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It's Hall of Fame Day: Let the wild debates rage over the ballot

Maddux
Greg Maddux is a lock (AP).

By Mike Harrington

The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its 2014 induction class today, with coverage on MLB Network starting at noon and the actual results being released at 2 p.m. on MLB Network, BBWAA.com and BaseballHall.org. It is a ballot once again rife with controversy.

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A personal refresher here: I am a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the body that votes on players to the Hall. You have to be a member for 10 years to have a ballot and I will reach that point following the 2016 season.

So my first vote will come for the Class of 2017, which will include big first-time names like Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada in addition to all the holdovers that will surely still be on the ballot.

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Big issues this year:

---The size of the ballot, which limits you to voting for 10 players and is causing so much consternation among voters that a committee has been formed to study the issue and perhaps push the Hall to allow expansion. 

---The continued question of what to do with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other Steroid Era players

---What to do with former '80s ace Jack Morris, in his final year on the ballot and holder of a 3.90 career ERA that would be the highest ever for an inducted starter.

---The glut of big first-time candidates, who are pushing holdovers down the list or off ballots entirely. Many thought Greg Maddux would be the first unanimous Hall choice -- and he should have been -- but Dodgers beat writer Ken Gurnick of MLB.com voted only for Morris because he wasn't voting for any Steroid Era players. Foolishness. 

So if I had a ballot, who would I pick?

The automatics -- I would be choosing three first-timers in Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. 

Key holdovers -- I would vote for 3,000-hit man Craig Biggio (2nd year on the ballot), as well as Mike Piazza (2nd) and Jeff Bagwell (4th). Piazza and Bagwell have long been suspected of PED use but all the evidence to date is circumstantial. Their Hall credentials are undeniable and a little back acne isn't enough to discount them in these eyes.

So Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio, Piazza, Bagwell are six of my 10. Who are the final four?

The Steroid Guys -- I'm not voting for Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro. Clear PED use to lift guys into Hall of Fame status will not get my vote, but I've rethought my all-or-nothing position on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Yes, they were users. But as we've learned, so were a huge number of players during their careers. And no one put up the numbers at the plate that Bonds did or the numbers on the mound that Clemens did. Bonds, in fact, was already pretty much a Hall of Famer before he clearly hit the juice in the wake of the 1998 Sosa-McGwire lovefest. So Bonds and Clemens make Nos. 7-8 on my mock ballot.

Curt Schilling -- Let's throw out the fact he's a full-of-himself gasbag at times. And I know he only had 216 wins and a 3.47 ERA. But he had 3,116 strikeouts and just 711 walks. And he is quite simply one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and being part of four World Series teams (1993 Phillies, 2001 D-backs, '04 Red Sox and '07 Red Sox). Schilling won three of those titles and pitched a shutout in Game Five of '93 for Philly against Toronto. And, of course, he won the incredible Bloody Sock game during the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. Schilling is on my ballot.

Jack Morris: I would vote for him for sure. Whether he was pitching for the '84 or '87 Tigers, the '91 Twins, the '92 Blue Jays, he was an ace on great teams. He pitched deep into games and I submit he often pitched to the score and that accounted for some of his ERA issues as he traded outs for runs, or threw some solo homers with big leads. For many years, he was considered the top ace in the game. Sometimes, I'm going to be going on the eye test and I say pffft to Morris' ERA.

Who's left out? I love Tim Raines. He's one of the great leadoff men in history. I think he gets in someday. Edgar Martinez is the greatest DH ever (not counting David Ortiz, who is still active). I'd vote for him. Fred McGriff's 493 homers get overshadowed by the Steroid Era and he's gotten far less love on the ballot than he should. Mike Mussina and his 270 wins will eventually get in. Jeff Kent is a totally unlikeable personality who is about the best hitting second baseman ever. I would easily put my personal dealings aside to vote for him.

Kindly leave your thoughts in the comments section. I can't do polls on every player but I'm certainly interested in your thoughts on Bonds and Clemens so vote below!

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Major leagues | National Baseball Hall of Fame
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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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