Answering Hall of Fame questions and revealing this year’s ballot

Shortstop Alan Trammell and pitcher Jack Morris have been voted into the Hall of Fame by the Modern Era Committee.

So now that the approximately 430 ballots from the Baseball Writers’ Association are in, here are answers to the most-frequently asked questions about who will be inducted into Cooperstown on a steamy day in July. The BBWAA will announce vote totals Jan. 24.

Question: Should Barry Bonds, the all-time home run champion, and Roger Clemens, the best right-handed pitcher of all time, be in the Hall of Fame, considering their connections to performance-enhancing drugs?

Answer: As a BBWAA voting member, I didn’t vote for either one. I don’t buy the argument that they should be in because commissioner Bud Selig is in, as well as other players that likely took steroids. Character is an issue and Bonds and Clemens ruined sacred records in the game. But predictions are that each is going to get 60 percent of the vote, meaning they’ll have three years left on the BBWAA ballot to make up the difference. Chances are slim the Modern Era Committee would elect either one.

Q: Who are the locks on this year’s ballot?

A: Without even looking at statistics, I voted for outfielder Vladimir Guerrero (.318-449-1,496), closer Trevor Hoffman (601 saves), third baseman Chipper Jones, one of the best switch-hitters of all-time, Jim Thome and his 612 home runs, DH Edgar Martinez and a first-timer in Omar Vizquel, one of the best defensive shortstops of all time with 2,877 hits.

Q: Some voters don’t think closers, because they throw so few innings, shouldn’t get votes for the Hall. Is that fair?

A: No, I don’t think so. I think closers should be compared with other closers and the top closers should get in. There’s a similar argument for DHs. The best DHs should be in the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t matter that a DH is a part-time player.

Q: What about Mike Mussina?

A: The BBWAA’s biggest mistakes - Trammell and Morris - have gotten in, and so now, Mussina is the most glaring omission. Mussina - given that he pitched in the American League East during the 1990s - should already be in. He was one of the top pitchers of his era, but it hurt him - fairly or unfairly - that he was pitching in the shadows of Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson. Mussina’s votes totals are trending upward. It’s about time.

Q: Martinez is moving upward in the vote total, but Larry Walker isn’t. Their statistics are similar, so what’s the difference?

A: Martinez, a former third baseman who was a dangerous hitter as a DH, helped define the Mariners, getting 2,247 career hits, two batting titles with seven All-Star appearances. Walker, playing mainly for the Rockies, won three batting titles, a National League MVP with five All-Star appearances and 2,160 hits. Martinez should not be held back because he’s a DH. Walker’s issues with voters that is home-road hitting splits - his numbers are better at hitter-friendly Coors Field in Denver - and his durability. He had only four of his 17 seasons where he played more than 140 games.

Q: What are Johnny Damon’s chances?

A: Not very good, but I voted for him with the idea that he deserves to get more than 5% so that he can stay on the ballot. He’s got a unique set of statistics and at least deserves a couple of years of more discussion. He’s one of 11 players in baseball to have at least 2,500 hits, 100 triples, 200 doubles and 200 home runs. That list includes Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial and George Brett. And, Damon had 408 stolen bases.

Q: Lefty Johan Santana is on the ballot for the first time. What are his chances?

A: Santana’s not going to make Cooperstown, but there is an intriguing argument when you consider history and another lefty, Sandy Koufax. Koufax dominated for 12 years with 165 wins, a 2.76 ERA, three Cy Youngs and an MVP before injuries ended his career with the Dodgers. Was Santana a more modern-day version of Koufax, before injuries ended his career? Santana had 139 wins, a 3.20 ERA, a no-hitter, two Cy Youngs and two third-place Cy Young finishes. Santana didn’t get my vote, but it’s an interesting comparison with Koufax.

Q: Who did get my vote?

A: Questions about the Hall of Fame are as much a part of the holiday season as greeting cards. So, I voted for Hoffman, Guerrero, Jones, Damon, Vizquel, Thome, Mussina, Fred McGriff and Martinez.

Q: McGriff?

A: Fred McGriff. This is the first year I voted for him. He had 21 percent of the vote last time, but he’s been lost in the steroids shuffle, hitting 493 home runs with 1,550 RBIs. And his .284 average and .377 on-base percentage are pretty good.

Q: Who were the toughest candidates to leave off the ballot?

A: Jeff Kent, who leads second basemen all-time in home runs and, as a player, fought for steroids testing at time when Barry Bonds was his San Francisco teammate; Billy Wagner, one of the best closers in history; and starter Curt Schilling, who established himself as a sterling postseason pitcher. They’ll each get strong consideration next time.