Originally written on Hall of Very Good  |  Last updated 11/20/14

On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced the upcoming 2013 Hall of Fame ballot. Included are 37 candidates (ten more than last year's 27)...24 newcomers and 13 holdovers. But unlike last year, when Barry Larkin got what was a pretty obvious call (he ended up with 86.4% of the vote)…there are some rather unique candidates on the ballot for the first time. So far, the writers have taken a pretty harsh stance against those that have used or been suspected of using steroids. And with all due respect to Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, it will be this coming January when we'll see where the line in the sand is drawn. You see, in 2013, it is possible that three of the game's greats (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa) might be left out in that Cooperstown cold. But here’s the rub…as of now, none of them have been found guilty of using any banned substances. Alright, with that said…let’s break down the ballot. Holdovers first. Leading the pack of those returning to the ballot is Jack Morris. A year ago, the former pitcher finished second with 66.7% of the vote on what was his 13th try. Morris pundits point to his Game Seven performance in the 1991 World Series heroics as reason for inclusion. Will it be enough to push him to 75% of the vote? We’ll soon see. Only two other returners received, like Morris, more than half of the BBWAA’s vote. Longtime Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell (56.0%) and journeyman closer Lee Smith (50.6%). The other holdovers include Tim Raines (48.7%), Alan Trammell (36.8%), Edgar Martinez (36.5%), Fred McGriff (23.9%), Larry Walker (22.9%), Don Mattingly (17.8%), Dale Murphy (14.5%) and Bernie Williams (9.6%). Two others, McGwire (19.5%) and Palmeiro (12.6%) are obviously adorned with the steroid scarlet letter and have about as much of a shot of making it in as you or me. Of the newcomers, you’re looking at Bonds, Clemens and Sosa and, while we could debate their credentials pre or post alleged steroid use…let’s just put them aside and look at the other guys hitting the ballot for the first time. To the casual fan, the words “Craig Biggio” are synonymous with “consistency”. And it’s true, the dude was…to the tune of 3060 hits, 668 doubles (good for fifth all-time) and a career .281 batting average. His seven All-Star appearances, five Silver Slugger Awards and four Gold Gloves pale in comparison to one of his greatest/oddest achievements…the 285 times (two shy of the record) he was hit by a pitch. A number of years ago, rumors started swirling that the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year was a user of PEDs. Fortunately for the 12 time All-Star, the idiom “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” has (seemingly) not been fully investigated, but it's probably safe to say Piazza is going to suffer the same "but he might've done steroids" fate as Jeff Bagwell. As it is, the catcher finished his career with a bloated .308 career batting average, nine straight seasons with an average of .300 of higher, 427 home runs, including eight straight seasons with 30 or more and 1335 RBI. Not bad for a guy who was taken as a favor in the 62nd round of the draft. When he finally hung up his bloody sock and called it quits, plenty of people were already willing to hang up Curt Schilling’s plaque and his recent business failure aside...they still are. Sure, his post-season performances are legendary (as were those of Morris), but his overall body of work was just very, very good. Sure, he won close to 60 percent of his decisions and won 216 games. Sure, he topped 3000 strikeouts with 3116, but did you know that he finished his career second all-time with a 4.38 strikeout to walk ratio? Yeah…me neither. Ask anyone if Kenny Lofton is a Hall of Famer and they would say (without hesitation) “no”. And they’d probably be right. However, if you compare his stats to “should be Hall of Famer” Raines, they stack up. Raines has 2605 hits, carries a .294 career average and scored 1571 runs. Lofton finished his career with 2428 hits, a .299 average and 1528 runs. Throw in six straight All-Star appearances and four straight Gold Gloves and the case for Lofton looks halfway decent. Some other candidates making their debut on the BBWAA ballot include Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, David Wells, Rondell White and Woody Williams. Voting results will be announced Wednesday, January 9.

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