Due to several factors, the Hall of Fame ballot is over-saturated with players that deserve to be in the Hall but can't seem to get there. For players like Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, and Edgar Martinez, it is because of the non-traditional positions they played. Although they were all-time greats, closer and designated hitter are considered "part-time players" to some and therefore not worthy of such a high honor. They are all also overshadowed by the best at their positions (Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz) who are still waiting their turn on the ballot. If those two were already in, these three would have a much easier time getting in.
The more obvious factor keeping players on the ballot is the "Steroid Era." Should players connected to PED's, either by suspicion or positive test, be inducted in the Hall of Fame? Players like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have already fallen off the ballot, even though their numbers alone are Hall of Fame worthy. Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds are still holding on, with some starting to trend up. Add to that first-timers like Ivan Rodriguez (named in Jose Canseco's whistle-blowing book) and Manny Ramirez (failed two PED tests), and you have controversy flooding this election. It seems like it is the only way America can have elections anymore: divisive and controversial.
So let's take a trip down memory lane and look at the 34 players on this year's ballot. I will start with the players not making my list, then give my honorable mentions. Following that will be my ballot ... you know, if I had a vote.
The Rest of the Candidates
* = shot at another ballot
+ = deserves another ballot
Lee Smith (15th year on ballot, 34.1% last year)
Last player to get a 15th year on the ballot. With that total from last year, it will be a 15th and final year of disappointment.
Fred McGriff (8th, 20.9%)*+
The Crime Dog deserves serious consideration for the Hall. However, with that total and only a few years left, it's not looking promising.
Jeff Bagwell (7th, 71.6)*+
He almost made it last year. He has a great shot of making it this year. I never thought of him as being that elite though.
Arthur Rhodes (1st)
It's impressive for a long reliever / lefty specialist to make the ballot. That will be his only reward.
Carlos Guillen (1st)+
One of the more consistent, underrated players for over a decade.
Casey Blake (1st)
Names like this make me stop and say, "Oh yeah, that guy!" It's one of my favorite parts of viewing the first years every year.
Derrek Lee (1st)
When he was healthy, he was a dominant hitter. Unfortunately, I think that only happened two or three times.
Edgar Renteria (1st)*+
He was a World Series hero for one team and a cornerstone of a World Series run for another. He was a guy that always made his team better.
Freddy Sanchez (1st)
You might not remember him, but he was a 3-time All Star and won a Batting Title in 2006. He was just stuck on bad Pittsburgh Pirate teams.
Jason Varitek (1st)*+
He was a cornerstone of one of the best franchises of the 2000's. Being a catcher for a World Series winner cannot be overstated.
J.D. Drew (1st)
I feel like his career was always overshadowed by never living up to his lofty potential. However, he did produce a very solid 14 year career.
Jorge Posada (1st)*+
A similar argument could be made here as was made for Varitek, however Posada was also one of the better hitting catchers of his time as well. It will be interesting where his numbers debut at.
Magglio Ordonez (1st)*+
He quietly was a 6-time All Star and a dominant bat. If he hadn't had a few seasons in his prime cut short due to injury, we would be talking about his candidacy much more seriously.
Matt Stairs (1st)
The best of his generation at his position. The only problem is I don't think pinch hitter is an accepted Hall of Fame position. To have a 19 year baseball career as a part-time player is something to truly celebrate.
Melvin Mora (1st)
He had one or two great seasons in his career that gave him the reputation to have the longevity he achieved.
Mike Cameron (1st)+
Among first-timers, he ranks 4th in career WAR. His career will always be defined as "the one that replaced Griffey."
Orlando Cabrera (1st)
Cabrera belongs in the same category as Carlos Guillen. Consistent, solid, quiet.
Pat Burrell (1st)
He defined what it meant to be a "pure power hitter."
Tim Wakefield (1st)+
One of the best knuckleballers the game has seen.
Sammy Sosa (5th, 7%)
I'll give my argument for Steroid Era players later. The numbers are insane, and he deserves to be in for 1998 alone. I would like to vote for him, but the vote seems wasted at this point.
Mike Mussina (4th, 43%)
I almost put him in my top 10. Few would say he was the best of his era, but there is something to be said for being really good for all of an 18 year career.
Jeff Kent (4th, 16.6%)
Always overshadowed by his teammates, he put up some of the best numbers for any 2nd basemen in history.
Gary Sheffield (3rd, 11.6%)
There once was a time where being in the 500 home run club made you a first ballot Hall of Famer. Now, it leaves you close to falling off the ballot altogether.
Billy Wagner (2nd, 10.5%)
There were few closers more dominant than Billy Wagner. He may not have the numbers of some other all-timers, but his dominance in undeniable.
1. Ivan Rodriguez (1st)
2. Manny Ramirez (1st)
3. Vladimir Guerrero (1st)
4. Trevor Hoffman (2nd, 67.3%)
5. Barry Bonds (5th, 44.3%)
6. Curt Schilling (5th, 52.3%)
7. Roger Clemens (5th, 45.2%)
8. Larry Walker (7th, 15.5%)
9. Edgar Martinez (8th, 43.4%)
10. Tim Raines (10th, 69.8%)
So there is my ballot and who I would vote for. Now all that is left is my prediction on who will actually get in. This is a strange year. Usually, no more than a couple guys get in at a time. Only once has as many as five received the 75%, and that was the first year of Hall of Fame voting. With that said, I am predicting that the Class of 2017 will have four members:
So what would your ballot be? Let us know in the comments below...