Cooperstown is a place where the best of the best are remembered for their accomplishments on the field and enshrined into MLB immortality.
However, the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is surrounded by more controversy than ever with players like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens eligible for induction.
With performance-enhancing drugs associated with these players and more, the 2013 finalists are some of the most contentious to date.
So, how did Bleacher Report's MLB featured columnists vote for this class? Did those suspected or confirmed PED users garner the necessary 75 percent to make it into the Hall of Fame?
What about other guys who have no dark cloud of speculation hanging over their heads?
Here's a look at Bleacher Report's official Hall of Fame voting results from a panel of featured columnists.
Note: The Baseball Writers' Association of America cast official Hall-of-Fame votes. Bleacher Report's tally is purely based on votes by our featured columnists and in no way reflects that of the BBWAA.
David Wells received one vote from a B/R featured columnist.
Hall of Fame election rules require players to receive at least five percent of the vote one year to be included on the next year's ballot.
For Bleacher Report's ballot, these players did not receive five percent of the vote and would be considered ineligible for the 2014 vote.
Those receiving no votes:
- Jeff Cirillo
- Royce Clayton
- Roberto Hernandez
- Ryan Klesko
- Jose Mesa
- Reggie Sanders
- Aaron Sele
- Todd Walker
- Mike Stanton
- Rondell White
- Woody Williams
Those receiving one vote:
- Jeff Conine
- David Wells
- Julio Franco
- Steve Finley
Those receiving two votes:
- Shawn Green
Dale Murphy received 7.6% of the vote.
This is Dale Murphy's 15th and final year on the ballot.
And if this vote is any indication, Murphy won't reach the Hall of Fame.
Last year, Murphy received 14.5 percent of the vote from the BBWAA with 2000 being his highest with 23.2 percent of the vote.
Murphy finished his career batting .265 with 398 home runs and 1,266 RBI. He won MVP awards in 1982 and 1983, and five-straight Gold Gloves from 1982-86. He also made seven All-Star teams and won four Silver Sluggers.
From 1982-87, Murphy was one of the best players in baseball, but beginning in 1988, Murphy regressed in a big way.
Over the last five years of his career, Murphy batted .234 with 88 home runs and 339 RBI.
While many Braves fans cry foul over Murphy not being elected, they forget the Hall of Fame is reserved for the best of the best over their entire careers.
Murphy was only the best of the best for six years.
Kenny Lofton received 8.7% of the vote.
Sandy Alomar Jr. and Kenny Lofton are both appearing on the ballot for the first time.
Lofton was one of the better base-stealers during his time and ranks 15th all-time with 622 steals. He also had 2,428 hits, a .299 batting average and won four Gold Gloves.
Jason Lukehart of Let's Go Tribe, Cleveland's community on SB Nation, summed up Lofton's status:
Still, if you’re looking at a player’s hitting, Lofton doesn’t have the portfolio of a Hall of Famer. An OPS+ of 107 would be among the lowest in the Hall, most of the players below that mark are among the most questionable inductees.
Sandy Alomar Jr.
Alomar isn't even ranked among the greatest catchers of all time, so it's no surprise he didn't garner many votes.
Over the course of his career, Alomar batted .273 with 112 home runs and 588 RBI. Those numbers just aren't Hall-worthy.
Rafael Palmeiro received 10.9% of the vote.
Rafael Palmeiro has the numbers to be in the Hall of Fame. He's one of four players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
Last year, Palmeiro received 12.6 percent of the vote after a career where he hit .288 with 569 home runs and 1,835 RBI.
However, Palmeiro also has a positive steroids test on the record. That will hurt his chances now and in the future.
Alan Trammell received 36.8 percent of the vote last year and is on his 12th ballot.
Trammell batted .285 with 2,365 hits and 1,003 RBI. He was also a six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner.
Sports Illustrated's Mel Antonen wrote a story last year about Trammell's chances at induction:
Those who vote for Trammell say that he was a pioneer who revolutionized the shortstop position into an offensive force and was one of the best hitters of his time. The flip side is that Trammell is the perfect definition of a "near Hall of Famer.'' Also, the uptick in overall offense by shortstops puts Trammell's numbers in a lesser light.
For Trammell to gain induction, many writers are going to have to change their opinions.
Bernie Williams received 16.3% of the vote.
Bernie Williams received 9.6 percent of the vote last year and gets a slight uptick according to Bleacher Report's vote.
Williams batted .297 with 287 home runs and 1,257 RBI with five Gold Gloves and five All-Star appearances in 16 seasons with the New York Yankees.
Howard Megdal of Capital New York believes there is a good argument for Williams, but he's not a Hall of Famer.
