December 3, 2009

Hall of Fame ballot...2010 style!

Last Friday, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America released the names of the 26 players that make up the 2010 Hall of Fame ballot.

Between now and when the results of the balloting are announced January 6, you’ll likely be subjected to dozens of writers who think they have an opinion as to who belongs and who doesn’t.

Unfortunately, I’m no different…so here we go!

Roberto Alomar. I’m huge on Alomar…can’t help it. The guy retired at 36 and still managed career numbers of 2724 hits and 1508 runs. Add to that his .300 career batting average and you’ve got one of the best second basemen ever to lace up the spikes. 12 straight All-Star Games, 10 Gold Gloves in an 11 year stretch and back-to-back World Series rings. Yeah…put him up the wall now and spare the writers this vote.

Kevin Appier. If I told you that Appier had a career ERA of 3.74 and ten years with ten or more wins would you care? No?!? Thought so.

Harold Baines. Alright, as huge as I am on Alomar…I’m just as huge on Baines. And yes, I know the “he was JUST a DH” speech so spare me the lecture. That being said, it needs to be pointed out that Baines holds the record for most games played at DH. His 2866 career base hits (40th all-time) means that he has the most hits of any player that is Hall eligible. Only Pete Rose, Craig Biggio, Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds are ahead of him. Odds are that had Baines not had two work stoppages during his career, he would have eclipsed 3000 hits. Futhermore, he also has the most RBI of all Hall eligible players and ranks 29th all-time. So riddle me this…how does a guy like Baines barely get enough votes to stay Hall-eligible year after year? His lack of support is a joke.

Bert Blyleven. For some reason, Blyleven has become the sexy pick of everyone who has an opinion on who does and who doesn’t belong. That being said…I don’t know that he should be up there on the Cooperstown stage come July. Yes, I know, I know, I just went on and on about Harold Baines and now…I’m slamming Blyleven. The guy was a compiler. A damn good compiler…but a compiler nonetheless. Of his 287 victories, only once did he top 20 victories…and that was in a season where he went 20-17. And while he has more strikeouts than all but four pitchers, let’s look at the bigger picture…how many times did Bert lead the league in ERA? Wins? What about winning percentage? How many Cy Young Awards did this cat bring home? Zero. He was an All-Star twice, but c’mon…so was Esteban Loaiza. And frankly, when do you suppose the last (or first) time someone not named “Blyleven” uttered the words…”I sure do hope Bert’s on the hill today” on their way to the ballpark?

Ellis Burks. While I would never, ever, use the words “Ellis Burks” and “future Hall of Famer” in the same sentence, I was surprised to see that he had a career batting average of .291, belted 352 home runs and was robbed in 1996 of the National League MVP Award.

Andre Dawson. Like Jim Rice, I think Dawson will eventually get in. After a while, the writers will shrug their shoulders and say “why not?” An eight time All-Star, eight Gold Glove recipient, an MVP Award and Rookie of the Year honors…he was every bit as feared as people say Rice was. Add to that close to 2800 hits and those pesky 438 home runs and you’ve gotta admit…”The Hawk” was a special, special player.

Andres Galarraga. You can go both ways with the “Big Cat”. Take away the “Coors Factor” and Galarraga is the poor man’s Will Clark. Take into account that he did play in Colorado during the prime of his career and he’s borderline Willie Stargell-like. But let’s face it…you can’t ignore 399 home runs, 1425 RBI and a career .288 batting average. Wait, the writers do routinely…and, again, they call him “Harold Baines”.

Pat Hentgen. In 1996, Hentgen took home the American League Cy Young Award. This January, he’ll have celebrated his lone year on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Mike Jackson. Jackson is 12th all-time (among pitchers) in games played with 1005…three more than Goose Gossage. Pretty impressive until you realize that numbers 1 through 11 consist of such notables as Dan Plesac and two other “Mikes”…Mike Stanton and Mike Timlin. Something tells me that Cooperstown isn’t ready for the journeyman closer/set up man yet.

Eric Karros. See “Pat Hentgen”, but swap out “1996 American League Cy Young Award” with “1992 National League Rookie of the Year”. In short…same result.

Ray Lankford. You know, there used to be a time when I routinely confused Lankford with Brian Jordan and Bernard Gilkey. Next!

Barry Larkin. With all the hubbub that surrounded Cal Ripken and how he re-defined the position of shortstop over in the American League…Larkin was his equivalent in the National League. To an extent. With a career .295 batting average, 2340 hits and nine Silver Slugger Awards, the 1995 NL MVP brought some swagger back to what was a dead Big Red Machine…if only for a few years. I put him in.

Edgar Martinez. The argument FOR Martinez is that he is the “best DH ever”. The argument AGAINST Martinez is that he is the “best DH ever”. I’m not sure which side of the fence I fall on, but as long as Harold Baines is paying for his ticket…Martinez can stand in line behind him. Sure, Martinez has a .312 career batting average and ranks 22nd all-time in on base percentage (at .418)…but the guy only has 2247 hits and has a pretty empty trophy case to show for his 18 year career. And yes, even though the annual DH award is named after him…that isn’t good enough to garner a plaque on the wall.

