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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.

Congratulations go out to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas for their Hall of Fame inductions.  Both Maddux and Glavine received over 90% of the vote while The Big Hurt came in a little behind the hurlers with 83.7%.  Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio missed by the scantest of margins with 74.8% of the vote.  Mike Piazza saw a slight raise in his percentage while everyone else on the ballot, all the holdovers, went the other direction.  Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, both deserving candidates, each dropped a bit in the vote with former closer Lee Smith’s support falling off a cliff.

Jack Morris, his last try on the writer’s ballot, came up short with 61.5% while the two hot topic performers, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, each saw their limited support from last year slip a bit as well.  Rafael Palmeiro, a member of the 3,000 hit club and one of the top homerun hitters of all-time, fell short of the five percent needed to be retained for 2015’s ballot.

Earlier I made predictions for this year’s HOF class and, I must admit, they were off by quite a bit.  I viewed this class as a rather weak class with Greg Maddux as the only lock among the new-comers.  Tom Glavine received a lot more support than I imagined.  With new-comers to the ballot, I do the eyeball test first: I ask myself whether they looked like Hall of Famers when they played.  When I watched Greg Maddux pitch, I thought I was watching a Hall of Famer operate on the mound.  When I watched Frank Thomas hit, I thought I was watching a Hall of Fame slugger in the batter’s box.  When I watched Craig Biggio play, I thought I was watching a Hall of Famer perform.  I felt this way about Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, as well, but never perceived Tom Glavine in such a way.  With Glavine, while he pitched, I felt he needed a home plate umpire with a liberal strike zone to succeed, and that he wasn’t in the upper echelon of performers, where peers like Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez were stationed.

The 300 win benchmark pushed Glavine into the Hall of Fame, although, in this era, the concept of Hall of Fame benchmarks is now obsolete.  You can point to homerun kings like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as proof that benchmarks are meaningless nowadays, but a better representation of this concept is Craig Biggio.  Craig is a member of the 3,000 hit club and no right-handed hitter in the game’s history has more doubles than Mr. Biggio.  McGwire, Palmeiro and Sosa all have PED issues, which makes them poor subjects of the exit in benchmarks argument, but Craig Biggio was a man of class with an impeccable character.  After the ballot’s results were made public, Mr. Biggio again exuded class by congratulating the three men newly enshrined without taking shots at the 25% of writers who foolishly did not vote for him.

Will Craig Biggio make the Hall of Fame next year?  It wouldn’t shock me to see him fall below 70%, to be honest.  Next year he’ll have to contend with newcomers like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz—all strong HOF candidates.  In 2016, he, Piazza and Bagwell will have a better shot, with Ken Griffey Jr. the main standout—other first-timers in 2016 are Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner.  In the upcoming years, 2017 looks to be the weakest group of first-timers with a pair of catchers, Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodriguez, leading the new-comers.  Vladimir Guerrero will see plenty support, and Manny Ramirez will also be on that ballot.  The names for 2018 look fairly impressive, with Chipper Jones and Jim Thome as locks, and Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel also on that year’s ballot.

The results for this year’s ballot are as follows, with 571 ballots cast: Greg Maddux (97.2), Tom Glavine (91.9) Frank Thomas (83.7), Craig Biggio (74.8), Mike Piazza (62.2), Jack Morris (61.5), Jeff Bagwell (54.3), Tim Raines (46.1), Roger Clemens (35.4), Barry Bonds (34.7), Lee Smith (29.9), Curt Schilling (29.2), Edgar Martinez (25.2), Alan Trammell (20.8), Mike Mussina (20.3), Jeff Kent (15.2), Fred McGriff (11.7), Mark McGwire (11), Larry Walker (10.2), Don Mattingly (8.2), Sammy Sosa (7.2), Rafael Palmeiro (4.4), Moises Alou (1.1), Hideo Nomo (1.1), Luis Gonzalez (0.9), Eric Gagne (0.4), J.T. Snow (0.4), Armando Benitez (0.2), Jacque Jones (0.2), Kenny Rogers (0.2), Mike Timlin, Richie Sexson, Paul LoDuca, Todd Jones, Ray Durham and Sean Casey (0%)

Next year, don’t be terribly surprised if big names like Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff and Jeff Kent fail to receive the five percent needed to be retained for 2016’s ballot.  It’s almost a guarantee that one, if not more, of these fellows will fall off the ballot in the upcoming years.  As of right now, if I had to cast a ballot for 2015, I’d vote for newcomers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz, while rounding out my ballot with holdovers Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell.  Voting for ten men seems excessive to me, but I have been swayed to Raines, Schilling and Trammell’s camps due to the Cooperstown comparisons.  Tim Raines was a poor man’s Rickey Henderson, Curt Schilling has the greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio in modern baseball history and Trammell is very comparable to recently enshrined Barry Larkin.

 

 

The result of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Hall of Fame vote will be announced on January 8th.  In order to gain enshrinement in Cooperstown, the former player listed on the ballot must receive 75% of the votes cast.  To be held over for next year’s vote, players must receive at least five percent of the vote.

Among the first-timers on the ballot, Greg Maddux is clearly the standout and should receive over 90% on his initial Hall of Fame try.  Longtime Maddux teammate Tom Glavine will certainly see some support, but the southpaw isn’t an obvious selection like his Atlanta chum.  Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent stand the best chance among first-time position players.  Holdovers from last year, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris netted over 60% of the vote while stars Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza were named on over 55% of the votes.

What follows are my predictions for the vote, with last year’s percentage listed in parentheses.

