The 2008 Hall of Fame ballot was released the other day and it is about the most underwhelming collection of players in a long, long time.
It’s a shame really.
I mean, baseball is, as a sport, kinda teetering right now. Popularity is at an impressively high level…YET, public perception is one George Mitchell report away from being worse than one could ever conceive!
Which brings me back to this year’s Hall of Fame class. We need a year like last year’s Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn class rather than the “well, someone had to be elected, right?” ceremony that awaits us in 2008. Frankly, I’m more excited for any sequel to “Two Girls…One Cup” than I am the 2008 Hall of Fame class. At least with that, you have willing participants being fed a mouthful of you-know-what instead of whoever the writers present us with as being a baseball immortal.
Who are the first ballot front runners? Tim Raines, David Justice…Rob Nen? Shoot me now.
I could make a case for “Rock” if (and it’s a BIG “if”) Rickey Henderson did not exist, was already in the Hall of Fame OR Andre Dawson was already enshrined. Henderson was roughly THREE TIMES the player Raines was and Dawson was more of the face of the baseball north or the border than anyone else. And let’s face it…Raines was pretty much only an Expo, right? I implore you to tell me who else he played for, when AND what he might have done with those teams that is worth mentioning.
The holdovers are intriguing and it is on that list where you’ll find the class of 2008. Most notably…Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Mark McGwire are getting plenty of attention.
Last name first…McGwire won’t get in because of the steroid implications. It probably wouldn’t be the best PR move for baseball to elect someone to the Hall that is routinely mentioned in the “did he” or “didn’t he” steroid debate. Besides, and this is probably the best case for NOT voting him in…his stats weren’t that great. In short, McGwire wasn’t a Hall of Fame player…plain and simple.
Rice and Dawson, both of whom are guys that I support wholeheartedly, are probably going to fall short as well.
Dawson has seen his vote totals go from 45% in his first year of eligibility (2002) to a high of 61% in 2006 and back down to 56% last year. In that time, both Bruce Sutter and Ryne Sandberg have jumped past him on the list and waltzed into Cooperstown.
Similarly, Jim Rice (who many consider the “most feared” batter of the 70s) has gone from 29% in 1995 to his high of (roughly) 64% in both 2006 and 2007. Rice getting in would be a tip of the cap to the Red Sox franchise and a fitting compliment to their 2007 Championship season. He is beloved by the “Nation” and would certainly bring the crowds to sleepy Cooperstown, New York.
What about the perennial “why not this guy” Bert Blyleven?
Well, like Tommy John (another great “why not”), if he wasn’t elected yet…he won’t be now. And, unfortunately, as much as I like (and support) Jack Morris…I almost have to put him in this same category.
So…the guy with the best chance of being the lucky recipient of the “we had to pick SOMEONE” award is Gossage. Process of elimination, right?
Goose is a head scratcher though. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where this ground swell of support is coming from. It isn’t like he ONLY played for the Yankees. If he did…I could understand why such a colorful character would even be talked about.
On paper, his stats were good. HOWEVER, if you compare him with some of his contemporaries…he is the Vince Coleman to Sutter’s Raines. And that is, of course, if you look at Rollie Fingers as being the Rickey Henderson of the bunch.
To me, Gossage isn’t even the best reliever on the ballot this year…especially with both Lee Smith and Rob Nen up for consideratin. Now, I’m not saying they SHOULD be in the Hall…I’m just saying they are more “Hall worthy” than Goose. But that’s only if you look at the stat line.
The key to being a Hall of Famer is dominance. In short, you need to be THE dominant player (if not one of the most dominant players) at your position during the time you played. Gossage clearly was very, VERY good…but “dominant”?
Sutter supporters would disagree the loudest…but who cares? He’s already in the Hall.
What about Dan Quisenberry, Jeff Reardon, Tug McGraw or Kent Tekulve?
Look at their numbers during the same time that Gossage played. I mean, Goose only led the league in saves THREE times (with only two years with more than 30 saves)…and one of those years, he tied with Quisenberry. Quisenberry, I might add, led the American League in saves five out of six years in the early 80s…right at the same time Goose was said to have been at his peak.
Gossage did get Cy Young consideration five times between 1975 and 1984. However, in that same span…Fingers, Sutter, Sparky Lyle and Willie Hernandez each took home the Cy Young award. Hell, Quisenberry (again) had five top five finishes in a six year span and he dropped off of the Hall ballot after appearing only once.
And yes, I know…any monkey who laces up the spikes can get “Cy Young consideration”. But when you talk “dominance”…you have to take that into consideration.
So is Gossage a Hall of Famer? Frankly…I’m not sure how he garnered 71% of the vote last year. However, the writers seem to like him and (like I said before), this year could belong to him and Rice (maybe)…but only time will tell.
Over the next two months, the HoVG will be examining more of the players that might (but shouldn’t) be overlooked on the current Hall of Fame ballot. If you’ve got something to say about Harold Baines, Andre Dawson, Lee Smith or even Don Mattingly…I’d like to hear from you!
Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and who knows…your words might just end up on this website!
***Note: I had a poll on the site asking about whether or not you thought Goose should be inducted this year and I'm surprised...78% of you thought he should. Let's see if your opinions match those of the actual voters.***