Filling out a Hall of Fame ballot is always stressful, never fun, and often brings the voter nothing but criticism, even from the guys who benefit by it.
Two years ago, on a Midwestern road trip with the New York Yankees, I was shocked to overhear a pitcher who had recently been voted into the Hall -- with somewhat borderline credentials, I might add -- ridiculing a group of baseball writers heading down to the clubhouse at the end of a game.
In a lot of ways, voting for the Hall of Fame is a thankless task. Nobody ever seems satisfied with your ballot, including in many cases yourself.
And without going into detail for the umpteenth time, I did not vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro or Sammy Sosa this year, and probably never will. In short, if I can't trust the numbers, I can't vote for the player.
In that spirit, and knowing that no matter who I voted for I was sure to come under fire from someone, here is my ballot (in alphabetical order) for Cooperstown's Class of 2014:
Jeff Bagwell: A career WAR of 79.5 -- the average Hall batter's WAR is 69 -- and a career slash line of .297/.408/.540 and OPS of .948 compares favorably with such Hall of Fame first basemen as Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Johnny Mize, Eddie Murray and Tony Perez.
Craig Biggio: I voted for him last year, and will vote for him again next year if he doesn't get in. His WAR is slightly below average -- 64.9 -- but only one eligible Hall of Famer with 3,000-plus hits isn't in (Rafael Palmiero) and that is for other reasons. Biggio played for 20 years, rolled up 3,060 hits, and while his other numbers come up slightly short, longevity and durability are talents that deserve to be recognized, too.
Tom Glavine: A tough call for me, because I never felt he was even the best pitcher on his team, which is understandable when your teammate is Greg Maddux. And Mets fans will hate him forever for his first-inning blowup in that must-win game back in 2007. But Glavine's numbers are impossible to overlook -- 305 wins, 3.54 ERA, WAR of 81.4.
Greg Maddux: See above. Same as Glavine, only right-handed and better. His career WAR of 106.8 is better than all but five pitchers in the Hall, and a shade better than Tom Seaver's.
Mike Mussina: Another tough call. Never the best pitcher in the league, but Moose still rolled up some impressive numbers -- especially his winning percentage (.638), which would place him in the top 12 of pitchers already in. His WAR (83) is higher than Glavine's, and his WHIP (1.192) is lower.
Mike Piazza: Another one I voted for last year, and will vote again for next year if necessary. Say what you will about his defense, and his WAR is a relatively unimpressive 59.2, but his offensive numbers compare favorably with Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Gary Carter, Bill Dickey and Carlton Fisk.
Tim Raines: This is a player I have overlooked in the past, but not this time. Raines, a marvel for 23 seasons, has numbers that stand up with those of Lou Brock, Ralph Kiner (minus the power), Ducky Medwick and the breakfast cereal twins, Jim Rice and Zach Wheat.
Curt Schilling: Yankees fans will hate me for this one, but hey, I went for Mussina, too. Schilling's win total (216) may be low, but his winning percentage is above average, his WAR (79.9) is almost the same as Glavine's, and his WHIP (1.137) is significantly lower. I voted for him last year, too.
Frank Thomas: A no-brainer. The Big Hurt put up 521 home runs, along with a career .301 batting average and a .974 OPS over 19 seasons; the average Hall of Famer's OPS is .837.
Larry Walker: Another player I've overlooked in the past, but Walker gets my vote this year. Walker's career numbers over 17 seasons stack up with those of Hall of Fame right-fielders Andre Dawson, Enos Slaughter, and yes, both Mr. May, Dave Winfield, and Mr. October, the one and only Reginald Martinez Jackson.
The guys who didn't make it? Edgar Martinez, whose numbers are excellent -- although for a player who had nothing to do but hit, they are not significantly better than those of Piazza, who had to squat behind the plate for most of his 16 seasons. Jack Morris, a player I've voted for in the past, but who got squeezed by the sheer numbers -- just 10 spots on the ballot, and three new starting pitchers who were clearly, in my opinion anyway, better than him. And Jeff Kent, who had the lowest WAR of the 13 players I gave serious consideration to. Rather than vote for two second basemen, I gave my vote to Biggio. Maybe next year for Kent.
QUESTION: What would your Hall of Fame ballot for 2014 look like?