|Barry Bonds: In or out? I say in. The voters will|
probably say otherwise.
This winter's ballot is probably too loaded for waste votes.
Loaded with talent, loaded with controversy. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are mightily overqualified by the stat lines, and with the steroid connections, it's quite likely none will get in.
I can argue PEDs in both directions, and at times have. My take in terms of the Hall: 1) I want some evidence, not just rumors; 2) I wouldn't set up PED use as a litmus test; 3) if there's legitimate reason to doubt that a player would have reached Hall of Fame levels without steroids, that's a heavy mark against him.
If I had a vote, I'd probably spend more time agonizing over it than I have. But off the top of my head, here's how I'd go this year:
Jeff Bagwell. How many first basemen in history were better than Bagwell? Gehrig, Foxx ... I'd take Eddie Murray over Bagwell too. The list isn't long. Bagwell's been hurt in the voting by PED rumors, but real evidence is lacking. Give me something more substantial than "he was buds with Ken Caminiti."
Craig Biggio. Maybe he and Bagwell can go in together, which would be fitting.
Bonds. Three MVPs before allegations of steroid use.
Clemens. What he did in Boston alone is sufficient.
Mike Piazza. The numbers say he was the best hitting catcher ever. Even while active, though, there was chatter that he was a chemical construct. Again, I want more than chatter.
Tim Raines. That Rock's out and Jim Rice is in is a data point for the idea that the writers are addicted to the idea that RBI is the be-all, end-all stat. Sorta like Miguel Cabrera winning the MVP over Mike Trout. Or George Bell over Alan Trammell in '87. Raines was better than Rice; Trout was better than Cabrera; Trammell was better than Bell.
Curt Schilling. An odd, up-and-down career, but utterly dominating at his best and a major figure in two of the most compelling postseasons of the past 20 years.
Alan Trammell. Best shortstop not now in the Hall, and better than more than half the shortstops in.
That's eight. That list excludes Kenny Lofton, Jack Morris, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Sosa, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Rafael Palmeiro and Edgar Martinez, all of whom have some sort of plausible argument in their favor -- and equally plausible arguments against.
But I'm not counting to 10 just because I can. Those eight are enough. Those eight are a very loaded ballot.