David Lennon explains his Baseball Hall of Fame vote in Class of 2022

It turned out that it was a short stay at the Olympics.

Three years and three votes ago, I made the decision to scale down my Hall of Fame votes to a more select group, so to speak, no-brainer, instead of working the margins to reach the maximum of 10 candidates that are allowed under the rules.

The philosophical shift on my part happened after the 2019 election of Harold Baines of Today’s Game Era Committee, a 16-member panel that is one of a handful designed to reconsider candidates that BBWAA had previously rejected. No insult to Baines, a very good player, but I felt that the controversial choice – developed by his lobbyists in committee – only served to weaken the Cooperstown brand as a whole.

Encouraged by some of the Baines imbroglio, I shrunk my ballot to the players I thought were the three slam-dunk, Mount Olympus candidates: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera. The gap that followed was, in my opinion, significant.

I also felt comfortable moving on, sticking to Bonds and Clemens for the next two years (which I have consistently done since their appearance on the ballot), while only adding Derek Jeter (Class 2020) during that time. Again, these were the elite and the bar remained high.

But this year’s vote has created new complications and requires another adjustment, albeit perhaps more radical than the Thanos finger that halved my candidates for the 2019 class. The scale tipper this time is David Ortiz, and while he qualifies under my previous survey methods, his link to MLB’s 2003 survey PED test list as a (non-disciplinary) positive prompted me to reconsider what has been termed a ” Small Hall “approaching.

In recent years, since PED-colored players first started appearing on the ballot, I have stuck to a fairly black-and-white guideline: If the player was never punished by MLB for a PED-related offense, such as a suspension, then Neither do you. Bonds and Clemens faced charges outside of baseball law in a courtroom, but were not kept off the field because of these allegations (MLB first entered the disciplinary phase of their 2004 PED program). That penalty criterion currently holds Alex Rodriguez off my ballot when the triple MVP was twice suspended for PEDs, including the season-long exclusion in 2014.

With Ortiz, it’s not quite that simple. Although the 2003 inquiry was supposed to be anonymous, and even Commissioner Rob Manfred has tried to discredit the test that put his name on the list in the first place, all parties acknowledge that it was actually there at a time when Ortiz seemed to be rejuvenating magically. his career with the Red Sox.

It pulls us down the PED rabbit hole again and this gray area made me reconsider my process. Not just for those players who are somehow polluted by PEDs, but especially the other side, those who acted as Hall of Famers without the (presumably) boost from illegal chemicals.

So where did that lead me? After Bonds, Clemens and Ortiz, the next domino was Sammy Sosa, who, like Big Papi, appeared on that survey from 2003. If I take Ortiz, then Sosa’s CV (609 hours) and greater impact on the sport (also like Papi) when baseball desperately needed it, gets him through the gate. And with Sosa follows Gary Sheffield, whose Bonds-BALCO connections do not overshadow the fact that he was among the most feared hitters of his generation (509 HRs, .907 OPS).

But we are only halfway there. If these PED-infected five deserve to be considered the Hall of Famers, I feel there is a need for balance so that the (supposedly PED-free?) Players are not punished for doing so by the rules – or at least avoiding the public stain of such behavior. Fortunately, the 10-man ballot makes room for five more, and this “pure” category – it’s important to put it in quotes – on the other side of the ballot now contains plenty of beginners for me: Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen and Billy Wagner. As for Curt Schilling, I had him on my ballot before I shifted gears in late 2018 (for the 2019 class) so he’s coming back just in time for his final year of eligibility. Perhaps it is naive to think that these five did not benefit from PED use in some form, but at this point in history, they do not carry the scarlet P and will be treated as such.

Submitting a ballot paper with only three names (or fewer) that I had recently did not make this process any easier. This year it was particularly tough, but I feel confident on the ballot as a whole. While this again represents a major shift in how I choose to vote, this was the best way to reconcile some of the conflicts between this group and provide a fair representation of Cooperstown.

It is also worth noting that just as Baines’ special election prompted me to reconsider the Hall of Fame three years ago, the same can be said to some extent that Gil Hodges finally stepped in last month. What was the point of all those years of gate-keeping for a deserving player whose access clearly makes Cooperstown a better place?

As a longtime BBWAA member, we are ultimately asked to vote players into the Hall of Fame, not keep them out. And staying on a “Small Hall” course had the potential to become increasingly restrictive going forward, which would be a disservice to a number of players who hold the credentials, even if they were not seven-time MVPs like Bonds or a seven – time Cy Young wins as Clemens.

The Hall of Fame is a museum designed to celebrate players’ careers and achievements, and upon further review, more celebration (within reason) should override less.

David Lennon’s ballot in the Hall of Fame Class 2022

Barry Bonds

Roger Clemens

Todd Helton

Andruw Jones

David ortiz

Scott Rolen

Curt Schilling

Gary Sheffield

Sammy Sosa

Billy Wagner