It's that time of the year again! Every year around this time is one of my favorites. I love to debate baseball and there is no better topic to debate than the Hall of Fame. This year we see a super strong first year class hit the ballot. Two 300 game winners and mainstays of the Atlanta Braves dominating staff of the '90s in Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine join the fray. As does the greatest White Sox player any of us has ever seen, none other than the Big Hurt Frank Thomas. Throw in strong candidates like Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent and add them to a ballot already littered with truly great ballplayers, and we're crowded in here.
There are a couple of other factors that complicate the matters. Due to the small classes in the previous years, you can make a real good case for over 20 ballplayers. Add that to the fact that you only get 10 votes and things become complicated. Do you continue to support guys from the '80s that have been overlooked to this point like Tim Raines, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris? What do you do about the steroid guys?
It's time for you to decide. Cast your ballot here.
Here are the guidelines:
* Only vote one time. Your user name is mandatory. If you vote twice, only your first entry will count.
* Only vote for 10 people. A case can be made for double that, but 10 is the number the writers have to abide by and so do you.
* If you don't think any player should be voted in, choose the "NONE" option so your lack of a vote can be weighed in with the percentages.
* Your ballot will be thrown out if you don't follow the guidelines.
On to the player profiles.
Career Stats: .303/.369/.516, 332 HR, 1,287 RBI
Alou is making his first appearance on the ballot and he had a very good career. After being selected second overall in the 1986 draft by the Pirates, he was traded to the Expos in 1990. He became a big piece in Montreal's exciting young core that also included Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker and Cliff Floyd. When Alou hit the free-agent market in 1997, he signed with the Florida Marlins and went on to OPS .866 with 23 homers and 115 RBI's for the World Champions. Naturally, the Marlins traded him to Houston after the year, where he had the best years of his career. In 1998, Alou hit .312/.399/.582 with 38 homers and 124 RBI. After missing the entire 1999 season, he hit .355/.416/.623 in 2000. After another good season in 2001, he signed with the Cubs. Thats when things got weird. He became more known for peeing on his hands and causing the whole Bartman controversy than actually being a super productive player with historical bloodlines (his father, Felipe and Uncles Matty and Jesus all enjoyed long successful careers). After hitting .293 with 39 homers in 2004, he signed on with the Giants where he had another good season before becoming a productive role player with the Mets and retiring after the 2008 season. Alou is a guy that a case could be made for, but the era he played in and the other names on the ballot will make it tough for him to see a second turn.
Jeff Bagwell (Astros)
Career stats: .297/.408/.540, 449 HR, 1,529 RBI, 202 SB
Bagwell was stolen from the Red Sox by Houston and went on to have a remarkable career. The man who was born on the same day as Frank Thomas, had a career very similar to the Big Hurt. The 1991 NL Rookie of the Year was the 1994 NL MVP when he hit .368/.451/.750 with 39 homers and 116 RBI in the strike-shortened season. He would OPS over 1.00 five times in his career, four times coming before 2000 when the Astros played their home games in the spacious Astro Dome. He remained productive until injuries got the best of him in 2005 and I will remember him as the guy Bobby Jenks blew away in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 2005 World Series, but Bagwell should be a Hall of Famer. This is his fourth try and he has gotten more votes each time out, with 59.6% last year. Could this be his year?
Career stats: 289 saves, 3.13 ERA, 40-47, 946 strikeouts, 779 innings
Benitez was a hard throwing reliever that saved 160 games for the Mets over a five-year stretch and also led the league in saves with 47 for the Marlins in 2004. He always struck out a lot of people and was a solid force out of the bullpen during his prime, but there have been a lot better closers who haven't made the Hall of Fame. Benitez will be one and done, but he made 50 million dollars in his career so good for him.
Craig Biggio (Astros)
Career stats: .281/.363/.433, 3,060 hits, 291 home runs, 1,175 RBI, 414 SB
Continuing with the Astros theme, here is Craig Biggio. This is his second year on the ballot and he came very close to enshrinement last year as he netted 68.2 percent of the vote. Biggio was a seven-time all-star and a doubles machine. His 668 doubles rank fifth all-time. He also was hit by 285 pitches, second all-time. He is a member of the 3,000 hit club. With 291 homers and 414 steals he could beat you in many different ways. Biggio could very well get inducted this year.
