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Monthly Archives: January 2016

There are a few interesting newcomers to the ballot next year, headed by the best catcher I have ever seen play the game, Ivan Rodriguez and a dynamic hitter who never saw a pitch he didn’t like, Vladimir Guerrero.  These two men are the closest things to a shoo-in on the upcoming ballot, but neither one will challenge Ken Griffey’s 99.3% record mark set on Wednesday.

Here is a list of the possible names for next years ballot, annotated alphabetically:

(LF) Pat Burrell: who played for the Phillies and Giants, as well as other teams.  He supplied some power, but will not receive 5% of the vote.  (SS) Orlando Cabrera: a solid middle infielder and nothing more.  (CF) Mike Cameron: he had power, speed and a glove, but a woeful batting average and was suspended for PED use; he hasn’t a prayer.  (RF) J.D. Drew: the poster-child of the disabled list, Drew is more for the annals of “What-Could-Have-Been.”  (RF) Vladimir Guerrero: one of the strongest candidates for enshrinement next year.  His triple-slash exceeds Griffey’s; he was fun to watch and might just be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  (SS) Carlos Guillen: a solid hitter for a middle infielder, Carlos was a good player but won’t get any Hall support.  (1B) Derrek Lee: the Ron Guidry of first basemen, meaning he had a very solid career with one season, 2005, where he played in another galaxy.  He should get at least five percent but may not stay on the ballot long despite his credentials.  (3B) Melvin Mora: a decent hitter for average, but not Hall material.  (RF) Magglio Ordonez: a batting champion who never could seem to stay healthy.  His chances of remaining on the ballot are very slim.  (C) Jorge Posada: the catcher for a dynasty, Posada will see plenty support.  He won four consecutive Silver Slugger Awards.  I can see him on the ballot for a number of years, and he may make the Hall of Fame, but only after languishing on the ballot for awhile.  (LF) Manny Ramirez: suspended for PED use; don’t waste a vote on him.  (SS) Edgar Renteria: he had some Postseason heroics, but he isn’t Hall material.  (C) Ivan Rodriguez: the closest thing this ballot has for a slam-dunk induction.  Boy was he fun to watch behind the plate.  It’ll be interesting to see how his tenure in the Steroid Era effects his vote total.  If playing in the Steroid Era has hurt guys like Jeff Bagwell, it should hurt Ivan as well.  (CF) Aaron Rowand: he could ballhawk really well, but his career isn’t Hall-worthy.  (C) Jason Varitek: he’ll see some support, and might even stay on the ballot for awhile, but alas, players of his captain makeup with just solid numbers rarely make the Hall of Fame.  (P) Javier Vazquez: too inconsistent for consideration.  (P) Tim Wakefield: he won’t be the latest knuckleballer since Phil Niekro to make the Hall, rest assured.

The holdovers will be, with their percentage from the last vote in parentheses, are:

Jeff Bagwell (71.6), Tim Raines (69.8), Trevor Hoffman (67.3), Curt Schilling (52.3), Roger Clemens (45.2), Barry Bonds (44.3), Edgar Martinez (43.4), Mike Mussina (43.0), Lee Smith (34.1), Fred McGriff (20.9), Jeff Kent (16.6), Larry Walker (15.5), Mark McGwire (12.3), Gary Sheffield (11.6), Billy Wagner (10.5) and Sammy Sosa (7.0).

As of this moment, if I had a ballot to fill out for 2017, I’d pencil in: Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero,Trevor Hoffman, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner.

I may eventually persuade myself to give Mike Mussina a vote by then, and maybe even the two “Problem Children” in Clemens and Bonds, with three spots left vacant on my ballot.  Time has a way of altering perception; we’ll just have to see.

Congratulations go out to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza for their induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  The former Mariners/Reds center fielder netted 99.3% of the vote, setting an all-time record for vote percentage.  The ex-Dodgers/Mets receiver made the Hall with 83% of the vote.

