The Class of 2013 should be stellar, albeit overshadowed by two of the biggest victims of the Steroids Era. First, there are two no-brainers for enshrinement. Craig Biggio was one of the most versatile players of the 1990s, playing C, 2B, and OF in his career, which was entirely spent with the Astros. He was a top performer at 2B for the majority of his career, and his 3060 career hits warrant automatic admission. His most notable rookie card is his 1988 Score Rookie/Traded.
The other "automatic" candidate is Mike Piazza, who obliterated the HR record for catchers and was the most influential catcher in the NL since Johnny Bench. Piazza was a 12-time All Star and a 10-time Silver Slugger winner. The only possible knocks on Piazza is that he was not a top notch defensive catcher, and that his presence in the postseason seemed lacking. His key rookie cards include 1992 Bowman and 1992 Fleer Update.
An interesting borderline candidate is Curt Schilling. First, Schilling is not officially retired and has hinted at returning during the 2009 season, so this debate may be premature. While he only won 216 career games, he was a dynamic postseason performer with three World Series championships. His "bloody sock" is Boston lore, and his vote totals will be interesting to watch. His most notable rookie card is a most unflattering 1989 Donruss.
While Biggio, Piazza, and Schilling were star players and had Hall-worthy careers, three of the most influencial, and most controversial, players of the last twenty years will also appear on the ballot in 2013. The careers of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa are invariably tied to the Steroids/HGH scandals of the past ten years. Each, to a varying degree, has been linked to the use of illegal substances. And each, undoubtedly, has the statistical resume to warrant automatic enshrinement.
The saddest part, at least for Bonds and Clemens, is that their Hall tickets were punched well before they allegedly began use of banned substances. Given the plight of Mark McGwire in Hall voting thus far, none of these three stand a strong case of immediate admission to the Hall. However, by 2013, more information may be available that could influence voting.
What isn't debatable, though, is that these three players have been three of the most widely collected players of the past twenty years. Roger Clemens' 1984 Fleer Update remains a gold standard in rookie card collecting.
Similarly, whatever one thinks of Barry Bonds, his 762 home runs and 7 MVP awards, one has to respect his ability and skill. Of his major issued rookie cards, his 1986 Topps Traded is probably the most widely collected.
The final player to consider is Sammy Sosa. As a die-hard Cubs fan, I certainly respected and enjoyed every minute of his home run feats, particularly his 1998 HR battle with Mark McGwire. There has never been any evidence of his use of performance-enhancing substances, but his performance on Capital Hall, next to Rafael Palmeiro and McGwire, did him no favors.
Always controversal, and always "Sammy", one of the most enduring images of Sammy (other than blowing kisses in the camera or his chest bump to the bleacher fans) was his corked bat incident. That event tarnished his image with Cubs fans, who still sour at the end of Sosa's 2004 season. Sammy is apparently attempting a comeback again, so he could be off of the 2014 ballot. But unless he distances himself from Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, and Palmeiro, he is likely doomed to their same fate.
While Sosa had several rookie cards, my favorite is his 1990 Leaf. Why is it my favorite? This was probably the only time I ever saw Sosa attempt a bunt.
The Opening Day Cubs of the 1970s
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