Greg Maddux 89.2% (first time), Craig Biggio 79.3 (68.2%), Jack Morris 74.0% (67.7%), Mike Piazza 68.8% (57.8%), Jeff Bagwell 64.4% (59.6%), Tim Raines 54.5% (52.2%), Frank Thomas 53.4% (first time), Lee Smith 48.8% (47.8%), Curt Schilling 44.6% (38.8%), Tom Glavine 41.8% (first time), Roger Clemens 40.6% (37.6), Edgar Martinez 39.8% (35.9%), Barry Bonds 36.6% (36.2%), Alan Trammell 35.5% (33.6%), Jeff Kent 30.4% (first time), Larry Walker 23.2% (21.6%), Mike Mussina 20.4% (first time), Fred McGriff 18.8% (20.7%), Mark McGwire 17.1% (16.9%), Don Mattingly 14.2% (13.2%), Sammy Sosa 12.5% (12.5%), Luis Gonzalez 8.6% (first time), Rafael Palmeiro 7.7% (8.8%), Moises Alou 4.0% (first time), Eric Gagne 2.2% (first time), Kenny Rogers 1.4% (first time), Ray Durham 1.2% (first time), Hideo Nomo 0.8% (first time), Armando Benitez 0.2% (first time), Sean Casey 0.2% (first time), Jacque Jones 0.0% (first time), Todd Jones 0.0% (first time), Paul LoDuca 0.0% (first time), J.T. Snow 0.0% (first time), Richie Sexson 0.0% (first time), Mike Timlin 0.0% (first time)

Greg Maddux should receive over 90% but voters are more fickle now than they have ever been.  Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza should have made the Hall of Fame last year but were snubbed.  The consensus seems that many writers have impugned every player from the Steroid Era, regardless their character, which forces me to speculate that Maddux—who should be a lock for enshrinement—might not receive 90% of the vote.  My ballot would have Greg Maddux, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Curt Schilling.

 

The Veteran’s Committee, this year, will focus on players that debuted before World War II.  Their latest of countless alterations mandates that the Veteran’s Committee will only focus on ten individuals from the pre and post WWII era, with the eras under scrutiny flip-flopping ever year.  Next year, they will analyze the merits of players who debuted after World War II.  That being said, this year’s ballot lists a number of names modern fans have never heard of, but some who have legitimate cases for enshrinement.  The list is as follows:

Sam Breadon: St. Louis Cardinals owner during famous Gashouse Gang days.

Bad Bill  Dahlen: legendary shortstop of the Deadball Era

Wes Ferrell: pitcher during the rock ’em sock ’em prewar days.

Marty Marion: Cardinals shortstop noted more for defense.

Tony Mullane: forgotten pitching star of the late 1800s.

Hank O’Day: well-respected umpire who worked for 30 years.

Al Reach: early baseball pioneer best known for producing the famous “Reach Guide.”

Jacob Ruppert: Yankees owner from 1915 to 1945–responsible for bringing Ruth to New York

Bucky Walters: Reds ace during their heyday prior to WWII.

Deacon White: early baseball ironman who caught and played third base.

Of this group, had I a vote (there are 16 former players, executive and historians that have a vote on the Veteran’s ballot), I would certainly cast one for Dahlen, whose exclusion from Cooperstown is absurd.  He is the only person on this ballot that I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for.  However, given Ruppert’s ten championships at the helm of the Yankees, he most certainly should be in the Hall of Fame with the likes of Tom Yawkey.  Deacon White deserves serious consideration and the more I analyze the old star, the more I support his enshrinement.  Tony Mullane and Sam Breadon I am iffy on, as well as Hank O’Day–there aren’t many umpires in the Hall, so O’Day would be a good fit.  Tim Hurst was an early umpire worth looking at too.

Albert Reach might be the most interesting person on this ballot.  A former outfielder/second baseman, Reach hit .353 the first year baseball was organized, but his numbers fell off drastically after that.  Reach isn’t on the ballot for his playing, however, for the man is best known as a baseball pioneer, much in the fashion of Al Spalding.  Reach opened a sporting goods store in 1874, which was the largest such company in the States until he merged with Spalding.  He nevertheless continued to published his famous “Reach Guide,” an indispensable booklet for the baseball fanatic.  Reach and chum Ben Shibe, another baseball pioneer worthy of serious Hall of Fame discussion, created the figure eight pattern used on baseballs since the covering originally employed failed to protect the ball.  About designing the figure eight pattern, Reach said, ““There were two manufacturers of reputation when I began to play ball in the fifties—Harvey Ross, of Brooklyn, and John Van Horn of New York.  The cover they made was of horsehide, but a different design was used.  Their design, a sort of clover leaf, left a weak spot where the ends of the cover were stitched together.  It was usually there that the cover ripped off during a hard game, for we had heavy hitters in those days.  After the ball with the new design appeared the ‘figure eight’ soon became the standard recognized all over the country” (Sioux City Journal, 8-09-1925).

Reach deserves serious consideration for what he meant to the game during its infancy.  Of the remaining group, Bucky Walters was a very good pitcher, and pitched in a hitter’s era, as was Ferrell, but there are better pitchers from that era, such as Tommy Bridges and Charlie Root, who should have made this ballot instead of them.  Ferrell has his supporters, but his peripheral stats are atrocious.  For a man who never pitched on a pennant winner, he certainly has a very good record, with a winning percentage slightly over .600, but Ferrell’s WHIP is abysmal; he never once finished in the Top Ten in his league in that important category.  Ferrell chewed innings (but who didn’t during that time?), but the fact that he coughed up more hits than innings worked while also issuing more walks that strikeouts he racked up, means Ferrell has little business on a Hall of Fame ballot.  He was usually among the league leaders in hits allowed and walks issued–two stats you don’t want your name mentioned in.  Ferrell led the league in hits allowed three consecutive seasons–he is not a Hall of Famer.

