 16 teams of 25 players, and you’re in the top 10 in baseball, you’re in the top 2.5%. If there are 160 teams of 25 players, then you’re in the top .25%. That’s a much higher standard.

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  10. Steve says:

    The worst part about the whole thing is that Jack Morris will be elected this year. And then next year Mussina will fall off the ballot.

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    • jim says:

      mussina won’t “fall off the ballot” so much as he’ll “get elected off the ballot”

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    • BronxBomber says:

      I was a big fan of the Moose, going back to when he played for the division rival Orioles. It’ll be sad if he gets dropped from the ballot.

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    • jason B says:

      I think there’s scant chance that he falls off the ballot. (Also scant chance that he’s elected, given the coming logjam.) I think he will be in a Mattingly-esque ballot purgatory (neither in nor off) for the foreseeable future.

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  11. payroll says:

    We park and league adjust everything, why should the HoF be different?

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  12. Anon says:

    What is the history of the 10 vote limit? Did it originate at the same time as HoF voting?

    I’m not a big hall person, but I could see widening the ballot. If double the players are playing today as in the past, it is logical that more people would receive votes.

    It’s an easy fix to a real problem.
    I don’t agree with this statement. With or without a longer ballot, overcrowding is going to happen. The problem is a split in opinion of the voters (how big is the hall?, PED users in?, etc.). The only way to change that is to change the voting guidance or to change who votes (neither of which is likely to happen).

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  13. Paul B says:

    And yet, some of the voters will return a blank ballot, and some will vote for many fewer than 10.

    And only 1 player, maybe 2 if we are lucky, will get voted in.

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  14. Charlie says:

    I think the conservative approach is appropriate given how recent and damaging the PED scandal has been to baseball. I support a continued limited ballot and small induction rate since this will keep the HOF above the fray–even if it means deserving players have to wait. This process will normalize over time once the PED glut settles. In the meantime, it will keep the HOF elite and potentially deter would-be PED users–I’m sure players are still tempted to use newer masking agents and next-gen performance enhancement since so much money and fame are at stake. This is one area where statistics have no place (I agree with an earlier post that says if statistics are the only metric we should vote in Pete Rose!). Liars, cheats, gamblers, and PED-users have no place in the HOF in my opinion, regardless of how good their numbers are!

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    • DL80 says:

      “Liars, cheats, gamblers, and PED-users have no place in the HOF”

      “Liars” and “gamblers” means you are already going to keep out almost everyone, including most of the previous inductees. Every player who ever cheated on his wife/girlfriend is out. Sorry Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, etc. Too bad for you.

      That’s a really ridiculously stringent standard. We’re identifying great baseball players, not great human beings.

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      • Charlie says:

        You are misinterpreting what I wrote. Many of the PED players perjured themselves during Congressional testimony (Clemens most famously). I don’t care about what people do in the privacy of their homes, I’m limiting the scope to baseball and the rules of baseball. Obviously you can “steal” a base, but you can’t bet against a team, take illegal drugs to enhance your career, or lie to Congress. Can we agree on that? If you want a league that allows performance enhancing drugs you and your friends can invest in one, but as it stands the MLB maintains rules that it has to enforce. That should be reflected in the HOF selections. The gambling reference was aimed at Pete Rose–who probably bet against his team for heaven’s sake.

        So let’s reign in the scope and talk about the fall-out from the PED scandal as a reflection towards the HOF. I disagree that steroids saved baseball.

        So in summary, I stand by what I wrote, I think the current ballot is adequate and outside of our nerd-circle, must fans are content with how things are going in baseball, and I hope it continues!

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      • Hmm, I thought Clemens was acquitted of perjury.

        Glad we have you hear to be judge, jury, and executioner.

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      • Gabriel Syme says:

        For someone who claims the mantle of “Rational” you are certainly very slanted in your approach

        Firstly, no one is obligated to agree with the judgement of a court, whether the result is guilty or not guilty. Courts are not infallible, and should not be treated as such.

        Secondly, and more importantly, a “not guilty” verdict – even if the jury was entirely accurate in their deliberations – is completely consistent with Clemens in truth perjuring himself in the relevant instance. The standard for a “not guilty” plea is that the prosecution did not prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Each and every juror might have thought Clemens was 90% (or more) likely to have committed perjury and the “not guilty” verdict would still have been the correct one.

