After examining the Hall of Fame ballot holdovers and newcomers, here are the ten players I would vote for on my imaginary ballot:
Mark McGwire-Hit home runs at a faster clip than anyone else and has a claim as the top power hitter in baseball history, or at least the greatest from the right side (with all due respect to Jimmie Foxx and Harmon Killebrew)
Curt Schilling-Three seasons with at least 300 strikeouts and a postseason legend.
Jeff Bagwell-Maybe the finest all-around first baseman since World War II, at least until Albert Pujols came along
Edgar Martinez-The best Designated Hitter in baseball history (but David Ortiz is making it close)
Tim Raines-Best leadoff hitter not named Rickey Henderson
Sammy Sosa-The only player with three 60 home run seasons
Barry Bonds-Possibly the greatest player of all time. You could make the case he was better than Babe Ruth.
Craig Biggio-Diverse statistical portfolio includes 3,060 hits, 1,844 runs and 668 doubles
Mike Piazza-The best hitting catcher of all time blows away Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Cochrane in terms of offensive production
Roger Clemens-Arguably the greatest pitcher of all time
Given the strength of this year's ballot I encountered overflow, meaning there were several candidates I believe had Hall of Fame caliber careers and would vote for them under normal circumstances. I think the following players deserve to be inducted, but there's just not enough room for them on this year's ballot:
Fred McGriff-As many career home runs as Lou Gehrig
Rafael Palmeiro-One of just four players (Eddie Murray, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are the others) with at least 3,000 career hits and 500 dingers
Alan Trammell-I'm not impressed by his offensive statistics, but he's one of the best two-way shortstops that ever played
Larry Walker-If you want to exclude him from Cooperstown because of his Coors Field split, then do you want to kick out every player who took advantage of a hitting-friendly environment?
Lastly, I thought long and hard about these guys, but decided they ultimately fall short of Cooperstown's standards:
Jack Morris-Outstanding big game pitcher, but his regular season numbers are too pedestrian
Dale Murphy-Great guy had some outstanding seasons, but not enough of them
Kenny Lofton-Poor man's Tim Raines was the perfect table setter for Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle in Cleveland
Lee Smith-Many good seasons, but few great ones
Don Mattingly-See Murphy, Dale