Barry Bonds (Pirates, Giants)
Career stats: .298/.444/.607, 762 home runs, 1,996 RBI, 514 SB, 2,558 walks, 14-time all-star, 7 MVPs
The all-time home run king, all-time single season home run leader, seven-time MVP, 14-time all-star and eight-time gold glove winner is back for his second crack on the ballot after getting 36.2 percent of the vote last season. Bonds is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. On numbers alone he should have been a unanimous selection last year. Of course, there is the whole steroids thing. It has been said that after witnessing the McGwire/Sosa home run race and seeing those two get national attention and fame with whispers of steroids, Bonds got jealous and decided to see what would happen if he started a steroid cycle. What happened was one of the best players of the era became the biggest offensive force ever. Bonds was a hall of famer before jealousy got the best of him. Now, he may never be. He'll probably get around the same percentage he got last year.
Career stats: .302/.367/.447, 130 home runs, 735 RBI
Casey came up with the star-studded Indians in the 1990s. With Jim Thome holding down first base, they decided to ship Casey to the Reds in exchange for starting pitching help in Dave Burba. Casey went on to have a good career with Cincinnati. The three-time all-star had his best year in 1999 when he hit .332/.399/.539 with 25 homers and 99 RBI. While he never had enormous power and played first base, he still hit .300 seven times in his career. He will be one and done on the Hall of Fame ballot, but with limited tools, he carved out a very nice career for himself. Unfortunately for Casey, the thing I remember most about him is this.
Roger Clemens (Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros)
Career stats: 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 4,672 strikeouts, 118 complete games, 4,916.2 IP, seven-time Cy Young winner, 11-time all-star, 1986 AL MVP
The Rocket is arguably the best pitcher in the last 50 years. The seven-time Cy Young winner, six-time 20-game-winner and AL MVP in 1986 was as dominant as they came. He led the league in ERA seven times. He led the league in wins four times. He is third all-time in strikeouts, ninth in wins, seventh in starts, seventh in complete games, eighth in WAR (third for pitchers). He also should be a unanimous Hall of Famer, but like Bonds, got caught up in steroids. Last year he received 37.6 percent of the vote. Will he ever get to 75%? You make the call.
Career stats: .277/.352/.436, 192 home runs, 875 RBI, 2,054 hits, 273 stolen bases.
Ray came up with the Sox with a lot of promise. The 1990 fifth-round draft pick made his White Sox debut in 1995. There were comparisons to Joe Morgan being thrown around. While Ray never made it to that level, he became a very good second baseman for the White Sox for parts of eight years. He had pop, hitting 10 or more homers 11 times. He could steal a bag, having topped 30 on four occasions. He was a fairly consistent hitter, usually ending up somewhere around a .280 batting average. He was a very good leadoff man as he had very good on-base skills. He was still a good productive player when he called it quits in 2008 at the age of 36. While he may not be a Hall of Famer, he was comparable to some that are and others that may be. His top comparisons on Baseball-Reference include Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Barry Larkin, Bobby Doerr, Alan Trammell, Ryne Sandberg and Bobby Grich. That is pretty fine company. Hats off, Ray.
Career stats: 187 saves, 718 strikeouts, 643.2 IP, 33-26, 2003 NL Cy Young winner
Gagne came up with the Dodgers in 1999 for a cup of coffee and after two unsuccessful years in their rotation, became a bullpen ace in 2002. He saved 52 games that year with a 1.97 ERA and he followed that up with an even more impressive 2003. Gagne saved 55 games with a 1.20 ERA and 0.69 WHIP that year as he took home the Cy Young honors. In 2004, he saved 45 more. Then the wheels came off. Injuries came, steroid usage became public and he ended his career in the mediocre fashion in which it started. While he had a short run of dominance, there are plenty of closers more deserving of Hall of Fame recognition.
Tom Glavine (Braves, Mets)
Career stats; 305-203, 3.54 ERA, 2,607 strikeouts, 4,413.1 IP, 10-time all-star, two-time Cy Young
A mainstay of the legendary Braves 1990's pitching staff, Glavine won 20 games five times and in each of those seasons led the NL in wins. He was an ultimate workhorse. After entering the rotation on a full-time basis in 1988, Glavine made 30 starts 17 of the next 21 years. The only four he didn't? 1989 (29), 1994, 1995 (25,29, strike shortened seasons) and his last year in 2008, where he returned to Atlanta after a five-year stint in New York and made 13 starts at 42 years old. He also made 35 starts in the postseason, where he went 14-16 with a 3.30 ERA. He's a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Will it be this year?
