Wednesday, January 5, 2011
My Baseball Hall of Fame Picks for 2011
Let me start with the 2 guys who are generally considered the favorites in this election:
Bert Blyleven: Yes. He was 3rd all-time in strikeouts at the time he retired. He won 287 games despite pitching all of his career in the Lowered Mound Era (1969-onward) and most of his career for the Twins, Rangers and Angels. He should have been in years ago.
Roberto Alomar: No. This is not about the spitting incident. Nor is this about him getting in the Yankees' way with the Blue Jays, Orioles and Yankees. Nor is this about him playing for the Mets. Well, actually, it is: As a Met, he did not put up the 2 or 3 more good years he needed to get in. But it's not about the mere fact that he WAS a Met. After all, I supported Carter's election.
Now, here's the ones who are not favored to get in this time:
Tim Raines: Yes. As another blogger (I've forgotten who) pointed out, stop comparing him to Rickey Henderson, because, by that standard, a lot of guys who've been in for years shouldn't be in. Raines was the best leadoff hitter in the history of the National League. He had a 123 OPS+. Among NLers who played in the 20th Century, only Lou Brock has more stolen bases; among all major leaguers ever, only Henderson, Ty Cobb Brock and 19th Century star Billy Hamilton do. And he reached the postseason with the Expos and White Sox, 2 franchises that hardly ever did. (In fact, the Expos/Nationals franchise has never made the postseason except that one time, when Raines was NL Rookie of the Year.) Oh yeah, he also won 2 World Series with the Yankees (1996 & '98), and by no means was he just along for the ride: He batted .284 and .290 in those seasons, ages 36 and 38, and in between he batted .321.
Jack Morris: Yes. The winningest pitcher of the 1980s. A man who helped 3 different teams win World Series (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins and 1992 Blue Jays) -- and almost became the first and only man to do it for 4 (but the 1995 Indians fell 2 games short). A winner.
Barry Larkin: Yes. The greatest Cincinnati Red of the last 35 years, as fine a shortstop as there was in his era (better all-around player, if not better defensively, than Ozzie Smith), and a class act. The Reds did not reach the postseason without him between 1979 and 2009; with him, they won the 1990 World Series, reached the 1995 NLCS and got to "a playoff for the playoffs" in 1999. 1995 NL MVP.
Fred McGriff: Yes. He's never been seriously (or even unseriously, that I know of) accused of using steroids, yet he fell just short of 500 home runs -- he hit 493, the same number as Lou Gehrig, although Gehrig had many more qualifications. McGriff may be the test case of whether 500 homers is still a "magic number." It would be unfortunate if he didn't get in. Why should he have to pay for the sins of others? The guy had a 134 OPS+ without steroids. His 493 home runs were accompanied by 441 doubles. He played on 5 postseason teams, including the 1995 World Champion Braves. And there's never been a hint of scandal to him -- unless you count the Yankees trading him for Dale Murray, and McGriff was just 19, so who knew that he would become (at least) a near-HOFer? (Or that Murray was hurt and would do nothing after the trade.)
Harold Baines: Yes. Here's a list of everybody not in the Hall who has more career hits than Baines' 2,866: Pete Rose, Craig Biggio, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds and Derek Jeter. Biggio, Bonds and Jeter have not yet been retired for a full 5 seasons, and are thus not yet eligible. Palmeiro becomes eligible today -- I'll get to him in a minute. Rose has been declared ineligible. Baines was a great hitter and a winner. There is no known reason to keep him out.
John Franco: Yes. He is still the all-time saves leader among lefthanders. True, Billy Wagner has a pretty good shot at passing him this year, but does anybody really believe Wagner was a better reliever than Franco? He is also the only Met pitcher in the last 25 years to win a World Series game.