Marty Marion is another suspect selection since there are dozens of players who played before WWII that were quite better than him.  A tall, slender shortstop, Marion wasn’t the hitter that shortstop peers like Appling, Boudreau, Johnny Pesky and Cecil Travis were, but his glove kept him around.  His claim to fame is winning the MVP in 1944 while a member of the World Champion Cardinals, but Musial, who won the honor the year prior, was clearly the heart and soul of that club.  A career .263 hitter, Marion once led the league in doubles and was a good man for a sacrifice, but his worth was with the leather.  An elite defensive shortstop, Marion, offensively speaking, doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the four aforementioned players.  The Hall of Fame has always placed a premium on offense, which is why Marion’s inclusion on the ballot is a tad strange.  However, there are much better all-round players from the prewar era not on the ballot who should be there instead of Marion.  Buddy Myer comes to mind, as does Lave Cross and George Van Haltren.  Cy Williams, Jake Daubert, Ed McKean, Jack Glasscock, Heine Groh… I could go on and on, would make for better selections than Marion.  Marty Marion was a good ballplayer, one of the best defensive shortstops off all-time, but to place him on a list of the the best ten former players and executives of the prewar era is asinine.

That’s my two cents, feel free to cast two copper pieces of your own.

The rank of baseball purists seems to be dwindling with each passing year as every institution seems to be adopting the plea used by AT&T, I believe, as their motto: “Rethink Possible.”  The postseason used to be about the best clubs each league had to offer squaring off against each other, but now it is merely a contest of teams hot at the right time.  This postseason, like the last few, is not populated with the best teams of each league as the St. Louis Cardinals, who backed their way into the World Series last year as the Wild Card team in the National League have done it again–only this time they needed a second doggone Wild Card to secure a place in postseason play.  As a baseball purist I feel the postseason has lost much credibility with the advent of wild cards, but as a human possessing the capacity for reason, I fully understand that once change is adopted, it is damn difficult returning to previous days.  What I propose, which will be detailed in the following paragraphs, is a realignment of baseball (let us not forget that realignment is taking place next year regardless) which, although not a return to the game’s elder days, hearkens back to a time when teams were judged on sustained excellence and not pockets thereof.

My realignment proposal begins with a return to the two division standpoint.  Gone are the central divisions, thus negating a postseason wild card.  The divisions would be as follows:

AL East: Blue Jays, Indians, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox and Yankees

AL West: Angels, Astros, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Royals and Twins

* The Houston Astros are moving to the AL West this coming season

NL East: Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Pirates and Reds

NL West: Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Rockies

With the two division platform for each league, the Division Series will be abolished under this proposal, which leaves the League Championship Series, engaged between the leaders of each division and the World Series, participated by the winner of the LCS, as the main aspect of postseason play.  The reason I wrote main aspect is because the final proposal I have will shy away from my baseball purist mentality and massage the needs of those who require change.  In order to appease those gluttons for change who enjoy the March Madness mindset of college basketball, my final proposal is a winner-take-all tournament that will employ every team that failed to reach the four-team postseason.  This way, every baseball fan, regardless if his team stinks or not, will have something to root for in October.  The tournament will take place during the regular postseason play but will not be aired prime time, because the LCS and World Series will be allotted that time slot.  The tournament could be a one-loss-and-you’re-out affair or a lengthy tournament that spans the range of the LCS and World Series–which could be best of seven or best of nine series.  Either way, the integrity of the postseason isn’t compromised, since the best teams of each division will be engaged in the traditional postseason while the teams that failed to cop a flag will join the tournament.

I’d like to hear your views on this change–whether it’s too radical for baseball or not–and the changes you would propose to make the postseason a more legitimate affair.  Certainly I am not the only person tired of teams with inferior records participating late in the postseason while the team’s that accumulated more wins are pushed out of the postseason because Lady Luck cares not for their team’s colors.

The king of the knuckleball fraternity has stepped down, relinquishing the title to R.A. Dickey.  Last year Wakefield joined the 200-Win Club and ends his career with an even 200 victories.  The veteran pitcher worked 19 years in the Major Leagues and amassed over 3,200 innings pitched.  A former All-Star, Tim spent all but two years of his big league career with the Boston Red Sox and rests high in many lifetime BoSox pitching stats.  Not a bad career for a failed first baseman.

Someday I’ll learn, but as for now, I’ve got a bit of the masochist in me.  My television seems to only visit Turner Classic Movies and MLB Network, but I tune into them with trepidation at times.  There are many nights when TCM plays films that don’t appeal to me, whether it be an actor I despise or some Orson Welles night on the channel.  The MLB Network also has its balls and strikes.  Granted, they don’t air films by big-man Orson, but they have a limited concept of history.  The fellows on that station liberally toss around the statement “greatest so-and-so in baseball history,” not realizing that baseball history dates back to 1871.  Their Prime 9 episodes, which list the nine best right fielders, or catchers, or whatever, often showcase a jaundiced judgment, but to their defense, they begin those shows by claiming their list is simply a list to incite argument–it is not a list etched in stone by masters of analysis.  I can stomach these shows, to an extent, but last night’s hour-long show, Top 40 Non-Hall of Famers, was a travesty by all accounts.

