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Here’s who I’d vote for if I had a Hall of Fame ballot

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It’s time to stop ignoring the Steroid Era.

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who have been in that group for 10 or more seasons (with some exceptions) are currently voting for the 2018 Hall of Fame class.

Now, maybe you’ve stopped caring about this. I haven’t; I think it’s important to acknowledge the best of the best in baseball history, and if you haven’t been to Cooperstown, I think it’s a great idea for every baseball fan to go there at least once. Beyond the plaques of the individuals inducted into the Hall, the museum is well worth a visit.

For those who do care about who’s inducted, Ryan Thibodaux has been keeping track of all publicly-announced BBWAA ballots at this spreadsheet. It appears we might have quite a number of inductees next summer.

While I’m not a BBWAA member, I am a member of the Internet Baseball Writers of America. The IBWAA conducts a similar vote to the BBWAA each December. I’ve submitted a ballot for that vote, and below are the players I voted for. It should be noted that the IBWAA ballot differs from the BBWAA ballot in two respects. First, the IBWAA allows a voter to select up to 15 players, rather than the BBWAA’s 10. That said, I found only 10 that I thought worthy of induction. Second, the IBWAA has inducted Vladimir Guerrero and Edgar Martinez in previous elections, so those names did not appear on our ballot for this year.

As noted at the top of this post, after giving this much thought I’ve decided that the Hall of Fame should acknowledge everyone, and not simply ignore great players whose careers hit their peak during the so-called Steroid Era. That seems to be acknowledged by many BBWAA members, too; Thibodaux’ spreadsheet has Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens very close to the 75 percent threshold needed for induction.

Will it be pretty to see Bonds and Clemens on the dais giving an induction speech? Perhaps not, and there have been current Hall members who have threatened to boycott future inductions if those two are elected. Joe Morgan wrote an obsequious letter to BBWAA members recently imploring them not to vote for alleged PED users; Grant Brisbee tore apart that argument in this article, and I’m in complete agreement with him.

Thus I cast votes for Bonds and Clemens. I’ve noted this before: According to the book “Game of Shadows,” Bonds allegedly began using PEDs after the 1998 season because he was jealous of the attention Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were getting. If Bonds had retired after 1998 and never played another game, he’d have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

He just doesn’t appear to be a very nice person. His college teammates voted him off his team. He’s been unapologetic about any alleged PED use. If he’s elected, I would like to see his plaque note the allegations.

Same for Clemens, who has stonewalled any effort to discuss PED use with him and who threw his former personal trainer under the bus, finally settling a lawsuit the trainer filed after seven years.

Ugly? Sure, but it’s all part of baseball history. It ought to be acknowledged.

This is why I also cast a vote for Sosa. He’s the only player in MLB history to hit 60 or more home runs three times. Flawed? Sure. PEDs? Maybe. But there’s no doubt that he and McGwire helped bring baseball back to a public jaded after the 1994-95 strike, and that ought to be acknowledged.

I cast a vote for Manny Ramirez, too. He never won a MVP award, but for over a decade he was one of the most feared hitters in the game in both Cleveland and Boston. He was a key part of 11 postseason teams, MVP of the 2004 World Series and ranks 15th on the all-time home run list.

I voted for Trevor Hoffman because his dominance as a closer was matched by only one other pitcher, Mariano Rivera, and Mariano’s probably going in with one of the largest vote totals ever when he’s eligible. Joe Sheehan wrote this article comparing Hoffman and Andy Benes, making this argument:

In thinking about Hoffman and the Hall of Fame, I keep coming back to Andy Benes. Benes was a starter in college and in the minors and for all but a handful of outings in his 14-year major-league career. He was a horse in that role -- basically healthy through the age of 33, missing a handful of starts in 1997 not to an arm problem but a broken finger. Benes is one of the better overall #1 picks of all time. He may have disappointed Padres fans by being a league-average starter rather than a superstar one, but he was an All-Star and he picked up award votes a handful of times. When he hit free agency, which he did twice, he was paid the going rate for top-tier starting pitchers. At no point during his career did anyone suggest that Benes should stop throwing 200 innings a year and start throwing 70.

If they had, would he be on a ballot today?

Benes is why I can't get behind the idea of Trevor Hoffman for the Hall of Fame. I don't know for sure that Benes could have done what Hoffman did, but I know that many, many pitchers have done so. I am certain that Hoffman could not do what Benes did, and just as certain that what Benes did -- be a good starting pitcher for a decade -- is more valuable than what Hoffman did, which is to be a short reliever, and then a one-inning reliever, for 15 years. Benes isn't being considered for induction; in fact, he never appeared on a ballot.

I think Sheehan misses the point. It’s not that Benes could have done what Hoffman did, of course he could. The point is that he didn’t, and Hoffman did. The argument about “value” has some validity, but the fact remains that quite a number of other pitchers have been asked to do what Trevor Hoffman did — and didn’t do it as well, nor for a period as long.

Jim Thome got another of my votes; not only did he hit 612 home runs and play on 10 postseason teams, but Thome is one from the Steroid Era who has never been accused of PED use.

Chipper Jones is one of the best third basemen of all time; he gets another of my votes.

I voted for Curt Schilling. He was a key part of two World Series champions (2001 Diamondbacks, 2004 Red Sox), struck out 3,116 in his career (every 3,000-K man is in, save Clemens) and posted 80.7 career bWAR, which ranks 26th all-time among pitchers. Every pitcher with more is in, except Mike Mussina, and Mussina gets another of my votes. Looking back to Thibodaux’ spreadsheet, Mussina’s hovering just below 70 percent at the time of this post, and if he doesn’t get in this year, I suspect he will soon. His is a very underappreciated career.

My 10th vote goes to Jamie Moyer, and I’m sure you’ll disagree with that one. Why? Longevity counts, and you have to have pretty good talent to be able to put together 14.5 bWAR after age 40; that includes a 2008 season of a 3.71 ERA, 1.329 WHIP and 2.8 bWAR at age 45 for a team that won the World Series. When the Cubs released him after spring training in 1992, they offered him a minor-league coaching job. His response: “No thanks, I think I can still pitch.” He did so for 20 more seasons. His is a unique story and career that I think deserves induction.

Who would you vote for if you had a Hall ballot this year?