Many of you have asked me this past week about the Hall of Fame commitment I made last year and yes, I did indeed change my vote this time around.
I cast a vote for former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, but unfortunately, it was not enough to get him into Cooperstown. The one guy who did make it this year was longtime Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, who notched 86.4 percent of the 573 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
It was Larkin’s third year of eligibility.
The only other nominees to score more than 50 percent of the vote (75 percent is required for induction) was pitcher Jack Morris (66.7 percent), closer Lee Smith (50.6 percent) and one of the guys I voted for, Bagwell, at 56 percent.
Edgar Martinez secured 36.5 percent of the vote, up slightly from last year but about where he was two years ago when he notched 36.2 percent in his first year of eligibility.
Besides Bagwell, my ballot contained Larkin and Tim Raines, who was arguably the second best leadoff hitter of all-time behind Rickey Henderson. Raines got on base more than a number of Hall inductees, while providing above average defense and the type of career longevity that plays well for candidates. Raines secured 48.7 percent of the vote, an increase for him that could bode well in the future.
With Bagwell, the debate has never been about his numbers.
Photo Credit: AP
Instead, my suspicion is that much of the opposition to his candidacy comes from the widespread theory he was involved with performance enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, there exists not a shred of actual evidence or even firsthand accusations by somebody willing to risk a lawsuit in order to make their thoughts known.
So, I stuck to what I said last year.
The BBWAA gives all candidates who score a minimum amount of votes a 15-year window to get elected. The timeframe is there for a reason. More information tends to come out about stats and players as time moves on. People have opinions, but often change their minds in the face of compelling arguments. The only people who demand snap, one-year judgments in these things tend to be those who see themselves as never wrong about anything.
I am not one of those people. And I reserve the right to change my mind about any and all topics of conversation.
And when it came to Bagwell, I wanted to use the 15-year window to my advantage. I decided to give his critics one year to make their case that he took performance enhancing drugs. Twelve months later, I see nothing but blind accusations. Nothing but gossip in the rumor mill.
So, I am now giving Bagwell the vote I feel his career record deserves.
Some voters may want to wait five years. Some 10 years and some the entire 15 years in order for potential evidence to surface against Bagwell or any other suspected players.
That is their personal choice and they are well within their rights, as per the voting rules, to take their time. For me, I thought one year was enough. But I’m not always right, so I won’t criticize voters who want to take longer.
As for Larkin, a deserving choice. He hit .295 over 19 seasons while compiling 2,340 hits and playing above average defense. He was the NL MVP in 1995 and hit .353 during the 1990 World Series. He is the 48th Hall of Famer to spend his entire career with one club.