Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Members Only

The Hall of Fame voting results were announced today and as expected Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn were easily elected. Ripken got 98.5% of the vote and fell just short of setting the all time record for voting percentage currently held by Tom Seaver. Gwynn garnered just over 97% of the vote. Everyone else will have to wait for next year. There are no new shoo-in hall of famers next year so it's possible that a few of the on-the-cusp nominees will make it in next year.

Most of the near inductees took a step back this year in vote percentages. Only Goose Gossage managed to buck that trend and increase his percentage from 65% to 71%. It appears that barring something unforeseen 2008 will be his year to enter the hall. Jim Rice has only two tries left on the writer’s ballot and took a small step backward with a 1% drop. Next year may be his best chance to get into the hall. Rickey Henderson will be on the 2009 ballot and he is a sure fire hall of famer. Voters don't like to include lesser players with all time greats, so it's next year or the veteran's committee for Jim. Bert Blyleven's percentage dropped by over 5 points. That's not a positive sign for Bert. It appears that about 50% of the voters have concluded that he simply wasn't a hall of famer. He, like Tommy John and Jim Kaat before him, appears to be headed to veteran's committee purgatory.

The most inexplicable decrease in votes is for Alan Trammell. He had a solid 17% of the vote last year, but that dropped to 13% this year. It's a shame really. One of these days, the writers will look back and wonder how so many of them could have overlooked such a fantastic player. Paul O'Neill came and went from the ballot. He didn't get the required 5% of the vote to remain eligible for the next election. The most surprising player to drop off the ballot may have been Albert Belle. His offensive output for his admittedly brief 12 year stay in the majors was amazing. He must have really pissed off a lot of people in his day for only 19 voters out of 545 to deem him hall worthy. There are certainly worse players in the hall and worse people, but Albert didn't do himself any favors during his playing days. Getting arrested for and then pleading guilty to stalking charges couldn't have helped either.

The story that overshadowed all of the voting this year was Mark McGwire and the steroids controversy. McGwire, as the test case for those suspected of steroid use, did not fare very well. McGwire who used to be considered a sure first ballot inductee, only managed to draw 24% of the voters to his cause. This doesn't bode well for Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero and ultimately Barry Bonds. The best thing that those players have going for them is that they don't have to face the voters for a few years. Perhaps by then, opinions will have changed and positions softened, but at this point it doesn't look like any of them will have a plaque hanging in Cooperstown any time soon.

I sincerely hope that in a year I will be writing a congratulatory note to Goose Gossage for his induction. It's long overdue. In the meantime I will say congratulations to Ripken and Gwynn. I've always felt that Ripken's streak was over hyped and his affect on the "rebirth" of interest in baseball after the strike was over rated, but he was a very good player for a very long time. He's a two-time MVP winner and has over 3,000 hits. He's the all time leader in Hr's for a shortstop, and he did play on one championship team. All in all it adds up to the fact that he is one of the best ever to play shortstop. Tony Gwynn on the other hand never won an MVP or a World Series ring, but if my life depended on someone getting a base hit, Gwynn would be the person I would want with the bat in his hands. He was simply a magician at the plate. He hit over .350 seven times, won eight batting titles, has the highest post war batting average of any player, never struck out more than 40 times in a season and struck out less than 20 times in eight seasons, he hit .394 during the strike shortened '94 season, he stole as many as 56 bases in a season and had a 72% career success rate and ended his career with over 3,000 hits. He is the best pure hitter that I have ever seen. He's also a really nice guy and that gets overlooked sometimes.

That's it for the Cooperstown for now. Remember boys and girls, we are only 5 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.

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