        Don’t be so bloody high-and-mighty next time, o Rational one.

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      • Charlie, who has just bits and pieces of information gathered from the reporting on this case, bluntly states that Clemens certainly perjured himself.

        Meanwhile a jury who had all the information decided that they could not prove such a thing to be true.

        Why should I give ANY credence to Charlie’s unsupported claim here?

        The fact that you are so ready to accept his unsubstantiated claim (merely because courts are sometimes wrong) shows you to be the one with the slanted approach.

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      • jason B says:

        The rational one, 1. Gabe & Chuck, 0.

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      • Gabriel Syme says:

        Charlie does not need to relitigate the Clemens case to be credible, just as I don’t have to give my reasons for believing O.J. Simpson to have been guilty- the facts that give rise to a reasonable belief in Clemen’s perjury are widely known and publicly available. So Charlie’s claim is not unsubstantiated- it merely has not been recited in this forum, which given the well-publicized nature of the case, is entirely reasonable. If you expect every blog comment to provide references, quotations and attached affidavits, I’m afraid you’re to be bitterly disappointed in life.

        As I’ve already pointed out, a jury verdict of “not guilty” is completely consistent with jurors or anyone believing the accused is in fact guilty, so the persuasive value of Clemens’ acquittal is minimal at best.

        Finally, I have not accepted or rejected the view that Clemens perjured himself. I was defending the reasonableness of Charlie’s view, and criticizing your accusation that he was acting as “judge, jury and executioner.”

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    • metsmarathon says:

      no no no. it’s ok to lie and cheat and scheme and break the rules, both spoken and unspoken, to aid your team to win games.

      just, heaven forbid you hit any extra home runs! then all is lost! your soul, forever unclean! a pox on your name for all time!

      even if you’re not breaking laws or rules at the time…

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    • Oliver says:

      Wait, damaging? By what measure? Revenue? Up. Attendance? Up. Reputation? Well, it’s not perfect, but it’s also not cycling.
      I think you could make a pretty solid argument that PEDs saved baseball in the 90s after the strike; Sosa and McGuire captivated everyone’s interest. Chicks dig the long ball, and all that.

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      • Jim says:

        Damaging to the players that actually played the game fairly. Damaging to the legacy of baseball.

        Mickey Mantle was one of the greatest baseball players of all time (you can make a strong argument that no player in the history of baseball has ever been as good over a two year period as Mickey Mantle was in 1956-57). Injuries wore him down quickly, but it’s possible that Mantle was both the strongest (in terms of HR distance, at least) and fastest (still, as far as I can find, holds the record for the fastest clocked time from home to first) player in baseball history.

        And Manny Ramirez and Raphael Palmeiro have more home runs than Mickey Mantle.

        In 1941, Ted Williams hit .406 and drew 147 walks. And yet when you look at the all time single season OBP leaderboards, you won’t find his name at the top, because Barry Bonds took steroids and pitchers were so terrified of him that they intentionally walked him 120 times in 2004.

        Baseball, when it comes down to it, is a children’s game. It’s a game you fall in love with you’re a kid. And when I was a kid, 7 or 8 years old in the ’80′s, I memorized every player who’d ever hit 50 home runs in a season. Learned all about their seasons and their careers and their biographies. With the curious exception of George Foster, they were all titans of the game, legendary figures, even if they only had brief windows at the top (a la Roger Maris or Hack Wilson).

        Kids who are 7 or 8 years old… are they really going to be able to look with the same kind of awe at Luis Gonzalez, Greg Vaughn, or Brady Anderson that I had looking at Ralph Kiner, Jimmie Foxx, or Hank Greenberg? That’s the damage steroids did. It took the sense of wonder away from players of past eras who were truly monumental, by making their statistical achievements look ordinary.

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    • jim says:

      “Liars, cheats, gamblers, and PED-users have no place in the HOF in my opinion, ”

      so there’s like, what, high-pockets kelly in your personal hall, and that’s it?

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      • chuck says:

        Jim,

        I would ask that you look at my earlier postings because you are not making a credible “come-back” statement. PEDs hurt baseball. Period.

        Earlier references on judge, jury, and executioner are silly because we are talking about voting someone in, or not, to the HOF. Many of these guys are living the high life, with good endorsements and nice houses, spouses, and kids to prove it. So let’s tone down the rhetoric ok?!

