Well, the Hall of Fame ballots have been tabulated, and the winners are…Andre Dawson?
So, of the 26 retired players who were on the ballot this time ’round, only Andre Dawson is a Hall of Famer. Hmmm. Interesting.
Most reasonable people were shocked to find out that Roberto Alomar fell just eight votes short of Hall induction. He was perhaps the most obvious HOF- worthy candidate on the ballot.
Dawson, on the other hand, could have ended up as a perennially oh-so-close candidate, a career to be retrieved, dusted off, and sneezed upon by the strange little people who live in the dark bowels of the HOF, and who call themselves, The Veterans Committee.
These Terry Gilliamesque creatures are never allowed to see daylight, are forced to read ancient copies of Baseball Digest by candlelight, and are startled by the strange, mechanical noises of modern technologies such as electric pencil sharpeners.
It appears that the Veterans Committee will have plenty of work to do for years to come, considering the results of Wednesday’s HOF balloting.
If I had a HOF ballot, here’s how I would have voted, and why.
1) Roberto Alomar – What does a ballplayer have to do to gain admittance into the HOF? Alomar was a complete ballplayer. He was a career .300 hitter who could hit with reasonable power (210 career homers.) He was a run producer, scoring just over 1,500 runs, and driving in over 1,100.
Baserunning? Check. He stole 474 bases with a career success rate of 80%. He also legged out 504 doubles and 80 triples.
Fielding? Check. He was one of the most graceful, acrobatic fielders of his time at any position, and he has ten gold gloves to prove it.
Intangibles? Check. He played on two World Champion Blue Jays teams, batting .313 in post-season play. He also finished in the top ten in MVP voting five times, and he made 12 All-Star teams. Add 2,724 hits and four Silver Slugger awards, and you have an obvious HOF career.
So why wasn’t he enshrined this time around? Well, it can only be due to the “spitting incident,” when he once spat on an umpire who called him out on a third strike pitch. It was a stupid, disgusting this to do. MLB handed him a suspension, he apologized, the umpire apologized, and that was the end of that.
Or apparently not. It seems obvious that at least a few baseball writers refused to vote for him based on this one isolated incident. Some have tried to connect this incident with the immoral behavior of those who have been accused of steroid use.
Here’s a reality check. Babe Ruth once punched out an umpire. Juan Marichal once tried to bash in the skull of Johnny Roseboro with a baseball bat. Tris Speaker was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Ty Cobb was, well, Ty Cobb. All of these men are enshrined in the HOF as Baseball Immortals. It is the height of hypocrisy to hold Alomar to a higher standard.
Roberto Alomar would have received my vote for the HOF.
2) Barry Larkin – Name a better overall N.L. shortstop who has played the position since 1970. You can’t because there hasn’t been one.
Larkin was the first shortstop of all time to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season. He hit over .300 in nine seasons. He stole 379 bases with a success rate of 83%. He was awarded nine Silver Slugger awards.
Larkin won three gold gloves while playing in the same era and in the same league as Ozzie Smith. Larkin was N.L. MVP in 1995. His career OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage) was .815, nearly identical to both Robbie Alomar and Joe Morgan. He played in twelve All-Star games.
Most importantly, Larkin broke the mold of what a shortstop could be. Like Alomar, he was a complete player. He was not the proto-typically good field, light-hitting shortstop with some speed that was the norm around baseball for at least a generation.
Ozzie Smith was a great fielder who made himself into a respectable hitter that could steal a base, but he did not wield a game-changing bat like Larkin. Ernie Banks was a slugger, but not a great fielder or a great base runner.
Larkin comprised a skill-set unlike most shortstops of his time, but one that soon became more common later on in the ’90’s with the arrival of A-Rod and Nomar Garciappara. Even Cal Ripkin, although a fine fielder, a team leader and a slugger, did not combine a skill-set as complete as Larkin’s.
It may take Larkin several years to make it into the HOF, but he would certainly receive my vote.
3) Bert Blyleven- If Bert Blyleven eventually makes it into the HOF, it will not be a travesty of justice. He won 287 games playing on lots of mediocre or poor teams. He struck out an impressive 3,701 hitters, 5th all-time. He tossed 60 shutouts. All excellent statistics.
