Monday, November 27, 2006

Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot...Who Will Get A Plaque?

The 2007 baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released today, and two sure-fire HOFers, and possibly a third will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer. Yahoo News AP wire story:

NEW YORK - Mark McGwire, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. headline the first-time candidates on the 2007 baseball writers' Hall of Fame ballot released Monday, sure to spark debate on Big Mac's place in history as the steroid era comes under renewed scrutiny.

Gwynn and Ripken are the absolute shoo-ins. Big Mac, not so much. He may get in, but then again, he may not, at least not this year, as the story continues...

Jose Canseco, whose book last year led to a congressional hearing on steroid use in baseball, also is on the ballot for the first time. Canseco said he used steroids along with McGwire when they were teammates.

McGwire denied using illegal performance-enhancing substances, but when he appeared before a congressional committee, he evaded questions. "I'm not here to talk about the past," was his repeated response.

McGwire finished his career with 583 home runs, seventh in baseball history while Canseco, a former MVP, is 30th at 462. Dave Kingman, 34th with 442, has the most home runs for a player who has been on the Hall of Fame ballot and was not elected.

If Canseco had been as serious about studying the game as McGwire was, HE would probably be the all-time home run leader right now. As it turned out, he wasted his enormous talent. He was a Hall of Fame talent back in 1988 when he was the AL MVP, but instead of building on that, he got lazy, especially on defense. He could have been mentioned in the same breath as greats like Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle, as one of the greatest all-around players ever, but most of the time, he played, and acted, as if he just didn't give a shit. If he's a Hall of Famer, I'm an astronaut. Kingman, on the other hand, all he could do was hit home runs. He struck out a ton, and played lousy defense. I'm surprised he was able to stay employed long enough to hit 442 homers. Maybe he deserves to be in the Hall on that basis alone? Nah...

Gwynn, an eight-time batting champion with San Diego, and Ripken, a two-time MVP with Baltimore, are considered likely to gain election on the first ballot. Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games, breaking Lou Gehrig's record.

Agreed. Both Gwynn,a magician with the bat, and Ripken, who broke an "unbreakable" record, should be writing their acceptance speeches right this minute, if they haven't already done so.

Bret Saberhagen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and former MVP Ken Caminiti also are among 17 players on the ballot for the first time along with Harold Baines, Dante Bichette, Bobby Bonilla, Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Eric Davis, Tony Fernandez, Wally Joyner, Paul O'Neill, Devon White and Bobby Witt.

Jim Rice, who was 53 votes short of election last year, heads the 15 holdovers. Rich Gossage finished one vote behind Rice.

Both Rice and Gossage should already be in. The fact that they aren't is idiotic. Rice was the dominant right-handed power hitter in the AL from 1975-1986. Gossage was the 97 MPH closer who didn't get these one or two out saves that have become a staple of the LaRussa Era of Bullpen Management. Goose got his saves in two and three inning stints. The fact that Bruce Sutter was elected last year (and deservedly so), and Gossage was not is a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

Reporters who have been in the BBWAA for 10 or more consecutive years are eligible to vote, and the totals will be announced Jan. 9.

The complete ballot:
Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Dante Bichette, Bert Blyleven, Bobby Bonilla, Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, Dave Concepcion, Eric Davis, Andre Dawson, Tony Fernandez, Steve Garvey, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Tony Gwynn, Orel Hershiser, Tommy John, Wally Joyner, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Paul O'Neill, Dave Parker, Jim Rice, Cal Ripken Jr., Bret Saberhagen, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Devon White, Bobby Witt.

My analysis of the players on this year's ballot:
Baines - No. Not enough years as a dominant offensive force. But could prove a test case for the DH, since he did that extensively after knee problems took him out of the outfield.
Belle - No, at least not this year. Belle was a jackass, but he was a jackass who could hit. It will be interesting to see if he gets the same treatment Rice has been getting for the past several years, especially since Rice was much nicer, AND was a better defensive player.
Bichette - No. His dominant years came in Colorado, and his numbers at sea-level were decent, but not HOF-worthy.
Blyleven - Yes. Longevity counts for something. Besides, he pitched for some pretty crappy teams (as well as for a handful of good ones, like the 1979 World Series Champion Pirates). Best curveball of his era.

Bonilla - No. He was a shaky third baseman, a decent outfielder, and a good hitter, but apart from a handful of seasons, he doesn't quite have the legs to carry him all the way.
Brosius - No. Aprt from his Yankee years, he was little better than average. Call him Joe Randa only with the luck to have played on good teams.
Buhner - No, and it's a tough call, but he did have huge holes in his swing, even though he had as much power as any hitter of his era. He was also fine defensive outfielder who seldom made a mistake.
Caminiti - No. He had only a couple of dominant offensive seasons, although he did have the strongest arm of any third baseman in the NL when he played.
Canseco - No. See above.
Concepcion - Yes, but not before Alan Trammell. Trammell could the same things on defense as Concepcion, and he was ten times the hitter Davey was. Still Davey was a terrific shortstop on one of the best teams of all time (just ask Joe Morgan).
Davis - No. World class talent, but missed too much time with injuries.
Dawson - Yes. He put up big numbers as an Expo and a Cub, and was a terrific defensive outfielder, even after his knees started to go.
Fernandez - Yes, but after Ripken, Trammell and Concepcion.
Garvey - Yes, but just barely. His consistency and clutch hitting put him ahead of most others with his statistical profile.
Gossage - Yes. See above.
Gwynn - Yes. See above.
Hershiser - No. Burned out after his magical 1988 season.
John - Yes, but only because pitchers like him have already been enshrined. See Blyleven. Guys like Don Sutton. Not exactly ace material, but they won. Besides, he had a medical procedure named after him...
Joyner - No. Not enough big years at a high-offense position (first base). Had a good start to his career (56 homers his first two seasons, but just 145 the rest of the way), but didn't improve.
Mattingly - No. Had four great years in which he played at a Hall of Fame level. The rest of the time he struggled with back problems that hurt his numbers. Don't agree? Here's a name: Cecil Cooper. He has almost the exact same statistical profile as Donnie Baseball, but I don't see anybody shouting from the rooftops to support him the way they do for Mattingly.
McGwire - Maybe. See above.
Morris - Yes. He was a big winner, and a clutch performer for the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays.
Murphy - Yes. Might be hurt by his sudden decline, but he was a good all-around player, as good as anyone in the game at his peak, as his two MVP awards surely show.
O'Neill - No. A great player, but not a dominant offensive force. Nobody was more intense.
Parker - Yes. Another world class talent, but he got sidetracked in mid-career with drugs and injuries, then kicked it back up a notch to finish with some HOF type career numbers. Could be an arrogant jerk at times, and that could hurt his chances given some of the choices he made during his "sidetracked" years.
Rice - Yes. See above.
Ripken - Yes. See above.
Saberhagen - No. Similar to Hershiser except he had two magical years (The Cy Young seasons of 1985 and 1989).
Smith - Yes. All time saves leader.
Trammell - Yes. See above. And why isn't his double play partner Lou Whitaker available? Oh right, the pinheads in the BBWAA failed to give him 5% of the vote to keep him on the ballot. They should go in as a duo.
White - No. Terrific defensive center fielder, but never put it all together as a hitter.
Witt - No. Why is he even on the ballot? He walked a ton of hitters, and never did learn to harness what everyone thought was great "stuff".

Well, that's how I see it. Of course, with the requirement that a player has to appear on 75% of the ballots to gain entrance, there is no way all my Yes Men will get in this year. I just think these guys are HOF material. And who knows, maybe my No Men will get in someday. Any thoughts out there in blog land?

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