        What I said and continue to say is that voters should be allowed to look at the PED issue because it was damaging and will effect who gets in the HOF. The fallout is what I was referencing by the lying and cheating. The attempts to mask PEDs continues to this day! This requires users to perjure themselves–to lie to MLB testers and their respective clubs. Again, no one is looking at jail time, but I don’t think they are different than Lance Armstrong–who ruined everyone who questioned his PED use over the years and even won millions of dollars in libel charges… and he was the fraud they said he was all this time!

        You obviously don’t care about the “game” as long as your players do well? Start your own league! Everyone can roid up and kids can watch 30 year old men die of congenital heart failure or have to go through agonizing chemotherapy and dialysis after ten years in the game. I’m sure your WAR statistics will be fun to put on graphes. Sounds pretty silly doesn’t it?

        Baseball isn’t a Sean Hannity talk show: it has a culture, fan-base, and aura that has sustained it over the years, and I hope it continues to do so in a responsible manner.

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  15. Kevin says:

    Two issues here:

    1.) It burns me to see writers like Hersh gleeful over not voting for someone. Truely classless and does nothing but contribute to the stereotype of the bully sportwriter who carries grudges and uses their column for payback. You don’t have to vote for him, but at least show some class.

    2.) BBWAA and fans should realize that with this logjam comes the high likelyhood that bubble and deserving candidates will fail to meet the minimal threshold which means off the ballot and ineligible for many years until their turn through the byzantine veterans process comes up.

    Once again the “stewards” of the game are taking actions that will do nothing but frustrate fans and damage the baseball brand.

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    • Ben says:

      Lifelong Chicagoan and Tribune reader here. Hersh writes about the Olympics and international sports and hasn’t covered baseball in 30-40 years. It’s indefensible that HOF voting privileges last a lifetime. What is this, the Supreme Court?

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  16. Choo says:

    Opinions on the exact moment when the HOF went from royalty to novelty? 1946? 1976? Puberty?

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    • Jaack says:

      About the same time the baseball parliament stripped the majority of the HoF’s power. It now serves a mainly as a figurehead, but it retains a few nominal powers that are rarely used.

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  17. Toasty says:

    I suppose you didn’t even mention Jeff Cirillo because he’s a shoo-in, right?

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  18. joe bananas says:

    thianks for posting this – i didn’t know the ballots were limited to 10 names. it seems like the writers should be able to vote for whoever they want and the players with enough votes should get in.

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  19. Justin Smoaked Cheese says:

    Griffey’s decision to play 33 awful games in 2010 pushed him back to 2016 class. Which would have otherwise been headlined by Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner and Jim Edmonds.

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  20. L. Armstrong says:

    Look, just because a ballplayer repeatedly broke federal drug laws (which would quite possibly get any of the rest of us thrown into prison) to gain a competitive advantage, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bestow the highest possible honor upon them, right?

    I said, RIGHT?

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  21. Jay says:

    Who is Philip Hersch, in the grand scheme of BBWAA? Why does he deserve a vote on the baseball HOF?

    A brief scan of his silly Twitter page sure makes him out to be many things other than baseball writer.

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  22. Justin Smoaked Cheese says:

    Hersh has apparently not covered baseball since 1987 but has a lifetime vote. Calcaterra

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  23. Sleight of Hand Pro says:

    excellent article aside, and while i find the PED debate somewhat interesting, i just cant bring myself to care.

    no matter how much i want to or feel im obligated as a baseball fan, i just dont give a shit about the HoF.

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  24. stan says:

    To me, this article screams “its time to restrict HoF ballots”. I see no problem with 10 slots, especially since many of the guys you’ve listed really don’t belong. Raines or Trammel I could buy in a borderline argument, but Edgar and Lofton aren’t that close. They’d each be in the special “Jim Rice/ Tony Perez/ Ray Schalk/ Rabbit Maranville” wing.

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    • Average_Casey says:

      Seriously? Edgar was one of the best hitters in the league for over a decade. The DH award is named after him. I truly don’t think you know what you are talking about.