Luis Gonzalez (Astros, Cubs, Tigers, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Marlins)
Career stats: .283/.367/.479, 354 home runs, 1,439 RBI, 2,591 hits, 596 doubles
Gonzalez was a steady player the first nine years of his career. His best season in his first career phase was .300/.361/.457 with 15 home runs and 72 RBI. Then in 1999 at the age of 31, he signed on with the Diamondbacks and became one of the best hitters in the game. In his eight seasons with Arizona, he hit .291/.391/.529 with 224 home runs. In 2001, Gonzalez hit .325/.429/.688 with 57 home runs and 142 RBI for the World Champion Diamondbacks. His 596 doubles rank 15th all-time.
Jacque Jones (Twins, Cubs, Tigers, Marlins)
Career stats: .277/.326/.448, 165 home runs, 630 RBI
Jones was a solid outfielder who played a big part in the Twins resurgence in the early parts of the 2000's. He hit for a decent average and had some pop. When he was signed by the Cubs, the fans turned on him early, even though he had a pretty decent 2006 season. He had a nice career. This is the Hall of Fame we are talking about though, and quite frankly I think my little league championships have more of a chance at being honored than Jones does at getting inducted.
Career stats: 319 saves, 3.97 ERA, 868 strikeouts, 1,072 IP
Jones saved at least 30 games six times, including his league leading 42 in 2000 for the Tigers. He saved 235 games for the Tigers over eight seasons. I think it is pretty amazing he was as successful as he was seeing that he had a WHIP of 1.41 over his career. Jones is a perfect example of why it isn't a big deal to lose your closer. Someone is always out there that will do a passable job. That is what Jones did. He shouldn't get any votes for the Hall though, unless his brother is a voter.
Jeff Kent (Blue Jays, Mets, Indians, Giants, Astros, Dodgers)
Career stats: .290/.356/.500, 377 home runs, 1,518 RBI, five-time all-star, 2000 NL MVP
When you look up slugging second baseman, Jeff Kent is sure to be on the list. He is the all-time home run leader for the position. The 20th round draft pick came up with the Blue Jays in 1992, but was sent that same year to the Mets in exchange for David Cone. He had a nice run in New York, OPS'ing .780 over parts of five seasons, when he was traded to the Indians for a personal favorite of mine, Carlos Baerga. The following off-season he was traded to the Giants for Matt Williams. That is when Kent's career took off. For the next nine seasons, he hit at least 22 home runs and knocked in 100 RBI in eight of those seasons. He was the NL MVP in 2000 when he hit .334/.424/.596 with 33 home runs and 125 RBI. After his 2002 season, where he hit .313 with 37 home runs, Kent signed with the Astros. He had two productive years there before moving on to the Dodgers where he'd spend his last four seasons. The numbers certainly are there. Is he a Hall of Famer? Make the call.
Paul Lo Duca (Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Nationals)
Career stats: .286/.337/.409, 80 home runs, 481 RBI, four-time all-star
Lo Duca had a big season in 2001 with the Dodgers when he hit .320/.374/.543 with 25 home runs and 90 RBI. He always had a decent batting average and the ability to get on base, but this is the Hall of Fame we are talking about. No chance. Especially when you throw in the fact that he was in the Mitchell Report.
Greg Maddux (Cubs, Braves, Dodgers, Padres)
Career stats: 355-227, 3.16 ERA, 3,371 strike outs, 5,008.1 IP, eight-time all-star, four-time Cy Young winner, 18-time Gold Glove winner
Maddux was a second-round pick of the Cubs in 1984. He became a full-time starter in 1987 at the age of 21. In 1988, he began a run of 17 seasons in which he won at least 15 games (and 20 seasons with at least 13). He led the league in wins three times, ERA four times, starts seven times and innings five times. From 1992-1995, he was the unquestioned best in the game. In the middle of the biggest offensive era in history, Maddux had ERA's of 2.18, 2.36, 1.56 and 1.63 as he won the Cy Young in each season. His best season was 1995, when he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA and a 0.811 WHIP. Like Glavine, he was a workhorse as he made at least 30 starts every season from 1988-2008, besides the two strike-shortened years. Maddux is a no-brainer and will most likely go in with his long time teammate and manager.