Coming up a little short this year was lifelong Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell who received 71.6% and longtime Montreal left fielder Tim Raines, who was named on 69.8% of the submitted ballots.  I’m certain, although it may not be next year, that both men will eventually make the Hall of Fame.  Raines may have to rely on the Veteran’s Committee in a number of years, since next year’s ballot will have some impressive newcomers with Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez.  Bagwell, like Piazza this year, will be the ballot’s lead holdover and hopefully will get the required 75% needed for enshrinement next year.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Trevor Hoffman receive 67.3% of the vote, as he stands a fair shot of getting enshrined next year.  The fireman has, historically, been undervalued by Hall of Fame voters, but with 601 career saves, Trevor is one of the game’s elite stoppers.  However, the poor showing for Billy Wagner, another elite fireman whose career saves total is far inferior to Hoffman’s, albeit with some better peripheral stats, still indicates that relief pitchers aren’t valued as other positions.

Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds saw modest upticks in their vote totals.  I fully understand the arguments both for and against these former players, and although they were the best pitcher and hitter of their time, I wouldn’t lose sleep if they never get inducted.  Be that as it may, neither man ever was suspended by Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs, which inclines me suggest that we should step down from our soapboxes and place them not in the same regard as Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ryan Braun and Manny Ramirez.  Those four men, like Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte don’t deserve a single vote cast for their enshrinement.  Sure, they were surly, unlikable ball players, but what they accomplished in their careers, even before the Steroid Era, was worthy of the highest esteem.  But I understand and support the arguments against them as well, and hold the honest players, those who performed without the benefit of some injected substance, at a much higher level than those who took steroids.

Edgar Martinez shot up in the ranks, as did Fred McGriff, but both men still have a way to go for enshrinement.  Curt Schilling is beginning to garner the support he clearly deserves.  Sure, his supporters will tell you that he was one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time, but that’s only a piece of the story.  Schilling is perhaps the single most excellent pitcher the game has ever seen.  He was the perfect blend of power and control, which enabled him to set a record for strikeout-to-walk ratio that inspires awe every time I visit his stats.  The career wins aren’t as impressive as they could be, but neither was Pedro Martinez’s and he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  One must remember that Schilling toiled for an abysmal Phillies team before he caught on with Arizona and Boston and won championships.

The totals of the vote are listed below:

Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3), Mike Piazza (83.0), Jeff Bagwell (71.6), Rock Raines (69.8), Trevor Hoffman (67.3), Curt Schilling (52.3), Roger Clemens (45.2), Barry Bonds (44.3), Edgar Martinez (43.4), Mike Mussina (43.0), Alan Trammell (40.9), Lee Smith (34.1), Fred McGriff (20.9), Jeff Kent (16.6), Larry Walker (15.5), Mark McGwire (12.3), Gary Sheffield (11.6), Billy Wagner (10.5) and Sammy Sosa (7.0).  The other players on the ballot, to include Jim Edmonds (2.5%) and holdover from last year, Nomar Garciaparra (1.8%) failed to garner the necessary 5% of the vote for retention.

The Veteran’s Committee failed to elect anyone into the Hall of Fame this year, although they had plenty of worthy candidates. Whenever the Committee is handed a ballot, only ten former players/managers/executives are listed, and this year listed were:

Doc Adams, who, as someone that pours over baseball history, I, admittedly, know very little about. Clearly I wouldn’t have placed him on a ballot I drafted. (2) Sam Breadon, who was the Cardinals’ magnate when they were the cream of the National League during their Gashouse Gang days and World War II era dynasty. (3) Bad Bill Dahlen, the greatest shortstop, and perhaps infielder in general, not in the Hall of Fame. For you WAR buffs, his lifetime WAR exceeds the almighty Derek Jeter (4) Wes Ferrell, a surly starting pitcher with a terrific winning percentage in the high-offense 1930s. (5) Garry Herrmann, former Cincinnati magnate who owned the Reds when they beat the Black Sox in the 1919 World Series. (6) Marty Marion, a slick-fielding shortstop who won an MVP Award during the war years. (7) Frank McCormick, a hard-hitting first baseman for the Reds prior to World War II. (8) Harry Stovey, the five-tool superstar of the long forgotten American Association, who held the all-time homerun record for a spell. (9) Chris Von der Ahe, the colorful owner of the American Associations’ greatest team, the St. Louis Browns, who is widely regarded for introducing beer sales to the game and (10) Bucky Walters, a solid pitcher of the 1930s who was a converted third baseman.