Williams was a very good home run hitter, but not a great one—he maxed out at 30 during an era when 50 wasn’t uncommon. He was a decent base stealer, nothing more. He walked quite a bit, usually more than he struck out. He only led the league in anything once, with a .339 batting average in 1998.
Williams' numbers are good, but not great, which is likely why he won't get inducted.
Sammy Sosa received 17.4% of the vote.
Without perceived PED use, Sammy Sosa is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer.
However, that is not a guarantee in his first year on the ballot.
Sosa batted .273 with 609 home runs and 1,667 RBI over 18 seasons. He made seven All-Star teams and won six Silver Sluggers.
He will long be remembered for his battle with Mark McGwire in 1998 during the home run chase. Sosa ended with 66, while McGwire finished with 70.
In fact, Sosa is the only player in MLB history to have hit at least 60 home runs in a season three times.
Still, the perceived PED use will be hard to overcome.
Lee Smith received 20.7% of the vote.
Lee Smith is without a doubt one of the best closers ever.
Ranked just behind Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, Smith finished his career with 478 saves and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Last year, Smith received just over half the vote. With 25 percent to go, Smith was close in his 11th year on the ballot.
Here, Smith falls short with less than 50 percent.
ESPN's Jayson Stark doesn't believe Smith should be inducted based solely on the fact that he ranks third all-time in saves.
True, he averaged nearly a strikeout an inning. But that's what closers do. Among members of the 200-Save Club, he ranks only 13th in strikeout ratio, behind the likes of Ugueth Urbina and Randy Myers. And if we look at WHIP, Smith is even deeper on that list. He ranks 23rd among members of the 200-Save Club...Smith had just one season—out of 18—in which his ERA was less than 2.00.
Smith's induction will likely be hotly contested down to his 15th year.
Mark McGwire received 22.8% of the vote.
Mark McGwire admitted to steroid use in 2010.
After six years on the ballot, McGwire has still never garnered more than 23.7 percent of the vote with the 2012 vote total being his lowest at 19.5 percent.
McGwire finished his career batting .263 with 583 home runs and 1,414 RBI. He's a 12-time All-Star and won the 1987 AL Rookie of the Year. Ironically, he didn't win the 1998 NL MVP after hitting a then-record 70 home runs in a season.
McGwire himself has also said he wouldn't vote himself into the Hall of Fame. In an interview on the Dan Patrick Show, McGwire said: "No, not by the guidelines they have now. I’ll never fight it."
There you have it from the man himself.
Fred McGriff received 26.1% of the vote.
Fred McGriff is perhaps one of the most underrated players on the ballot.
With a career .284 average with 493 home runs and 1,550 RBI, the "Crime Dog" received 23.9 percent of the vote last year.
John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times believes it's unfair how McGriff hasn't received more consideration.
The unprecedented power numbers of the performance-enhancing drug era have made McGriff's career look puny by contrast. And that's simply not fair. If you're going to punish steroid users, how do you also punish the clean players who didn't have cartoon bodies or statistics?
Up until the year 2000, there were only 16 players with at least 2,000 hits, 450 homers, 1,500 RBIs and 1,000 walks. All 16 are in the Hall, and most were first-ballot inductees.
Romano and those supporting McGriff still have a long way to go. If Bleacher Report's vote is any indication, there's a lot of voters yet to be convinced on McGriff's behalf.
Edgar Martinez received 27.2% of the vote.
The case for Edgar Martinez is very curious.
As a designated hitter throughout his career, Martinez is thought to be the best ever at that position.
However, is his .312 career average with 309 home runs and 1,261 RBI worthy of consideration?
According to Grant Brisbee of SB Nation, voters shouldn't hold it against Martinez that he was purely a designated hitter:
- The rules of baseball have, since 1973, required that every team in the American League fill a position known as "the designated hitter"
- Edgar Martinez was the best designated hitter in the history of the sport
- Edgar Martinez should also be seen as one of the great players of whatever name you want to give that era. He was certainly one of the best hitters. He lead the AL in on-base percentage three times, made seven All-Star teams, and finished with a career OBP over .400...
Martinez garnered 36.5 percent of the vote last year, but didn't do as well on this ballot.
Larry Walker is on the ballot for the third time after hitting .313 with 383 home runs and 1,311 RBI during his career.
Walker made five All-Star teams and won the 1997 NL MVP.
Brandon Warne of Fangraphs points out that Walker's injury history also plays a role in him getting votes.
