Over recent weeks, a friend and I have had multiple discussions about the Hall of Fame and who we thought should be in or out. Without getting into that too much here -- and to avoid starting a flame war -- I'll say that Ivan Rodriguez came up in the discussion.
My friend just assumed that he'll be a first-ballot inductee. As for myself, I cautioned my friend to not just assume; after all, Rodriguez played through the heart of the "steroid era", and has even been pointed at by none other than Jose Canseco as a PED user.
Of course, Pudge didn't help himself much in 2009. When asked in an Associated Press interview about whether or not his name would appear on a list of users from the 2003 MLB steroid survey, he answered, "Only God knows."
Which, of course, means that at the very least, Pudge knows as well. However, that isn't so much the point here as much as the fact that mere suspicion, in my mind, may make voters hesitant. I had no source or inside knowledge of this, it was just my best guess.
On Monday, ESPN published a preliminary vote of sorts for 15 Hall of Fame voters at ESPN. The actual votes remained anonymous, but 6-of-15 voters left Pudge off of their imaginary ballot. Were this 60% figure to manifest itself across all voters, everyone's favorite Rangers might just find himself on the outside looking in, at least for another year or two.
Here's what we do know: Pudge was a great player for his era. That, I'm sure we can all agree on. A 68.7 fWAR would seem to back that up and would, under most circumstances, be good enough to see him enshrined in Cooperstown.
As Jeff Long pointed out yesterday over at Baseball Prospectus, depending on which ranking system you're looking at -- JAWS or Hall of Stats -- Pudge comes up as either the 3rd-or-4th best catcher of all time. And that's all well and good.
Long also goes on to point out that, perhaps, modern catching statistics show some holes in the armor as well. Which, now that I think of it, could probably be said about almost any player.
Nonetheless, a year from now, it should be fairly interesting to see what voters decide to do with all of this information. We're sure to have some voters that will leave him out if only because of the era he played in. I find that to be highly irresponsible, but hey, what do I know? On the other hand, there will still be those that saw Pudge play, look at the numbers, and decide that it's simply inexcusable to leave him out.
Mike Piazza was just voted in last week. No, he wasn't in on the first ballot, but he had arguably more steroid suspicion surrounding him than Pudge, and Pudge was far and away the superior player. Knowing that, I can't imagine a world in which the player I idolized growing up doesn't make it in. He just might not get in on his first try. And somehow, that still saddens me a little.