Don Mattingly. Like most of the world, I was enamored with Mattingly when he hit the scene. I had his 1984 Donruss rookie card encased in Lucite and thought I was witnessing the second coming. During a six-year run beginning in 1984, Mattingly averaged 26 home runs, 114 RBIs and a .327 batting average. No player during that stretch had more RBI than Mattingly's 684 amd only Hall of Famer Wade Boggs (1,269) had more hits than Mattingly's 1,219. That six-year peak (from 1984 to 1989) is clearly one of the best of his generation and overall, his brief career stacks up with some others in the Hall. I’m not saying he goes in now, but I do think “Donnie Baseball” will hover on the ballot for a while longer and get his due from the Veterans Committee.

Fred McGriff. Now, this is where I might lose some of ya…I think the “Crime Dog” is a Hall of Famer. It’s true, he wasn’t a sexy player (no MVP Awards, only five All-Star Games), but his numbers stack up well with some of the other first basemen in the Hall. Of the 12 enshrined, only five of them drove in more runs (McGriff has 1550 RBI), only four hit more home runs (McGriff hit 493), and only three scored more runs (McGriff scored 1349 runs). McGriff needs to be enshrined soon, because (like Rice for 14 of the last 15 years), his numbers will pale in comparison to the contemporaries on the ballot.

Mark McGwire. Even without the steroids discussion, McGwire’s stats don’t warrant the lip service that everyone pays him. And while I’ve heard all the OPS arguments, you can take away his tremendous home run total and all you’ve got is a guy who played in a ton of All-Star games and had precious little to show for it. Sorry Mark…and it has nothing to do with whether or not you were juiced.

Jack Morris. Consistency and durability, while not THE reason to induct someone…has to be taken into consideration when judging someone’s worth. Morris was the epitome of a pitching “Iron Horse”. Matter of fact, this innings hog (he had eleven seasons of more than 235 innings pitched) holds the record for most consecutive opening day starts…14. And if you thought Cal Ripken’s streak was impressive (it was), Morris went nearly 500 starts without missing his turn in the rotation. Again, not a reason to bronze his head…but not too shabby either. Morris notched a career 254-186 record…good for a .577 winning percentage. His win total is more than Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford and plenty of others. Hell, in the 80s alone…Morris went 162-119 and led the decade in both wins and complete games. He was the ace of three World Series teams (he was injured and couldn’t play in 1993 or else there’d be a fourth) and he threw a no hitter. I think the main reason Jack gets overlooked is his career ERA of 3.90. He never led the league (much less came close to it) and made no bones about the fact that he gave up a ton of runs. Will he get into the Hall? Probably not. Does he deserve to? Absolutely. Thankfully for Morris, the Veterans Committee does like to look at players that got close (he appeared on a best 41.2% of the ballots in 2006) but not close enough. Let’s hope that someday soon, the 80s won’t be as overlooked as they have been in the past.

Dale Murphy. It’s hard to remember how dominant Murphy was when he hit his peak in the mid-80s. Consider this…when he retired, his 398 home runs ranked 19th all-time. Now…he sits at 48. After winning his back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983, Murphy appeared to be on his way to Cooperstown. Now…not so much.

Dave Parker. If there was a “Badass Hall of Fame”, I’d put “The Cobra” in hands down. Matter of fact, I think he and Jack Morris would be on hand to deliver two of the inaugural speeches. Unfortunately, the only Hall of Fame worth mentioning here is saved for baseball players and as much as I’d like to see Parker’s toothy grin on that stage praising Willie Stargell and condemning Marge Schott…I’m afraid we’ll never see it happen.

Tim Raines. I always kinda thought that Raines was one of the best out there. Along with Rickey Henderson, there were really only two guys you would want to lead off for you. With a nice peak throughout the 80s, 2605 career hits, a .294 batting average and 808 steals, Raines is the kind of guy that might get some votes.

Shane Reynolds. Ugh.

David Segui. Double ugh.

Lee Smith. I met the guy a while back and the man is intimidating. Smith seemed bigger than life standing next to me (I'm 6'4") and shaking his hand was like grabbing a tractor tire. I can only imagine what it was like having him throw something in your direction from sixty feet, six inches. Now, while that is not a reason to induct someone (if it was, Tim Stoddard would be enshrined), Smith’s 478 saves were pretty darn good. For 13 years, Smith was the all-time saves leader and up until recently, he held the record for most games finished. I mean, when a guy is getting his records broken by the likes or Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera he had to have been decent, right? Right?!?

Alan Trammell. For some reason, Trammell has become the Bert Blyleven of some Hall of Fame discussions and I am not sure why. When he played, like Blyleven, he was so overshadowed by some of the other guys out there that no one would have considered him a lock for Cooperstown. Now, long after retiring and having spent a number of years on the ballot…people start banging his drum. Why? I liked Trammell, it’s true…but I don’t see it, gang.

Robin Ventura. Six times a Gold Glove recipient at third and a gang load of grand slams…but that’s about it.

Todd Zeile. See “Robin Ventura” but remove the flowery comments about Gold Gloves and grand slams.

So, I guess if you’re keeping track, my “YES” would go to Alomar, Baines, Dawson, Larkin, McGriff and Smith. I’m admittedly on the fence about Blyleven, Martinez and Raines and I think Mattingly and Morris will eventually get their due.

I guess we’ll see how it all unfolds in six weeks. Until then…keep reading and let me know what you think.



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