Yesterday the Hall of Fame announced its latest group of former stars and executives for HOF consideration. The group consists of twelve personalities whose impact on the game came during what is called the Expansion Era: 1973 to present. On the list are former players Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Rusty Staub. Rounding out the twelve man roster are executives George Steinbrenner, Pat Gillick and Marvin Miller and one manager: Billy Martin.
This is a rather weak group spearheaded by–wait for it–a couple of old Yankees: The Boss and Billy. It would be a shock if George Steinbrenner didn’t get in, since his death has erased many of the bitter memories folks had of the man. Billy Martin was a proven winner as a manager but the red flag on him is that he couldn’t hold down a job. He’s kind of like that misunderstood guy in the neighborhood who has worked for every retail store. Those type of guys aren’t the folks you’d want dating your daughter, but that might not play against Mr. Martin’s Hall of Fame induction.
Of the players, the class is laden with guys who amassed decent career stats but weren’t considered stars. Rusty Staub has more hits than many Hall of Famers, but he began play shortly after the fall of the Trojan Empire. Tommy John, the southpaw with an impressive amount of wins, threw his first fastball when Pericles gave his famous funeral oration and Al Oliver slapped out his first base hit after Shakespeare put the final line down in MacBeth. So, although those are exaggerations, those three men have impressive career numbers but they never were elite ballplayers.
The other players come with red flags also. Vida Blue was a hothead, drug addict who could have been a star had he taken the game, and life, a little more seriously. Dave Concepcion was a fine fielder and offered more with the stick than guys like Mark Belanger, but he wasn’t a force in the batter’s box like Ripken and the more modern shortstops. Steve Garvey was a terrific hitter when pitchers dominated but his off-the-field issues with philandering can’t help his cause. Ron Guidry’s career was the shortest of the group, but he was a Yankee, so he’s got that going for him. Of the players, the best is clearly Ted Simmons. He was a superior backstop who never got the credit he was due because he was in the shadows of the overrated Johnny Bench. The numbers prove that Simba was a much more reliable player than Bench.
I can’t see Gillick getting much support and I would never consider Marvin Miller for the Hall. Miller’s mark on the game has done more to remove the fans from the game than have them embrace it. Free agency has made rosters unstable, as many players jump to the highest bidder, leaving their fanbase upset by their departure. That’s why guys like Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell are so admired–because they stayed with their club while others (thanks to Miller’s intrusion) try on a different uniform every four to five years.
Of the group I would vote for Ted Simmons and Ted Simmons only. But, I believe that Steinbrenner and Miller will make it in with Tommy John, thanks to his high career totals, netting the most votes for former players, but still coming up short. Dave Concepcion stands a better chance than most of the other players because he has two cronies (Bench and Tony Perez) on the 16-member judging panel.
So stay tuned and champion your favorite player. Be sure to visit their bios on this site and leave a comment expressing your views.