Part one is here.
We move on to returning candidates on the ballot. We'll go in order of votes received in 2018:
I'm ready, Geritol Fan.
Andruw Jones: He got votes on 7.3% of the ballots last year. He started out as an all-time great defensive centerfielder, morphed into a fearsome power hitter, then gained weight and absolutely hit the wall. He was a very different sort of player, but his overall numbers are similar to Dale Murphy, who was also a long-time slugger for the Braves who has thus far fallen short of enshrinement. His career batting average of .254 will be difficult to overcome. 434 home runs are impressive. He's not going to make it and may fall off the ballot this year, but a future Veteran's Committee may give him another look.
He's also significant for being the first prominent major leaguer from Curacao. This guy has Vets Committee written all over him.
Sammy Sosa: He got 7.8% last time. He's probably hurt more by PED use than anyone else. He hit 609 home runs. He was beloved. But his fall from grace was swift and severe. His numbers compare to Jim Thome, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson -- HOFers, all. But he was on the juice. And he's not going to be in the HOF any time soon.
I watched Sammy Sosa on WGN as a kid and he was one of my favorites. Just a shame that he used drugs.
Scott Rolen: He got 10.2% last time. Not everyone thinks WAR is a great measurement, but by that standard Rolen is a no-brainer and one of the top 100 players in baseball history. He's actually a lot like Ron Santo; a wonderful player who never got the credit he deserved. Santo eventually made the Hall, but his selection was posthumous. Rolen's biggest problem is that he was a contemporary of two third basemen who were better -- Chipper Jones (in the HOF) and Adrian Beltre (retiring this year and a first ballot HOFer, I think). But he was excellent. Maybe someday, but not this year.
I think Rolen is hurt by the fact that this year is a strong ballot. I think he gets in, but he's going to have to wait.
Billy Wagner: He got 11.1% last time. A dominant lefty reliever. Played most of his career in Houston and suffered for that. He seems like a Hall of Very Good guy to me.
Wagner is not the best closer of his era. That's Rivera. You could also argue that K-Rod is better. Wagner might get in when the Vets Committee takes a look, but it's tough to see him getting voted in with the normal process.
Gary Sheffield: He also got 11.1% last time. A jackass, bad teammate and a PED user. But a hell of a player nonetheless. Over 500 home runs, career .292 hitter. His career numbers are similar to great players like Chipper Jones, Mel Ott, Reggie Jackson, but he's likely to be the Dick Allen of his generation. As an aside, Allen may make the HOF as an old-timer in the next few years, but I wonder if Sheffield will ever make it.
Sheffield is arguably the face of BALCO. If you let him in, then you let Pete Rose in.
Jeff Kent: He got 14.5% last time. With the possible exception of Joe Morgan and Rogers Hornsby, he might be the best offensive second baseman to ever play the game. Has offensive numbers similar to Ryne Sandberg, but Sandberg was a far superior player. Kent was an indifferent fielder and a bit of a putz, from most accounts. Probably deserves more recognition than he's likely to get, but it's difficult to make a strong argument for his candidacy.
I agree. I will say his feud with Barry Bonds was spicy.
Manny Ramirez: He got 22% last time. Offensive numbers say all-time great. But he was a notorious PED guy and, even though he did amazing things on the field, still seen as a malingerer during his career. 555 career homers and a lifetime .312 batting average translates into Jimmie Foxx/Frank Robinson territory, but would you take Manny over those guys? Of course not. He'll have to hope time and tide change views of his career, but as of now he doesn't have much support.
Manny also benefited from hitting next to David Ortiz for much of his career. He'll have to settle for being a Boston legend.
Fred McGriff: He got 23.2% last time. It's also his last chance on the ballot. A fearsome slugger and a good dude, but always seemed like a near-miss. But if Harold Baines is in the HOF, why wouldn't McGriff be? He's Baines with better overall numbers. McGriff's overall numbers compare in some ways to Willie McCovey, but in other ways to Paul Konerko. That's the dilemma. What do you make of his career? I'll be curious to see what happens.
The Crime Dog is a victim of his peers choosing to juice. If the writers left the roid users off the ballot, McGriff would get in. It's a shame he won't get in this year.
