Not that you asked, but for the fourth year in a row (2010, 2011, 2012), here's my up or down on every player eligible for the BBWAA Hall of Fame vote on this winter's ballot. I've decided to ignore the ten-name limit, which is becoming increasingly ridiculous; I'll make my imaginary cuts at the end.
Sandy Alomar, Jr.: No. A Rookie of the Year and six-time All Star, but he just couldn't ever stay in the lineup; even removing the three bookend seasons in which he totaled 16 games played, Alomar averaged only 80 games. His 1997 is particularly memorable: he played 125 games and amassed 480 plate appearances, hitting .324/.354/.545 (128 OPS+) and setting career highs in HR (21), RBI (83), 2B (37) and wins above replacement (three). The season also included a 30-game hitting streak.
Jeff Bagwell: Yes. Of course. Thirty or 40 years from now, people are going to be saying to each other, "did you know it took Jeff Bagwell three [or more likely four or five or eight] tries to get into the Hall of Fame? THE Jeff Bagwell!" the way they might for Harmon Killebrew nowadays. It's just so obvious that not only does he belong in, but whatever "inner-circle" means to you, Bagwell is almost certainly that.
Craig Biggio: Yes. No doubt. The more interesting thing is that he's probably somewhere around the eighth or ninth most deserving candidate, but is the only remotely deserving candidate who seems to have any shot of getting in this time around, solely because he didn't hit a ton of home runs (there are lots of other reasons to shakily suspect him of cheating, if you're in to that sort of thing, but no one seems interested in those).
Barry Bonds: Yes. Those same Bagwell people 30 or 40 years hence: "can you even believe what Bonds did in 2004? Can you believe that some of those idiots thought their embarrassingly primitive brand of medical science was capable of creating that sort of greatness out of thin air?"
Jeff Cirillo: No. Really very good from 1995-'99 with Milwaukee. It might be a stretch to conclude that Coors Field ruined him, but his bat certainly did take a turn for the worse right aruond the time he made the move to Denver, and was never qutie the same again. He was my wife's favorite during his two years in Seattle (we were living there at the time), because pretty.
Royce Clayton: No. I'd put his IMDB page in the Hall of Fame, though.
Roger Clemens: Yes. Arguably the best pitcher who ever pitched. There is nothing else you can possibly say about him that I'm going to care about.
Jeff Conine: No. Sadly, "Mr. Marlin" is now just seventh among franchise position players in wins above replacement, close enough to be considered tied with #6 Mike Lowell and #8 Gary Sheffield and at less than half of Hanley Ramirez. Giancarlo Stanton will pass him by like next May.
Steve Finley: No. He shares a birthday with me, Darryl Strawberry and Dale Murphy, and Finley, just like the rest of us, was very good, but not that good or for quite that long. He was essentially two players -- the on-base, defense and steals guy of his pre-thirty years and the power-only guy of his post-thirties. If he could ever have been both at the same time, that would've been amazingly fun to watch.
Julio Franco: No. I so wish I could say yes, and if it were one of those years where I couldn't find ten guys to vote for, I'd tack him on the end. Not this year, though. His weird and wonderful career should have a prominent place somewhere in the "and Museum" part of the building.
Shawn Green: No. Green had a Hall of Fame five-year peak -- .288/.369/.545 while averaging nearly 40 homers and over 20 steals a year -- but he did nothing before age 25, and very little after 30. Green had the fourteenth four-homer game in big league history; it came three weeks after Mike Cameron had the thirteenth, and it's only been done twice in the 10.5 seasons since.
Roberto Hernandez: No. Hernandez was a great closer for about ten years and a good short reliever for many more, but there are like five or six levels of closerdom before you get to the three or four of them that might make Bill's private Hall.
Ryan Klesko: No, but if you'd like to be convinced, check out his brochure!
Kenny Lofton: Yes. I wrote up Lofton's case here, and it's one of relatively few things from nearly three years ago I'm not ashamed to share. Basically: if you're pro-Raines, as most of you are, it's hard to justify not also being pro-Lofton.
Edgar Martinez: Yes. Hell yes. Yes many times. Just an incredibly dominant, underrated hitter, for a surprisingly long time. Edgar was basically in peak form for fourteen years; what he doesn't have is the extra five or six years on either side to pad his counting stats. I don't care about those as much.
Don Mattingly: No. You could say a lot of the same things about him that I did about Shawn Green, but people seem to remember the two quite differently. (Donnie Baseball was better, please don't send letters. But there are certain similarities.)
Fred McGriff: No. Close. I figure he'll make it in some day via some version of the Veterans' Committee, and I certainly won't be upset about it.
Mark McGwire: Yes. I hate what has happened to McGwire, but I'm grateful at least that he puts the lie to any notion that it's the players' deceit or lack of accountability, or anything other than "drugs are bad, m'kay," behind all the moralistic PED madness. Dude apologized. Things got even worse.
Jose Mesa: No. On every ballot, there must be a Jose Mesa. Though last year's Jose Mesa was Terry Mulholland, and that might be worse. Mesa threw 984 innings in relief and only 565 as a starter, yet ended up with a perfectly average 100 ERA+.
Jack Morris: No. So talked out on this. I no longer think his induction is quite so inevitable, but here was my concession speech about a year ago. From back when Blyleven vs. Morris was a thing, I'm still kind of proud of this.