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      • stan says:

        Its weird how loyal Edgar’s supporters are. First, “one of the best hitters in the league for over a decade” isn’t enough by itself. Otherwise people wouldn’t be complaining about Chick Hafey, who also fits that bill but was also a very good fielder and had his career shortened by injury. Second, who cares if the DH award is named after him? How many other full time DH’s had a significant career? 5? Third, he only had a 14 year prime, which means he’d better be really special to be included. Fourth, the fact that he was a DH only has to be figured in somehow. Fifth, He only had 69.9 WAR. That’s borderline territory in itself. Really, with 66 WAR and no “DH-only” tag Lofton is an equally good candidate and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Sixth, he got huge all of a sudden during the steroid era and his production ballooned at the same time, just sayin’….

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      • Phrozen says:

        Edgar is still probably the best DH in ML history. I’m not a fan of the DH, but shouldn’t the best player at a given “position” be in the Hall?

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    • PalousePirate says:

      What are you basing your claim that “Edgar and Lofton aren’t close” upon? Numbers or feelings?

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      • stan says:

        Both really. They have 66 and 69 WAR, which is in the borderline category. However, Edgar has the DH only and steroid tags. Lofton was excellent early but then tailed off significantly. Lofton finished 4th in the MVP voting once but was never again in the top 10 and only top 20 two more times. His six all star games were all in his first 8 years Edgar was top 10 twice but only top 20 3 other times. 7 all star games. I don’t see any more reason to vote for them than for Jim Edmonds (67 WAR), Larry Walker (73 WAR) and a host of other hall of very goods. They’d have to be well behind Raines and Trammell for sure.

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      • tdillon says:

        What steroid tag are you talking about? Not once was his never mentioned in connection to steroids in any sort of official capacity. Moreover, dinging a DH for not fielding is like dinging AL pitchers because they don’t bat. Should that affect Clemens? Yeah he was great in the field, but he only had 3 seasons of meaningful AB’s…. hate the DH, but Martinez was one of the best right handed hitters ever. Rate stats bear this out. .300/.400/.500 is a very exclusive club and no one shoud ding him for the M’s front office not bringing him up until he was 27.

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      • Gabriel Syme says:

        That’s a very small Hall you have there, Stan. By at least one very good measureLofton, Walker and Martinez are all above-median Hall of Fame players. I’d imagine Jim Edmonds would be about the same level.

        It’s all very well to prefer a small Hall of Fame, but let’s get that out in the open.

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    • TomG says:

      Hell, if a DH could win the MVP award this season, surely one could feasibly have a Hall-of-Fame career as well.

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    • Justin Smoaked Cheese says:

      Edgar’s numbers improved when the lineup improved and he was made full time DH. He only hit 30 HR once. Perfect swing for doubles. Now Bret Boone is a different story

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  25. stan says:

    One other thing, this article treats McGwire as “inferior” yet touts Thomas as a sure thing. Thomas has more WAR but his rate stats aren’t as good. He also played in a hitters park for most of his career where McGwire played in two pitcher’s parks for his entire career. The DH label also hangs over Thomas. If not for his spending his late years in the NL, McGwire would have been able to add a couple more quality seasons and far outpace Thomas.
    And one other thing, Thomas added even more muscle in the steroid era than McGwire did. He made McGwire look like a little kid and the difference between rookie Thomas and Thomas in his prime is just stunning as a McGwire comparison.

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  26. MrKnowNothing says:

    it’s not like a lot of these guys haven’t been on the ballot before. if there was a case where like 14 first time guys deserved to be in, that’s one thing. but most of these guys have had several years on the ballot.

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    • stan says:

      Exactly. The sure first ballot guys will only take up 3-4 spots. If a guy was truly deserving then this wouldn’t really be an issue anyway.

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  27. KCDaveInLA says:

    It seems as if we have three categories acknowledged: those whom we *know* took PED’s (Palmeiro, Canseco, etc.), those whose circumstantial evidence overwhelms (Clemens, Bonds, etc.), and those whom we “strongly suspect” (Piazza, Bagwell, etc.). If I were to add a fourth category, it would not be “those who *did not* take PED’s”, but rather simply “unknown”. In all other cases, all other players, is there any way to be absolutely certain of PED use or non-use? Not in this Steroid Era. If there was one factor that makes me believe that a player did not take PED’s, it’s their injury record. Griffey spent so much time on the DL, that there is no way he could have been benefitting from steroids. All this said, I believe that time will eventually look more kindly on the suspected (but maybe not confirmed) PED users. I do know that if I were voting for the HOF, I’d need a lot more time to think about it.