I will leave it to myself to inform the folks at MLB Network that baseball had operated before World War II.  Last night’s show showed unabashed ignorance, for every player they introduced starred in baseball after the war.  Those individuals who actually follow baseball–who undertsand that the game didn’t begin when Jackie Robinson broke the color line, but flourished well before, in the Majors and the Negro Leagues–could find little satisfaction in MLB Network’s latest showcase of their inability to dig into the game’s past.  If they really focused on baseball history, rather than their concept of history, they’d know about players like Jim McCormick, Buddy Myer, Cecil Travis, Jimmy Ryan, Bob Caruthers, Dick Redding, Lave Cross, and many more, who should have been featured in their show over such “notables” (and I use the term loosely) like Mark Grace, Maury Wills and Jimmy Wynn–three men who made their Top 40 but wouldn’t make my Top 100.

I’ll run down their Top 40 list, in case you missed it last night, and give my insight into their thought process.

Number 40 was former Yankees slugger Roger Maris.  I am a huge fan of Maris but find it difficult to put him in the Hall of Fame.  Although he excelled at the Major League level, he excelled for a short time, and a couple great seasons does not a Hall of Famer make.  Number 39 was Mark Grace, a fine ballplayer who owned a solid bat, but he wasn’t even in the Top 5 players at his position during his heyday and therefore a very feeble selection for their show.  Coming in at 38 was Fred McGriff, a player I always respected but who often got lost in the shuffle of sluggers.  He came close to 500 homeruns and rarely was a leader in any major offensive category.  Fred could play for my team any day, but I can’t accept him as a Hall of Famer.

Coming in at 37 was Harold Baines, who failed to get 5% of the vote last year and was thus removed from the ballot.  Harold was a good, consistent hitter but never a league leader in anything but slugging percnetage–which he won once.  His 2,866 career hits may get him in some day, but it won’t be anytime soon.  In the 36th spot was Bobby Grich, a gifted defender who also had fine power for a second baseman.  Grich is underrated but not quite Hall material.  There are much better second basemen from the game’s past, like Buddy Myer and Larry Doyle, who should be named well ahead of Grich.  Bill Freehan, the former Tigers catcher came in 35th.  For a man who appeared in so many All-Star Games it seems unusual that he hasn’t had any support for the Hall.  He’s underrated but doesn’t fit in well with the Bench, Fisk, Carter, Ted Simmons group.  One of their worst selections was Jimmy Wynn, their 34th pick.  As a die-hard Astros fan I like Wynn a lot but I’m not delusional enough to make a strong case for the Toy Cannon for the Hall of Fame.  He had the tools but never did really put it together.  He was an inconsistent, low-average hitter who could sock homers and steal bases.  He also drew plenty walks but like Bobby Bonds he whiffed too much.  Wynn has no business on a Top 40 list.  Vada Pinson was better as were older center fielders like Dom DiMaggio, George Van Haltren and Jimmy Ryan.

Following Wynn on their list was Texas slugger Juan Gonzalez.  Juan Gone received less than 5% of the vote this year, which removed his name from the ballot.  Juan was one of the most fearsome hitters in baseball during his prime, but he was oft-injured.  He falls into that Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, Roger Maris bracket of players that flourished for a time but couldn’t sustain their high level of success for a decent amount of time.  32nd was Dave Concepcion.  A steady defender with a little bit of offense, Dave was a solid shortstop.  However, to claim that he is more worthy of the Hall than older shortstops like Bill Dahlen, Vern Stephens, Ed McKean, Dick Bartell and Cecil Travis, is erronous.  In the 31st spot was Albert Belle.  Accept it or not, character plays an important part in Hall of Fame election and Belle was, simply put, an asshole.  Like Juan Gone, Belle was a fearsome slugger who battled health issues.  Neither belongs in the Hall of Fame.  In the 30th spot came one of my all-time favories: Buck O’Neil.  The former Negro League legend doesn’t stand a chance as a player–he was a good first baseman but even by his admission, wouldn’t have played in the Majors.  He didn’t hit for enough thunder to push guys like Mize, Gehrig, Greenberg and Dolph Camilli to the side.  His best chance is as an ambassador or as a Negro League skipper.  He managed the Monarchs to a handful of pennants and was a fixture in the Negro League All-Star Games as a manager.

On into the twenties we go.  Their 29th pick was one of their worst in Maury “One Trick Pony” Wills.  Unlike mashers McGwire, Jackson and Killebrew, Wills’ one-trick was speed… but he didn’t use it well.  Wills may have been a speed merchant but he had no idea how to get on base.  His OBP was always low and the man had no slugging percentage which made his slash lines as bare as Shannon Tweed’s torso in most her flicks.  Maury may have led the league six times in stolen bases but he topped the league more in getting caught.  Wills is the worst player in MLB Network’s list.  Shortstops like Dick Bartell, Cecil Travis, Dick Lundy, Ed McKean, Bill Dahlen, Vern Stephens and Jack Glasscock, to name a few, were far superior players to Maury.  If he ever makes the Hall of Fame it will GREATLY dilute Cooperstown.

Their 28th pick was one of the few underrated New York Yankees: Ron Guidry.  Gator was a great pitcher but most people regard him as a one-year senstation.  Ron had a very good career, but 1978 he was in another galaxy.  Since he never could duplicate that season, people unjustly judge Gator as a flash-in-the-pan pitcher.  He was very good, but his 170 career wins may be too light for Cooperstown.  Following Gator was Dave Parker in the 27th slot.  Parker was a beast, who, like Luis Tiant, suffered greatly mid career and his numbers fell off a cliff.  Had Dave been a consistent player throughout his career, there’s little debate on whether or not he’d be in the Hall.  But his mid career hiccup has greatly diminished his chances for Cooperstown.

