The Baseball Writers Association of America released the annual ballot for the Hall of Fame election today and let the debates begin because there are going to be some doozies this time. There are interesting candidates who haven't gotten in yet on the ballot again as well as some whopper-size new names that will be sparking all kids of debate.
(Housekeeping/disclaimers: There are over 600 eligible voters and you have to get 75 percent of the vote to be inducted, or 5 percent to stay on the ballot for future years. The voters are BBWAA members for 10 consecutive years; I am a BBWAA member but do not yet have a vote. I will be eligible to vote for the Hall in the winter of 2016.)
So here's my quick rundown:
---Big new names coming on the ballot for the first time: Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa.
---Returnees who got votes last year: Jack Morris (66.7 percent), Jeff Bagwell (56), Lee Smith (50.6), Tim Raines (48.7), Alan Trammell (36.8), Edgar Martinez (36.5), Fred McGriff (23.9), Larry Walker (22.9), Mark McGwire (19.5), Don Mattingly (17.8), Dale Murphy (14.5), Rafael Palmeiro (12.6), Bernie Williams (9.6).
---New names who are no-chancers: Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finely, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, David Wells, Rondell White, Woody Williams.
You can vote for up to 10 players, so you would think there might be some big classes coming up but history shows there has not been many. We have not had three players inducted since 1999 (Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount) and it's been all the way since 1955 (Joe DiMaggio, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance and Gabby Hartnett) that we had four inducted.
The issue of course, this year, deals with steroids. What will voters do with Bonds, Clemens and Sosa? By brute numbers, they all should get in but they're likely to get treated the same way as McGwire and Palmeiro. What about Piazza, who has a lot of circumstantial steroid talk but no real allegations? Will he suffer a similar fate as Bagwell, who should be in but suffers from being linked to known user Ken Caminiti?
Do the steroid guys' open the door wider for someone like Schilling, a postseason icon whose regular-season numbers are not normally considered HOF caliber? Or what about the door finally getting kicked in for Morris or Raines, or perhaps an underappreciated SS (Trammell) or the first DH (Martinez)?
And the logjam only gets worse with 2014 eligibles including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina getting into the fray.
What do I say? Sorry, you'll have to wait for Sunday's Inside Baseball column for what my ballot would look like. In the meantime, have your vote here on the six new candidates and the best of the returnees: