The Hall of Fame released this year's induction ballot today, which always makes for both an interesting read and a starting point for some spirited debate.
Those who have been members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for at least 10 years -- and I'm one of them -- will receive the official ballot in the mail this week and have until Dec. 31 to submit them. Results will be announced Jan. 9.
As a voter, I'm sworn to secrecy and cannot divulge my choices until the results are made public. So I can't offer up my opinion on all these candidates today. Besides, I haven't really sat down and analyzed all the possibilities yet. (Here's a link to my post from last year revealing my full ballot.)
But I do think there are some intriguing angles to the 2012 ballot. (You can see the entire list on the official BBWAA website.)
First of all, there don't appear to be any slam-dunk first-timers. Bernie Williams is the best of the bunch, and while he'll get some support and could reach the necessary 75 percent threshold some day, I doubt it'll happen in his first year on the ballot.
The biggest beneficiaries of that, I believe, will be the guys who were closest to induction last year but came up short: Barry Larkin (62.1 percent), Jack Morris (53.5 percent), Lee Smith (43.5 percent) and Jeff Bagwell (41.7 percent). Out of that group, Larkin obviously has the likeliest path toward induction; the others will need to make some major gains.
Larkin should get in this year, but if he doesn't, he may struggle to make it in 2013. Not because his case will be any weaker, but because the '13 class is going to be the deepest and most controversial in Hall of Fame history. Check out who's going to become eligible one year from now: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio.
It would be very easy for Larkin to get lost in the shuffle among those all-time greats, so there may actually be some pressure for the shortstop to get elected this year.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the two Nationals legends who appear on this year's ballot: Vinny Castilla and Tony Womack. Surely you remember Castilla, the starting third baseman on the inaugural 2005 club who nearly hit for the cycle in the first-ever game at RFK Stadium. Surely you've lost all memory of Womack wearing a Nats uniform, and probably for good reason: He went 0-for-7 in four spring training games in 2007, was released and promptly retired. Ah, memories.