Next year, baseball's Hall of Fame ballot (for the class of 2013) shapes up as a fascinating referendum on an entire era. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa will appear on the ballot for the first time, each dragging along hefty steroid suspicions.
This year's ballot (for the class of '12), announced Wednesday, brings no similar drama.
Thirteen candidates make their inaugural appearance, and there's no need to ponder the impact of performance-enhancing drugs. That's because none of the newcomers -- not one -- merits serious consideration.
The official press release from the Hall of Fame trumpets American League batting champions Bernie Williams and Bill Mueller. Williams hit .297 in his career and played center field on four World Series-winning teams with the Yankees.
Excellent player. Classy guy. Not a Hall of Famer.
Mueller, who spent his first five major league seasons in San Francisco, hit .291 for his career and won the 2003 batting title (.326) with the Red Sox.
Solid player. Nice career. Not even close to Cooperstown-worthy.
Ruben Sierra? Forever known as the "village idiot," thanks to Tony La Russa.
Vinny Castilla? Wondrous at high altitude.
Tim Salmon? Tailed off too much in his 30s.
The larger point here: This is not the Hall of Above Average, or even the Hall of Very Good. Cooperstown should be reserved for transcendent players, those who took your breath away.
Only one of the 14 holdovers (Barry Larkin) got my vote last year. Larkin could find himself all alone this time -- I also tapped Roberto Alomar last year, and he got in -- though Jack Morris and Alan Trammell annually cause prolonged contemplation.
Many of my fellow voters are much more lenient, and that's their prerogative. Someone needs to be the baseball Scrooge.
That might be my motto next year, too.