Let's have a little fun and attempt to predict the players the BBWAA will elect over the next several years. Based on past vote totals for Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro and scanning published columns, it's pretty clear Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa have no shot at election this year or in the near future. I do believe attitudes will eventually change about the PED era, but that's obviously years from now.
It does seem the situation for Mike Piazza is a bit different, even though he's a player many suspect used PEDs. But he's never been linked to PEDs other than those who like to report that he had back acne, as if that provides 100 percent evidence.
Anyway, let's look into the crystal ball ...
New to ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Kenny Lofton
Elected: Biggio, Jack Morris
With this loaded ballot, it's possible no player gets elected, but I think Biggio squeaks past the 75 percent mark. He has more than 3,000 hits and every player with 3,000 hits, with the exception of Paul Waner, made it his first year on the ballot. Assuming the same number of votes as last year, Morris needs 48 more votes to get elected. Last year, Barry Larkin jumped from 62.1 percent to 86.4 percent. I think Morris gets in.
New to ballot: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent
Elected: Maddux, Glavine
Maddux and Glavine are locks -- 300-game winners, part of a baseball dynasty, and no PED suspicion. Thomas should be a lock, but there will be enough voters who won't vote for him because he spent a lot of time at DH and because of the silly first-ballot thing.
New to ballot: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado
Elected: Johnson, Martinez, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas
Just think of the names who could still be on the ballot this year: Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Pedro, Piazza, Schilling, Bagwell, Thomas, Sosa, Smoltz, Sheffield, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Mussina, Delgado, Fred McGriff, Kent, Lofton, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro. That's 23 players, all with a Hall of Fame argument of varying degrees.
Is Pedro a lock? He won "only" 219 games, but he gets the Koufax treatment, in my book: You overlook the career wins and acknowledge that, at his peak, he was arguably the most dominant pitcher ever. And Martinez's run lasted a lot longer than Koufax's. But will the writers elect four players in one year? The last time that happened was 1955. In fact, they've elected three players just three times in the past 40 years: Luis Aparicio, Harmon Killebrew and Don Drysdale in 1984; Rod Carew, Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins in 1991; and Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount in 1999. The writers are tough.
New to ballot: Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner
Elected: Griffey, Piazza, Schilling
Griffey should go in by a landslide; it's too bad that Edgar won't be there with him. This would be the fourth year on the ballot for Piazza and Schilling and their vote totals should climb slowly through the years. Pedro's election should help put Schilling over the top, as voters look beyond his relatively low win total. I'm not sure Hoffman gets in on the first ballot, but considering that the writers elected Bruce Sutter, while Lee Smith has received over 50 percent of the vote, Hoffman will get his day. Wagner was a more dominant closer than Hoffman but is well behind him in career saves and probably won't generate much support.
New to ballot: Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Posada
Elected: Raines, Smoltz, Hoffman
I'm being pretty generous here, putting in another three players. Smoltz follows the Schilling election, with his postseason performance putting him in despite 213 career wins; Smoltz also had 154 career saves and set the NL single-season saves mark (55) in 2002. Raines is already near 50 percent, so based on historical trends he'll eventually get in. Pudge will be an interesting case due to PED suspicions (but no direct evidence that he used) and Manny will obviously fall into exiled territory. Guerrero isn't a first-ballot lock, as he fell short of many of the automatic career milestones -- 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBIs.
New to ballot: Chipper Jones, Omar Vizquel, Jamie Moyer, Jason Giambi
Elected: Jones, Mussina
Mussina has to get in, right? He leads Schilling, Glavine and Smoltz (and many big-name Hall of Fame pitchers like Gibson, Ryan and Marichal) in career WAR. It will take a few years for his case to build, but he'll get in.
New to ballot: Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jim Thome? (Whoever retires after this season.)
Elected: Rivera, Thome, Ivan Rodriguez
Another three-person election? Am I assuming too much kindness on the part of the BBWAA? I think Rodriguez follows the Piazza curve: Around 50 percent his first year, then consensus support.
New to ballot: Scott Rolen?
Elected: Edgar Martinez and Guerrero
Edgar and Vlad going in together? I can dream, can't I?
So who does that leave out? Well, all the main PED suspects: Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Ramirez and Sheffield. Great all-around players like Larry Walker and Alan Trammell. No Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff or Kenny Lofton. Some closers get in, but Lee Smith and Billy Wagner do not.
If there's one thing we've learned, however, it's that you can't predict these things. I've been pretty generous here in electing several players per year, which is against the grain of recent BBWAA elections.
Plus, who knows, by 2020 there may be an entirely different election process.