Among the group offered, I would cast a vote for Bad Bill Dahlen without any hesitation; how he keeps getting left out of the Hall of Fame is a great mystery. Sam Breadon would also get my vote. His Cardinals teams were always in the thick of things and they brought home many pennants during his tenure. Harry Stovey would also get my final vote. There may never have been a better five-tool star in the game’s history than Stovey. He could steal 100 bases a season and lead the league in homeruns.

When I first saw the Veteran’s Committee ballot I was a little taken aback. For one, I never expected to see a name foreign to me on any baseball Hall of Fame ballot, but Doc Adams hearkens back to pre-organized days. He came before Spalding, McVey, Anson and Deacon White. He came before Dickey Pearce, Nate Berkenstock, Dick McBride and Davy Force. I was very much pleased seeing his name on the ballot—it gave license to researching, and I adore research about as much as anything.

Three names were rather shocking to see on this ballot: Garry Herrmann, Frank McCormick and Chris Von der Ahe. There was a rather heavy Cincinnati Reds bias on this veteran’s ballot, with Walters joining Herrmann and McCormick as men whose ties are primarily to the Reds. Herrmann hasn’t much business on the ballot, in my opinion. He owned the Reds from 1902 to 1927. They won one NL pennant in that span, under Miracle Man Pat Moran, with far more second division finishes. In 16 of those seasons, the Reds finished fourth or worse in the standings—there were only eight teams in each league then. There are many, many more deserving candidates than Herrmann that could have been placed on this ballot. Sam Breadon, by contrast, won nine pennants with the Cardinals—he’s on this ballot legitimately. Frank McCormick is another head-scratcher: he was a fine ballplayer, but he played first base in the era of Foxx, Gehrig, Greenberg and Mize, and was nowhere near as good as them. He wasn’t much better, if any better, than Hal Trosky and Dolph Camilli, who also played first base in his time. McCormick had three real good years with the Reds when they were contenders prior to World War II. If Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy’s windows of excellence were too narrow for HOF voters, than McCormick hasn’t much business on a ballot such as this.

Chris Von der Ahe is one of the most interesting characters in the history of baseball, and I’m actually inclined to vote for him, but having done quite a bit of research on the former Browns owner, I’m still not certain if he was the game’s preeminent dunce, or a shrewd businessman. He loved his Browns, even if most people connected to the game thought he didn’t know a baseball bat from an officer’s cudgel. He was boisterous, a show-boat unrivaled and made headlines more for the things he said and did than for anything smacking of baseball acumen. About his entrance into baseball, J.B. Sheridan wrote, “Von der Ahe knew nothing of baseball. He knew a lot about beer. He found out that the sun and heat and hollering at baseball games made spectators thirsty. So he thought that baseball was, like pretzels, salt crackers and politics, an excellent stimulant of thirst. He became interested in baseball as a side issue. It was akin to the lunch counter at his saloon. It made people buy beer” (Ogden Standard Dec 30, 1916).

If I were delegated to create a list of ten pre-integration baseball figures for the Veteran’s Committee, Bill Dahlen would assuredly be on it, as would Sam Breadon and Harry Stovey, but I’d probably leave off the rest. I’d much rather see someone like Al Reach, whose contributions to the game of baseball are more known, and hence greater appreciated than Doc Adams. Early manager Jim Mutrie might make my list, or his Giants owner John B. Day. Reach’s business crony and former Athletics magnate Ben Shibe seems to me more deserving of consideration than Herrmann, as does Charles Stoneham and John Brush, who owned the Giants during the heyday of John McGraw. Pitcher Jim McCormick would have been a much wiser McCormick to have placed on this list than former Reds first baseman Frank. Where’s Buddy Myer, the old Senators’ second baseman, who if it weren’t for Charlie Gehringer, would be regarded as the best second baseman of his time. And while we’re on second basemen, how about Cupid Childs, Laughing Larry Doyle and Fred Dunlap? Pete Browning would be another ideal selection; the old batting champion of the now defunct Louisville Colonels.