Another in the bracket of players who excelled for a short window is Tony Oliva; MLB Network’s #26 man.  Tony was a great hitter who won some batting titles, but like Maris, a position peer, that window is just too small for the Hall of Fame.  When you stack up Maris and Oliva to their enshrined position peers (Aaron, Clemente, Kaline and Frank Robinson–all men with at least 2,900 career hits) you’ll understand why Roger and Tony, who didn’t even reach 2,000 career safeties, have gone begging.  After Oliva came a personal favorite in Will “The Thrill” Clark. Will was a gifted player, the silent, workman-like type, but he doesn’t distance himself from his first base peers the way Bagwell and Frank Thomas do.  Like McGriff, Clark can play for me anyday, but the Hall of Fame seems a stretch.

Larry Walker came in 24th on their list and has seen decent support since making his way to the ballot last year.  The big knock against Larry are his Coors Field splits.  He was a baseball god at Coors Field but just a good, solid player on the road.  Walker benefited from playing in Coors about as much as Jimmy Wynn was hampered by playing the bulk of his career in the Astrodome.  Lou Whitaker was 23nd.  Coming in 22nd was Tommy John and his 288 career wins.  John was a fine pitcher but never a dominating one in an era of high strikeout pitchers.  The man never had a 200 strikeout season–he never even whiffed 150 in a single season–when the best pitchers of the day were sitting down batters on strikes left and right.  Tommy John was an innings-eater, nothing more.  He is not as good as Ryan or Blyleven or any pitcher of his era enshrined.

The most unique player on their Top 40 list was Edgar Martinez.  Edgar is without question the best DH in baseball history, but as my father would say, “Biggus Dealus Maximus.”  Baseball can be broken up into three parts: pitching, hitting and defense.  A player should participate in two-thirds of the game.  Edgar Martinez took part in just a third of the game.  I’ll never vote for a DH–even one as good as Edgar Martinez.  On into the teens, MLB Network got a little carried away with first basemen.  They inflated the merits of Keith Hernandez, a better version of Mark Grace, by placing him in the 20th spot.  Like Ron Guidry, Keith had one monster year and then played fine baseball the rest of his days.  Like Grace, Keith didn’t have power yet played a power position, but Keith didn’t have near the plate discipline of the Cubs star.  Keith wasn’t that great of a run producer either: he had one 100-RBI season and two 100 runs scored seasons.  Hernandez wouldn’t have made my Top 40 but MLB Network went overboard lauding Keith–they claimed he was the greatest defensive first baseman ever (again, their concept of history is laughable).  Keith was an exceptional first basemen, but old timers like Fred Tenney and Stuffy McInnis were just as good if not better.  Hernandez had a fielding percentage two points higher than the average first baseman of his day–McInnis’ fielding percentage was five points higher.

Donnie Baseball came in 19th.  Mattingly excelled for a few years which isn’t what one should look for in a Hall of Famer.  Yes, Hack Wilson is in the Hall of Fame for the massive RBI totals he produced in a short time span, but Wilson is a mistake and his enhrinement shouldn’t be used as a measure for other small window players.  The underrated Gil Hodges was placed in the 18th spot.  Hodges was a great first baseman, one of the best of his time, which makes his case stronger than Grace, McGwire, McGriff and Clark, who had more star caliber peers than Gil.  Although he was one of the best first basemen of his time, he has a bit too much of the Baines in him, meaning he was often among the leaders but never was a leader in anything.  His RBI totals–he had seven straight 100-RBI seasons–may carry him to Cooperstown some day and it wouldn’t dilute Cooperstown like it would should Maury Wills make the Hall of Fame.

Another first baseman came after Hodges in the form of Steve Garvey.  Pretty-boy Steve is an underrated ballplayer who had an eye-popping six 200-hit seasons.  But Garvey was also the type of guy who never saw a pitch he didn’t like–his OBP was often slightly higher than his batting average because he didn’t walk much.  He was good and I could see myself voting for him some day.  Following Garvey was Rafael Palmeiro, he of 3,000 hits and 500 homeruns (what used to be Hall of Fame benchmarks).  But he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and his stock fell off a cliff–more so for his immature way of dealing with the situation.  The little support Rafy has received means guys like Bonds and Clemens will probably see little support from the writers as well.

A legit Hall of Famer, Dwight Evans came in 15th on their list.  Good job MLB Network, but answer me this: how can you slot guys like McGwire, Dick Allen, Jim Kaat and Dale Murphy ahead of him?  He was better than all of them.  Coming in 14th, ahead of Evans, was Joe Torre.  A strong Hall of Fame candidate, had Torre played one set position his entire career, he’d probably already be in the Hall… but it’s a mute issue.  Joe will make the Hall of Fame as a manager–you can take that to the bank!  After Torre came the under-appreciated Ken Boyer.  I have already written about Kenny and would put him in the Hall.  Now that Ron Santo is in the Hall of Fame, Ken Boyer’s chances are magnified greatly.  Dale Murphy, somehow, came in ahead of Boyer and Dwight Evans.  Murphy, at his peak, was a better player than Dwight, but Dale’s peak lasted about as long as the typical Hollywood marriage.  Dale was washed up by the age of 32 and embarrased himself for several years by hanging on way too long.  Dale was great when he was at his peak, but terrible when he began to decline.  Luis Tiant, the flamboyant Cuban pitching ace, came in 11th.  Tiant was a good pitcher but he was so bad mid-career that he was banished to the minors.  An inconsistent hurler is worse than an inconsistent hitter.  A hitter plays everyday, hence more chances to cure his hiccups; a starting pitcher goes every fifth day.  Tiant is a fringe Hall of Famer.  There are better picthers from Tiant’s time not in the Hall–Mickey Lolich is one, believe it or not.