Edgar Martinez (Mariners)
Career stats: .312/.418/.515, 309 home runs, 1,261 RBI, 2,247 hits, 514 doubles
Martinez is on the ballot for the fifth time. His percentage has been in the thirties, topping out in 2012 at 36.5. Those who are against him site that he was a DH for the majority of his career and that due to injuries he never reached the magic numbers. He's a seven-time all-star and two-time batting champion and was a major part of the boom of the Mariners franchise. The more crowded the ballot gets though, the more likely that Martinez never gets the call.
Don Mattingly (Yankees)
Career stats: .307/.358/.471, 222 home runs, 1,099 RBI, six-time all-star, 1985 AL MVP
As a kid growing up in the mid-80's, there were very few hitters that you feared more than Don Mattingly. In his first full season in 1984 as a 23-year old, Mattingly hit .343 with 207 hits and 44 doubles, all of which led the league. In '85 he hit .324 with 48 doubles, 35 home runs and 145 RBI. In '86 it was .352 with 238 hits, 53 doubles, 31 homers and 113 RBI. In '87 he hit .327 with 31 home runs and 115 RBI. Most hitters enter their prime at age 27, but that was the start of Mattingly's decline. He still had very solid averages the rest of his career, but his power fell off due to back injuries. If Donnie Baseball was allowed to have a normal hitters prime, he would have been in the Hall of Fame years ago. Unfortunately, his back robbed him of that. This is his 14th time on the ballot, but he never received more than the 28.2% he had in his first year.
Fred McGriff (Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Rays, Cubs, Dodgers)
Career stats: .284/.377/.509, 493 home runs, 1,550 RBI, 2,490 hits, five-time all-star
McGriff came up with the Blue Jays in 1986 and in his first year as a full-time player in 1988, he hit 34 home runs. It was the first of ten times that the Crime Dog would hit at least 30 home runs in a season. He led the league in home runs in 1989 with 36 and in 1990 was involved in what some consider one of the best trades ever when the Blue Jays sent McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. In 1992, he led the NL in homers with 35 homers. At the trade deadline in 1993, the Padres traded McGriff to the Braves where he became a mainstay in the Braves lineup. He was a big threat in the playoffs throughout the '90s. He hit .303/.385/.532 with 10 home runs in October. He continued to be an anchor in the Devil Ray and Cub lineups through 2002. With 478 homers and just coming off a 30 home run year, it looked like McGriff would make it to 500. Unfortuntaley, he would only hit 15 more and fell just seven dingers shy of the magic number. In another era, McGriff would probably be in the Hall, but his steady consistent numbers were dwarfed by some chemically enhanced numbers of the era. He received 20.7% of the vote last year.
Mark McGwire (Athletics, Cardinals)
Career stats: .263/.394/.588, 583 home runs, 1,414 RBI, 12-time all-star
This is McGwire's eighth time on the ballot. He has fallen steadily in recent years after topping out at 23.7% in 2010. Last year he netted 16.9% of the vote. Voters willing to vote for Bonds and Clemens weren't willing to do the same for McGwire. He was an unbelievable power hitter who hit tape measure shots at will. His 1998 now infamous home run race with Sammy Sosa was one of the most exciting story lines in baseball. Unfortunately, the steroid cloud will forever be connected to McGwire. He was the one to break the magical 61 home run mark set by Roger Maris when he tuned 70 for the Cardinals in '98. Bonds would hit 73 three years later.
Jack Morris (Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Indians)
Career stats: 254-186, 3.90 ERA, 2,478 strikeouts, 3,824 IP
Morris is entering his final year on the ballot. Last year he received 67.7% of the vote, falling just short of induction. He was the anchor of three different organizations world championship pitching staff. He pitched possibly the greatest game of all time when he pitched 10 shutout innings in a 1-0 victory in Game 7 of the World Series. He is the third most winning pitcher in the American League since the DH was adopted, only trailing Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina. He went at least eight innings in 52% of his starts from 1979-1992. With Maddux, Glavine and Mussina on the ballot for the first time, Morris may not gain the additional support needed to get in. We'll see.
