One man’s opinion: Eight 2015 Hall candidates merit induction

World Series co-MVPs Randy Johnson (left) and Curt Schilling are among the eight Hall of Fame candidates for whom Stan McNeal voted.

JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

ST. LOUIS — Start with the no-doubters: Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

Next, check two who are not quite automatic but still very deserving: Craig Biggio and John Smoltz.

Then, add two more who would be obvious if not for the shadow of steroids innuendo: Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza.

Finally, check two more who you believe remain worthy: Tim Raines and Curt Schilling.

And there you have it, my 2015 Hall of Fame ballot.

That wasn’t so difficult, was it? I voted for the three newcomers I believe belong in the Hall of Fame — Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz — and for the five players I voted for last year who were not elected. I didn’t even need to use all of my allotted votes.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say it was easy.

You probably have other ideas. You probably say it was easy because my ballot is a joke. How could I not vote for 10 players at a time when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is trying to up the allotment from 10 to 12 or more? How could I not vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa but support the cases of Piazza and Bagwell? And what about Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker and Lee Smith?

The ballot Stan McNeal submitted to the BBWAA.

Those indeed are valid questions, and I will attempt to answer them:

— I didn’t use all my votes because I didn’t believe there were 10 worthy candidates, with apologies to Gary Sheffield, the most notable first-timer who didn’t get my support. Since none of the players I didn’t vote for last year have done anything in the past year for me to reconsider, why would I vote for them now? They haven’t played in years, right?

— As for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa, my thinking has not changed since I started voting. If I am convinced that a player used performance-enhancing drugs, I don’t vote for him. As long as the Hall of Fame asks voters to consider "character, sportsmanship and integrity," I don’t plan on changing. Taking PEDs is cheating, which falls short in character, sportsmanship and integrity.

Because I am not convinced that Piazza and Bagwell used PEDs, I give them the benefit of the doubt. You know, the innocent-until-proven-guilty defense. What happens if one or both make the Hall and someday there is 100 percent proof that they cheated? That’s a great question without a good answer. I just don’t believe a player should be penalized if, in my opinion, there isn’t ironclad proof that he cheated.

— I’m not big on trying to explain why I didn’t vote for a player because it makes me seem like I’m finding fault with his career. That’s silly. These guys all had great careers. But you have to draw a line somewhere, and perhaps I draw mine with higher standards than others. Before I started voting, I thought that if a player didn’t pass my "eye test," I wouldn’t vote for him. I’ve learned that the process is not nearly that simple but still, I can be more than less discerning.

That said, no player who didn’t get my vote was closer than Mussina to getting it. He was about as close as he was to completing that perfect game against the Red Sox, when he retired the first 26 batters before Carl Everett came through with a two-strike bloop single. If Mussina had achieved the perfecto, he very well might have gotten my vote. Again, though, there needs to be a line. Disagree if you want, as I’m sure many will. Cite your stats and call me names.

But after all, it’s my ballot. I sometimes feel like I should apologize for how I fill it out, but there is no need. I take the responsibility seriously and do the best I can.

And I realize there is no perfect ballot, especially these days.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.