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    • Doc Irysch says:

      One of Griffey’s problems was he didn’t work out. I remember reading a quote from him long ago to the effect that you don’t see cheetahs stretch. Would be shocked to learn he used steroids, like you said, he didn’t seem to benefit from them.

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    • Zen Madman says:

      I have a big problem with the “strongly suspect” group being excluded on the basis of suspicion. Guilty until proven innocent just doesn’t work for me.

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    • Monkey says:

      Actually, repeated injuries to explosive muscles such as hamstrings often result from steroid use. Overdeveloped muscles in certain areas can overwhelm the opposite muscles group, ligaments, or tendons, etc. which have not grown equally. FYI.

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  28. Atom says:

    It’s pretty likely that the HOF ballot in 2017 could look like this: Sure, one or two of these guys may get in, or one or two may fall off the ballot, but there’s a pretty good chance:

    Barry Bonds
    Rogers Clemens
    Mike Mussina
    Jeff Bagwell
    Curt Schilling
    Frank Thomas
    Larry Walker
    Tim Raines
    Rafael Palmeiro
    John Smoltz
    Edgar Martinez
    Manny Ramirez
    Ivan Rodriguez
    Mark McGwire
    Jim Edmonds
    Mike Piazza
    Gary Sheffield
    Vladimir Guerrero
    Sammy Sosa
    Jeff Kent
    Fred McGriff

    Though I don’t think they should all go to the hall, each of them at least has a good argument that could be made for them and their election would be far from a Chick Hafey-esque stain on the hall.

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    • stan says:

      I guess there’s only a problem if you’re not the type who is going to leave the steroid users off. Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Palmeiro, Manny, McGwire and Sosa are definitely on the “cheaters” list and Edgar, Thomas, Piazza, IRod and Schilling have been rumored too.

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      • Phrozen says:

        Edgar, Thomas and Schilling are three of the last guys I would ever suspect of PEDs. Seriously.

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      • JAH says:

        The rumors that Edgar did steroids consist of “he was a good hitter when there was steroids being used.” Ironclad evidence there!

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      • TomG says:

        Edgar has only been linked directly to steroids by you. Either you have sources that most professional journalists don’t have access to or your cheeks are seriously chapped from talking out of your ass so much.

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    • Monkey says:

      Everyone of those guys should be in the hall, but that is being said as a 30 year old male, and everyone’s hypothetical votes are massively swayed by their childhood heroes. For instance, I would not consider Alan Trammell a HOFer because I missed the peak of his career and he was far from legendary to make up for it.

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  29. Dan says:

    Phil Hersh’s Interests as Listed on his Biography Page from the Chicago Tribune:
    “Chamber music, opera, scuba diving, reading junk novels on the beach, wine, road cycling, Cuba, the Bach unaccompanied cello suites, Russia, any books by James Lee Burke and Michael Connelly, figure skating ”

    Oddly enough, ‘baseball’ is not among them.

    While a bigger ballot would help fix Hall of Fame voting, I think having people who are ACTUALLY INTERESTED IN THE SPORT might help more.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Doug Lampert says:

      I’ll go one further. It’s unlikely we’ll ever have a year where 10 deserving candidates come up for the hall.

      If there’s a logjam with 10 spots on the ballot then the problem is clearly not that the ballot is too short, it is either that the standards for who should get in are too poorly defined, or that the voters aren’t following the standards, or you need too large a supermajority, or some combination. I’ll go for both too poorly defined (does being SUSPECTED of using PEDs justify not voting for someone, no standard says either way), and for voters not following the standards.

      Whatever the standards for voting for the hall are, they don’t say SQUAT about not letting anyone ever get in unanimously, or about first year vote in having a higher standard then later vote ins, or any of that crap.

      There is NO good reason for any voter NOT to put some of these people on their ballots. Strip the ballot of anyone who doesn’t put Maddux on their ballot his first year (same for Griffy Jr.). Heck, if PEDs aren’t disqualifying (and they’re not by the rules), strip the vote of anyone that doesn’t put Bonds on their ballot, he was an utterly dominant player for years.

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      • Rob says:

        Will anyone actually leave someone like Maddux off the first ballot? I really don’t know much about how writers vote, but I can’t imagine how someone could justify that.

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  30. Ye Olde Pub says:

    It’s surprising that you, David Cameron, want to expand the HOF ballot even though you don’t want to expand to a party list ballot for parliamentary.