Dale Murphy: No. He comes very close, and it wouldn't bother me at all if he got in. But he won't, which is puzzling; I don't understand why anyone who would vote for Jim Rice or Andre Dawson wouldn't also vote for Murphy. But anyway, I wouldn't have voted for any of the three.
Rafael Palmeiro: Yes. I don't know if it's because the field is too crowded or people really hate liars or what, but every now and then someone will try to say that Palmeiro might not deserve to get in even if you don't count the PEDs or the lying against him. Which, no. Just no. Try to seriously make that argument, and then go look at a list of Hall of Famers and see how many you'd have to kick out for the same reasons. Palmeiro should be in.
Mike Piazza: Yes. Because I don't trust any of the attempts to measure catcher defense at all (especially not from before the last two or three seasons), I still think there's a pretty solid chance Piazza was the greatest catcher in MLB history.
Tim Raines: Yes. Just read this.
Reggie Sanders: No. But he was much better than you probably remember. He did everything there is to do in the strike-shortened 1995 season: batted over .300, hit 28 homers, stole 36 bases, drew 69 walks, played brilliant defense in right and center fields. Awesomely talented all-around player who is probably better remembered for playing for eight different teams over his final ten seasons.
Curt Schilling: Yes. Look, I don't like him any more than you do (or maybe you like him, in which case I like him a lot less). But he clears the bar pretty easily. He had a long career with a lot of good years. He had a stretch of absolute dominance, totaling 30 wins above replacement from 2001-2004 (not his fault that the only guy who may have better in that span -- though with a very nearly identical 30 wins -- was his teammate for three of those years). He was a fantastic postseason pitcher. The only way to justify keeping him out is a slavish devotion to the pitching "wins" stat, which is to say, punishing him for pitching for a lot of pretty poor Phillies teams.
Aaron Sele: No. I like Sele -- he shares with me two of the four or five places I consider hometowns, and he figured prominently in Voros McCracken's article introducing defense-independent pitching stats. Solid mid-rotation starter. But, I mean, no, of course not.
Lee Smith: No. Better than Roberto Hernandez, but unless you buy the "Player X is in so so should be Player Y" line of reasoning -- in which case Smith and dozens of other guys get in by virtue of being more deserving than Bruce Sutter -- I just can't see a single reason to consider him.
Sammy Sosa: Yes. Having established that I don't believe in magic baseball pills (and the evidence that bat-corking gives hitters an advantage is even thinner), Sosa probably belongs. He's not the slam dunk the 609 homers would suggest -- he really had only ten years in which he was much more than an average hitter (of course, in some of those, he was much, much more), and he stopped contributing with his glove and legs after about age 28. I do think he did enough, but it's debatable.
Mike Stanton: No. Giancarlo Cruz-Michael is probably already closer than Mike, who spent one of his 19 years as a (poor) closer and the rest as a solid but unspectacular middle reliever. Come to think of it, Stanton might be the Jose Mesa of this ballot, more than Mesa himself.
Alan Trammell: Yes. Another one I can't really find any more to say about. He just belongs. He probably should have won an MVP award in 1987, in which case he would've been indistinguishable from Barry Larkin and may have made it in years ago. He also could justifiably have won in 1984.
Larry Walker: Yes. I think there's a pretty significant Coors overcorrection going on. Lots of other guys hit at Coors during those crazy years, and Walker was much, much better than all of them, and was better than almost everybody else everywhere, no matter how you try to adjust those cartoonish numbers. He was also an excellent fielder with a cannon for an arm, and could run the bases. I don't feel comfortable drawing a line that leaves him on one side and Raines/Lofton on the other. They should all be in.
Todd Walker: No, of course, but that makes me sad. He was the first big prospect I remember following as he came up -- Baseball America's #7 back in 1997 -- and I had very high, Hall of Fame-type hopes. He had enough talent with the bat that he could have gotten there, if he had been a good defensive second baseman rather than a kind of stunningly poor one.
David Wells: No, Consistently really very good, but never great. By Baseball Reference's WAR, it's pretty interesting -- he was over four wins eight times, but never once got to five. He wouldn't be the worst pitcher in the Hall, and you could argue he was better than Morris. I assume with this ballot that Wells will fall below the five-percent threshold, and that's too bad. He deserves to hang on for a couple years.
Rondell White: No. Tons of talent, always hurt. Played 150 games once and 130 three more times.
Bernie Williams: No. Another one that looks a lot like Dale Murphy -- Hall of Fame peak (or close to it), but a short one, and the whole package falls just short for me. I wouldn't complain at all if he got in. He won't, clearly, at least not for decades.
Woody Williams: No. I was surprised to see (this) Williams on the ballot, at first, but he had a much better career than I realized. He pitched in 15 seasons and was a solid reliever for the first three, then a starter for the next twelve, with 30 or more starts in seven of those years and an ERA around or better than average in ten of them. Not close to a Hall of Famer, of course, but I'm glad he made the ballot.
That's fourteen yeses: Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Lofton, Martinez, McGwire, Palmeiro, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Sosa, Trammell, and Walker. I'm not going to cut any of them because I don't want to and no one can make me, but just because it seems necessary, if this were a real ballot and I had to adhere to that ridiculous limit, I'd lop off Sosa Palmeiro, and McGwire, because they'd probably end up as the bottom three on my list. Finally, I'd cut Biggio, because I don't think he'll have a problem making it in the next year or two, so my vote for him seems the most expendable.