Each year, lifetime members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, i.e. those who spent 10 or more consecutive years with the organization, are bestowed a unique honor: Together, they comprise the electorate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
At MLB.com, we have 16 veteran writers who have earned the privilege to vote, and again they're sharing their ballots with you.
Barry Larkin earned his place in Cooperstown with 86 percent of the vote, and MLB.com's voters were behind that election with 15 of 16 casting votes for the former Reds shortstop, or 93.8 percent.
Others like Jack Morris -- who finished with 66.7 percent of the BBWAA vote and 62.5 among the MLB.com voters -- as well as Jeff Bagwell (56 BBWAA, 43.8 MLB.com) and Lee Smith (50.6 BBWAA, 56.3 MLB.com) will have to wait longer for their ticket to Cooperstown, Outliers like Don Mattingly (17.8 percent), Dale Murphy (14.5 percent) and Juan Gonzalez (4 percent) each received a vote of support from MLB.com voters.
A HALL SAMPLE
MLB.com's 16 Hall of Fame voters gave a glimpse of how Monday's results will turn out. Here are their combined votes, with the reminder that a player needs 75 percent to earn election:
Ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin
Bagwell's numbers are especially remarkable given the fact that he spent most of his peak seasons playing his home games in a pitchers' paradise, the Astrodome. The whisper campaign against him, consisting of rumor, innuendo and unsubstantiated speculation, strikes me as fundamentally un-American. Larkin had a superb all-around career. The three Gold Gloves and nine Silver Slugger Awards offer clear testimony to his versatility and his worth. He should be a Hall of Fame shortstop.
Barry M. Bloom
Ballot: Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell
We can all vote for as many as 10 candidates. I stuffed my ballot with nine of them, the eight who I voted for last year with the addition of Larkin. I'm voting for him for the first time. Statistics don't change, that's true. But strength of the ballot does. Larkin had a wonderful but borderline HOF career, overshadowed defensively in his own league by Ozzie Smith and completely eclipsed by Cal Ripken Jr., the two other Hall of Fame shortstops in Larkin's era. This better be his year. The next four are stocked with superstar players.
Ballot: Morris, Larkin
I've been voting for Morris for years -- this is his 13th try of the maximum 15 years on the ballot. He should have been elected years ago. Critics say his 254 career victories and 3.90 ERA fall short of Hall of Fame standards. But Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter, Jim Bunning, Juan Marichal and Don Drysdale had fewer wins than Morris. Jack was the dominant pitcher of the 1980s.
Larkin obviously is a Hall of Fame shortstop and should make it this year. His numbers tell me after missing in 2011, he'll make it in his third year on the ballot.
Ballot: Morris, Smith
Morris not only was a consummate big-game ace, he did it for nearly two decades and was a 20-game winner three times. Smith, who retired as the career saves leader but has since been passed, gets my vote for his early dominance, career-long consistency and durability.
Ballot: Bagwell, Larkin, Morris, Smith and Dale Murphy
I covered Bagwell's first three seasons; I knew he was a budding star and winner. Larkin already fit that description by the time I started covering the Reds. Morris is the embodiment of an ace. If we can keep people out of the Hall due to character (Pete Rose), then we can enshrine Murphy because he not only excelled on the field but also did something off the field to ennoble the game every day. And people forget that when Smith began that slow walk from the bullpen, everybody knew that the game was over.
Ballot: Larkin, Bagwell, Raines, McGwire, Trammell
Larkin was dominant from both sides and is the sixth shortstop with an .815 OPS over 5,000 plate appearances. Take all the statistics, and only Gehrig, Foxx and Pujols top Bagwell among first basemen. He never tested positive for PEDs and played at least 156 games 10 of 15 seasons. Raines is the second-best leadoff hitter ever, and Trammell -- while being in the Top 10 in most shortstop categories -- was a model of defensive consistency. We now know how much McGwire understood hitting. Yes, he is part of the era, but baseball did nothing about it.
Ballot: Larkin, Smith, Bagwell, Palmeiro
Here's the thing: I don't know who used PEDs and who didn't. And I'm not going to guess, either. So you either don't vote for anybody who played in the so-called Steroid Era, or you accept that as part of the game and proceed as usual.
Ballot: Larkin, Morris, McGriff, Raines, Bagwell
Bagwell was a complete player and helped his teams to six playoff appearances. Larkin was the consummate pro, both offensively and defensively. Morris helped three teams win championships and was perhaps the best pitcher of the '80s. Raines was an impact player at the top of the order, a guy other teams absolutely hated. McGriff was a complete player. Close calls: Smith, Martinez, Murphy.
Ballot: Bagwell, Larkin, Smith, Trammell
Smith was a huge, menacing and hard-to-beat closer for most of two decades. Bagwell was a great all-around player, a slugger who could get on base, run, field and lead. Larkin and Trammell were in different leagues but had mirror, long-term careers with one team and were superb, dominating players at the difficult shortstop position.
Ballot: Larkin, McGriff, Raines, Smith
They all had this in common: All were dominant at something (or several things) for long stretches. That's the stuff of Cooperstown. Plus, they all had long Major League careers that didn't have too many drops off the cliff surrounding their periods of greatness.
I did not vote for Barry Larkin in the past, but after re-examining his numbers and talking to baseball people, I cast a ballot for the Reds shortstop this year. I have high standards, as do the ballplayers already in the Hall. Larkin not only impressed me with his stats but his role on the team as captain. Character counts in Cooperstown.
Ballot: Larkin, McGwire, Morris, Smith
Morris made a record 14 consecutive Opening Day starts, and the 300-win benchmark is already dropping. He got my vote for the first time. Smith should have gone in already with Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter. Big Mac brought back baseball. Larkin was an 12-time All-Star, 'nuff said.
Ballot: Larkin, Morris
Teams don't win without reliable shortstopping. Larkin's defense was reliable to the nth degree and occasionally spectacular. The Reds captain was a productive and clutch performer when he wasn't in the field, and he was a fearsome postseason force.
Time was necessary for me to warm up to Morris. This ballot carries my first vote for him. My criteria include being the best at what you do for an extended period. The leading winner in a decade qualifies there, and Morris' postseason resume is exquisite.
Ballot: Larkin, Martinez, Morris, Palmeiro, Smith, Trammell.
Barry is the year's hot choice, and Trammell was his AL counterpart at short. Large Lee way overdue. If you had one game to win, most in '80s would've wanted the ball in Morris' hand. I don't buy Palmeiro as only a made man; his career line was too consistent. Biased against DHs? Fine -- the marvelous Edgar won the '92 American League batting title by hitting .343 as a regular third baseman. Aside on Bagwell: For me, he flunks the "dominant in his era" test; at a corner position, he only led the league in a major category once (RBIs, with 116 in 1994).
In the afterglow of one of the best World Series ever, I gave more weight than usual to postseason performances. It's time for Larkin and Morris, one of the greatest big-game pitchers ever, the best of his era.
Bagwell should be in. It is wrong that he is being overlooked or being viewed suspiciously. Personally, I decline the honor of passing judgment on the steroids era, but there is no need to judge Bagwell on anything but his tremendous accomplishments.