And now the Top 10.  Jim Kaat, who I assumed, going into the program, might be their choice for #1, was in fact slotted in at # 10.  Jim Kaat is not a Hall of Fame pitcher, folks.  He is nothing more than the Rusty Staub of pitching; meaning he played for a million years and accumulated his lofty career stats through longevity and not greatness.  Kaat never led the league in ERA or strikeouts, or WHIP or winning percnatge.  He did, however, lead the league four times in hits surrendered.  When someone tells you that Jim Kaat, he who averaged eleven wins a season, is Hall of Fame material, you know that they have only given his stats a cursory glance.  The Gold Gloves are Kaat’s best chance for Cooperstown–not anything he did squaring off against a batter.

Number 9 is Dick Allen.  See the comment on Albert Belle.  Coming in 8th is Ted Simmons, who might be my number one guy on my Top 40 List.  He’d have to slug it out with Bagwell, Dahlen and Jim McCormick for that title though.  Ted Simmons belongs in the Hall of Fame.  Coming in seventh was Alan Trammell.  Since Barry Larkin was his clone, Alan’s case for the Hall of Fame has been boosted significantly after Barry’s induction this year.  Since Larkin is in the Hall of Fame, there is little reason keeping Alan out–unless you view Larkin’s induction as a mistake.  Big Lee Smith was 6th on their list.  Lee had better make it in directly or he’ll never get a whiff of induction.  With better closers like Wagner, Hoffman and Rivera (if he ever retires) making their way to the ballot, Smith, all of a sudden, won’t look too good.

The Top 5 starts with Jeff Bagwell, one of the greatest offensive threats in baseball history.  He should have topped this list.  His complete package is better than anyone listed ahead of him.  Minnie Minoso, who I really like and feel half tempted to say belongs in the Hall of Fame, came in fourth on the list.  His induction would be a solid one.  One must remember, with Minnie, that his debut came later than it should have given the color of his skin.  Minoso is about as good of a model one can ask for when seeking a model for the five-tool ballplayer.  MLB Network made a bonehead move by slotting Mark McGwire into the third slot.  Travel through this blog and gander at the latest post about Bagwell–he was ten times better than Big Mac.  All McGwire did was hit homeruns–nothing more.  Mark McGwire wasn’t a good baseball player; he was a power hitter, the Killebrew of his time.  Big Mac wouldn’t have made my Top 40, much less my Top 3.

The top two spots went to Jack Morris (2) and Tim Raines (1).  One is overrated, the other underrated.  Jack Morris’ ERA is as swollen as an expectant mother’s belly on her last visit to the maternity ward.  The attraction to Morris is that he has more wins than any other pitcher of the 1980s.  This doesn’t mean he was the best pitcher of the 1980s–Orel Hershiser, for one, was better.  Jack had a rather poor, for his time, strikeout-to-walk ratio.  His was a ho-hum 1.78 to 1.  Hershiser, on the other hand, had a better 2-to-1 mark.  Jack’s 3.90 ERA would have been fine had he pitched in the 1920s or 1930s, when offense was in full bloom, but is weak for the 1980s.  Hershiser, by contrast, had a career 3.48 ERA.  Bret Saberhagen, another pitcher from the 1980s, superior to Morris, had a career 3.34 ERA with a strikeout-to-walk ratio well ahead of Morris and Hershiser at 3.64 to 1.  Rick Reuschel exceeds Morris in these two very important categories as well.  Morris is a terrible choice for the number 2 slot–he’d slide in better at 40.

Tim Raines, had he not spent his prime years in the obscurity of Montreal, would probably be a Hall of Famer.  He was, essentially, a poor man’s Rickey Henderson.  Rock Raines is a strong Hall of Fame candidate, but he is hardly the best player not currently enshrined.  Jeff Bagwell would have made a much better # 1 than Raines.  Tim’s career WAR is 64.6–well below Baggy’s 79.9.  Among players not yet enshrined, but eligible for the Hall of Fame, Raines ranks behind Bagwell (tops among non-enshrined players), Bill Dahlen (the best shortstop not enshrined), Bob Caruthers, Lou Whitaker, Tony Mullane, Bobby Grich, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Rafael Palmeiro and Rick Reuschel.  Is Tim Raines the best player not in the Hall of Fame?  Not by a long shot!

My grade for MLB Network’s Top 40 Non-Hall of Famers: D+ (your hearts are in the right place, fellows, but you really need to do your homework).

After the votes were counted and the dust cleared from the number-crunching, the name of Barry Larkin was the only sent home.  The former All-Star shortstop of the Cincinnati Reds collected 86.4% of the vote.  Congratulations to Mr. Larkin on this most hallowed of achievements. 

Listed below are the percentage totals racked up by each player on the writer’s ballot.  Given that the Veteran’s Committee elected former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, Barry won’t go into Cooperstown alone.  No other player on the writer’s ballot received 75% of the vote–the necessary total for induction–as Jack Morris, former Tigers ace, came in second in voting with 66.7%.  The list that follows give the player’s percentage received by the writers beside the prediction I made for each player last month in parenthesis.