Walker played parts of 17 seasons, and that alone is superficially impressive, but subtract his 20-game cup of coffee in 1989, and we’re left with 1,986 games over 16 seasons, which averages out to about 124 per year. As a result, the counting stats don’t really benefit Walker. His 57th-place ranking in extra-base hits all time is his highest ranking among any counting stat, which certainly doesn’t recommend him in the eyes of many traditionalist writers.
His 27.2 percent on the Bleacher Report ballot is more than he received from the BBWAA over the last two years. It is likely the highest number he will see during his stint on the ballot.
Tim Raines received 29.3% of the vote.
Tim Raines is another guy who should eventually get into the Hall.
Receiving 48.7 percent of the vote last year, Raines should go above 50 percent this year.
Raines has a career batting average of .294 with 808 stolen bases and 1,571 runs scored.
He's one of the best base-stealers of all time and was a great contact hitter during his playing days as well.
Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports makes a case for Raines:
Raines’ Hall of Fame problem is Rickey Henderson. Raines might be the second best leadoff hitter off all-time, but he played at the same time as the best. Also, he was a left fielder without much power and he never won an MVP award or came particularly close.
Jack Morris came close to being elected by the BBWAA last year as he garnered 66.7 percent of the vote.
Morris finished his career with 254 wins, a 3.94 ERA and 2,478 strikeouts.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal has yet to vote for Morris for induction, but has said he is taking a harder look at it.
What if Morris continues to bear down on the 75 percent minimum in his final two years on the ballot, and I turn out to be the one who keeps him out?
I believe that Morris falls short of Cooperstown; otherwise, I already would have voted for him. But I also remain torn on his candidacy, mindful of the strong cases that others have made for his inclusion in the Hall.Rarely are these black-and-white decisions. More often than not, they come down to shades of gray.
Although only 29.3 percent of Bleacher Report voters elected him in, Morris will still likely be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Don Mattingly received 30.4% of the vote.
Don Mattingly is in his 13th year on the ballot and the 30.4 percent he received from Bleacher Report exceeds that of any by the BBWAA.
Mattingly had a great six-year stretch from 1984-89 as he batted .327 with 160 home runs and 684 RBI.
The rest of his career was just average, however, which is why his vote totals have remained low.
Alex Remington of Yahoo! Sports re-visited Mattingly's career in 2010 to come to his own conclusions:
He basically stopped being elite after he turned 27. Saying that he was effective for 10 full seasons actually overstates the case because he only played at a star level for about half that period. He was the Yankees' most or second-most valuable position player in just five seasons: 1984-87 and 1989. The rest of the time, he was below — and often far below — players like Winfield and Henderson, Hall of Famers on his own team whose cumulative production far outstripped his own.
Mattingly falls into the same category as Murphy. Both had five or six years where they were really good. After that, they were just average.
Curt Schilling received 44.6% of the vote.
Curt Schilling will always be known for his bloody sock in the 2004 ALCS.
Throughout his career, though, Schilling was a winner, capturing three World Series titles during his 20-year career.
He compiled a record of 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts, which ranks 15th all-time.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci, the online staff got Verducci's take on Schilling.
His regular season numbers make him a borderline candidate, but his greatness in the postseason is what puts him over the top. The other thing I really find impressive about him is of all the pitchers who've won at least 200 games, he has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.38) of anybody in history. I like the fact that he was a power pitcher who combined control.
As far as the postseason numbers go, which Verducci mentioned, Schilling ranks fifth all-time with 11 wins, third in win percentage (.846) and eighth in strikeouts (120).
Postseason stats alone are what will likely get Mariano Rivera into the Hall of Fame, and the same may be the case for Schilling.
Roger Clemens received 48.9% of the vote.
Roger Clemens was acquitted of lying about steroid use in June.
However, the ruling does mean that "The Rocket" was never a steroid user.
Clemens is one of two players who will be hotly debated about in terms of inclusion into the Hall due to his suspected use.
Over the course of his career, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts.
His 354 wins rank ninth all-time, while his 4,672 strikeouts rank third.
Clemens has the numbers, but will voters elect him based on the perceived notion of PED use?
According to Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times:
Hall of Fame voters don’t need to adhere to the federal jury’s standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, and those who’ve observed the lives of enough pitching careers certainly remain skeptical of the dominance Clemens reverted to in his later years.
So my guess is he won’t make it for a few years into his candidacy, but ultimately will as a deeper review of his original dominance and the forgiveness that resides in each of us – even sports writers – shines.
It's an interesting thought, and as you see from Bleacher Report voters, the same holds true for most.
Barry Bonds received 52.2% of the vote.
Barry Bonds is the most controversial figure on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Granted, he likely had the numbers to enter the Hall of Fame before suspected PED use, but does his perceived use keep him from entering the Hall?
