Three members of the Belleville News-Democrat staff and long-standing members of the Baseball Writers Association of America cast their ballots this month for the Hall of Fame.
Beginning next year, the BBWAA will make all Hall of Fame voters’ ballots public. We’re not going to wait until then. Here’s look at how Joe Ostermeier, Warren Mayes and David Wilhelm voted and why.
BALLOT: Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, Lee Smith, Larry Walker.
This year marked my last chance to vote for Lee Smith, in his prime one of the great closers in baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. Smith has never gotten proper credit, in my mind, for his 478 saves (third all time) and his seven All-Star Game appearances; he led the league in saves three times, including the league-leading 47- and 43-save seasons he posted for not-all-that-good Cardinal clubs in 1991 and 1992. I’m glad another closer – Hoffman, in his second year on the ballot – got more respect for his 601 career saves, which is second all time to Mariano Rivera’s 652. In my mind, first-timers Guerrero, Rodriguez and Martinez deserved entry to Cooperstown, along with holdovers Bagwell and Raines. I still have yet to vote for the players touched by the steroids scandal, including Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, and remain surprised by the relative lack of support for Larry Walker – who was one of the great players in baseball for years before finishing out his career as a Cardinal.
BALLOT: Lee Arthur Smith, Billy Wagner, Trevor Hoffman, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Curt Schilling.
You can vote for 10 players and I chose eight, which is a lot for me. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman were my top choices to earn induction this year. Bagwell won the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 1994 NL MVP Award during his 15-year career with the Houston Astros. The four-time NL All-Star topped the 30-home run mark nine times and averaged better than 100 runs scored and 100 RBI per season, posting a career .408 on-base percentage and a .540 slugging percentage. Raines is a seven-time All-Star and four-time NL stolen base champion. He compiled a .294 batting average and .385 on-base percentage as one of the game's top leadoff hitters of his era. Hoffman, a seven-time All-Star with the San Diego Padres, was the first pitcher to reach the 600-save plateau, finishing with 601 in a career that spanned 18 years. I have voted for Lee Smith each year he’s been on the ballot along with Billy Wagner. Both, to me, are deserving of induction. It’s just hard for a reliever to crack that glass ceiling. Ivan Rodriguez is in his first year on the ballot and he ranks as one of the top catchers of all time so him getting in is not a surprise. Martinez and Schilling are Cooperstown-worthy, but it takes 75 percent and they are not there yet. I did not and have not voted for those linked to steroids like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Both have great numbers but some of those definitely came after taking drugs.
BALLOT: Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, Lee Smith, Billy Wagner.
Over the years, I always have maintained my vote for players who had it the previous offseason. Therefore, Bagwell, Hoffman, McGriff, Mussina, Raines, Smith and Wagner are again on my ballot. However, I am resigned to the fact that Smith and McGriff probably never will be elected. Indeed, this was the final year on the ballot for Smith, who logged 160 of his saves with the Cardinals. Hoffman (601 saves), Smith (478) and Wagner (422) were three of the dominant closers of their era, but their role isn’t valued as highly by other voters as it is by me. McGriff’s big numbers (493 home runs, 1,550 RBIs) merit stronger consideration. Mussina won 270 games in a hitter’s park and pitched in the difficult American League East. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. Outfielder Guerrero, a tremendous hitter and defender, and catcher Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who won 13 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, were on the ballot for the first time and were slam-dunk selections for me. I again did not vote for players directly linked to steroids, although other voters’ stances against Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa appear to be softening as time passes.