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  31. Steve says:

    They never had the 10 ballot problem before, so this should be the punishment for using steroids. The entire generation of players should suffer the consequences for doing what in many cases was an illegal activity.

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    • Canard says:

      Yeah, but that’s his point! The clean players suffer too, because some writers are going to keep voting for the dirty players, and the ballot limit prevents them from voting for both dirty and clean, so the clean players get the shaft.

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  32. Eric R says:

    Most voters aren’t using the slots they have now– here are the average votes per ballot:

    2011 5.8
    2010 5.7
    2009 5.4
    2008 5.4
    2007 6.6
    2006 5.6
    2005 6.3
    2004 6.5
    2003 6.6
    2002 6.0

    If an *average* voter typically had 3-5 empty slots before 2012, even with a deeper ballot, I think they still have some room.

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    • Choo says:

      Think about the math for a second. For every Posnanski who votes for 10 players, there is an idiot who can’t wait to NOT vote and makes a statement by voting for only one player. The result? 5.5 average votes per ballot.

      The average is 50% horseshit.

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  33. Are apples and oranges performance enhancing drugs? Do all players who try steriods or PED’s suddenly have monster seasons? Also, last time I checked, Barry Bonds wasn’t found guilty of steriods. So now we live in an era where someone’s accomplishments are ignored because of a “suspicion” that they did something?

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  34. Fred says:

    So when do we see the article listing your HOF votes, Cameron?

    And shouldn’t there be a rally around Edgar as the “protest vote” for all those who don’t want to vote for a suspected PED user?

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    • stan says:

      Uh, Edgar is a suspected PED user. He gained 40 pounds of muscle and suddenly became a power hitter just like the rest of the suspects.

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      • Choo says:

        I gained 30 pounds of muscle over a two year stretch in college, and the craziest thing I ingested was Creatine for a 2-month stretch. It wasn’t that hard. If I can do it, so can a professional athlete.

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      • stan says:

        Edgar did it when he was 29- and then his power numbers skyrocketed just when most humans start to decline physically. Has there ever been a non-steroid era player who essentially started their hall of fame case at 29? Maybe a knuckeballer?
        I’m not saying he did it, just that there is as much reason to suspect him as the other guys on the list.

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      • Choo says:

        I know it’s unique, but so is his situation. Edgar was exiled in Calgary for three of his prime seasons because the M’s, god bless them, were stupid. With the resources available at the MLB level (weight room next to locker room, trainers, dietitians, supplements, no bus travel, less junk food, money, etc.), a lot of players don’t really begin to bulk up (or slim down) until they make that jump for good. Had Edgar begun his physical transformation at the MLB level at age 26 instead of 29, would your opinion be different?

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  35. Average_Casey says:

    The Hall of Fame is where I think the NFL has it a lot better than MLB. I believe that each year it is mandated that they elect XX amount of players. This whole idea of only admitting one or two guys is silly to me. There are players who played in certain time frames that do not even compare to marginal candidates and thus already made it a big hall. I truly think the whole idea is silly because the only credentials for voting is that you were a memeber of BWAA for 10 years. How many baseball writers don’t konw what they are talking about? 40%. 75%? A lot of the writers never played a day of baseball and they are the gate keepers. It seems so silly to me as they don’t even fully understand elelments of the game. It just is crazy that they are the people who hold the power. Revamp the system and take away voting rights from those who should not have it, please.

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  36. Jared Anderson says:

    Since when is Piazza a PED guy? I’ve been a Mets fan all my life and never once heard this accusation. Why is he being lumped in with Bonds, Clemens, and McGwire?

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    • Don’t forget Jeff Bagwell getting lumped in as well. They are lumped in because they look the part and we have writers that are trying to be morality judges.

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    • Ian R. says:

      I guess Piazza was lumped in because he’s someone the PED voters will definitely vote for – odds are the non-PED voters will support him too, of course. He’s probably the strongest candidate on the ballot when you take PED accusations and performance into account.

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    • Mitchell Report says:

      See me re: Mike Piazza.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        I didn’t see him mentioned anywhere in there. The only accusation I saw was from a writer who said he had back acne.

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      • jskelly4 says:

        See me: your an idiot, read the Mitchell Report
        http://files.mlb.com/mitchrpt.pdf

        Mike Piazza is never mentioned.

