The 2013 ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame was released on Wednesday (Nov. 28) with 37 players eligible for induction.
This is the first year that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are on the ballot, which makes the 2013 vote particularly intriguing. Both players are controversial choices for Cooperstown, having been accused of using steroids during their careers. (Bonds admitted to taking steroids, though claims he did so unknowingly.)
However, there are also plenty of other first-year eligibles who could get votes on the required 75 percent of Hall of Fame ballots. Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling and Mike Piazza are among the names who could receive plenty of support this year.
But who will be in the Hall of Fame class of 2013? Will a player get in on his initial ballot for the first time since Rickey Henderson did so in 2009? How about those who have waited for years to be inducted? Will any of them finally break through?
Here are the three players who I believe will be voted into Cooperstown this year.
In last year's voting, Morris received 66.7 percent of the vote. The previous year, he was on 53.5 percent of ballots.
Following that pattern, Morris should get the 75 percent required for induction into Cooperstown. It's difficult to believe that he won't finally get in after coming so close last year on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Morris finished his 18-year MLB career with a 254-186 record in 549 appearances (527 starts). He pitched 14 seasons for the Detroit Tigers, one with the Minnesota Twins, two with the Toronto Blue Jays and one for the Cleveland Indians.
He's a borderline case for induction, as he didn't win 300 games and his 3.90 ERA is rather high compared to other Hall of Fame pitchers. Morris argues that he "pitched to the score," giving up more contact—and thus more hits and runs—when he had a big lead.
But he was one of the best pitchers of his era, winning championships with the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays. Morris is probably best known for his Game 7 performance in the 1991 World Series, pitching a 10-inning shutout while allowing seven hits and two walks in a 1-0 victory.
It would seem strange for Biggio to get into baseball's Hall of Fame before teammate Jeff Bagwell, but I believe that's how it will work out.
My initial thought was that Biggio wouldn't be inducted in his first year on the ballot. But with controversy surrounding players like Bonds and Clemens, I think that will help his case this year.
With 3,060 hits, he's 21st on MLB's all-time list and virtually every player ahead of him is already in Cooperstown. In 2,850 career games, he batted .281 with a .796 OPS, 291 home runs and 1,175 RBI.
Biggio was an All-Star catcher before moving over to second base four years into his major league career. Overall, he was named to seven All-Star teams, won five Silver Slugger awards and four Gold Gloves. All 20 of his major league seasons were played with the Houston Astros.
As MLB.com's Brian McTaggart points out, Biggio also has more doubles than any other right-handed hitter in baseball history with 668. He ranks 15th all-time in runs scored with 1,844, and is the only player in MLB history to record 600 doubles, 250 home runs, 2,700 hits and 400 stolen bases.
If Bagwell hasn't been voted into the Hall of Fame due to suspicions of PED use, then Piazza may suffer the same result in his first year on the ballot.
While Piazza hasn't drawn the same level of scrutiny as Bonds, Clemens or Sammy Sosa, there have been whispers linking him to steroids during his career.
Former New York Times writer Murray Chass has written about Piazza's problem with back acne, which is often considered a telling sign of steroid use. Jeff Pearlman cited several sources that said Piazza took steroids in his Roger Clemens biography, The Rocket Who Fell to Earth. Additionally, New York Post's Joel Sherman has expressed suspicions about Piazza.
That could keep Piazza out of Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility. But we're talking about the best-hitting catcher in MLB history, and that should make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Piazza's 396 home runs as a catcher (he hit 427 overall) are the most any player has ever hit at that position. His .308 batting average and .922 OPS are also better than Hall of Fame catchers Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench. (Fisk does have more career hits than Piazza, however.)
He was named to 12 All-Star teams in his 16 MLB seasons, the majority of which were played with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.
Considering only 44 players have made it in on their first ballot, picking both Biggio and Piazza to get in might be pushing it. But enough first-timers have a strong case that I believe it could happen.
Why not Tim Raines or Alan Trammell? I don't think either player got enough support in the 2012 vote to make the jump to 75 percent this year. The same goes for Bagwell. Depending on how much of the vote those three get this year, I feel like they could be in the class of 2014.
I've written in previous articles—this one, most recently—that admitted and alleged PED users like Bonds and Clemens will be voted into the Hall of Fame eventually. (I don't think Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa will get in, however.) Balloters will try to "punish" them for suspected steroid use by withholding first-ballot support.
But their achievements are too historic not to be acknowledged and I think the majority of writers with votes will come to that realization, as ESPN's Buster Olney and The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham have.
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