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Inbox: Piazza deserving of Hall, but might have to wait

Columnist Richard Justice answers fans' questions about voting, Astros, Rays' Price @RichardJustice

You don't think [Mike] Piazza is deserving [of the Hall of Fame]?
-- @mcadam_pat

I absolutely think Piazza is deserving. Slam dunk. And yet I haven't voted for him the first two times he has been on the ballot. I've got an explanation, but it isn't really a good one. I see 16-18 players on the ballot who deserve to be in the conversation. Some are easy calls: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. I see Tim Raines and Alan Trammell as easy calls, too. I've been consistent about voting for Jack Morris. So there's my 10.

I voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens last year, but I didn't this year. I have no moral or ethical reasons for that, although that's a valid discussion and one that will haunt the Hall of Fame process for a long time. I simply had to come up with 10 names out of the 16-18 deserving players.

From a broader context, two things ought to be addressed. One is the Baseball Writers' Association of America membership. Some of the smartest and best commentary comes from people to whom the BBWAA won't allow membership.

Look, I know it's tradition that the BBWAA picks the Hall of Fame inductees, at least in the first round of the writers' ballot. However, the media landscape is changing. Newspapers are having trouble retaining some of the best talent. Other voices are emerging from various platforms besides print.

I would hope the Hall of Fame would ask itself this question, "Are the most qualified people voting in our elections?" Also this: "Why does someone get to vote in Hall of Fame elections forever?"

Some of the most competent people I know regarding Hall of Fame balloting, including Jon Miller and Keith Olbermann, aren't allowed to vote. There are many, many others, but those two come to mind. They would make thoughtful, brilliant decisions, and when you look at some of the ballots being cast now, that's not always the case.

Back to Piazza. I looked at all the numbers, advanced and otherwise. He's 16th in Jay Jaffe's system of ranking Hall of Fame candidates. He's 16th in Wins Above Replacement. He was a 12-time All-Star and in the top 10 in National League Most Valuable Player voting seven times. His 396 home runs (out of 427 total) are the most by a catcher.

So, yes, Piazza is a Hall of Famer. I hope I never cast another ballot without his name. But for me this year, Raines and Trammell and Morris are coming to the end of their terms on the ballot. I was worried the knucklehead factor might keep Mussina from getting the five percent necessary to stay on the ballot.

I regretted not voting for Piazza last year. I regret it this year, too. I'll get it right at some point. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Should [PED users] be in the HOF?
-- @garyrind

That's a question every voter will wrestle with, sometimes every year. I'm fine with excluding performance-enhancing drug users from the Hall of Fame if you can identify them for me. But you can't do it. You can take a guess, but you don't know who used and who didn't.

It appears that a large number of voters have decided to guess. In other words, one guy is being punished for getting caught while another guy is being rewarded for getting away with it.

And what are PEDs? Are they the equivalent of a parking ticket? Or are they first-degree murder?

I see it as a case in which players allowed their ambition and judgment to get all screwed up. Maybe a guy at the bottom of the roster saw PEDs as his path to big money. Maybe a guy at the top saw them as a way into the record book.

Players have always looked for a competitive advantage. With PEDs, the competitive advantages are so much more impactful than competitive advantages, such as corked bats and spitballs, of previous years.

That's said, let's be clear that there's not as much gray area as I'm describing. To use PEDs, a player has to go out and, a) find a drug dealer and, b) get someone to show him how to maximize their benefits.

I'm OK with keeping PED users out of the Hall, but I'm not OK with the guessing game. So I try to vote for the best players. I don't know any other way to do it since I'm not willing to guess on who might have done what.

Will the Astros be interesting at least this year?
-- @Lane_Fobbs

This will be a hugely important -- and interesting -- year in the reconstruction of the Astros, because we'll begin to get a good look at the generation of players around which they hope to build a playoff team.

Shortstop Jonathan Villar and right-hander Jarred Cosart are already in the big leagues, and center fielder George Springer, first baseman Jonathan Singleton and right-handers Mike Foltynewicz, Mark Appel and Lance McCullers are on the fast track.

By the end of this season, we should have a good outline of the foundation of the club going forward. As for 2014, general manager Jeff Luhnow has shored up the bullpen and acquired veteran presences for both the outfield (Dexter Fowler) and the rotation (Scott Feldman).

Despite how poor their offense was last season, the Astros were done in by a terrible bullpen. A better bullpen means more holding of leads, and with young players coming and going and with their energy and enthusiasm, things can get better quickly.

[What are the] chances [the] Rangers trade for [David] Price before Opening Day? Also, think the Red Sox would trade [Clay] Buchholz to Texas for the right return?
-- @TheRealWillKorn

I don't see the Rays trading Price at this point because I think they're good enough to win the World Series if they hold onto him. They'll continue to listen, but as with James Shields, they're going to have to be overwhelmed. So far, they haven't been.

Price's salary is reaching the point where the Rays could be forced to trade him. But say he leads them to a championship. What would that accomplishment do for their revenue streams and stadium effort? It would be huge, right?

Things can change during the season as players get hurt and circumstances change. The Rangers are one of the few teams -- the Braves and Red Sox are two others -- that have enough depth in the farm system to make a deal like the one it would take to get Price.

I don't see the Red Sox trading Clay Buchholz. He's a guy with No. 1-starter stuff. That's one point. But his durability is an issue. That's another point against giving up an armada of talent to get him. In other words, he's right where he needs to be.

Do you think the Braves will make a bigger move to bolster their rotation?
-- @SteveMac03

I don't. Obviously, they'd hoped to keep Tim Hudson, but the Giants offered him more money than the Braves were willing to spend. I'm not sure any of the available veteran starters -- Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez -- are going to come anywhere close to Atlanta's price.

But the Braves' rotation is good. Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran are at the front. Brandon Beachy appears to be healthy again. Alex Wood and David Hale can fight it out for the fifth spot.

Gavin Floyd, coming off surgery, was a good low-risk, potential high-reward guy. If the Braves can get through the first half of the season with those first six guys, Floyd could be a tremendous addition if he's completely healthy.

The Braves are another team that has the Minor League depth to get someone if a need arises. Even if they don't do one more thing, they're good enough to go back to the postseason. They'd like more pitching, but so would every other team.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.