It’s still an honor to vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame because it’s obvious an algorithm or fleet of robots could do it ‘‘better’’ than any human could.
‘‘Better’’ is in quotes because I hope there’s never a formula that figures out what’s going on in my human mind when I decide what I think is better than something else. I like blue more than green, pepper more than salt. Is that wrong, HAL?
My 2018 ballot might not agree with yours. Or anybody else’s. So be it.
For me, I have one major criterion after all the numbers are put away: Was this a player I was thrilled to see play?
Oh, yeah, one more: If he was a known (to me) juicer — Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, et al. — see ya!
My 2018 ballot:
Vladimir Guerrero: Big, hard-swinging dude who had 10 seasons with more than 100 RBI. He’d swing at anything — and hit anything. He hit 126 home runs on first pitches, which is thought to be a major-league record.
Trevor Hoffman: The former closer received 74 percent of the votes last year (75 percent is needed), so there was no way I wasn’t going to vote for him again. His saves total is crazy-high — 601 — and his 2.87 ERA in 18 seasons speaks for itself.
Johnny Damon: He’ll never get in, but the guy thrilled many of us during those magical Red Sox-Yankees battles when the Theo Epstein-led Sox were emerging from their Cubs-like title drought. In 2002, Damon led the American League in triples. In 2004, he was second in the AL in runs scored. He sported wild hair and a lumberjack beard years before the latter became fashionable. I dug it.
Chipper Jones: The third baseman/outfielder played 19 seasons and finished with 1,623 RBI. He was the 1999 National League most valuable player, the 2008 NL batting champion and was voted to eight All-Star Games. He had a great eye, getting 1,317 more hits than strikeouts in his career, and played in 12 postseasons. Clutch.
Edgar Martinez: He received almost 59 percent of the vote last year. He has suffered long enough, and I always thought the third baseman/designated hitter should be in. His career batting average of .312 is superb for a player who hit 309 homers. That he played his entire 18-year career for the Mariners always fascinated me.
Mike Mussina: This is his fifth year on the ballot, and I’ve voted for him each year. He pitched for 18 seasons and had a 270-153 record. He pitched in nine AL Division Series, five AL Championship Series and two World Series. He won 20 games only once but had 15 or more victories 11 times. In.
Curt Schilling: You might not like him because he blabbers too much right-wing junk and because he helped bankrupt a state-backed Rhode Island video-game company to the tune of $50 million, but, man, he had charisma on the mound. The ‘‘Bloody Sock’’ game in the 2004 ALCS was dramatic enough for me. But there’s also the 216 victories in 20 seasons, the 2001 World Series MVP award, the six All-Star Games and the three seasons with more than 20 victories.
Omar Vizquel: A beautiful, acrobatic shortstop, Vizquel was one of those rarities you figured could play his position into his 60s. As it was, Vizquel played for 24 seasons — until he was 45. His best seasons were with the Indians (1994-2004). He was a great little shortstop all kids should know about.
Jim Thome: A ‘‘country strong’’ fellow who hit the snot out of the ball, Thome had a ridiculous 612 homers in his 22-year career. He crushed the ball everywhere he played, including for our White Sox (134 homers in four seasons). Sox play-by-play man Hawk Harrelson almost went into vocal trauma from so many, ‘‘You can put it on the board, Yessss!’’ calls after Thome at-bats. I prefer to believe Thome never used steroids, and there’s no evidence he did. He was thick-necked and immense. And he belongs in Cooperstown.
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