Jeff Bagwell: Yes. The guy had a 149 career OPS+. He put up seasonal OPS's of 139, 135, 144, 213, 142, 178, 168, 158 and 162... all while playing his home games in the Astrodome, before moving into Minute Maid Park, formerly named Enron Field and nicknamed "Ten Run Field." The guy batted .368 in 1994. As a right-handed hitter. In the Astrodome. He also had 39 homers and 116 RBIs that year -- and that was in a strike year: Over a full season, while he probably wouldn't have maintained the .368, the power numbers would have come out to at least 50 homers and 140 RBIs. As a right-handed hitter. In the Astrodome. He was a Rookie of the Year, and won an MVP and just missed 2 others. He is the greatest hitter in Astro history. He belongs in Cooperstown.
Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker: Yes. Separately, neither one is quite deserving. But they put in Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance together, and if you count only their playing (Chance was a great manager), none of them quite deserved it. Elect Trammaker!
Edgar Martinez: No. On the one hand, I support the designated hitter. On the other hand, while NOT being a bad defensive player for most of your career (get well, Harmon Killebrew) doesn't hurt him, not being a defensive player AT ALL for most of his career doesn't help. And since he played most of his home games in the hitting-happy Kingdome, I can't really say he belongs. However, I think he's a close enough call that I could be talked into changing my mind. And if he does get in before I change my mind, I won't be upset about it.
Larry Walker: No. Another close call that I could be talked into. The main mark against him is that his home park was homer-happy Coors Field. True, but, before that, his home park was the Montreal Olympic Stadium, which wasn't exactly a hitter's haven. Surely that needs to be counted in his favor. It finally was for Andre Dawson last year, and for Gary Carter a few years before that. It should be counted for Raines this year. You could even use a bad park in Montreal (the Big O's predecessor, Jarry Park) to make a case for Rusty Staub (who also played home games at hitter's parks Tiger Stadium and Arlington Stadium, but also at pitcher's parks like the Astrodome and Shea Stadium).
Lee Smith: No. The best argument for him, that he was the all-time saves leader, is no longer true. There are only 4 relievers in the Hall, so there's not yet a definitive number of saves where we can say, "Everybody who has this many is in, so that's how many you need." And in the case of the 4 who are in -- (Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage -- there was a time when we could say that each was THE best reliever in the game (even though the last 3 were contemporaries, they did sort of rotate in the title). I doubt that there was every a season in which the average fan could say, "I'd rather have Lee Smith than any other relief pitcher in the game."
Rafael Palmeiro: No. He cheated. And he lied about it, under oath. And he knows that we know that he cheated and he lied about it. How much of a difference his cheating made is not clear, but, chances are, he would not have joined Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only men with 500 homers and 3,000 hits without it.
Mark McGwire: No. He cheated. He has now admitted it. And, unlike Bonds (caught), Palmeiro (caught), Alex Rodriguez (caught) and Roger Clemens (suspected), he never would have put up Hall-worthy numbered if he hadn't done something that should be (and, in his case, has been thus far) Hall-disqualifying.
Juan Gonazlez: No. He cheated. And he doesn't have the stats and winning anyway.
Don Mattingly: No. Injuries prevented him from building up the necessary career stats. That's the reason -- not any "loser" or "curse" status I may imagine to hover over him and any team with which he's associated. He just didn't have the career stats, and he didn't have the winning to boost his chances.
Dave Parker: No. From ages 24 to 28, he was one of the best players in baseball, a fearsome hitter with a deadly-accurate right field right arm. From 33 to 39, he was a fine-hitting veteran. If he had kept up either of those paces from 29 to 32, he'd have a .300 lifetime batting average, well over 400 home runs, and possibly 3,000 hits. Kids, the reason Dave Parker will never be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame is that he used drugs. In his case, cocaine. Today, he is clean, and owns several Popeye's restaurants in and around his native Cincinnati. He should be applauded for the way he turned his life and baseball career around. But at the time when he should have been putting up the biggest numbers of his career, he was putting them not up on the scoreboard, but up his nose.
Al Leiter, Tino Martinez, Dale Murphy, John Olerud: No. These guys are well-liked, but they fall a little short of the Hall.
Carlos Baerga, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Raul Mondesi, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, B.J. Surhoff: No. On the ballot, but just not good enough.
UPDATE: Blyleven and Alomar were elected. So was Pat Gillick, as an executive. Barry Larkin was elected in 2012. Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell were elected in 2017. The rest are still waiting.