Now that Rickey Henderson's in, it could be quite some time before we see another first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Roberto Alomar, perhaps the best second baseman in baseball history, will be eligible for the first time next year, but it wouldn't surprise me if the baseball writers punish him for spitting at an umpire. After all, voting is based on a player's integrity, sportsmanship, and character as well as his ability.
With a pair of World Series rings, 10 Gold Gloves, 12 All-Star selections and four Silver Sluggers, Alomar is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but he may have to wait until at least 2011.
Other players up for election for the first time next year will be former MVP Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Andres Galarraga, and Tom Emanski's prized product, Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff. While those four players deserve consideration, I would be surprised if any of them make it in on their first appearance on the ballot.
In 2011, the list of potential inductees gets even shorter, with former MVP Jeff Bagwell and Hall of Fame liar and steroid user Rafael Palmeiro appearing on the ballot for the first time.
With the 2012 candidates looking even less impressive, guys like Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven have a great chance to get voted in sometime over the next three years.
Dawson has an even more impressive resume than Jim Rice, who will join Henderson as a 2009 inductee, and already has 67 percent of the voters on his side. With an MVP award, eight All-Star selections, eight Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers and a Rookie of the Year award, Dawson belongs.
Possibly the best argument for Dawson is the fact that he possessed one of the most unique skill sets of any player not only in his era, but in the history of the game. He is one of just three players to hit over 400 homers and steal 300 bases (Willie Mays and Barry Bonds are the others) and he had a cannon arm.
From 1976-96 only Eddie Murray and Mike Schmidt hit more home runs, and only Murray and Dave Winfield drove in more runs.
As one of the better five-tool players of all time, Dawson should have been in long ago, but his wait should end in 2010.
Blyleven's patience is wearing thin, but he has a good chance of getting in over the next three years (his final appearances before being removed from the ballot).
Best known for having the nastiest curveball in the history of the game, Blyleven ranks fifth on the all-time strikeout list with 3,701. He also has 287 wins and two World Series rings.
The problem is Blyleven never had a career-defining season. He was selected to the All-Star Game just twice, never finished higher than third in Cy Young voting, never led the league in wins or ERA and, to top it all off, he holds the single-season record for home runs allowed (50).
Even with all the imperfections, it's hard to deny a pitcher who ranks in the top 10 in both strikeouts and shutouts.
If Blyleven fails to make into the Hall by 2012, he most likely has his former teammates to blame. In 22 Major League seasons, he was a member of just 10 winning teams, and just five teams that won 90 or more games. The lack of support caused his win-loss record to suffer, and the fact that his winning percentage is just above .500 (.534), seems to be the main reason writers are keeping him out of the Hall.
Both Dawson and Blyleven deserve to be voted into the Hall of Fame by now, but the good news is the writers still have time to right their wrongs and reward two gritty legends of baseball's past.
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