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2023 Baseball Hall of Fame Contemporary Era ballot: Our vote, biggest snubs, more

Barry Bonds Baseball Hall of Fame Contemporary Era ballot
Barry Bonds (Wikimedia Commons)

The Baseball Hall of Fame released its eight-man Contemporary Era ballot that will be included with the Class of 2023 — and there’s no shortage of controversy within it. 

Some of the Hall of Fame’s largest snubs and contentious personalities have another chance to make their way into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown in a decision that is now up to a 16-person committee rather than the Baseball Writers Association of America, which could potentially be a saving grace for some who didn’t have the best relationship with the media. Players on this ballot are those whose primary contributions came in 1980 or later.

The requirements for induction are the same, though, as the candidate will need 75% of the vote when the Contemporary Era Committee meets on Dec. 4 at the MLB Winter Meetings in San Diego. 

Here’s a look at the eight-man ballot, our vote (if we had one), and some of the biggest snubs. 

2023 Baseball Hall of Fame Contemporary Era Ballot

Albert Belle

  • Years active: 1989-2000
  • Position: OF
  • Teams: Cleveland, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles
  • Stats: 1,539 games, 1,726 hits, .295/.369/.564, .933 OPS, 381 HR, 1,239 RBI

Belle was one of the most feared sluggers of the 1990s mostly because of his bat, but also because of a menacing personality that landed him in hot water with the press on multiple occasions. He posted eight consecutive seasons of 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI, including a 1995 season with Cleveland that saw him become the first (and still the only) player in MLB history to hit 50-plus home runs and 50-plus doubles (50 HR, 52 doubles). His career was cut short at age 33 due to osteoarthritis in his hips, but he was on track to hit 500 home runs — often an automatic pass into the Hall. 

Our vote: Yes- Belle was never linked to steroid abuse despite questions being raised throughout his career. He even implored for the names of all 101 players listed on the Mitchell Report to be released back in 2009. However, he was suspended in 1994 for using a corked bat. Regardless, his best seasons came after the incident. Outbursts toward the media and ensuing refusals to speak to them afterward further marred his reputation in the court of public opinion, but that doesn’t diminish what he did as a ballplayer.

 

Barry Bonds

  • Years active: 1986-2007
  • Position: OF
  • Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants
  • Stats: 2,986 games, 2,935 hits, .298/.444/.607, .1.051 OPS, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI

Regardless of the steroid scandal that has been attached to his name for 25 years, Bonds statistically is one of the very best offensive players in baseball history. He’s the game’s home run king and is the only player in MLB history in the 400-400 club and 500-500 club. He holds the single-season home run record with 73, led the league in on-base percentage 10 times and OPS nine times. He was so feared that he holds the MLB’s all-time record for walks and intentional walks, including a staggering 120 intentional free passes in 2004. He’s a seven-time MVP Award winner

Our vote: Yes- He was a Hall of Famer before he began taking steroids and there should undoubtedly be clarification that he abused it during the second half of his career. That being said, you can’t tell the story of baseball without Barry Bonds. It’s a no-brainer and it’s been one for a while.

 

Roger Clemens

  • Years active: 1984-2007
  • Position: Starting Pitcher
  • Teams: Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Houston Astros
  • Stats: 707 games started, 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 4,672 strikeouts, 1.173 WHIP

Clemens holds the MLB record with seven Cy Young Awards and is the only pitcher in history to strike out 20 batters in a single start on multiple occasions. He ranks third all-time in strikeouts and his 354 wins rank ninth.

Our vote: Yes- Another generational talent whose record is tainted due to PEDs, Clemens is still worthy of getting into the Hall given his dominance from 1986-1997 before he began using steroids: 197-109 with a 2.89 ERA and 2,682 strikeouts, four Cy Young Awards, four 20-win seasons, five ERA titles, and the 1986 AL MVP. 

 

Don Mattingly

  • Years active: 1982-1995
  • Position: 1B
  • Teams: New York Yankees
  • Stats: 1,785 games, 2,153 hits, .307/.357/.471, .830 OPS, 222 HR, 1,099 RBI

Back issues ultimately derailed the career of a top-three first baseman of the 1980s. During his peak from 1984-1989, he hit .327 with a .902 OPS, 160 home runs, 257 doubles, and 684 RBI. He won the AL MVP Award in 1985, is a nine-time Gold Glove winner, and a three-time Silver Slugger winner.

