As we did back in October with the various postseason awards (oh, and sorry for never getting around to that MVP post…), members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance like myself are offering their votes on who does and who doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. The rules are simple: using the players who are on the official ballot for Cooperstown, BBA blogs will choose those who they believe deserve to be in the Hall, with no more than 10 players selected per ballot. I officially cast my vote in this election last week. My choices are below, with a little bit of explanation.
I actually did a similar post last year at about this time. I didn’t look at who I had on my ballot last year when I cast my votes this year, so there was always a chance that I changed my opinion on someone in the meantime (Andre Dawson, for example). When I did finally look at that ballot, though, I was pleased to see that I was 100% consistent from last year to this. As I explain myself today, you’ll have to forgive me if I say the same thing as last year. The reasons are still just as true today as they were then, after all.
Guys who I think should definitely be in the Hall
Roberto Alomar: I know Alomar probably isn’t as good defensively as we all made him out to be in the mid-90s. Still, his mix of offense and defense easily made him one of the best second-basemen of all-time and he, along with Craig Biggio and Jeff Kent, made this almost a golden-age for second-base. His sudden and precipitous drop in 2002 is troubling, but his 14 prior years of a 121 OPS+, .306 AVG, and Gold Glove defense puts him in. (Here’s a series on Alomar, Kent, and Biggio that I did earlier in the year.)
Bert Blyleven: I’m feeling pretty good about Blyleven’s chances of finally getting elected. As I said last year, I’m a little too young to have seen him play, but there is very little evidence in his statistics that he wasn’t one of the best players of his time or that he isn’t better than a half-dozen or more HOF pitchers already.
Barry Larkin: I don’t know what it is, but, for as much as writers fell in love with shortstops over the last 25 years or so (Cal, A-Rod, Jeter, etc.), they certainly failed to latch onto one of the best in the game with Barry Larkin. As Bill James said when he ranked Larkin as the 6th greatest shortstop of all-time (back in 2001), Larkin is “one of the ten most complete players in baseball history.” Average, power, speed, defense, intelligence… Larkin had it all.
Edgar Martinez: There’s a whole lot of discussion going on about Edgar and his place in the Hall. Everyone acknowledges that he was a great hitter, but the debate seems to hinge around whether he was a “great enough” hitter, considering his primary role as a designated hitter. Personally, I’m of the opinion that even if Edgar put up Pujols-like numbers for his entire career, people would be asking the same questions. Certain people seem to have a hard time accepting a player who doesn’t contribute to the defense, though no one has yet explained to me how a terrible fielding first-baseman/corner outfielder is better than a DH. I’m not 100% sure that writers are ready to elect a DH to the Hall of Fame, but Edgar should be the first.
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Mark McGwire: Can I just say “Steroids, schmeroids” and move on?
Tim Raines: Others have made Raines’ case much more thoroughly and eloquently than I ever could. I agree with it all one-hundred percent. If Raines had spent the 1980s playing in just about any other market in baseball, except maybe Toronto or Seattle, he would be in the Hall by now. Here’s hoping that the writers will catch on before it’s too late.
Alan Trammell: See “Larkin, Barry.”
Guys who I think are close, or who I wish well and would like to see have a long consideration phase
I included this group of players last year because, while the Hall of Fame is technically a boolean state – you are either a Hall of Famer or not a Hall of Famer – the reality is slightly different. With players allowed to stay on the ballot for 8 or 10 or 15 years, there is a gray area between the two “true” or “false” boolean values that signifies a near Hall of Famer. Sometimes a player is prevented from reaching this state, like Will Clark or Lou Whitaker, but that does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Players who I include in this group are those who I feel had strong careers and who I would like to see get a nice long consideration period, but I feel probably aren’t true Hall of Famers.
Harold Baines: I’ve always been a Baines fan. I loved him on those 1990s Orioles teams. He always did exactly what you asked him to, and he always seemed like a great guy. But when it comes to the Hall of Fame, I just don’t think he did enough. I hope he can manage to stay on the ballot for years, though. Otherwise, a guy like him with the steady, workman-like stats that put up year-in and year-out could easily be forgotten. And that’d be a shame.
Andre Dawson: Dawson’s likely to make it into the Hall this year, unless the support for first-timers Alomar, Larkin and Martinez is more than I expect. And I won’t be too upset about it. I like Dawson, and he certainly had his career short-changed by playing in Montreal for so many years. If it were up to me, though, I’d say his career was a little too short and his flaws a little too prevalent to put him in the Hall. But, like I said, I just won’t be all that upset when he does make it in.
Don Mattingly: Donnie Baseball is just one of those guys whose careers were cut too short by injury. When he was healthy and at the top of his game, there were few better, but it just didn’t last long enough for the Hall. I think even he knows that.
Fred McGriff: I have almost the same feelings for the Crime Dog that I do for Baines. McGriff was certainly a better hitter, and got a little more recognition for it throughout baseball than Baines did, but, overall, I think we’ll remember them the same way.
Dale Murphy: When I was growing up, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Murphy would end up in the Hall. His offense, his personality, his back-to-back MVPs… I know that he dropped off the table pretty quickly, so I can understand that his career never ended where it was expected and that he never quite reached those HOF levels. Still, Murphy’s the kind of guy that you want people to keep considering, since it’s really the only honor left. (Okay, so that’s what I said about Murphy last year…)
There you have it. My choices for certain Hall of Famers, and near-misses. The Hall of Fame is a tough institution to qualify for, and choosing who belongs might be even tougher. The true voters for the Hall of Fame – those who have been members of the BBWAA for long enough – have a lot of weight on their shoulders every year, so I can understand if they have trouble putting their ballot together. If I knew my ballot actually mattered, my selections of Dawson and Baines and all of them would probably be debated 1,000 times over. I can only hope that those with the real power put the same thought and consideration into their votes.