Yet another voting season is upon us baseball fans. Last year saw former skipper Whitey Herzog and former umpire Doug Harvey make the Hall of Fame while Andre Dawson was the lone person enshrined by the Baseball Writers. The writers have an array of former players to select from this year with two holdovers that netted over 70% of the vote in 2010–Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar–and a few interesting first-timers. Of the first-timers, the most notable are clearly former first basemen Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Bagwell. Rafy clearly has the numbers for the HOF but his character suffered during the Steroid Witch Hunts. Baggy doesn’t have the character flaws that hinder Palmeiro’s chances of election, but he was forced to retire due to injury.
Although steroid scandal veteran Mark McGwire has been on the ballot a few years, he has received very little support. But McGwire didn’t get within sniffing distance of 3,000–widely regarded as a lock for the Hall–while Palmeiro is a member of the elite 3,000 Hit Club. So, Palmeiro is the first true test for the steroid scandal. His numbers are Hall worthy–there is no disputing this–but how much will the voters make him suffer for his steroid intake and childish accusations? I imagine they will make him suffer… dearly.
Blyleven and Alomar are the top holdovers but there are few other names from last year’s slighted that deserve to be mentioned. Former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin received plenty of support last year–his first year on the ballot. His stats are quite similar to Alan Trammell’s, a position peer, who has lingered on the ballot for many years with minimal support. Given that Larkin was more durable, far more consistent and didn’t suffer from injuries as much as Trammell, he has gotten a better showing from the writers.
Thumpers Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines remain on the list. Baines, who has in the excess of 2,700 career hits, is barely getting enough support to remain on the ballot. It wouldn’t be a shock if he fails to get the necessary five percentage points to stay on the ballot for 2012 given that Andres Galarraga suffered that fate last year and The Big Cat was a league leader–Baines was rarely among the league leaders in any major offensive category. Martinez suffers from the DH stigma. Had he been a football player, he’d be a lock for the Hall but in baseball, if you can’t play defense, your worth is limited. He was an AL only player whose value would have been greatly affected had he played in the NL where he’d have to don the leather.
Two very good players, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy, have their supporters, but their window of greatness wasn’t open long. Donnie Baseball suffered through injuries throughout his career and Dale Murphy’s talents quickly vanished after back-to-back MVP seasons early in his career. Like Hall of Famer Hack Wilson, they were excellent ballplayers… for a short period of time. Mattingly lost his power due to back pains and Murphy’s skills became extinct shortly after his 30th birthday. Their limited time atop the baseball world has kept them from the HOF.
Jack Morris, Dave Parker and Fred McGriff are three other holdovers who amassed fine career stats. Morris was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s but his ERA is more bloated than you’d like for a HOF pitcher from the ’80s. His final years, where he embarrassed himself with astronomical ERAs, hurt his career earned run average, but Morris was a big-game pitcher and a durable workhorse, so he has that in his corner. Dave Parker is one of the many drug-addicted players for the 1970s and 1980s. Big Dave was an elite star early in his career, but lost his talents early due to his off-the-field issues with substance abuse. When he cleaned himself up, he returned to prominence with the Reds. Had he not had that rocky term in the heart of his career, he’d be a strong HOF candidate. Fred McGriff on the other hand was a quiet, dependable first baseman who put up fine power and RBI totals throughout his career. On the ballot for the first time last year, I thought Crime Dog would have gained more support than was shown him but he did play in the slugger’s era and had to contend with such run-producing position peers like Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark, to name a few.
The list of first-termers follows: Carlos Baerga, Jeff Bagwell, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Al Leiter, Tino Martinez, Raul Mondesi, John Olerud, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, B.J. Surhoff and Larry Walker.
The cast of holdovers is as follows: Roberto Alomar, Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell.
What my ballot would look like: Getting my vote would be Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell and Bert Blyleven. I straddle the fence on Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell. I give slight consideration to Jack Morris, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker, Lee Smith and Larry Walker. Players who I feel will not get five percent of the vote and thus will not make the 2012 ballot: Carlos Baerga, Harold Baines, Bret Boone, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Al Leiter, Tino Martinez, Raul Mondesi, John Olerud, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago and B.J. Surhoff.