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Even with four newly elected Hall of Famers off the ballot, and my anti-PED stance firmly in place regarding Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, I still voted for 10 players this year, the sixth straight time I've used the maximum number of spots allowed.
So I guess I'm officially a Big Hall guy now, after years of thinking Small Hall was the way to go. And I'm OK with that.
Not that I'm good with Harold Baines being elected by a 16-person committee in December, but I do believe that for years baseball writers as a whole tended to take too much pride in making the Hall of Fame more exclusive than those in other sports, at the expense of rewarding excellence.
I was guilty of dismissing players who didn't pass the eye test, which was highly subjective and based at least partly on the nostalgic notion that only a precious few belonged in Cooperstown with the greats of the past, be it Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays or Sandy Koufax.
In that sense the rise of analytics has helped created a better understanding that there is more to judging excellence than merely the eye test.
Mike Mussina might be the best example. Perhaps because he had so few signature moments as a Yankee -- or an Oriole -- I initially thought of him as just falling short. But when you consider all the statistical evidence, especially pitching his entire career in the AL East, which is reflected in his outstanding ERA-plus numbers, taking ballpark effects into account, I couldn't justify a no vote for him.
On the other hand, the eye test should still matter as well, and so while the analytics aren't particularly kind to Omar Vizquel, he had the best hands I've ever seen as a shortstop. As such he made plays that nobody this side of Ozzie Smith made, and I believe that type of defensive wizardry makes him Cooperstown-worthy.
So those are two of my 10 votes. Here's an explanation for the rest of my ballot:
Let's hope that common sense prevails and Mariano Rivera becomes the first player elected unanimously. His post-season numbers alone (0.80 ERA and 0.759 WHIP over 141 innings) are a reminder of his staggering dominance.
The only question about the late Roy Halladay was his relatively short period of dominance, but for nearly a decade he was among the top few pitchers in baseball, as indicated by his seven top-five finishes in Cy Young voting, including his first-place finishes in 2003 and 2010.
THE PED USERS
I'm still not budging on Bonds and Clemens, despite the softening trend in the voting that seems to give them a chance to reach the 75 percent threshold before they come off the ballot. My argument remains the same: they used PEDS to cheat the game, make a farce of the record book, and make obscene amounts of money, so I choose to withhold the vote for the highest personal honor a player can receive.
And don't tell me history demands they need to be in Cooperstown. Their accomplishments are on display in the Hall of Fame museum, just as they are for Pete Rose, whether they ever get their plaques or not.
Surely this is the year that Edgar Martinez is rewarded for his brilliance as a hitter, DH or not. Same goes for Curt Schilling: his post-season record puts him ahead of Mussina for me. The lack of support for Jeff Kent continues to puzzle, as one of the all-time sluggers among second basemen. And considering that Billy Wagner has more dominant numbers than Trevor Hoffman in every category except saves, let's hope he gets more support now that Hoffman has been elected.
Actually, I've voted for Fred McGriff before, but last year he was victim of a crowded ballot. Hoping his last year on the ballot produces new support for him. And I finally found room for Larry Walker, one of the great all-around talents in the game, who might be a lock if not for missing as much time due to injuries as he did.
Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker.