Now that (most) of the outrage has died out over the election of Harold Baines to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it's time to start some new arguments.
In a few weeks, results from the Baseball Writers Association of America ballots - the more traditional method of induction into Cooperstown -- will be tabulated and announced.
In the last four years, the BBWAA has eased some of the ballot logjams by electing 13 players, among the biggest group of inducted players in a similar span in history. It's expected that at least three more newly-elected players will join Baines and Lee Smith -- both elected by the veterans' committee earlier this month -- to create another crowded stage next July.
It seems as though Hall of Fame voting has become more scrutinized and debated in the last decade. That's come as a result of more public ballots, access to these ballots (and the voters) via the internet and more statistically advanced methods made available for evaluation and comparison.
A big part of the controversy, of course, stems from the presence of players on the ballot who are either known performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) users or suspected PED users. Arguably the two best players of the last 30 years -- Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds -- have yet to gain election after six years on the ballot because of their association with PEDs. (Players may remain on the ballot for 10 years.) Needing to be named on 75 percent of the ballot, Clemens and Bonds have yet to reach 60 percent.
It's a measure of just how fascinated fans are with the process that the Baseball Hall of Fame engenders more debate -- however unhinged it may sometimes get -- than the football, basketball and hockey halls of fames combined. For that, baseball should be grateful.
This year marks the 20th year I've been eligible to vote and I consider it both an honor and a privilege. Like virtually all of my colleagues, I spend a lot of time researching and considering the players on the ballot.
For years, I considered myself a "small hall'' voter -- that is, someone who tended to vote for the truly obvious players, rationalizing that if I had to think too much about a player, that player, by definition, fell short of the necessary obligations.
But more recently, I've widened my net to be more inclusive. And, not incidentally, a year ago, I dropped whatever reservations I had about PED-tainted players and began voting for those I felt were worthy of Cooperstown. After years of believing that I shouldn't reward a player for cheating, I came to the realization that we don't know -- and may never know -- who used PEDs, for how long and to what gain.
I respect those who have yet to -- or never will -- come to the same conclusion I did. These voters are not, as some allege, self-righteous or punitive. Rather, they're interpreting their responsibility differently, which is their right.
I've also come to abhor the notion of "scoring'' which ballots are good and which aren't. As statistically-based as the voting process is, the act of determining those Hall of Fame-worthy is an entirely subjective process. There are no "good'' or "bad'' ballots; there are only ones with which you agree or disagree.
With all of that out of the way, here's a look at my choices for the Class of 2019, listed alphabetically.