But, he never won a Cy Young award in 22 seasons. He appeared in only two All-Star games. He is one of only ten pitchers in history to lose 250 games. And in 22 seasons, he won 17 or fewer games 20 times. He had one 20 win season, one 19 win season, and no 18 win seasons.
Guys that win about 16 games a season nearly every season, no matter how many years they pitch, are hard to describe as dominant.
Nor is his career ERA of3.31, mediocre in the era in which he pitched, an argument for enshrinement into the HOF. Even his huge career strikeout total looks somewhat less impressive when you see that he averaged only 6.7 K’s per nine innings, good for 115th all-time.
Most of all, when I was a kid growing up in the ’70’s, none of the kids I knew ever considered Blyleven a great pitcher. He was more of an oddity. Seaver, Carlton, Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Catfish Hunter, and a couple of others were the pitchers whose baseball cards we collected, and who we tried to emulate while playing in the streets and parking lots of Bridgeport, CT.
Bert Blyleven would not get my vote for the HOF.
4) Andre Dawson – I will simply say that I will not rain on his parade by judging his career now that he is in The Hall, although I believe a legitimate argument could be made one way or the other about his candidacy. The voters have spoken. Congratulations, Mr. Dawson.
5) Edgar Martinez – I love Edgar. Mariners fans love Edgar. They believe he is a HOF’er. I don’t.
I know about his career OPS. It is outstanding. But although OPS is a valuable statistic that helps us understand a player’s real value to a team, it is not a statistic that makes all other stats obsolete.
Runs scored, RBI’s, Home Runs, Batting Average, all have their inherent flaws. But each of these stats also provides us with a set of data we can use to make a relevant historical comparison to other players.
If we overrate the value of OPS, then we can make the case that, for example, Tim Salmon and David Justice were better players than Honus Wagner because each of them had a higher career OPS than he did.
Edgar was a hell of a hitter who never won an MVP award, never played on a championship baseball team, drove in fewer runs than Ruben Sierra or Paul O’Neill, scored fewer runs than Willie Randolph or Julio Franco, and hit fewer homers than Jeromy Burnitz or Ron Cey.
He also didn’t provide much in the way of base running skills as his 49 career steals in 79 attempts shows, and obviously, he never won a Gold Glove.
He did play in seven All-Star games, and he did win five Silver Slugger awards. As I said, he was a hell of a hitter.
But not Ted Williams great. Or Stan Musial great. Or Rogers Hornsby great. Or even Frank Thomas great.
And if a player brings nothing else to the table except his prowess as a hitter, he better be one dominant hitter as judged by both the sabermetric as well as the traditional counting statistics.
Edgar Martinez just doesn’t have enough on his resume to justify his induction into the HOF.
6) Jack Morris – Supporters use the argument that Morris won more games than any other pitcher in the ’80’s. That’s a little like saying that the Bee-Gees were the best Disco Band of the ’70’s. Disco sucked. So, apparently, did ’80’s pitchers.
Morris won 254 games in his career, good for 42nd all-time. He won fewer games than Tommy John, Jim Kaat, and Jamie Moyer. His career .577 win-loss percentage is not very impressive, either. He never won a Cy Young award, although he finished in the top ten 7 times, which is impressive.
Arguably, Jack Morris’ career ERA of 3.90 would have been even higher if he had pitched during the past fifteen years.
Finally, many of his supporters have stated that Jack Morris pitched the greatest game in World Series history, shutting out the Braves in a ten inning marathon in Game 7 in 1991.
Certainly, it was one of the greatest post-season performances we have ever seen, although lets not forget that Don Larsen once threw a perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.
But one fantastic post-season performance is not generally considered a convincing argument to elect someone to the HOF. Just ask Joe Carter how his HOF chances are looking lately.
At this point, there are no other players on the ballot that I think have a realistic chance to make it into the HOF, and, with the exception of Tim Raines, there are no others I would consider voting for at this point.
I am sure Roberto Alomar will one day make it into the HOF. I am less sure Barry Larkin will.
But the BBWA has spoken, and, for another year, they can ponder the wisdom of their choices.
Meanwhile, the little people of the Veteran’s Committee remain busy scurrying around, abacus and fountain pens in hand, weighing the relative merits of 19th century umpires and managers whose bones have long since turned to dust.
And Little Leaguers dream of being the next Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols or Roy Halladay. On such dreams are future Hall of Fame careers launched, yesterday, today, and on into the future.