It took a lot of time and a lot of thought to solve my Hall of Fame voting conflict. As I referenced in last week’s On The Beat, I still had a blank ballot in my hands less than a week before the deadline to submit my vote. I truly agonized over whether to vote for players connected to PED use, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. I even considered abstaining from the process, like two long-time baseball-writing colleagues whom I have great respect for, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer and T.J. Quinn of ESPN.
I wound up submitting my ballot on the New Year’s Eve, in the last hours before the deadline. I checked nine names and, no, before you start inundating me with hate emails, tweets and Facebook messages, I did not vote for Tim Raines. I have wavered on Raines throughout the six years he has been on the ballot, and it just didn’t feel right voting for him. That could certainly change, though, and I am so much on the fence about his candidacy that I could see myself voting for him on the next ballot.
However, this piece is about this election, and I ultimately decided to vote for Bonds and Clemens. I am sure when the voting results are released Jan. 9 that a vast majority of the 600-plus voters—all of whom have had at least 10 years of active service in the Baseball Writers Association of America—will decide to go the other way.
I have come to the conclusion that I am neither a moralist nor an ethicist. The Moody Blues sang “I’m just a singer in a rock-and-roll band.” Well, I’m just a baseball writer. It’s not my place to judge who was right and who was wrong, especially because I am absolutely positive that a number of players used PEDs during their careers who were never caught, just as I’m sure a number of players—stretching back to the 1960s—used amphetamines without it ever becoming public. Thus, my ultimate criteria, boiled down quite a bit, is if the player was a Hall of Famer in my mind for his accomplishments on the field, then he gets my vote.
So here are the nine players who got my vote:
Jeff Bagwell: I don’t get the steroids talk now that his career is over, because he drew little or no suspicion when he played. Regardless, he’s a Hall of Famer in my book and has been since the day his career ended.
Barry Bonds: Questioning the legitimacy of his home run record is certainly fine and dandy, but he is the greatest player I have seen in my 48 years on Earth, and it was a privilege to cover him for five seasons from 1988-92 when he played for the Pirates.
Edgar Martinez: I’ll say it again: designated hitters are people, too, and he was the best one ever with a .312/.418/.515 triple-slash line that was as pretty as his swing.
Rafael Palmeiro: An extremely reliable source—with no ties to Palmeiro—told me an off-the-record story at the Winter Meetings that convinced me that Palmeiro was indeed a clean player and was tricked into using the steroid when he thought he was taking a shot of vitamin B-12 that led to his suspension and end of his career in 2005. Unfortunately, there would be too many legal ramifications to make the story public.
Mike Piazza: Granted, he did have a lot of acne on his back, but he was the greatest offensive catcher ever.
Curt Schilling: Everyone knows he was one of the game’s great post-season pitchers but he was also pretty darned good in the regular season.
Alan Trammell: This is a classic example of why players can stay on the ballot as long as 15 years if they gain at least five percent of the vote. I didn’t vote for him in his first 11 years on the ballot but have changed my mind after considering he played the most difficult position on the diamond (shortstop) and won four Gold Glove and three Silver Sluggers while helping redefine the position with his offensive prowess. Raines fans, there is your hope!
Meanwhile, I realize that 3,000 hits means all but automatic induction into the Hall of Fame, but I want more time to think about Craig Biggio. As much as I admired him as a player, his 3,000 hits seem to me to be partially a product of playing 20 seasons, as he only surpassed 180 hits in a season four times.
I also have reasons for voting for Bonds but not fellow mashers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Bonds was a complete all-around player, while McGwire was a one-trick pony and Sosa was a great player for only a short time.
As far as Jack Morris, that 3.90 ERA is just too big to fit in the Hall of Fame. And as much as I would have loved to put a check next to Dale Murphy’s name in his last year on the ballot because he was a Hall of Fame person, he just wasn’t quite a Hall of Fame player. The same goes for Reggie Sanders, in what will likely be his first and only year on the ballot.
The Rays and left-hander David Price avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to a one-year, $10.1125 million contract. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner is not eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, but it’s never too early to guess how much money he might make if gets to the open market without suffering either a major injury or an unforeseen drop in performance.
The largest contract ever given a pitcher was the seven-year, $161-year deal CC Sabathia signed with the Yankees during the 2008-09 offseason. In a quick survey of five front-office types, all five agreed that Price would make more than that if he reaches free agency, especially when inflation is factored.
And just how much of a factor is salary inflation, especially in light of the fact each team will receive an additional $25 million a season in national television revenue beginning next year? So much so that all five also predicted Price will crack $200 million and that Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw will, too.
It is generally assumed that the Rays will be unable to afford Price following this upcoming season. Yet they have worked to keep third baseman Evan Longoria under contract through 2022 and a front-office type from another AL East team doesn’t completely rule out the Rays doing something with Price.
“Let me preface by saying I think there is about a 10 percent chance of it actually happening, but you have some factors in play that could make a deal happen,” the FOT said. “One, the Rays have brilliant people running their franchise. Two, Price has an agent in Bo McKinnis, who is very good at what he does and has no ego. Three, Price doesn’t strike me as the type of person who feels compelled to make every last dollar. You put those three together, and there is at a slim chance Price winds up staying there for the long term.”
The final baseball transaction of 2012 raised a few eyebrows, with the Royals signing infielder Miguel Tejada to a minor-league contract. Tejada hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2011, but some other teams, like the Diamondbacks, also showed interest. One scout from a National League club who has watched the 2002 American League MVP play winter ball in the Dominican Republic doesn’t think it’s a bad gamble on the Royals’ part.
“It’s a free look at the guy in spring training,” the scout said. “I wouldn’t have guaranteed him any money, and they didn’t. He’s swung the bat pretty well down there and he might be able to help them off the bench. I would say the odds are against him making the club, but it’s not a total longshot, either.”
The Indians signed right-hander Brett Myers to a one-year, $7-million contract as a free agent and plan to use him as a starting pitcher. Myers pitched in relief last season with the Astros and White Sox, appearing in 70 games and working in 65 1/3 innings.
However, most scouts and front-office types believe Myers’ health should not be at risk with a transition back to the rotation. He pitched a combined 439 2/3 innings with the Astros during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, a figure that ranked 14th in the major leagues during that time.
“He’s always been a workhorse if he’s healthy,” one NL scout said. “He always wants the ball and he always wants to pitch deep into games. He’s not a No. 1 starter, but he’ll give them innings, keep them in the game most of the time and, most importantly, keep Terry Francona from blowing out that bullpen, which is very good.”