Sammy Sosa - A warning - this one is going to really piss me off.
After he signed with the White Sox at age 17, Sammy Sosa spent parts of four seasons in the minor leagues. His career highs in those seasons: .285 AVE, .336 OBP, .429 SLG. 11 HR (ELEVEN). 59 RBI. 42 Walks. Look, I get it. He was a skinny kid from the Dominican. Fine. But there was zero indication that he would turn into a major power hitter.
In his first six years in the majors, he hit .253, had an OBP of .300, and slugged .437, with 95 HR and 304 RBI. Per 162 games, to that point: 82 runs, 24 HR, 75 RBI, 35 BB, 144 SO. At that point he was generally described alternately as "disappointing" and "frustrating."
Then, in 1995, he turned the corner and became a big-time hitter for the next 9 seasons: .289 / .369 / .595. 54 HR / 138 RBI per 162 games, with constant and consistent appearances in the MVP voting. The guy could flat-out hit, and the numbers say he absolutely belongs in the Hall.
But to me, Sammy Sosa - like Mark McGwire - is a guy whose HOF case is based entirely on the performance boost he made after he started on PEDs, and I honestly don't know how you can say otherwise, although I should say I can see the case for him possibly turning in a HOF career: if you take his first six seasons, and project them, you can probably get to 350-400 homers, maybe .280 lifetime, really good SB totals, maybe 2000 hits. No way you get to 600, but that's a fringe candidate.
But there's more to it than that - I put the line for his leap at his first All-Star season...if you put it 2 years earlier, his career high in homers was fifteen. FIFTEEN. Project that out, and you're probably under 200 homers and done by 32. No damn way he's in, not on my ballot. Verdict - out, out, out.
Another warning, I may stray into personal attacks here.
At his peak(s) Schilling was as good as there was, just superb. A hoss when healthy, he struck people out, ate up innings, shut teams down completely, had very good control for a strikeout guy, and was fantastic in the postseason...some say he was as good a postseason pitcher as anyone, ever (they overstate, but not by as much as I would usually suggest), including a great performance on a just-surgeried ankle in one of the guttiest performances ever. Won 20 three times. Had 20 shutouts, which isn't a lot historically but matches Roy Halladay - the active leader's - total. A terrific pitcher, no question about it.
The career numbers are not spectacular, but it should be noted that baseball, throughout its history, has asked starting pitchers to do less and less and less. Every generation's pitchers do less than those from the previous, and this has never changed, not once. So Schilling's career totals - while very good - simply don't match up to most HOF pitchers. I used the "when healthy" caveat earlier, and Schilling did lose a few seasons to injury, which hurts him, too...But his totals aren't elite, really, not by most measures, although his 216 wins would put him 3rd among active pitchers. So far, so good.
So - with all that out of the way, Curt Schilling is a colossal douchebag. A self-righteous loudmouth, way too in love with this sound of his own voice, not nearly as clever as he thinks, and, worst of all, not a great teammate (his chickenshit face-hiding while Mitch Williams pitched in the 93 World Series is classic, and typical, Schilling).
I also have major doubts that the infamous sock is legit.
And, with all THAT out of the way - what keeps him out on my ballot is not the career record, not the relentless nonstop douchebaggery, but the crappy years. As a starter, he had several great seasons - 16-7, 17-11, a great 15-14 (he might've won a Cy Young with his line in another season), 15-6, 22-6, 23-7, 21-6. But he also had seasons of 2-8, 7-5, 9-10, 11-12, 8-9, 8-8, and 9-8. There are very few truly great pitchers who've had that many lousy-to-mediocre seasons. Verdict - out, barely. Just barely.
Craig Biggio - an obvious Hall of Famer; the "wow, he never struck me as a HOFer" people are being willfully ignorant. 3000 hits (plus another 1400 times on base via BB and HBP), 1800 runs, 400 SB, 650 doubles, almost 300 HR, four Gold Gloves...the guy did everything, and as a second baseman. Of his top ten comps, seven are in (Jeter will be, of course, and the other two are Lou Whitaker and Johnny Damon). He's almost over-qualified. Verdict - In. OBVIOUSLY.
Next up? The Arguments.