Larry Walker: He got 34.1% last time. This guy is a tough one. He was a great hitter and, at times, an exceptional outfielder. He hit 383 homers, with a lifetime batting average of .313. His offensive numbers are comparable to Duke Snider and Joe DiMaggio, but no one thinks Walker is that good. Should they? His largest problem is that he compiled some big years in Coors Field, but he also played the first half of his career in the mausoleum that was Olympic Stadium in Montreal. If you take his numbers at face value, he deserves the nod. I do.
I've been arguing Walker's case for a long time. He's arguably the best player in Rockies history and had a great end to his career in St. Louis. You can't keep an entire organization out of the Hall of Fame.
Omar Vizquel: He got 37.2% last time. The Ozzie Smith of his generation. Had a very long career (24 years!) and is among the greatest fielders of all time. Played long enough to get 2877 hits. His numbers are similar to Smith and Luis Apiricio. He's going to make it eventually, but it may take a few years.
Defense has always been underrated by the voters, except when it's overrated for really good defenders. I don't think Vizquel is a Hall of Famer, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got in.
Curt Schilling: He got 51.2% last time. Schilling was a huge talent, but I really think his huge mouth is hurting his candidacy. I've always been lukewarm about his career, but he was beyond dispute a big-game pitcher who went to the World Series with three teams and was instrumental in winning with both the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox. His overall numbers are like Don Drysdale and Doc Halladay. Drysdale is in and Halladay will be, perhaps as soon as this year. Tough to see why they measure up and Schilling doesn't.
If Schilling were a Democrat, nobody would care about what he says. He's the definition of a workhorse and belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Barry Bonds: He got 56.2% last time. I've probably said this before, but I wish Bonds had retired in 1998. He'd have been in the HOF for sure. But he watched McGwire and Sosa have their parade and decided he could top them. He got on the juice and proved he could hit more home runs, but in the process he wrecked everything. He was a great player, possibly in the Top 10 of all time, but he'll always have the taint. He ought to change his middle name to Hubris and be done with it.
When Bonds broke the all-time home run record, I felt anger. It's a shame that Roger Maris and Hank Aaron don't have their records back.
Roger Clemens: He got 57.3% last time. Same thing as Bonds. He won 354 games. He was a better version of Tom Seaver and if he had simply retired at, say, age 36, he's in for sure. But he extended his career with PEDs and is now paying the price for it. One of the top 5 pitchers of all time, but it's tough to argue on his behalf at the moment.
It really is a shame. Clemens had a heck of a second act in New York, but he chose to ruin his career in the process.
Mike Mussina: He got 63.5% last time. He won 270 games. He was a big game pitcher who rarely had the chance to pitch in one. But he was really good. The best comparable pitcher to Mussina is probably Juan Marichal. That's HOF quality. He may not make it this time, but he'll get there.
It's amazing that Mussina is underrated, but he is. He was quietly brilliant for a long time and is a key reason why the Yankees won the 2003 ALCS. I think he gets over the hump this year.
Edgar Martinez: He just fell short last time, getting 70.4%. This is his last year on the ballot. Martinez is the greatest DH of all time, with the possible exception of David Ortiz. Is it enough? Well, again the Harold Baines question looms. If Harold Baines is in the HOF, why not Martinez? Baines hit more home runs, Martinez hit for a better average. In my recollection, Baines was respected. Martinez, at his best, was feared. I'd like to see him make it, but he's a close call, which the overall numbers make clear.
I'd argue Martinez was as good a hitter as Junior. No one disputes that Junior is in the HOF. The DH has been around since 1973, and I think it's only fair that a DH gets into the Hall of Fame.
We will get the results this coming week. My guess is the class is Rivera, Halladay, and Martinez. Mussina might make it, too. If you want a darkhorse candidate, it could be Walker.
I think it's a big class this year. I have Rivera, Halladay, Martinez, Mussina, and Walker.
Thanks for your help, Benster. And glad to see you've calmed down from the football picks!
The pastoral thing really helps, Old Dude. Thanks for letting me play!