Former Red Sox star Manny Ramirez was booted from one ballot
The members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America are responsible for casting a ballot each year that determines who will be granted entry into the Hall of Fame. Each writer is entitled to their own opinion and their criteria for which players are worthy of enshrinement may vary. As fans, we can acknowledge the difficult task they face but when a former Boston Red Sox player is neglected on a ballot, we want answers.
Sometimes those answers can be a bit of a head-scratcher. That was the case when Jeff Blair of Sportsnet revealed his 2022 Hall of Fame ballot, which included only four players: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz, and Alex Rodriguez.
It’s not unusual for ballots to be submitted with fewer than the maximum of 10 candidates. In some years, there may not be enough players with a strong case. The rules are clear that writers aren’t forced to use all 10 spots. In recent years, we’ve seen the ballot become crowded due to the uncertainty surrounding how to treat players connected to performance-enhancing drugs. Many voters have taken a hard stance against including those tainted players on their ballots, preventing them from crossing the threshold required for enshrinement, but enough writers have voted for those players to keep them on the ballot.
Blair’s ballot is fairly unique in that it only includes players who have been connected to PEDs. He does an excellent job of explaining his stance on the subject. He’s almost certainly correct that there are already players in the Hall of Fame who weren’t “clean.”
I’m not here to criticize Blair for putting alleged cheaters on his ballot. In fact, I agree with him, to an extent. The Hall of Fame is a museum dedicated to baseball’s past. It should recognize all of the game’s history, even the dark corners of its past. The four players on Blair’s ballot are undoubtedly worthy of Cooperstown based on the prolific numbers they produced. If I had a ballot, all four of them would be included.
The puzzling part about this ballot has little to do with which players are included, but rather one player who was noticeably excluded. Blair admits that he has voted for Manny Ramirez in the past but he removed the former Red Sox outfielder from his ballot to “make room” for Rodriguez.
A-Rod, along with Ortiz, is a first-time eligible player on the ballot this year. Some writers who had a ballot full of players who didn’t make the cut last year will have some tough decisions about whether or not to remove any of them to clear a spot for Rodriguez or Ortiz.
Blair’s ballot was far from full. He already had room for those players without adding them at the expense of Ramirez. He clearly believes Ramirez is worthy since he has voted for him before and the players on his ballot this year confirm he hasn’t altered his stance on players connected to PEDs. As Blair explains, he’s “one of those voters who casts a small ballot.”
Hey, Hall of Fame, thanks for giving me ten spots on the ballot but I only feel like using four.
Ramirez hit .312 with a .996 OPS over his 19-year career. His 555 home runs are the 15th-most in MLB history and he ranks 19th on the all-time list with 1831 RBI. His 29 postseason home runs are the most in MLB history. Ramirez is a 12-time All-Star, two-time champion and a World Series MVP. He’s unquestionably one of the greatest hitters of his generation.
The only logical reason for leaving Manny off of the ballot relates to PEDs. It’s a fair case against him and one that I’m torn on myself.
Clemens and Bonds both had Hall of Fame worthy resumes long before they allegedly began using steroids. Ortiz has passed every drug test administered to him since MLB finally started cracking down on PEDs. The only shred of evidence against him is the flimsy Mitchell Report that commissioner Rob Manfred has gone on record to suggest has some inaccuracies in the names that were leaked.
Ramirez is a different case. We know he cheated because he failed a drug test. Twice, serving a suspension both times. If a voter wants to include some players who allegedly used PEDs but leave Ramirez out, I get it. He should eventually get in but I wouldn’t mind if he has to sweat it out until his 10th and final year on the ballot. That’s punishment enough.
That’s obviously not Blair’s reasoning for leaving Ramirez off his ballot though considering he included A-Rod, who also served a PED suspension. Including one but not the other when they committed the same crimes and are both clearly worthy based on statistical production is illogical.
Almost as illogical as claiming you needed to “make room” on a ballot that was submitted with six blank spots. Casting a small ballot isn’t about limiting his votes to those he believes are truly worthy, it’s about making a statement. Unfortunately, it’s not really clear what Blair’s point is when it comes to Ramirez being dropped from his ballot.
As a Red Sox fan, it stings seeing Manny omitted from a ballot for reasons that have nothing to do with PEDs. It’s infuriating when the reason is to make room for Rodriguez, arguably the most hated Yankee in the history of baseball’s greatest rivalry.
Blair was right about one thing though. The Hall of Fame ballot is his choice and he’s not obligated to defend or explain it. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with it.