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      • jskelly4 says:

        you’re*

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      • Mitchell Report says:

        Mike Piazza: March 2009

        Reportedly Used: Unknown

        The Story: Piazza reportedly admitted that he used performance enhancing drugs to at least one unnamed reporter. Long rumored to have used steroids, at least two former players were quoted as saying they were sure that Piazza used. Former New York Times reporter, Murray Chass, said that he had been aware of Piazza’s severe back acne (a common side-effect of using steroids) and that it cleared up in 2004 when MLB instituted its first testing program with penalties. Piazza was named most significantly in Jeff Pearlman’s book, The Rocket That Fell To Earth.

        No, js. You would be the idiot.

        Piazza WAS named in me. In the category of “implicated.” Make of that whatever you will.

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      • Gabriel Syme says:

        Doubling down on stupidity are we “Mitchell Report”? For someone with the confidence to o-so-cleverly write under that name, you’d think you’d have bothered to read it. Piazza is not named, the quotation you use is not from it, and does not reference it.

        Go put on a hair shirt and atone for your dishonest idiocy.

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  37. Ken says:

    I think the number of ballot slots is pretty low on the list of things that need to be fixed by the HOF. You could allow unlimited votes per ballot and many voters will still never include Bonds, Clemens, etc. There are some who have sworn they won’t vote for anyone who played in the steroid era – allowing more votes isn’t going to fix all the empty ballots we’re going to see in the coming years.

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  38. Jon L. says:

    I don’t know that I agree with the main point of the article. Limiting writers to 10 votes forces them to pick the 10 guys they support the most, and the players everyone agrees deserve it the most – Maddux, Griffey, etc. – will get in. We celebrate each players career when they get in, and I don’t especially like the idea of trying to do that for seven or eight players at once.

    At the same time, I don’t like the idea that players might fall off the ballot because of the quality of competition. Maybe they could resolve this by having writers identify players who they agree merit serious consideration. That would ensure that players like Trammell, Raines, Edgar Martinez, and Larry Walker can still be considered once the shoo-ins are off the ballot.

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  39. I’m tired of baseball writers who think they are morality judges.

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  40. Hurtlockertwo says:

    As much as I love baseball, none of these players did anything to me personally by cheating. The people that should be mad are the players that had their records broken, not the fans. Baseball was actually very entertaining when all those HR’s were hit. We as fans paid for entertainment and got it, these players didn’t dump your sister after all. If you reduced Bonds numbers by 10% overall (the steroid piece lets say) he would still be one of the greatest players to ever play. Vote the guys in that deserve to be there based on the stats. Bonds and Clemens were the best players of that era, PED’s or not.
    If baseball was all about integrity and honor and loyalty, we wouldn’t spend so much time figuring out how much money these guys should make. As for the original question, ten seems like a small number, but as someone as already pointed out the average number of votes per writer is less than ten anyway.

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  41. Ian R. says:

    Fortunately for those players who may be in danger of falling off the ballot, there is precedent for re-adding players who get dropped because they fall below the 5 percent threshold. The Hall of Fame put Ken Boyer, Curt Flood and Ron Santo back on in 1985, and Santo even eventually got in (albeit posthumously via the VC).

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  42. stan says:

    I think the best solution would be to let certain guys in if they can be at 60% for three straight years. You could adjust the % and the number of years, obviously, but some sort of acknowledgment that a certain guy was really close for a long time should be enough.

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  43. Jason says:

    What kind of grown man says the word “natch”? I didn’t realize the BBWAA allowed 11 year olds with their first cell phones to vote on the HOF ballot…

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  44. Brett W says:

    Dave, I am curious if you intentionally declined to mention Sosa in the article.

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  45. B says:

    Here’s an idea – let the ballot build up, and then expand the ballot to 50. Allow all 20-30 users with sufficient stats in and give them a 2 minute speech at the hall.

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  46. Ben Johnson says:

    Barry Bonds for the Hall Of Fame!
    And I want my gold medal back!
    Yay, Lance Armstrong!
    There’s no such thing as cheating!

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    • nv says:

      See, I can’t stand this. Tons of people used steroids, but not too many of them won seven NL MVPs.

      Ruth is said to have injected bull testicular serum; that it didn’t work makes no difference with respect to whether it was an attempt to cheat. Ruth’s in the hall.