Our vote: No- This isn’t an easy decision considering just how good Mattingly was — and how angry Yankees fans will get. But looking at the rest of the ballot and considering his peak was significantly shorter through no fault of his own, it’s not his time yet. It’s also worth mentioning that the top first baseman of the era, Keith Hernandez, didn’t even make the ballot. 

 

Fred McGriff

  • Years active: 1986-2004
  • Position: 1B
  • Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Stats: 2,460 games, 2,490 hits, .284/.377/.509, .886 OPS, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI

Had McGriff spent the bulk of his career in larger markets, he’d already be in the Hall of Fame. The power-hitting first baseman hit 30 or more home runs eight times and topped the 100-RBI mark an additional seven times. He’s a five-time All-Star with three Silver Sluggers to his name and had an OPS of .800 or better in 15 of his first 16 full seasons.

Our vote: Yes- Had he hit seven more home runs, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. A consistent star who managed to produce despite being a part of multiple big trades throughout his career. 

 

Dale Murphy

  • Years active: 1976-1993
  • Position: OF
  • Teams: Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies
  • Stats: 2,180 games, 2,111 hits, .265/.346/.469, .815 OPS, 398 HR, 1,266 RBI

For eight seasons from 1980-1987, Murphy was one of the best outfielders in the game. He was named to seven All-Star teams, won five Gold Glove Awards, and posted an .891 OPS with an average of 33 home runs and 96 RBI. He also won a pair of MVP Awards which came in succession from 1982-1983.

Our vote: No- Murphy certainly belongs in a hall of very good, but his run as a premier player just wasn’t long enough to establish himself as a bonafide Hall of Famer. 

 

Rafael Palmeiro

  • Years active: 1986-2005
  • Position: 1B/DH
  • Teams: Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles
  • Stats: 2,831 games, 3,020 hits, .288/.371/.515, .885 OPS, 569 HR, 1,835 RBI

Palmeiro is one of seven players in MLB history to record 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, which normally would provide automatic induction into the Hall of Fame. He posted 10 seasons in which he homered 37 or more times, but he was suspended 10 games for PEDs in 2005 shortly after recording his 3,000th hit and he soon disappeared from the game for good. 

Our vote: No- The shroud of how PEDs improved his game provides too much uncertainty to say he was a Hall of Famer before the controversy. In his first seven years as a pro, he averaged just 14 home runs and 60 RBI before becoming a superstar after the age of 30 during the mid-90s when steroid use was rampant. 

 

Curt Schilling

  • Years active: 1988-2007
  • Position: Starting Pitcher
  • Teams: Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox
  • Stats: 436 games started, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 3,116 strikeouts, 1.137 WHIP

He never won a Cy Young and had only four full seasons in which he posted a sub-3.00 ERA, but Schilling enters the Hall-of-Fame conversation due to the totality of his body of work. While he’s a part of the 3,000-strikeout club, he’ll be remembered as one of the most clutch postseason pitchers ever. He went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA across 19 playoff starts while winning three World Series titles — one in a co-MVP performance with the D’Backs in 2001 and two more with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007. 

Our vote: No- The Hall of Fame has often put aside questionable conduct and character of candidates off the field, and Schilling certainly tested those limits with some ridiculous statements and views, but I’m voting no simply because of what he said when he asked to be taken off the BBWAA ballot in 2021. “I’ll defer to the Veteran’s Committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don’t think I’m a Hall of Famer as I’ve often stated but if former players think I am then I’ll accept that with honor.”

 

Biggest Snubs

Lou Whitaker

  • Years active: 1977-1995
  • Teams: Detroit Tigers
  • Stats: 2,390 games, 2,369 hits, .276/.363/.426, .789 OPS, 244 HR, 1,084 RBI
  • Accolades: Rookie of the Year, 5-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove, 4-time Silver Slugger

 

Keith Hernandez

  • Years active: 1974-1990
  • Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, Cleveland
  • Stats: 2,088 games, 2,182 hits, .296/.384/.436, .821 OPS, 162 HR, 1,071 RBI
  • Accolades: 1979 NL MVP, 5-time All-Star, 11-time Gold Glove, 2-time Silver Slugger, 1979 NL Batting Title

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