Bonds finished his career ranked first all-time with 762 home runs and fourth with 1,996 RBI. His 2,558 walks also rank first all-time, while his wins above replacement (158.1) ranks second to Babe Ruth.
He won seven MVPs, eight Gold Gloves, made 14 All-Star appearances and won 12 Silver Sluggers.
The numbers are there, but his PED use will always be in question.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports takes his vote seriously.
Some are arguing that yes, they do, because the Hall of Fame has inducted cheaters before. Some are saying that because baseball never punished them for a failed drug test, we shouldn't do it, either.
And some are complaining that we, the baseball writers who make up the electorate, have no right to be the ones taking a stand.
The answer to that last complaint is the easiest one. The Hall of Fame asked us to decide who stands on that stage. We have the right, because they gave us the right, and it's one that every one of us takes very seriously.
Bonds should eventually make it into the Hall as his numbers are too hard to ignore.
That said, PED controversy will likely delay that process.
Jeff Bagwell received 57.6% of the vote.
Jeff Bagwell received 56 percent of the vote from the BBWAA last year and gets a slight increase from Bleacher Report voters.
Bagwell batted .297 with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI and 2,314 hits over 15 years.
Tracy Ringolsby of Fox Sports has his own opinions on Bagwell's vote totals.
He has not been linked to use of performance-enhancing drugs, except by some members of the media who speak of their suspicions, not their knowledge, and the fact that several known PED users played with the Astros.
That suspicion is enough to have them try to shut the door to Cooperstown on Bagwell, who, in addition to six consecutive years of at least 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 100 runs scored, drew more than 100 walks in seven consecutive seasons.
With no evidence or testimony from players to the contrary, is it fair to deny Bagwell entry? That's a question voters will have to answer until he is enshrined.
Craig Biggio received 63% of the vote.
Craig Biggio was a baseball player through and through. He went about his business every day and always did what was asked of him.
Over the course of his career, Biggio hit .281 with 3,060 hits, 1,844 runs scored and 1,175 RBI.
His numbers may not look sexy, but just like Tony Gwynn, Biggio knew how to get on base to set up the middle of the order.
Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated provided a chart comparing Biggio to another Hall of Fame player, Robin Yount:
Yount was a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame.
With these numbers, shouldn't Biggio be in as well?
Bleacher Report writers don't seem to think so. Not yet, at least.
Mike Piazza received 67.4% of the vote.
Mike Piazza received the most votes from Bleacher Report featured columnists. Still, it wouldn't be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.
Piazza is the best-hitting catcher in the history of the game with a .308 career average with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBI.
Matthew Pouliot gave BBWAA voters something to think about—either choose Mike Piazza, or accuse him of using steroids.
Say “I’m not voting for Piazza because I think he was a cheater.” Preferably present some evidence if you have it, but whether you do or not, make the reason clear. No wishy-washy stuff. There’s no excuse for leaving him off the ballot otherwise.
Simple enough. Unless evidence is provided, Piazza should be in the Hall of Fame.
Some Bleacher Report voters likely left him off because it was his first year on the ballot, while others likely suspect him of PED use.
No matter how you look at it, Piazza's results will be highly anticipated, especially considering many baseball fans consider him to be the best catcher ever.
Martinez is the only other player out of this year's finalists with that distinction.
The PED scandal will long be a topic of conversation.
PED use, whether suspected or confirmed, had a big impact on the voting.
Of the responses to the question, "How much does reported or suspected PED use play into the players for whom you would vote?" nearly half of the respondents rated it a four or five, while nearly one third rated it a one or two.
Here are a couple of the responses voters had towards this issue:
I'm a small hall guy, and I only want the best. PED use is a non factor since players have always "cheated" in some form or fashion. Plus the writers double standard of cheering for the offense then condemning it after the PED use came up is ridiculous.
If baseball wants to ban these guys from consideration, then it is free to do so, but as long as MLB or the Hall of Fame do not exclude these players from the ballot, then it's not up to me to play judge and jury. If the numbers merit inclusion (Clemens, Bonds, Bagwell, Palmeiro), then I said "yes." If they didn't (McGwire), then I said "no."
One voter had the same reasons as I did in terms of those connected to PEDs:
Cheating is cheating, there is no way around it. Using drugs to gain an advantage, whether it be in muscle regeneration after injury or just to gain strength and power, constitutes grounds for being left out of the Hall of Fame. It would be a disservice to the past generations in the Hall to allow these men who used artificial substances to gain an edge.
Any way you look at it, steroids will long be the biggest topic of discussion for the next 15 years, or as long as those confirmed or suspected of PED use are on the ballot.