Mike Mussina (Orioles, Yankees)
Career stats: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 2,813 strikeouts, 3,562.2 IP
Mussina was drafted twice by the Orioles. Once in the 11th round of the 1987 draft and when he didn't sign, they picked him in the first round (20th overall) in the 1990 draft. He reached the majors the next season, when he made 12 starts for the 1991 Orioles. He held his own with a 2.87 ERA that season. From then on, he was a fixture in the American League East. He won at least 10 games in every one of his 17 seasons, all in possibly the toughest division in baseball. He led the league in 1995 with 19 victories. He never won the Cy Young, but was in the top six in voting nine times. He didn't notch a 20 win season until his final season in 2008. He retired on top, just 30 wins shy of 300. Mussina isn't the slam dunk candidate that Maddux and Glavine are, but he has a really strong chance at eventually making it.
Hideo Nomo (Dodgers, Mets, Brewers, Tigers, Red Sox, Rays, Royals)
Career stats: 123-109, 4.24 ERA, 1,918 strikeouts, 1,976.1 IP
Before Hideo Nomo, there had only been one other Japanese player to play in the major leagues. Masanori Murakami pitched two seasons for the Giants in the '60s. Nomo, failing to get a long term deal from his Japanese team, "retired" from baseball in Japan. The loophole allowed him to move to the Major Leagues and he did just that with the Dodgers in 1995. Japanese baseball was considered inferior at the time, but Nomo-Mania took the league by storm. Hideo used his "Tornado" delivery to strikeout a league leading 236 batters in his Rookie of the Year season. Hideo went 13-6 that season and turned in a 16-11 year in 1996. He also threw a no-hitter in Coors Field that season. After his second year, things took a turn for the worse for Nomo. He walked hitters at an increasingly high rate and had arm problems. He was traded to the Mets in '98 and was released after the season. He went 20-20 in two seasons with the Brewers and Tigers before signing with Boston. In 2001, Nomo threw another no-hitter and 13-10 while leading the league in strikeouts with 220. After the season, he signed back with the Dodgers and went 32-19 over the next two years before bottoming out in 2004 with an 8.25 ERA. He made 19 starts with the Rays in 2005 and went 5-8. He reappeared in 2008 with the Royals for three games, which pushed his first appearance on the ballot back until now. He isn't a Hall of Famer, but Nomo was a pioneer. Shortly after he tested the system, Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball adopted the posting system they had until it was adjusted this year. Now there is a different Japanese player making a huge splash in the market every offseason and it started with Nomo.
Rafael Palmeiro (Cubs, Rangers, Orioles)
Career stats: .288/.371/.515, 569 home runs, 1,835 RBI, 3,020 hits, 585 doubles
Palmeiro is entering his fourth season on the ballot and he nearly fell completely off last year as he got 8.8 percent. The numbers are undeniable. Only four players, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Palmeiro have reached both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. He should have been a sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer. But, as is the case with many of these guys, writers will not vote for steroid guys. Palmeiro's testimony to Congress, followed closely by failing a drug test, may put the Hall of Fame out of his reach for good.
Mike Piazza (Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres, Athletics)
Career stats: .308/.377/.545, 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, 2,127 hits
Piazza hits the ballot for the second time this year. Last year he snagged 57.8% of the vote. The greatest hitting catcher in the history of baseball probably deserved better. Piazza, a 62nd round pick in 1988, took the league by storm in 1993 when he hit .318/.370/.561 with 35 home runs and 112 RBI for the Dodgers. He won the Rookie of the Year for the National League that year. He ended up pounding the ball until 2003, when injuries, age and wear and tear on an aging catcher took a toll on him. The suspicions by writers of players of the era are the only thing standing in Piazza's way to Cooperstown.
