Sanchez Cordova: My 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot
Jose Sanchez Cordova | Monday, January 24, 2022
The Hall of Fame. It’s the pinnacle of sport and this Tuesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will announce the 2022 Hall of Fame class. Every year hundreds of baseball writers receive a ballot to vote for 10 players who they believe deserve baseball immortality in Cooperstown. This year it’s a little different, this is the year of reckoning.
For the uninitiated, each player on the Hall of Fame ballot gets 10 years of eligibility to get 75% of the vote for enshrinement into Cooperstown. Additionally, players need at least 5% of the votes to remain on the ballot year after year, when they don’t reach 5%, they fall off the ballot.
This is the year of reckoning because this is Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens’ tenth and final year on the ballot. (Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa are in their final year too.) That means the BBWAA have their final say on whether they belong in the Hall of Fame.
Statistically, they are absolute no-doubters. Bonds has 7 MVPs, the all-time home run record, and is the most feared hitter in the history of baseball. (I mean c’mon. This is insane.) Clemens is Bonds’ pitching equivalent with 7 Cy Young Awards, an MVP and third all-time in strikeouts with 4,672. The controversy surrounding their enshrinement is about performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
A lot of the discourse surrounding Hall of Fame voting over the last decade has been about players linked with PED usage during MLB’s “Steroid Era” in the late 1990s and early 2000s. PEDs ran rampant and now Hall of Fame voters try to figure out how to deal with players who allegedly cheated at a time when the league didn’t police its own rules.
Personally, I like the idea of imposing a sort of “steroid tax” on players linked with PED usage. Basically, if you were suspected of using PEDs or caught using them then you need to clear a higher bar for enshrinement than a clean player does.
My reasoning behind this is that there are certain players that you simply need in Cooperstown to tell the story of baseball. Baseball isn’t the same without certain players regardless of whether they cheated. Also, I don’t buy the argument that it tarnishes the integrity of the Hall. This is about baseball, not about personalities. And it goes without saying that there are plenty of bad people in Cooperstown already.
All that being said, this is how I would vote if I had a BBWAA ballot:
The first mark on my ballot is for Barry Bonds. Potentially the greatest player of all time. I know he used PEDs and I do not care. For one, he never tested positive, and he was never suspended by MLB. Many others were doing it, and no one was doing what he did. Sometimes I just like to look at his Baseball-Reference page and admire it. It’s just so unbelievable. His stretch from 2001 to 2004 is probably the best four years of baseball ever. “Video game numbers” is a gross understatement. Simply put, you can’t have a Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds.
Clemens was an elite starting pitcher for over 20 years in the majors. He won 354 games, struck out 4,672 batters and won 7 Cy Youngs and an MVP to go with his two World Series rings. He has more accolades than anyone else to ever throw a ball 60 feet and 6 inches and he belongs in Cooperstown.
Schilling is maybe the greatest postseason pitcher of all time. In 19 playoff starts he has a 2.23 ERA with 11-2 record and, most importantly, 3 World Series rings including a World Series MVP in 2001 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. During his time in Arizona, he formed one-half of one of the most dominant 1-2s in baseball history. His partner was Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.
Sammy is best known for his 1998 home run record chase against Mark McGwire, and while he lost the chase, he did win the MVP that year. Otherwise, Sosa put together a terrific career as one of the best power hitters that baseball has ever seen. He sits 9th all-time with 609 home runs and he gets my vote.
A great combination of power and defense at third base, which is a presently underrepresented position in Cooperstown. Rolen racked up 8 Gold Gloves and more than 300 home runs in his career. He also racked up 70.1 bWAR during his career which is actually more than the average (68.4) for hall-of-fame third basemen.
A more sabermetric pick, Billy Wagner is one of the best left-handed relievers of all time. He has 422 saves, good for 6th all-time and has a career ERA of 2.31, which is better than every Hall of Fame reliever not named Mariano Rivera. He also struck out a ton of batters with a career 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate in an era with a lot fewer strikeouts than now.
Andruw Jones was the best centerfielder in baseball from 1996 to 2006. And for that, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He is one of four players ever with 10+ Gold Gloves and 400+ home runs. He joins Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Schmidt and Willie Mays who were all first-ballot Hall of Famers. Enough said.
A-Rod was a generational player. He won 3 MVPs and hit 696 home runs. The only reason he isn’t getting in on the first ballot is, again, PEDs. The difference is A-Rod got caught and suspended after he admitted to using. However, I still think he was too good to not be in the Hall of Fame.
One of the greatest designated hitters of all time and arguably the most iconic Red Sox player after Ted Williams. Big Papi was an integral part of ending the Red Sox curse in 2004. He then led them to two more rings and won World Series MVP in 2013.
Rollins won the 2007 NL MVP and led the Phillies to a World Series in 2008. He also played outstanding shortstop defense winning 4 Gold Gloves in his career. As a Phillies fan, this is admittedly a bit of a homer pick, and mostly just because I don’t want him to fall off the ballot after just one year.
Hall of Fame voting is messy and there’s a lot of grey area here, but I’m pretty happy with my 10 players. That said, there are definitely players on the ballot who I could’ve voted for that I couldn’t include here. (Mark Buehrle, Todd Helton, Joe Nathan). More than anything I’m just really hoping we get someone new to welcome to the Hall of Fame this Tuesday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.