First things first, in the wake of the Andy Pettitte deal, I’m going to host a chat tomorrow at noon. Stop by if you can and we’ll talk about the Yankees offseason heading into next week’s winter meetings. We might even find some time to talk about the Hall of Fame ballot that was released today.
When it comes to the Hall of Fame, I tend to agree with our old friend Pete Abraham, who wrote today that he’s submitting a HOF ballot that reflects production, not suspicion.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the rest of the scoundrels will get my vote. I’ll look at the players based on their statistical merit, how they compared to other players of their era and to other players in the Hall of Fame. I won’t sit at my desk and do Google searches to decide who is clean and who was cheating.
If you think that is a cowardly way out, I can’t argue with you. But it beats stabbing around in the dark and hoping to be right.
I’m a long way from having a Hall of Fame vote, and honestly, I’m happy about that. For now, it’s easy for me to sit back and have my vague opinion with no real consequence. I don’t have to study statistics or come up with my own definition of “integrity,” which is a stated part of the voters’ criteria. I can watch with interest, but without impact. I’m OK with that, because I’m not sure we’re far enough removed from the Steroid Era — if we’re removed from it at all — to have a clear understanding of what it means in the history of this game.
But certainly the steroid impact is going to be the hot button topic for this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. 
Three players received at least 50 percent of the vote last year
Jack Morris (66.7 percent), Jeff Bagwell (56.0 percent), Lee Smith (50.6 percent)
Bagwell was kept out last year because of steroid suspicion. Smith is in that relief-pitcher gray area. Morris is one of the most hotly debated candidates on the ballot, and has been for a long time.
One of last year’s first timers earned enough votes to stay on the ballot this year
An overwhelming favorite in New York, Williams falls into that not-quite-a-Hall-of-Famer category for most voters. Probably won’t change this year.
Nine other players are returning to the ballot
Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Dale Murphy, Tim Raines, Larry Walker, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez
Of this group, Raines got the most support last year with 48.7 percent of the vote. McGwire and Palmeiro are tainted by steroids, and Martinez’s support has been minimized because he was a designated hitter. Trammell, Walker and Murphy have some real believers out there, but so far not enough for induction. Mattingly is obviously a Yankees favorite, but he didn’t even crack 20 percent of the vote last year.
Six of this year’s first timers are legitimately huge names
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling
On the numbers alone, Bonds, Clemens, Biggio and Piazza would surely receive overwhelming support. But because of steroids, Biggio might be the only one with a real chance of induction this year. Sosa and Schilling don’t have the overwhelming resumes of the other four, but there are certainly plenty of people who believe one or both had Hall of Fame careers.
The 18 other first timers range from terrific to somewhat forgetable
Sandy Alomar Jr., David Wells, Kenny Lofton, Shawn Green, Julio Franco, Aaron Sele, Woody Williams, Roberto Hernandez, Jose Mesa, Mike Stanton, Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Todd Walker, Steve Finley, Reggie Sanders, Rondell White, Jeff Conine, Ryan Klesko
Without digging into the numbers at all, Wells, Lofton and Finley are the ones who standout on this list, but I’m not sure anyone in this group is going to receive considerable support. Maybe I’m overlooking something — Wells does have a lot of wins, and Lofton was awfully good — but if Bernie Williams got less than 10 percent of the vote last year, I’m not sure any of these guys will make a serious splash.
Associated Press photo