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Baseball Hall Of Fame Voters Face Tough Choices

December 11, 2013

It's tough figuring what the National Baseball Hall of Fame had in mind when handing out a ballot to its Expansion Era Committee recently. At first, it appeared as if it wanted to make sure it would have a few inductees to celebrate during the summer of 2014 in Cooperstown, N.Y., as opposed to 2013, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America didn't vote in anyone. 

Here's how things have worked out. As expected, the committee voted in three super managers -- Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa -- unanimously (each garnering all 16 votes available) while leaving virtually no chance for anyone else nominated to make it. 

See, the committee members were restricted to four votes, and after three went to Cox, La Russa and Torre, they could go for only one other nominee among the impressive group remaining. 

Look at the names: players Tommy John, Steve Garvey, Dave Concepcion, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry and Ted Simmons; manager Billy Martin; and executives Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner. Each in this impressive group received six or fewer votes, which is less than halfway toward the dozen votes (or 75 percent) needed for inclusion -- ridiculous. 

So much has been made of Miller, past executive director of the MLB Players Association and the man who made the union, not being voted in, it probably isn't worth repeating for the 100th time. 

Of course, a strong case can be made for each of the six former players, particularly John, as well as Martin, an incomparable manager, but in competition for one vote, who wouldn't fail to pick up a dozen votes?

It's like saying, pick one among Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. Or select one pitcher among Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Warren Spahn -- impossible. 

Besides, what happened to the rule about all Hall of Fame nominees being out of the game for five years?

Meanwhile, the annual BBWAA ballot has shown up, and, once again, it's not an easy task getting the choices down to just 10 picks. The reason for this -- surprise -- is all those people who somehow got involved with steroids or some other performance-enhancing whatever. 

There's absolutely no doubt that, statistically, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are surefire Hall of Famers, and several others -- Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire -- are close, but now it becomes a moral question about overlooking cheating. This is McGwire's eighth go-round, and one out of six voters still feel that his home run feats still deserve strong consideration.

Bonds and Clemens got 36 and 37 percent backing last year, when they first appeared on the ballot, and it will be interesting to see whether their backing goes up or down this time around. Meanwhile, Sosa and Palmeiro are hanging on by their fingernails, and it's apparent the electorate has made its wishes in their cases. 

At the same time, two more questionable types, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, are back, and they're getting solid voter backing because they haven't been charged with anything, just innuendo and rumors. 

The top two vote-getters last year, Craig Biggio, who was in his first consideration, and Jack Morris, in his 14th, appear to be within range of the 75 percent target of votes. 

Unfortunately, this is what Hall of Fame voting comes down to these days, clearing up the questions about off-the-field issues and so on and, perhaps, not giving full attention to the guys appearing on the ballot for the first time. For instance, look at the careers of Greg Maddux, 355 victories and four consecutive Cy Young Awards, and Tom Glavine, 305 wins and two Cy Youngs. Thing is, these two were on the same pitching staff for years; otherwise, their numbers would be even better (if that's possible).

Also on for the first time is unsung first baseman Frank Thomas of the White Sox, who picked up two American League MVP awards while smacking 521 home runs (same as Ted Williams), scoring 1,704 runs and batting .301, with 2,468 hits during a 19-year career. 

Another above-average performer is Mike Mussina, who won 270 games, for the Orioles and Yankees, while winning at least 15 games 11 times and consistently being near the top of the earned run average list in the AL. How about second-year man Curt Schilling? He's easily among the top two or three postseason pitchers of all time with his 11-2 record with a 2.23 ERA. Schilling won 216 games during 20 seasons. His bloody sock is already in Cooperstown, and he belongs there, too. 

Imagine going over the numbers of Fred McGriff (493 home runs and 1,550 RBIs); Piazza (.308 average with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs); Larry Walker (.313 with 383 homers and 1,311 RBIs); and Edgar Martinez (.312 with 309 home runs and 1,261 RBIs), the greatest designated hitter of all time. 

And I didn't even get around to first-timer Jeff Kent and his .290 average with 377 home runs and 1,518 RBIs. Eight times Kent had at least 20 homers and 100 RBIs during a season, the most ever by a second baseman. Aren't they the guys who are supposed to cover first base on a bunt, hit behind the runner and give themselves up for the big guys?

OK, let me see you pick out 10 guys worthy of Cooperstown out of that array and feel good about your choices.