Mike Piazza headlines first-time Hall of Fame-eligible players

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Piazza is one of several star-studded names to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year in what is sure to be a controversial election.

The Hall of Fame ballot will be announced on Wednesday, with one of the most interesting group of names in years. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will join the ballot for the first time, though the seven-time MVP award winner and seven-time Cy Young Award winner will have a hard time gaining support given drug allegations.

Fellow first-timer Sammy Sosa and his 609 home runs will also face PED-related backlash, but the ballot will have many other exciting names, including Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, and Kenny Lofton.

But the most relevant name connected to the Dodgers is Mike Piazza.

Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all-time, and arguably the greatest hitter in Los Angeles Dodgers history. The 1988 62nd round draft pick hit an astounding .331/.394/.572 as a Dodger, a 160 OPS+, but was only in Los Angeles for 5½ seasons. He played in 246 more games with the Mets than he did the Dodgers, hit 43 more home runs with New York than L.A., and made seven of his 12 All-Star appearances as a Met.

Piazza, whose 396 home runs as a catcher (he hit 427 overall) are the most ever for a major league backstop, has long since stated his preference to go into the Hall of Fame as a Met, with whom he played in his only World Series, in 2000. The Hall of Fame ultimately decides which cap goes on the player's plaque, but it seems likely Piazza's would be adorned with an interlocking NY rather than LA.

If he gets in, that is.

Piazza doesn't have the direct PED taint of Bonds, Sosa, or Clemens, but will likely fall victim to simply playing in the steroid era. That happened to Jeff Bagwell, who will be on his third ballot this season. Bagwell, who hit 449 career home runs and hit .297/.408/.540, a 149 OPS+, received just 41.7% of the vote in 2011, then 56.0% in 2012.

Jay Jaffe's JAWS system rates Bagwell as the sixth most Hall-worthy first baseman. Jaffe has Piazza tied for fifth among catchers, with Yogi Berra.

The only player drafted and/or signed as an amateur by the Los Angeles Dodgers to be elected to the Hall of Fame is pitcher Don Sutton, who was elected in 1998.

Ballots must be returned by eligible Baseball Writers Association of America voters by Dec. 31, with the results announced on Jan. 9. To be elected, a player must be named on at least 75% of ballots. Last year, 573 ballots were cast.

The full ballot will be released at 9 a.m. PT on Wednesday.

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