There were some terrific players who had their careers cut short by World War II, unlike Marty Marion and Frank McCormick, who played through the fighting. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it is seeing Frank McCormick on this ballot. Cecil Travis and Dominic DiMaggio were stellar players who missed sizable portions of their careers, prime years, mind you, to service during WWII, and lesser lights like Marion and McCormick are on this ballot. Where’s curveball wizard Tommy Bridges, the former ace of the Detroit Tigers teams of the 1930s, who was a superior hurler to Wes Ferrell? A couple shortstops from the 1800s, Ed McKean and Jack Glasscock might make my list, as would some pre-World War I first basemen like Jake Daubert and Stuffy McInnis; maybe even Fred Tenney. Where’s George Van Haltren? Has time done away with John T. Brush, a magnate during the AL/NL wars? Nick Young presided over the National League for many years as president and was a charter member of the game’s organization. Few men loved the game like Uncle Nick.

I’d like to see an old catcher like Jack Clements or Deacon McGuire get some exposure to the Veteran’s Committee, and truth be told, third base is lacking representatives in the Hall of Fame, although the Veteran’s Committee has a handful of worthy men to analyze: Bill Bradley, Harlond Clift, Lave Cross, Larry Gardner, Heinie Groh, Willie Kamm, Ned Williamson, and one of my personal favorites, Smiling Stan Hack. Cy Williams was a terrific outfielder in the days of Babe Ruth, as was Ken Williams. Sherry Magee had his name on this ballot a few years ago, and Indian Bob Johnson would be a worthy selection as well. Babe Herman and Riggs Stephenson, two hit machines, used to get their names bandied about a lot among Hall of Fame enthusiasts. And pitchers like Bob Shawkey, Hippo Vaughn, Will White, Urban Shocker, and others could have made this list also, perhaps more deserving than the two hurlers they selected: Ferrell and Walters. Let’s not forget the Negro League stars like Dick Lundy, Spot Poles, Buck O’Neil and Newt Allen; it would also be nice to see on this ballot old umpires like Tim Hurst, Beans Reardon and Honest John Kelly.

As you can see, the task of compiling a list of ten is an endeavor of immense difficulty, and I pity the men that had the task. I really don’t like the Veteran’s Committee system; choosing ten individuals for selection, but that’s the method the Hall of Fame has adopted, and until something better is presented, that’s just the way it is.

With the 2016 Hall of Fame induction class set to be announced tomorrow, here’s a look at the players on this year’s ballot with my percentage prediction listed in parentheses:

Ken Griffey Jr. (94.8), Mike Piazza (84.4), Jeff Bagwell (73.7), Tim Raines (72.5), Curt Schilling (58.5), Trevor Hoffman (43.6), Barry Bonds (40.8), Roger Clemens (40.6), Mike Mussina (39.8), Alan Trammell (38.6), Edgar Martinez (37.5), Lee Smith (28.8), Billy Wagner (26.8), Larry Walker (24.4), Jeff Kent (17.7), Gary Sheffield (16.8), Fred McGriff (15.9), Mark McGwire (15.4), Jim Edmonds (6.2), Sammy Sosa (6.0)

Those I think won’t get the required 5% for future consideration: Nomar Garciaparra (who I see just barely missing 5%), Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell, Mike Sweeney, Randy Winn.

Should a ballot been issued me, I would have selected Jeff Bagwell, Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner.

My bubble guys are Jim Edmonds; his power, OBP and defensive wizardry made me an instant fan. Bonds and Clemens, they both belong in the Hall of Fame, but I won’t lose sleep if they never get there. With two spots open on my ballot, I’d consider them, since they weren’t suspended for PED use, but that’s a story for another day. Mike Mussina keeps looking better the more I look at him. Larry Walker was a terrific talent, but there’s that Coors Field effect. Sheffield and Kent should get more support than they’ve seen, but each man wasn’t on the best of terms with the press, and you see how far that’s gotten Clemens and Bonds; two stars vastly superior to Jeff and Gary.

I was always a big fan of Fred McGriff, Brad Ausmus, Jason Kendall and Garret Anderson, but can’t champion them for the HOF, although I’d might, with two votes open, give a courtesy vote to a pair of those men.