Tim Raines (Expos, White Sox, Yankees, Athletics, Orioles, Marlins)
Career stats: .294/.385/.425, 170 home runs, 980 RBI, 2,605 hits, 808 stolen bases
The Rock makes his seventh trip to the ballot and last year he netted 52.2% of the vote. It was his highest total to date. Raines was an elite player in the league from 1981-1987. He was a seven time all-star during that time. He stole 70 bases or more in six straight seasons. In 1986, his .334 batting average led the league. From 1988-1995, Raines was still a very productive regular for the Expos and White Sox. He was still a productive bench player until his final season in 2002. No, Raines wasn't as good as Rickey Henderson, but he was the next best thing and better than everyone else. Voters who won't vote for any of the steroid guys have no excuse on not voting for Raines. He should have been in years ago.
Kenny Rogers (Rangers, Yankees, Athletics, Mets, Twins, Tigers)
Career stats: 219-156, 4.27 ERA, 1,968 strikeouts, 3,302.2 IP
Rogers started his career as a bullpen man for the Rangers in 1989. He became a full-time starter in 1993 and went 16-10 with a 4.10 ERA over 33 starts. In 1994, he threw a perfect game for Texas. Rogers signed a long term deal with the Yankees but struggled in his two seasons in the Bronx. He was traded to the Athletics, and pitched well again before being dealt to the Mets at the deadline in 1999. He pitched well in his short stint with the Mets and signed back with the Rangers for the 2000 season, where he went 31-28 over three seasons. After a successful year in Minnesota he came back to the Rangers for two seasons and went 32-17. He finished his career in Detroit where he had a good 2006 in helping lead the Tigers to the World Series. He got injured in 2007 and was ineffective at the age of 43 in 2008 before retiring. He was a good pitcher. He was very similar to David Wells in his career. Wells got 0.9% of the vote last year, so there is no chance for Rogers.
Curt Schilling (Orioles, Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox)
Career stats: 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 3,116 strikeouts, 3261 IP
Schilling is on the ballot for the second time. Last season he got 38.8% of the vote. He started his career in Baltimore, where he was used mostly as a reliever before being traded to Houston where he remained in the bullpen for a year. He was then shipped to the Phillies, where he became a steady piece to the rotation. In his first year in Philadelphia, he had a 2.35 ERA with 10 complete games. In his second year, he helped lead the Phillies to the World Series. He won 47 games with the Phillies from 1997-1999 before being traded to Arizona. In 2001, Schilling went 22-6 with a 2.98 ERA as he formed a dominating starting duo with Randy Johnson as the Diamondbacks would go on to win the World Series. In 2002, he won 23 games. After an injury plagued 2003, Schilling signed with the Red Sox, where he would help them break the Curse of the Bambino in 2004. Schilling was 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA for Boston that year. Schilling struggled in 2005, but threw well in 2006 and closed out his career with another World Championship with the Red Sox in 2007. Schilling was remarkable in the post season, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and the Bloody Sock. He's a border line Hall of Famer.
Richie Sexson (Indians, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Yankees)
Career stats: .261/.344/.507, 306 home runs, 943 RBI
Sexson was a powerful man with six 30+ home run seasons, including a pair of 45 homer years for the Brewers. In 2005, he signed on with the Mariners and after a couple of good seasons in Seattle, he became Adam Dunn and the Mariners released him in 2008. He ended his career on the Yankee bench that season. He's not close to a Hall of Famer but he did hit a lot of bombs in his career.
Lee Smith (Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, Expos)
Career stats: 478 saves, 71-92, 3.03 ERA
Smith led the league in saves four times, and was a lock down closer for five different teams throughout his career. When he retired, his 478 saves were the most all-time (he's currently third). He was one of the early '80s closers that would throw more than 100 innings and he also was one of the new age closers that work in only save situations. Every year a group of closers hits the ballot and none of them (besides Mariano Rivera and maybe Trevor Hoffman) should get in before Smith. It is his 12th turn on the ballot. He maxed out in 2012 with 50.6% of the vote.
J.T. Snow (Yankees, Angels, Giants, Red Sox)
Career stats: .268/.327/.427, 189 home runs, 877 RBI, 1,509 hits
Snow won six gold gloves and hit 20+ homers three times. He played 16 seasons in the Majors, but Sean Casey has a better case for the Hall of Fame and if that is the case I've already devoted too many words to Snow. One and done.