Barry Larkin 86.4(70.5%), Jack Morris 66.7 (57.7%), Jeff Bagwell 56.0 (58.2%), Lee Smith 50.6 (49%), Tim Raines 48.7 (41.4%), Alan Trammell 36.8 (26.8%), Edgar Martinez 36.5 (38.6%), Fred McGriff 23.9 (22.2%), Larry Walker 22.9 (25%), Mark GcGwire 19.5 (21.8%), Don Mattingly 17.8 (15.1%), Dale Murphy 14.5 (14.4%), Rafael Palmeiro 12.6 (19.3%), Bernie Williams 9.6 (18.8%), Juan Gonzalez 4.0 (6.2%), Vinny Castilla 1.0 (3.6%), Tim Salmon 0.9 (2.6%), Bill Mueller 0.7 (0.7%), Brad Radke 0.3 (0.2%), Javy Lopez 0.2 (3.8%), Eric Young 0.2 (0.2%), Ruben Sierra 0.0 (0.7%), Brian Jordan 0.0 (0.2%), Terry Mulholland 0.0 (0.2%), Jeromy Burnitz 0.0 (0.0%), Phil Nevin 0.0 (0.0%) and Tony Womack 0.0 (0.0%)

There were a number of shockers for me in this year’s ballot.  I expected, given the lack of star-caliber first-timers on the ballot, that many of the players would see a boost in their percentages.  This happened to many but others either fell off a tad or didn’t quite get the support I figured they would.  Larkin’s 86% seems a bit too excessive, but since his company on the ballot was rather weak, it was his year to make it.  Although Larkin was a terrific player, the writers should not have elevated him to 86% simply because the company he kept on the ballot was suspect.  When the voters do that, they in essence dilute the Hall of Fame, electing the loftiest player among a group of stars, not because he is worthy of any accolade but because he is perceived as better than the rest.  Had Barry had to compete with the likes of Biggio, Piazza, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Schilling, like the holdovers will next year, Larkin almost certainly wouldn’t have netted 80% of the vote and probably not the 75% needed for enshrinement.

Another shock was the steep ascent of Jack Morris.  Jack was a good pitcher, noted more for his big game performances than anything else, who was a solid innings-eater but hardly a dominating pitcher.  The strongest case for Morris is that he won the most games of any pitcher during the 1980s–every other decade leader is in the Hall of Fame.  But if Morris should make the Hall of Fame, his ERA will be the highest of all enshrined.  Although Morris racked up innings, he pales in comparison to some names that will make the ballot in upcoming years–true Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens (at least the numbers).  Morris isn’t in their class–not by a long shot.

Jeff Bagwell saw his support spike, as well it should.  He was the greatest all-round first baseman of his time, which is saying a lot.  He played in the rock-’em-sock-’em 1990s and had such stars as Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro to contend with.  The 1990s is easily the best decade in the game’s history as far as star-caliber first basemen are concerned and Baggy was the cream of the crop.  Not only could he slug on par with his peers, but he was also swift, fielded his position well and was an exemplary sportsman.  He will make the Hall of Fame eventually.

I was expecting support for Bernie Williams and a lesser jump in percentage for Alan Trammell, but the reverse was true.  Now that Barry Larkin is in the Hall of Fame, there seems to be little reason to keep Trammell out.  The two played the same position and their career numbers are in quite close proximity in all regards.  Also, both men led their team’s to World Championships and did, unfortunately for them, spend an ample amount of time on the DL later in their careers.  The two shortstops are really quite comparable.  No rational person can justify why Larkin received 86% of the vote while Trammell, almost his equal, netted under 40%.  Bernie has always been sort of an unsung Yankee, shadowed by Jeter, Posada and Rivera.  He was a fine player and I expect him to remain on the ballot but never make the Hall of Fame, lest the Veteran’s Committee elects him in in 2048.

Some players my estimations were rather close.  Lee Smith and Bagwell received about the same support I imagined they would get, as did Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff.  Tim Raines, a well-rounded talent, shot up a little higher than I expected, as did Mattingly, but Palmeiro and McGwire didn’t see the slight raises I envisioned for them–the steroid cloud will linger.  My prediction for Dale Murphy was 0.1 percentage points off and I thought that Juan Gonzalez would see enough support this year, given a weak freshman class, to be retained for the 2013 ballot, and then be knocked off that year, but the former Rangers slugger was removed from the ballot this year with an under 5% showing.  As I expected, Bernie Williams was the only first-timer to get the required 5% to remain on the ballot, so the other first-timer’s names will not be seen on the 2013 ballot.

Barry Larkin (70.5%), Jeff Bagwell (58.2%), Jack Morris (57.7%), Lee Smith (49%), Tim Raines (41.4%), Edgar Martinez (38.6%), Alan Trammell (26.8%), Larry Walker (25%), Fred McGriff (22.2%), Mark McGwire (21.8%), Rafael Palmeiro (19.3%), Bernie Williams (18.8%), Dave Parker (17.1%), Don Mattingly (15.1%), Dale Murphy (14.4%), Juan Gonzalez (6.2%), Javy Lopez (3.8%), Vinny Castilla (3.6%), Tim Salmon (2.6%), Bill Mueller (0.7%), Ruben Sierra (0.7%), Brad Radke (0.2%), Brian Jordan (0.2%), Terry Mulholland (0.2%), Joe Randa (0.2%), Eric Young (0.2%), Edgardo Alfonzo, Pedro Astacio, David Bell, Jeromy Burnitz, Scott Erickson, Carl Everett, Jeff Fassero, Alex S. Gonzalez, Danny Graves, Rick Helling, Dustin Hermanson, Jose Hernandez, Matt Lawton, Jeff Nelson, Phil Nevin and Jose Vizcaino (0%)

If my predictions are right, there won’t be a single former player inducted by the Baseball Writer’s next year.  The Veteran’s Committee might elect Ron Santo and there’s a chance Buzzie Bavasi, Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso could get support, but I really only see Santo and Bavasi as strong contenders. 

