DENVER -- Part of my reasoning for switching jobs last summer related to baseball. If you follow me on social media, you know I love baseball. My kids have played it forever. I have coached them. My father coached me. Don't get me wrong, I relish covering the Broncos. There's nothing like it in this state. There are the Broncos and everyone else. And Broncos game day on any day brings the buzz of a playoff contest.
The switch to Denver7 widens my lens. While my primary responsible remains Broncos, I will have a chance to dabble in baseball again in the spring. I covered baseball as a traveling beat writer from 2001-2014. As such, I earned a Hall of Fame ballot. It requires 10 consecutive seasons of coverage. It was a goal when I began chronicling the sport, and a privilege I take seriously.
Hall of Fame voting is challenging. There are no perfect ballots. Mine isn't. But I vote with conviction, and here are my reasons, starting with former local star Larry Walker. For the second time, I voted for him.
Walker is the most talented player I ever covered. His 1997 National League MVP season was breathtaking in every way from baserunning to defense to his rifle arm and 49 home runs. I said no to Walker in the past because his statistics fell short because of missed games. He averaged 124 games a season. Had he avoided injury or played more when the Rockies were eliminated Walker would have posted no-doubt Cooperstown numbers.
So why now?
The power of 10. He makes my list. I have room because some of the game's all-time greats don't make my cut.
I haven’t always marked the box for the full amount. There were easily 10 deserving candidates this year. And with Walker, as I said last year, I want him to remain on the ballot for the full 10 years (the new mandated maximum length stay on the ballot). I want him to continue to generate discussion. I am not saying I will vote for Walker every year. As new candidates arrive, the ballot dynamic changes. But Walker's candidacy marinating in the minds of voters is a good thing. It also helps advance the discussion about the impact of Coors Field. The place began to normalize with the advent of the humidor in 2002 to store the baseballs and keep them closer to their manufactured weight.
But Coors Field adds points to average, and the thin air adds distance to fly balls. It stinks for Walker because he could have hit on Mars or in the desert.
Walker’s voting totals, with a noted slight increase last season as he received 68 votes (5 percent is required to stay on the ballot):
So about the rest of my ballot. As past Baseball Writers Association of America president Derrick Goold said, and I agree with: "I approach the ballot like anything else I put my byline on."
Here has been my reasoning regarding the PED issue. I respect all opinions, and the room to disagree.
I have not endorsed known steroid users, and that did not change on my ballot this year. My standard, which will be understandably questioned, is to leave out those who tested positive, admitted using or have an avalanche of evidence against them through federal investigations.
So I said no to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez. I realize my logic will be criticized with those insisting my ballot does include PED users. They could be right. But I am not basing my vote on speculation or rumors.
I have covered the major leagues since September of 1996, and as a traveling beat writer since 2001. Those who took steroids had a clear advantage over those who didn’t. I respectfully disagree with writers who insist "everyone was doing it.” That’s insulting to clean players who ultimately pushed the union to agree more stringent testing. I will give two examples of why I cannot endorse known steroid users.
I had a minor league player, not on the Rockies, approach me in spring training in 2004. We were talking about roster spots, and the difficulty of making a team. He said he would have never made it to the big leagues a few years prior if he hadn’t been placed on the 40-man roster. There’s always truth to this given the team’s investment. He said it wasn’t that — it was because he could take steroids. He had been tested in the minor leagues while not on the 40-man roster, but found himself competing in spring training against players who were not subject to the same rules. This was the culture baseball created.
A former Rockies player relayed a more sobering story. He was a good player, but conflicted. A few of his ex-teammates from his amateur days had gone on to great success in the pros, posting monster numbers because of performance-enhancing drugs, he claimed. He couldn’t bring himself to cheat, citing family and health concerns. Eventually, he ended up clinically depressed, requiring medication. So no, I don’t think everyone was doing it. Even if many were, I still don’t see how that provides justification. If your child was in a class were 25 of the 45 kids cheated and your child didn’t would you believe in rewarding those who bent the rules? Your child gets a B, those 25 get A’s and you are OK with that?
When Mark McGwire admitted his PED use prior to returning to the big leagues as a coach, he conceded he was never going to get into the Hall of Fame because of his actions. And if everyone was doing it, thus a non-issue, where are all of the players speaking out on behalf of steroid users? Why aren’t they voicing their opinion and support?
I believe it’s because they know it was wrong. Baseball didn’t test for PEDS early enough, but steroids were illegal in society for decades, and sprinter Ben Johnson’s disgraced Olympic episode brought a spotlight to their use in 1988. Taking them was a way to go outside the rules to enhance performance. Even if some players insist it didn’t help them, that was the intent. They didn’t take them to hurt their performance. I can tell you that even if steroids didn't aid physically, it could help mentally. In a sport where roughly 90 percent have similar ability, stepping into the box or onto the mound believing you are stronger and better than your opponent is a huge advantage.
There you have it. And now my ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith, Larry Walker.