Sammy Sosa (Rangers, White Sox, Cubs, Orioles, Rangers)
Career stats: .273/.344/.534, 609 home runs, 1,667 RBI, 2,408 hits, 234 stolen bases
Slammin' Sammy is on the ballot for the second time. Last year he received 12.5% of the vote because of, you guessed it, suspicion of steroids. Sosa came up with the Rangers and was traded to the White Sox in the Harold Baines trade. He flashed some serious tools in his first full season with the White Sox as he hit 15 home runs and stole 32 bases. He struggled in 1991 though, and was shipped to the North Side for George Bell after the season. After an injury plagued first season for the Cubs, he started realizing his potential in 1993 with 33 homers. The next season, he hit .300 with 25 home runs. In 1995, he began a stretch of 10 straight seasons with at least 35 home runs. In that stretch included three seasons of 60+ home runs. He led the league in 2000 and 2002 with 50 and 49 long ones. His 66 in 1998 were second to only Mark McGwire's 70 in the same year all-time. Sosa was named the MVP of the NL that year. Sosa left the Cubs after the 2004 season and struggled in 2005 with the Orioles. He was out of baseball in 2006, before returning to the Rangers, where he hit 21 homers and 92 RBI before calling it quits.
Frank Thomas (White Sox, Athletics, Blue Jays)
Career stats: .301/.419/.555, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBI, 2,468 hits, two-time AL MVP
The Big Hurt's first seven seasons were as dominant as any stretch in Major League history. He hit at least .300 with 20 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks and 100 runs in every one of those years. He won the MVP award in 1993 and 1994 and was a top 10 finisher nine times in his career. Later in his career, he suffered a lot of injuries, but when he was in the lineup was still able to hit moon shots. In 2003, he hit 43 home runs. In 2006, he hit 39. In his last season as a full-time player he hit 26. He is the greatest player in White Sox franchise history and helped transform the entire organization. U.S. Cellular Field is the House that Frank built. Throw in the fact that he was outspoken against steroids before anyone even cared about the subject and that he was the only active player to speak to the Mitchell Report and it makes his case even more clear. Frank should be voted in.
Mike Timlin (Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox)
Career stats: 75-73, 141 saves, 3.63 ERA 872 strikeouts, 1,204.1 IP
I'm sure he's a swell guy and was a successful set up man who did ok in his couple chances to be a full-time closer, but let's move on.
Alan Trammell (Tigers)
Career stats: .285/.352/.415, 185 home runs, 1,003 RBI, 2,365 hits, 236 stolen bases
Trammell is on the ballot for the 13th time. His highest total was in 2012, when he secured 36.8% of the vote. Last year he fell back to 33.6%. Trammell didn't have the power of Cal Ripken and he didn't have the flash like Ozzie Smith, but Trammell was very good on both offense and defense. His steady bat and glove led him to 70.3 bWAR for his career. I don't usually like to site that stat, but in Trammell's case, it shows just how good he was. In my opinion, Trammell and longtime teammate Lou Whitaker should both be in the Hall.
Larry Walker (Expos, Rockies, Cardinals)
Career stats: .313/.400/.565, 383 home runs, 1,311 RBI, 2,160 hits, 230 stolen bases
Walker is on the ballot for the fourth time, and has been in the 20% area the first three times. He definitely has an impressive slash line, was a five-time all-star and the NL MVP in 1997. He led the league in batting average in 1998,1999 and 2001 when he hit .363, .379, .350. He also led the National League with 49 home runs in 1997. Playing in Coors Field in the era in which he played in may be what is holding back more support for Walker. A case can be made for him. He won't be on my ballot, but is he on yours?
My ballot: I am going to use all 10 spots. I usually use a lot of spots anyway, and me being a "big Hall" guy and someone who will still vote for steroid users, it is a real tough cut this year. I had to cut guys I've previously supported.
This year, I am going with Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Fred McGriff, Tim Raines, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell.
I have given up my votes for Craig Biggio, Jack Morris and Mike Piazza this year, simply because of a numbers game. For my borderline candidates, I chose to keep Bagwell, McGriff and Trammell over them.
Thomas, Maddux, Glavine, Bonds, Clemens and Raines are no brainers for me and I like Sammy Sosa better than the rest of the steroid guys.
Next year, the balloting will get tougher. While I'm sure there will be a couple of inductions this year, next year we are looking at Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield and Jermaine Dye making their first appearances.
Don't forget to click on the link, make your picks and join the debate below!