Getting my vote, if I had one to submit, on the BBWAA ballot would be Jeff Bagwell and that’s it.  I see too many parallels between Larkin and Trammell–Barry outhit Trammell for average but their career numbers are quite close.  Why has Barry received so much support while Trammell has received so little?  I do, however, see many holdovers jumping up a bit in voting.  I think Bagwell will see a significant rise in his total but still fail to see him make the HOF next year.  Both Larkin and Jack Morris should rise with this extremely weak freshman crop, of which Bernie Williams looks to be the only holdover for 2013.  Juan Gonzalez might be the only holdover from last year to get bumped off the list, ala Harold Baines of last year, but the weak crop should benefit him–next year he might get shuttled off the ballot with a strong freshman class headed by Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Kenny Lofton and Steve Finley.

Next month the Veteran’s Committee will submit their votes after weighing the merits of ten selected former ballplayers and executives.  Their focus is on player’s whose careers came after the end of World War II.  The ten names they must analyze are as follows: Buzzie Bavasi, former Dodgers GM from 1951 to 1967, Ken Boyer, seven-time All-Star third baseman for the Cardinals, Charlie Finley, eccentric owner of the Oakland A’s, Gil Hodges, former slugger of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jim Kaat, sixteen-time Gold Glove Award winner, Minnie Minoso, five-tool outfielder for the White Sox, Tony Oliva, three-time batting champ for the Twins, Allie Reynolds, flamethrower for the post WWII powerhouse Yankees, Ron Santo, longtime star third baseman and broadcaster for the Cubs, and Luis Tiant, hero of the 1975 World Series.

This group of former baseball legends is quite an interesting crop and all should garner their share of support.  Buzzie Bavasi was at the helm of the Dodgers during some of their glory years but was also the man in charge when they left Brooklyn and thus has many enemies, albeit fewer than Walter O’Malley–the team owner.  Ken Boyer will undoubtedly receive less attention than position peer Ron Santo because Boyer has been deceased for thirty years while Santo’s memory is yet fresh.  But if Santo should make the Hall of Fame, which there is a distinct possibility, than Boyer should follow on his heels. 

I can’t see Charlie Finley getting much support because he was hated by many in the game.  Unlike Bill Veeck, whose antics were rather tame if not over the top, Finley seemed to make the game less professional and more a spectacle.  His animal farm in Kansas City and bonuses to players for growing facial fuzz is his legacy.  Jim Kaat has had some support of late but his career totals, impressive to the untrained eye, lose their luster when they focus on them.  Kaat was hardly a dominating pitcher–he accumulated his stats through longevity and not stardom.  Kaat, although the greatest defender at his position during his day, is simply the Rusty Staub of pitching–fairly lofty career numbers which are misleading.  He won 283 games but pitched 25 years, which means he barely averaged more than eleven wins a season.

Minnie Minoso was a very good player.  A well-rounded talent, Minnie could do almost anything on the diamond.  He had speed and power and was a fearless defender.  Also, his love for the game was unmatched.  He played in the 1970s and even took the field in his fifties for a game in the 1980s.  Tony Oliva will get some support but he has a massive wall to climb, much like position peer Roger Maris.  Both Oliva and Maris were star right fielders during the 1960s but when one compares them to Hall of Fame inducted right fielders of their day, both Tony and Roger look quite skimpy.  Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline and Hank Aaron all reached 3,000 career hits while Frank Robinson came within 100 of that total as well.  As for Oliva and Maris, they couldn’t tally 2,000 career hits because of injury.

The following two names will probably see the less support of the group.  Allie Reynolds was a good pitcher who didn’t reach 200 career wins and unlike other pitchers with 180-195 wins of his day–think Tommy Bridges, Larry French and Lon Warneke–Reynolds didn’t serve during World War II but played through the fighting.  As for Tiant, he was a good pitcher but his career had a rather noticeable hiccup mid-course.  Luis started strong but was so bad in the middle of his career he was removed from the Majors for a time. 

The two strongest candidates are clearly former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who recently passed away and former Dodger slugger Gil Hodges, one of the greatest run producers of the 1950s.  Santo was a great defender who also possessed good power and had terrific on-base percentages–something modern fans value more than the old-timers.  Hodges was the nucleus of those great postwar Dodgers teams.  Although originally a catcher, Gil became a very good first baseman–reliable and sharp. 

Of the ten, I’ll make a grade sheet based on my assumptions of their chances for induction.  Buzzie Bavasi (B), Ken Boyer (D+), Charlie Finley (C-), Gil Hodges (B+), Jim Kaat (C+), Minnie Minoso (C-), Tony Oliva (C), Allie Reynolds (D+) Ron Santo (A-), and Luis Tiant (D)

It wouldn’t shock me if nobody gets enshrined from this class since the Veteran’s Committee, although way too liberal with their votes in the past, have become quite averse to issuing a yay vote of late.  The three that might make it in are Santo, Hodges and Bavasi while there is a glimmer of hope for Kaat and maybe Charlie Finley and Tony Oliva.  Personally, I’m inclined to vote for Hodges–the more I look at Gil’s record the more I like him.  He also gets extra credit points for managing the Miracle Mets of 1969 to a World Series championship.  I’m on the fence with Buzzie Bavasi and Ron Santo.  If I give Santo the go-ahead, then I’d be inclined to also vote for Boyer.  Minnie Minoso was a great player and I’d give him serious consideration but everyone else I would pass over for reasons explained above.  Kaat wasn’t a dominant pitcher, Oliva’s HOF peers have much higher numbers than him, Allie Reynolds, although a good pitcher, benefitted from playing with the Yankees and Tiant’s mid-career swoon isn’t indicative of someone who mastered the highest level.