Below are the ballots and explanations by a bevy of our top writers. No single name came up on every ballot. And as you might guess, the choices and opinions widely vary.
If you're looking for trends, Alomar was listed on 12 of our 13 ballots, Blyleven on 10 of the 13, Barry Larkin was selected on eight of the 13, Jeff Bagwell was picked on only five and Palmeiro on four. Noting that a candidate needs 75 percent of the vote to be elected, only Alomar and Blyleven should be in.
Ballot: Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Larkin.
Alomar should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer, based on a splendid career. Blyleven, by the numbers, also is overdue for induction. Bagwell was a dominant offensive force for more than a decade. Larkin's long run of excellence probably has not been given due recognition.
Ballot: Alomar, Blyleven and Morris.
Blyleven and Alomar will be shoo-ins this time. Morris, for whom I've been voting for years and who is on the ballot for the 12th time, is a long shot. What kept me from voting for Blyleven early on was the fact he missed 300 victories and never finished higher than third in Cy Young Award voting. Alomar was one of the best second basemen of all time. I think Morris is a Hall of Famer because he was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. I have never been able to understand why he doesn't get more support.
Ballot: Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Larkin, Morris, Raines and Trammell.
Robby Alomar was one of the top six-to-eight second basemen of all time and deserves to be in, along with Bert Blyleven, who I thought would get in last year. Jeff Bagwell belongs in the Hall of Fame. It probably will not happen right away, but he is a no-brainer. Raines made every team he was on better and historically is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. Bill James has Alan Trammell as the ninth-best shortstop in history, and not only that, his teams were good and he carried a heavy load on those teams. Barry Larkin was a 30-30 shortstop, MVP, three-time Gold Glove winner and played in 12 All-Star Games. Like Derek Jeter, he was a consummate pro and model for the game.
Ballot: Blyleven, Smith.
Blyleven would have already been elected had he played in a major media market. A Rookie of the Year -- who won Comeback Player of the year 19 seasons later -- Blyleven had longevity, nearly 300 wins and was on two world champions. Smith doesn't get the support of contemporaries like Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley, even though he had more saves than any of them, by a large margin.
Ballot: Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Larkin, Morris, Dale Murphy, Smith.
Alomar was magic with his bat and glove. Covering Bagwell and Larkin every day heightened my appreciation for them. Blyleven has the numbers. When Smith walked in from the bullpen, you knew the game was over. All Morris did was win -- that's practically a negative statistic nowadays -- while Murphy did something every day to ennoble the game.
Ballot: Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven and Smith.
Blyleven fell just 13 wins short of 300 despite pitching for some mediocre clubs. His monster curveball accounted for a ton of strikeouts. Smith was a huge, menacing and hard-to-beat closer for most of two decades. Alomar was all silk at second base, a .300 hitter and a dangerous base-stealer. Bagwell was a great all-round player, a slugger who could get on base, run, field and lead.
Alomar is one of the most gifted second basemen I've ever seen. Why didn't I vote for others? To me, the Hall of Fame should be comprised of the elite ballplayers, who are clearly superior without argument. Someone recently wrote about the need for the "Hall of Very Good Players," and I would put Blyleven, Morris, Larkin, Martinez, Raines and Trammell in there.
Ballot: Alomar, Larkin, McGwire and Smith.
I added Larkin to my ballot of the previous year. Why vote for him now and not in his ballot debut? I had to get over my own belief that the 12-time All-Star was not in Ozzie Smith's league. He should be rewarded for such trailblazing balance of offense and defense combined with a full term of excellence in one city -- a rarity today. I did not vote for Blyleven, whom I watched from Triple-A all the way through his career as a win-then-lose workhorse. I expect this to be three straight years I have disagreed with the election of a Hall inductee (also Jim Rice and Andre Dawson), but such is majority rule.
Ballot: Alomar, Larkin and Dave Parker.
A year later, I have voted for Alomar, the best defensive second baseman I've ever seen. I promised to vote for him, and I have, though uncomfortably. I still can't get past Blyleven's 250 losses. That's too many for a 287-game winner, no matter the number of shutouts and strikeouts. Blyleven lost 17 games in his lone 20-win season and lost 10 or more 16 times. In my mind, he produced two, perhaps three Hall of Fame seasons. Not enough.
Ballot: Alomar, Blyleven, Larkin, Martinez, Palmeiro, Smith and Trammell.
Palmeiro's numbers are beyond debate and his career track has none of the typical traces of ongoing PED use. Alomar is considered the slam-dunk cinch, but Trammell and Larkin were shortstop contemporaries and peers. Blyleven has long been a no-brainer. Martinez and Smith set the bar for designated hitters and closers, respectively.
Ballot: Alomar, Blyleven, Larkin, McGriff, Don Mattingly, Murphy, Palmeiro, Raines, Smith and Trammell.
Superlative middle infielders (Alomar, Larkin and Trammell) always get preferential consideration here. It's time for Blyleven and Smith. McGriff was a quiet storm, Palmeiro a consistent force, Mattingly and Murphy simply the best in their prime. Raines was in Rickey Henderson's class, and it didn't take the teacher long to call roll. A personal thank you to the game's best manager for input.
Ballot: Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Larkin, Martinez, Morris, Raines and Smith.
Among the first-time candidates, only Bagwell stands out for all the good reasons. As for the repeat candidates, perhaps the 14th time will be Blyleven's charm. Alomar and Larkin would be a dandy double-play combination in Cooperstown, while designated hitter Martinez took his position to unparralled heights.
Ballot: Alomar, Blyleven, Morris, Bagwell, Larkin, Raines, McGwire, Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, and Kevin Brown.
Everybody is watching to see if this will finally be the year that Blyleven makes it but it will be more interesting to see how the voters treat Palmeiro, Brown and Gonzalez. Palmeiro should be a slam-dunk but now it's the reverse after his late-career positive test for steroids. The other two ex-Rangers -- Brown and Gonzalez -- also have to deal with that after being mentioned in the Mitchell Report.