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      • Ben Johnson says:

        Exactly my point!

        If you can win a gold medal by drugcheating, or seven tour-de-Frances, or seven MVPs, the world should honor your achievements!

        A supersuccessful drug cheat should be celebrated, not incarcerated! Oh, wait. That never happens. I mean, the greatest, bestest drug cheats shouldn’t have to return their earnings! What? That never happens either?

        Well anyway, all hail me! And Lance and Barry! And Marion Jones! Huzzah!

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  47. gnomez says:

    Is there any evidence WHATSOEVER Jeff Bagwell used steroids? I’m a lifelong Cards fan and couldn’t stand Bagwell all those years he played against us, but there’s never been anything that would lead me to think he was a PED user.

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    • Gabriel Syme says:

      There is not, nor has there been any accusation that I am aware of. Frankly, Cameron should not have put Bagwell in the same category as the cheats. It’s misleading and unfair. Even Piazza who has been accused anonymously in media reports doesn’t merit inclusion in a list of players where there is clear evidence of using Steroids.

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    • Monkey says:

      You mean other than his 60inch barrel chest, body-builder arms, and massive traps? You know there are specific limits on how large a person can get naturally right? even with the best nutrition and workout regime.

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  48. Aaron says:

    I think they should leave it at 10. I want a total clusterf***, where there are so many obvious choices, that no one, even someone regarded as completely clean, can gain the 75% necessary to be elected. The past has shown the only way the idiot family that controls the HoF will ever do anything address the issue facing it, it to have a couple years where no one is elected. No new HoF’ers, no thousands of fans coming to Cooperstown to spend money.

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  49. TKDC says:

    Maddux should be left out of any logjam discussion. He’ll get well over 90% regardless of the ballot.

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  50. Dogfish pride, bro says:

    Pirate Bonds gets in anyway, no?

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    • Ian R. says:

      Probably not. Pirate Bonds only played seven seasons, and while he did win two MVP awards it would be tough for the Hall to waive the eligibility criteria (which HAS happened in the case of Addie Joss) for someone who, to that point, had been an excellent but not otherworldly player.

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  51. PackBob says:

    Create special wings in the HOF: admitted/convicted PED users and suspected PED users that also put up numbers (the second with a disclaimer and apology to those who didn’t).

    Put in a shrine to Barry Bonds with a plaque reading “This is what happens when you combine an already HOF player with PEDs and body armor.”

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  52. Dan says:

    You know it’s time for? It’s time to stop caring. The institution is an embarrassment in a lot of ways. If you want, start a new Hall of Fame or something, I don’t know. No one should care who gets in and who doesn’t at this point.

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  53. will says:

    Trivia: name the 5 players in MLB history with 300 homers, 300 steals, and 2500 hits.

    Answer: Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Andre Dawson and…

    Steve Finley, who is totally forgotten on this 2013 ballot. While Finley probably doesn’t deserve to get into the hall, he achieved that all-around feat while also being a great defensive center fielder.

    One of the nice things about hall of fame season is it gives us a chance to talk about and acknowledge the accomplishments of retired players, whether we end up voting for them or not. All anybody will talk about in this election is the PED users. I doubt one person will even mention a player like Steve Finley. So here you go, Steve, take your two seconds of fame.

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  54. John Rocker says:

    If this is actually the Hall of Fame, I should totally be in here! I was the most famous player in the league for a bit there, what with all the bigotry and spazziness.

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  55. Kinsm says:

    I’m more concerned with the fact that the ballot has no more than 40 players allowed to be placed on it….that’s 40 some new players every year who don’t make that list even though they meet the eligibility requirements.

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  56. doug says:

    What I don’t like is writers are being selective on PED users, there are plenty of players who are in the HOF who used some kind of PED already. It seems very hipicritical to me . Players like Bonds, Clemens, and A-Rod deserve to be in the HOF as does Rose and others. We all know they are the best players, the rest is just the good old boys club making their own rules. Baseball players have always tried to get the advantage all the way back to the spitball. I played in the minors in the 60′s and amphetamines were used as shown with Bouton’s book Ball Four. Now today, 50 years later writers are almighty, give me a break. Put the best players in the HOF, let other people decide about PEDs and the rest. We know now that the players that were outed or suspected were only held accountalbe becuase they are the best players. The other 98% no one cares about, and many of them took something too.

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