The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Monday that eight former players have been named to the Contemporary Baseball Era ballot, which will be voted on during the upcoming Winter Meetings. Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, and Curt Schilling are eligible for induction into Cooperstown through this process as long as they receive 75% of the votes from a 16-member panel that will convene on December 4.
This is one of three Era Committees — there’s a Classic Baseball Era in addition to a Contemporary Baseball Era for managers, execs, and umpires — and it’s specifically meant to re-evaluate players who have been retired for more than 15 seasons. In the case of several former players listed above, PED suspicions prevented them from earning induction from the more traditional BBWAA voting process.
What’s most interesting to me about this list is who’s not on it, namely Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. I guess Sosa may be ineligible because he didn’t officially retire until 2009, two years after his last game with the Rangers, so there might be a technicality involved. But Big Mac retired in 2001 and easily has the numbers to be considered with the rest of his colleagues here.
As for the non-PED guys, I can see Mattingly and Murphy making it even though they should probably remain in the Hall of Very Good. It’s wild to me that McGriff wasn’t voted in by the writers, but he fell into a weird limbo due to the era in which he finished his career. As strange as it sounds, he’d have made it if he had hit seven more homers. Failing to reach 500 for his career at a time when home run totals were soaring hurt his candidacy, which is silly.
Schilling is another HoVG member who might have made it one step further if he wasn’t such a reprehensible person. I would imagine a panel of his peers will be more forgiving than a group of writers he intimated should be lynched, so we’ll see.
The one person I’m surprised by on here is Belle, who put up really strong numbers over parts of 12 seasons. But he really only had four or five standout years and is probably best known to people outside of Cleveland for decking Fernando Viña. Some might even remember when he went by Joey. Belle just doesn’t have the longevity, the eye-popping numbers, or the championship pedigree to make a strong argument for induction.
Bonds, Palmeiro, and Clemens would have made it easily on the merits of their numbers alone, so now it’s just a matter of how willing the committee is to welcome them.
The Hall has lost a lot of its credibility over the years — to me, anyway — because of stuff like this. The BBWAA voting process borders on farcical and even these committees established to right old wrongs end up feeling more like a consolation prize.
Speaking of which, the Cubs really need to welcome Sammy back to Wrigley for induction into the team’s Hall of Fame. As the face of baseball for several summers in the late 90s and early 2000s, he single-handedly allowed the Cubs to charge the highest ticket prices in the National League for the last decade and a half. No kissing Tom Ricketts’ ring, no public apology, just bring the man back and celebrate a legacy ownership is still profiting from all these years later.
Ed. note: Even though it’s not something the Cubs have discussed publicly, and maybe not even privately as far as current ownership goes, Sosa’s complicated legacy also involves allegations of domestic violence. He remains ostracized due to leaving his last game early, using a corked bat, and being heavily implicated in PED usage, none of which should be enough to keep him away.