The 2012 Hall of Fame ballot is out. I don't have a vote and never will, but nonetheless, here's my take.
There's a National on the ballot in the person of first-year regular third baseman Vinny Castilla. Castilla had a pretty good career, all things considered, hitting 320 home runs and driving in over 1,100 runs, with a .276 batting average over 16 seasons. His best years were spent with the Rockies, where thrice he reached the 40 home run mark, pre-humidor. The new Nats signed him as a free agent, but he managed only 12 homers and 66 RBIs in 142 games. He did electrify the crowd at the inaugural opener in 2005 against Arizona, falling just a single short of the cycle - he was hit by pitch his final AB - and driving in four of the club's runs in a 5-3 win. He finished his career in 2006 with the Padres and a brief return to Colorado. Hall of Famer? No, but a memorable performer to be sure.
On nationals.com there's a nice story about former Expos' Tim Raines and Larry Walker's names on the ballot, but inasmuch as neither man ever wore the curly W. I can't really put them in a local context. To me, Raines is a shoo-in, and Walker's career numbers compare favorably with several other Hall of Famers (Johnny Mize, Duke Snider, Chuck Klein and, believe it or not, Joe DiMaggio), so it wouldn't be much of a stretch to see him go in eventually.
Reds shortstop Barry Larkin - a former Nationals front office adviser - finished third in last year's vote, behind inductees Bert Blyleven and Robbie Alomar, and he looks good this year to reach the required 75 percent. Of the other names on the 27-player ballot, I'm partial to Lee Smith, Alan Trammell and Dale Murphy, but I'm going to hold my breath that any of them will come very close.
A pair of former batting champions- Bernie Williams and Bill Mueller - are on the ballot for the first time this year, but the silver bat won't get either one of them through the doors, and Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro won't make it to the podium any time soon, either.
The 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held on Sunday, July 22, 2012 in Cooperstown, N.Y. It's a fun weekend - I've been a couple of dozen times myself - and it may be a while before a plaque is hung featuring anyone in a Nationals cap. If you're a real fan, though, you owe it to yourself to visit the mythical birthplace of baseball at least once.