Sunday, January 23, 2022

Baseball Hall of Fame 2022: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa make Matt Snyder’s hypothetical ballot; A-Rod left out

As the late, great Tom Petty once sang, The Waiting is the hardest part. 

I first visited the Baseball Hall of Fame when I was 8 years old. Each of the three Snyder kids got to pick out something from the gift shop. I got Hall of Fame baseball cards. I can still picture the cards of John McGraw, Joe McGinnity and the like up to the true early titans like Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. I continued on in attempting to collect as much information about Hall of Famers as possible throughout my childhood. I made all-time teams for the likes of the Cubs, Red Sox, Giants, Pirates, Reds, etc. on Nintendo’s immortal Baseball Stars. After I saw “Soul of the Game” on HBO, I became obsessed with learning about the Negro Leagues greats like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige. I read everything I could find on Jackie Robinson, who has become my baseball version of a hero. 

As such, I’ve been studying for my first Hall of Fame ballot pretty much all of my life. When I was admitted into the BBWAA in 2014, one of my first thoughts was “holy s***, I get to vote on the Hall of Fame in 10 years.” 

Welp, I’m still not there. For someone who has dreamed of getting a ballot his whole life, it’s starting to get a bit antsy over here! In the meantime, I’m doing the work, so that once I actually get a ballot, I’ll have had 10 years of real practice. My vow is that I’ll only vote as long as I’m willing to put in the work. Far too many people take this very seriously for anyone to take the responsibility for granted. 

Here’s a list of the players on the 2022 ballot. A voter can check a maximum of 10 players’ boxes, and we’ll find out the 2022 Hall of Fame class in two weeks, on Jan. 25.

Before we dive into names, we have to talk, again, about PEDs (yes, it’s annoying, but it’s part of the work). Here’s what I wrote last year and it obviously still applies: 

Let’s just cut through the specifics and point back to something I wrote in 2017 regarding the so-called “character clause.” 

Just to pull one sentence from it (please read the whole thing if you want the entire context): 

It seems to me that the character clause specifically notes that voting shall be based upon the player’s record, which seems to me that we should only really consider his behavior while he was playing.

The rule that I’ve decided on, for now, is that if a player was suspended for violating the Joint Drug Agreement once a testing system was put into place, he won’t get my vote. That means this is where we say goodbye to Manny Ramirez on this ballot. He was suspended twice. If we have no suspensions to go on, I’m not going to judge what players were doing what. The league didn’t care to suspend anyone for a while and even benefitted from it — oh, and Bud Selig was overseeing this and he’s in the Hall of Fame — so I’m just judging what we saw on the field. 

Right off the top, that’s why there’s no Manny Ramirez. A good number of people disagree with this stance, but it’s my ballot and my line. 

On the flip-side, if I’m intent on using this rule, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are easy yes votes. Selig and his operation were looking the other way then, so that’s what I’m doing. Neither player ever tested positive or served a suspension. 

Curt Schilling‘s case hasn’t changed since I wrote about a generation of starting pitchers needing to get more support. I don’t care about politics and I definitely am not going to take his “everyone, look at me!!!” request to have his name removed from the ballot any more than I’d listen to a player begging for a vote. This is a museum that has plaques for the best baseball players. He’s on the ballot and his resume says he’s worthy of a vote. The good news for the people dead set against Schilling getting in is that I don’t have an official vote yet. 

Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones both would get my vote, and I outlined why earlier this month

On Sammy Sosa, it’s his last year on the ballot and he’s not getting in, but I don’t vote strategically. I vote for who I think the worthy Hall of Famers and if there are more than 10, it’s my top 10 most worthy. Sosa is, in my opinion, and I’ve done all I could over the years. Here’s one attempt. Here’s another

And we’re already up to six! 

Scott Rolen (case here), Todd Helton (case here) and Billy Wagner (case here) have been yes votes for me the last few years and there isn’t much reason to change that. 

That’s nine. The same nine I listed last year. There’s one spot open and it goes to first-timer David Ortiz (case here, which includes a discussion of his reported 2003 positive PED test). 

That’s 10. That leaves Alex Rodriguez out in the cold on this hypothetical ballot. It’s an incredibly complicated case, in my view, and though A-Rod was suspended for PED violations, he never tested positive and the league was pretty damn shady in its investigation (witch hunt?) into him. But he did cheat once there was a testing system in place. There’s no doubt about that. I elaborated on how complicated his case was last month and I reserve the right to vote for him in the future, but he’s not getting into my top 10 just yet. 

If I had more openings, I’d give stronger consideration to both Bobby Abreu (discussion in here) and Jeff Kent (discussion here). Jimmy Rollins (case here) will hopefully get a longer look, but I didn’t even get the chance to consider him here since there are plenty of players above him. I’d also give a long look to Joe Nathan, who has a similar, yet very slightly inferior, case to Wagner’s. I fear that Nathan falls off the ballot before we start giving stronger looks to what modern closers look like (I discussed that in full here). I also think that we should start considering “lowering” the standard for starting pitchers as well, which would then loop in the likes of Mark Buehrle and Tim Hudson. The modern game has evolved, after all. 

I didn’t consider anyone not named above. 

In the end, these are my 10 for this iteration of the Hall of Fame ballot: 

1. Barry Bonds

2. Roger Clemens

3. Curt Schilling

4. Gary Sheffield

5. Andruw Jones

6. Sammy Sosa

7. Scott Rolen

8. Todd Helton

9. Billy Wagner

10. David Ortiz

Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Sosa are in their 10th and final stint on the ballot and I imagine at least Ortiz (and maybe Rolen) get their 75 percent of the vote this time around. Next year, Carlos Beltrán is the only newcomer with an easy and obvious case, so there’s a lot of clearing out that’ll happen. That opens up spots for Abreu, Kent and whichever pitchers I land on, if I so choose to add anyone. And, of course, I’m already kind of dreading having to sort out the A-Rod situation. 

Until then, I’ll just be over here waiting. 

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