Friday, December 01, 2006

Almost Famous

The Hall of Fame ballot is out. The majority of the press will be about the worthiness of Mark McGwire and assured candidacies of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. I think it's a shame that the process is being shadowed by the cloud of suspicion that surrounds Mark McGwire. Ripken and Gwynn are going to have to endure countless questions about the issue and the focus should be on what these great players did on the field, not on what one of them may or may not have done off the field. Would Mark McGwire have made the hall of fame without steroids? It's an impossible question to answer. He had a lot of power but lost a couple of his prime years to injuries. He came back from those injuries bigger than ever and then proceeded to make his assault on stadium fences and the record books. The point with McGwire is that if you believe that he cheated (and steroids were not banned by baseball at the time of his greatest seasons), then you shouldn't vote for him. Of course that means that you can't vote for Barry Bonds either. Ditto for Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero. And I have certainly heard enough innuendo about Roger Clemens. Where do you draw the line? It's hard to say what the voters will do down the line, but it's a pretty safe bet that McGwire will not be getting into the Hall of Fame museum without a ticket for at least another year.

So let's take a look at the candidates besides Gwynn and Ripken that I would vote for (if THE MAN let me have a vote that is):

Players are in order of preference:
Goose Gossage (8th year on the ballot, 64.6% last year):
He is the best closer that I have ever seen. The fact that Bruce Sutter made it into the Hall of Fame before him is a travesty. He was the dominant closer of the late 70's and early 80's. He pitched in the day before the one inning save became the norm. He would come in as early as the 7th inning to close out games ( a case in point, the '78 one game playoff against the Red Sox). He practically invented the imposing closer persona (and he didn't need a metallica song either). He threw in the high 90's and intimidated an entire generation of hitters. He did actually throw a breaking ball, but I think that was more for show. His 310 career saves seem paltry compared to the numbers being put up today, but he was definitely the best closer of his generation. His percentages have climbed steadily since he was first on the ballot, but he is still pretty far away from being voted in.

Jim Rice(13th year on the ballot, 64.8% last year)(Players are are removed from voter consideration after 15 years):
He is another player whose numbers seem paltry compared with the numbers put up during these steroid fueled days, but he was one of the two most feared batters in the AL during his career. The other would be George Brett, but he was just as dangerous as Brett. He is the only player in history to put together three straight seasons of 35+ hr's combined with 200 hits. I guess the memories of the writers are short, but there was no one I would rather see less with the game on the line than Jim Rice. He got the most votes of anyone who didn't get into the Hall last year, but he still needs a major rush of voters to get in this year.

Bert Blyleven/Tommy John (10th year/13th year, 53.3% , 29.6%):
Both of these guys deserve to be in the Hall. They are separated by one win 287-288 and they are both being damned by the fact that they never won a Cy Young award (John did finish 2nd twice however). Byleven is 5th all time in strikeouts and 9th in shoutouts. Neither have stellar won/loss records, but neither did Nolan Ryan. The fact that they didn't win 300 games is keeping them out of the Hall, but it shouldn't. I'm sure there were at least 13 times over their careers that the bullpen blew big leads for them. They shouldn't be punished because they didn't get to that magic number. They are close enough for me. There does seem to be some momentum in Blyleven's direction as there have numerous articles from sabermetric types championing his cause. Tommy John appears to be a lost cause however. He will probably have to wait for the veterans committee in order to get his chance at induction.

Alan Trammell (6th year, 17.7%):
He gets over looked because he played at the same position and at the same time as Cal Ripken did. Cal Ripken and to a lesser extent Robin Yount helped to redifine the Shortstop position as more than just a good glove/no bat position. Trammell lived in both worlds. He came up as a light hitting ss, but became a better hitter as time went on. He also won 4 gold gloves, so he became a good glove/good bat SS. Those three players were the precursor to Jeter, Tejada and Garciaparra. Trammell did finish second in the MVP voting in 1986 and was the MVP of the World Series in 1984. I think if you stacked his numbers up against all the shortstops in the Hall of Fame, you would find that he would sit comfortably in the top 1/3. Trammell has been holding steady in the mid teens since his first appearance on the ballot. I'm not sure what it's going to take to get the ball rolling in his direction. The election of Ryne Sandberg should have been a good thing for Trammell, since their numbers are comparable, but it didn't move the needle at all. It doesn't look good for Alan. He may have to wait another 20 years for the veterans committee.

That's it. My apologies to Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, Lee Smith, Dave Parker, Albert Belle, Paul O'Neil, Jack Morris and of course Don Mattingly. They were all great players in their day, but I just don't think that they are hall of fame material. If I were to let one more player in, I guess I would be split between Murphy and Dawson. I do think that Dawson will probably eventually get in since his voting percentage has risen to the 60% level. It requires a 75% vote for induction and he is moving in the right direction. I don't think any of the players I chose are getting in this year either, but I do hope that one day they will. Gossage and Rice would be bucking a trend if they weren't elected in the next two years. It has been since Gil Hodges in 1981 that a player who received at least 60% of the vote was not eventually voted in.



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