A class of one?

I used to write an annual commentary about each year’s Hall of Fame ballot on another blog, but since that blog no longer exists, here it is.

With the New Years festivities beginning to recede in the rear view mirror and with it the winding down of (college) football season, it is once again that time of year, the annual announcement of this year’s enshrinees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. So without further ado, here is my commentary on this year’s candidates.

I’ve divided the candidates into five categories:


Rickey Henderson-Rickey will always remember his record-breaking season back in 1982, when he stole 130 bases. Rickey would get on base usually by walk, with that trademark extreme crouch that made him look like he was sitting in an ottoman chair.  The pitcher would throw 2, even 3 pitchouts to the next hitter (usually Wayne Gross or Dwayne Murphy), and Rickey would just stand at first. Then finally, when the pitcher had no choice but to get it in there, Rickey would take off and steal second. Whether there was no throw or whether it was a bang-bang play, he always slid in headfirst and got his uniform nice and dirty.  This was of course when Rickey was not leading off the game with a home run. Rickey also played pretty good defense. Probably one of the all-time greatest left fielders.

Worthy, But Might Take A Few Years

Tim Raines-He didn’t hit as many home runs as Rickey Henderson, but he was otherwise the National League’s “diet Rickey”. Stole tons of bases, got on base, good batting average, good fielder. The only thing that prevents him from being a sure first-ballot selection was that he toiled for so many years in the baseball wasteland known as Montreal. I also remember in 2001 how in the last week of the season, the Orioles traded for him for the sole reason so that he could play with his son, who was a September call-up for the O’s. Classy move for a classy guy- With no other “duh” candidates this year, perhaps he’s got a shot at getting in right now.  If not, he should still do well and work his way up towards the 75% mark the next few years.

Bert Blyleven-Very good for a number of bad teams, however playing for those bad teams denied him the media brownie points he needed. Had he done the same things for the Yankees or Dodgers he’d probably already be in the Hall.

Alan Trammell: I think I say this about him every year, but it still remains true: When you look at his numbers and compare them to the shortstops of today, they don’t look all that eye-popping. But when you compare them with his peers during the ‘80s, there was no doubt that he and Cal Ripken were the best shortstops of that time. Plus, he was the face of the ’80s Detroit Tigers. At this point though, he’s basically treading water on the ballot and might need some love from the Veteran’s Committee in the distant future.

Jim Rice-Not great with the press, which really hurts his chances because he is a borderline case. Goes to show the adage “the toes you step on today might be attached to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.” He came so close though last year so good luck to him this year, in his last shot at getting over the hump.

Andre Dawson- He wanted to play for the Cubs so badly, he signed a blank contract. Now that’s old school. The GM filled in $500,000 and watched him win the MVP- one of the all time bargains in baseball history. Like Rice, he came pretty close also last year, but unlike Rice, has many more chances left.

Jack Morris- One of the dominant starting pitchers of the 80s. Had some great post-season moments too. A tough pitcher who you could count on when you had to win. His no-hitter was the first one I ever witnessed (via TV).

On The Fence

Tommy John- Wow, he pitched 26 seasons and got 288 wins. He reminds me of another very similar pitcher, Jim Kaat, who was also a lefty who pitched a long time. Unfortunately, Kaat didn’t get elected and now has to hope for a Veterans Committee selection. I am starting to suspect that Tommy John will have a similar fate.

Mark McGwire-Whether Big Mac will gets in really depends on how baseball decides how it’s going to treat the Steroids Era. If they just accept and acknowledge it and move on, then he’ll get in. If not, then he might need to wait awhile, mabye even for the Veterans Committee. No matter what, that home run race with Sammy Sosa was unforgettable.

Lee Smith-I remember when Trevor Hoffman broke Smith’s record for saves, the Onion had this funny headline: “Trevor Hoffman sets record for most times pitching only one inning in a game”. Which leads me to ask: Do closers belong in the Hall of Fame? I think perhaps just the “lights out, they’re bringing him in, you can go home now” closers. Lee was a tough but not sure if he was quite in that category.  Closers are getting their rep really only because they’re pitching the ninth inning. If somebody pitched the seventh or eighth innings just as well, would we even be discussing them?

Nice Career, But Not Quite

David Cone-could throw all his pitches from a variety of arm angles. He’s probabaly going to get more votes than he actually deserves because he played in New York so long. In his favor: a very sterling ERA. Against him: relatively not that many wins (194).

Harold Baines-The consumnate “professional hitter,” it’s probably a good thing he fell a few hits short of 3,000- otherwise it would have opened up the awkward discussion of whether DHs should belong in the HOF, and whether he would be the only person with 3000 hits to not be in the Hall . He probably also set the record for “most stints with the Baltimore Orioles” and “most times getting his uniform number un-retired by the Chicago White Sox”

Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Mo Vaughn: Awesome for a few years, but damn, they declined fast.

Mark Grace, Dave Parker: These guys should get some votes and stay on the ballot, but with no real chance of getting elected. I think Parker goes the full 15 ( this is his 12th or 13th year I think) and goes off the ballot,  while Gracie stays on for mabye a year or two and then drops off.

Matt Williams-He probably belongs in the category below, but because he’s the only Giant on the ballot I’m moving him up a notch. Probably the best fielding Giants third baseman I’ve seen. He did have a very good career, especially after flailing so helplessly at the curveball his first couple of years. As sad as it was to see him traded, it did turn out well for the Giants.

One Year, Mabye One Vote

Jay Bell-Solid SS for many many years, I just remember that he was with Pittsburgh in their division title years, then was the first shortstop for the Diamondbacks.

Ron Gant-Back in the late 80s when the Braves were in their dark period as one of the worst teams in baseball, Ron Gant emerged as one of their promising prospects. He actually came up as a second baseman, and had he stayed there, his hitting would have been good enough to have been at least one of the better home run hitting second baseman in recent memory. But as history transpired,  he struggled at 2B and was sent down all the way to A ball to learn outfield. It still got him a pretty solid career (over 300 home runs).

Jesse Orosco-If there was a hall of fame for “lefty one out guys” or “pitchers in their 40s” Orosco would be an instant inductee for both. But alas, no.

Dan Plesac-A closer for the first few years of his career, he then had a lengthy career as a middle reliever/setup man. I’m kind of surprised he actually made it onto the ballot. Classic “career was extended because he was a lefty” case. Would probably be a strong contender for the “lefty one out guy” HOF like Orosco.

Greg Vaughn-Had he been born 10 years earlier, he would have fit in perfectly on the Brewers as one of Harvey’s Wallbangers. Hit a lot of home runs, struck out a lot , low batting average.

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This post was written by Hank on January 7, 2009

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