The new year brings about a new round of Hall of Fame debate and angst with the 2015 results being announced Tuesday.
At least the talking heads at MLB Network will have something new to pontificate after endlessly rehashing Winter Meetings trades the past month.
Because of the Steroid Era, the ballot has been crammed with a who's-who of the diamond's biggest stars from the late-1980s through the early 2000s, some of whom were either proven or suspected PED users. Until testing began in the '03 season, nobody technically was cheating as the owners and players' association looked the other way. Because there's no agreement among the Baseball Writers' Association of America voters or guidance from the Hall itself other than the "general character'' clause, great debate exists on how to judge these players.
It gives us all a lot to argue about at the expense of actually enshrining players. The Hall's recent rule change to reduce the eligibility of players on the writers' ballot from 15 to 10 years is designed to help unclog the ballot, but it might hurt some deserving players in need of further study.
With these eyes, 12 sure-fire Hall of Famers are on this ballot. Only 10 can be nominated. But I also see no more than three getting in, based on the BBWAA's stingy voting history.
I can't vote for John Smoltz, for as good as he was, needs to wait a year in order to enshrine several overlooked candidates. Edgar Martinez, despite being one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time, also can't go in before my 10. Lastly, my opinion on PED users and suspected PED users has changed over the past couple of years, so I won't penalize for proven use before '03.
Accompanying each player are three quick-hit reasons for induction and their '93 Upper Deck card because, well, I haven't featured enough of this artfully crafted set.
- Led the majors five times in ERA during a period from '97-03 when run-scoring was at an all-time high.
- Highest ERA in that seven-year span was 2.89.
- Won three Cy Young Awards and finished runner-up two other times.
- Struck out a left-handed record 4,875 batters, second all-time to Nolan Ryan.
- Won 303 games and five Cy Young Awards, four in a row from '99-'02.
- One of the most intimating pitchers from any era, with one mean mullet.
- Had 3,060 hits, one of 28 players to reach 3,000.
- Ranks 15th all-time in runs scored with 1,844.
- Never won the MVP but was one of the NL's Most Versatile Players, excelling at catcher, second base and in the outfield.
- 85 percent success rate is best all-time for those with more than 300 attempts.
- Stole 808 bases, fifth all-time.
- OK, he wasn't Rickey Henderson but was the second best in 12 of his 23 seasons, never stealing fewer than 33 bases.
- Hit 493 homers in a 19-year career.
- Slugged .509 and had a career OPS+ of 134.
- In 50 postseason games, slugged .532 with an OPS .917.
- Won 270 games, 33rd all-time.
- Compiled a 3.68 ERA pitching all 18 of his seasons in the high-scoring AL East from '91-'08.
- His 83.0 career WAR is 23rd and is ahead of 40 of the 59 Hall of Fame starting pitchers.
- All-time home run leader with 762.
- Single-season home run leader with 73.
- Won seven MVP Awards.
- Won 354 games, ninth all-time.
- Struck out 4,672, third all-time.
- Won seven Cy Young Awards.
- Can lay claim to being the best hitting catcher of all-time, slashing .308/.377/.545.
- Sixth all-time in WAR among catchers with 59.2.
- Elected to 12 NL All-Star teams.
- Ranks sixth in career WAR (79.6) among first basemen.
- Slashed .297/.408/.540, just missing being called a "3-4-5'' career player.
- Hit 449 homers with 1,529 RBI.