On Sunday, the number of Baseball Hall of Famers will increase by two names, as Barry Larkin was voted in by the BBWAA while Ron Santo is receiving a long-overdue induction by the Veterans Committee.
Baseball’s Hall of Fame is the most meaningful in all of sports, mainly because the induction process is fairly visible and inspires spirited debates among fans and voters alike. Every player on the ballot has his candidacy picked apart from all angles, and it often leads to some otherwise-qualified players being held out for reasons that do not make much sense.
In the modern day, the most controversial issue involves players who used or are suspected of PED usage, though I have pointed out that holding a player out for steroid/HGH usage prior to the current testing system is pure hypocrisy.
But PEDs are hardly the only irrational reason for keeping players out.
Here is a list of players who are either on the ballot now or will be on the ballot soon, and the ridiculous reasons that people are using to keep them out of the Hall.
Bagwell is one of the most bizarre cases on this list, as he has been held out of the Hall of Fame for the past two years primarily because people suspect him of steroid usage even though there is not a shred of evidence to back it up.
Bagwell has not tested positive to anybody’s knowledge, and his name does not come up in the Mitchell Report. But Bagwell was a teammate of at least one known user, which is enough for some voters to keep him out (though strangely, this argument does not seem to apply to Hank Aaron).
Aside from the teammate issue, the most common argument used in suspecting Bagwell is that his career ended rather suddenly at age 37 and he did not have the longevity of other players. Since this is the exact opposite argument that is being used against a few other names on this list, maybe critics just need to get their story straight on the effects of steroids.
There isn’t much more to be said about Bonds’ numbers or his PED usage, except for the fact that all the hullabaloo has led to nothing more than a mere obstruction of justice charge, and Bonds nevertheless won seven MVP awards over a 15-year period.
But more than any other player, people assume that Bonds was only able to achieve the numbers he reached because of PEDs rather than the myriad of other factors that affected his career.
Barry Bonds is one of the most naturally gifted players that baseball has ever seen, and had no weaknesses on the field other than perhaps a less-than-average arm. He also had the work ethic to take advantage of every possible edge away from the field—from studying pitchers, to lifting and conditioning, to nutrition to unmonitored PEDs.
And really, for all the talk about how Bonds was destroying his body for his success, the guy looks amazingly healthy these days.
Roger's recent acquittal on perjury charges related to steroid usage did little to change the mind of his critics, who are still convinced that a washed-up Clemens took magic substances in order to revive his career in his mid-30s and gain the longevity to be an effective starter into his 40s.
The prejudice against Trevor Hoffman also applies to every closer not named Mariano Rivera: They are closers, which for many voters means that they are not good enough to start. We don’t put career pinch-hitters in the Hall of Fame, so why would we do the same for closers?
While finding a closer is not particularly difficult, it is one of those baseball skills where success is hard to repeat. This is what makes Hoffman’s career so remarkable: For a 15-year period, if you heard Hells Bells, it meant the game was over.
Hoffman was one of the very best ever to play his position, which warrants consideration for the Hall.
The best leadoff hitter of the 1990s, Lofton provided tremendous value wherever he wound up playing. Like a couple of other leadoff hitters on this list, Lofton was an on-base machine and an efficient base-stealer who also had a fairly decent glove in center field.
The problem with Lofton is that he played for eleven different franchises, and many voters are left to wonder why so many teams decided to get rid of him if he was such a valuable player. For many, their last image of Lofton is of a nomadic player who spent time with nine different franchises over his final six seasons.
For this reason, Lofton and his 64.9 career WAR is somewhat unlikely to see a second year on the ballot.
While it is true that Edgar Martinez’s career was relatively short, his 14-year run from 1989 to 2003 stacks up with any right-handed hitter in the history of the game.
But longevity is not really the issue when it comes to Edgar Martinez. The primary argument being used against Edgar is that he was not truly a baseball player, as he was a designated hitter for the bulk of his career and did not have to worry about playing his position in the field.
Never mind the fact that the DH has been a part of baseball for the past four decades, has been woven into the fabric of baseball at every single level outside of the National League and is not going away anytime soon.
If this argument that players had to both hit and field were truly applicable, no pitcher (particularly in the AL) would ever deserve to be inducted.
As long as it remains a part of the game, DHs should be considered for the Hall of Fame. And since the award for best DH is named the Edgar Martinez Award, it’s fair to say that Papi is the greatest ever to play the position.
For years, many said that McGwire just needed to come clean about his steroid usage and things would be forgiven. He did just that prior to the 2010 season, admitting to taking steroids off-and-on throughout the 1990s in an effort to improve his health.
While his admission helped him get back in the game as a hitting instructor, it did little to help his Hall chances. After receiving 23.7 percent of the vote for 2010, McGwire’s vote dropped to 19.8 percent in 2011 and 19.5 percent last year.
How quickly we forget the joy and drama of the 1998 home run chase, when two classy individuals battled for the home run mark and healed the wounds of the 1994-95 strike in the process.
One of the top five pitchers of his generation, Mussina brought remarkable consistency to the starting rotations of the Orioles and Yankees and may have had the greatest final season of any pitcher since Sandy Koufax.
But he did not win 300 games, and some fans (and voters) have gotten it into their heads that a pitcher has to do so to qualify for the Hall of Fame unless they put together a stretch of dominance that is largely unprecedented in MLB history.
But a lack of 300 wins is a poor reason to keep a player out of the Hall of Fame, primarily because wins is one of baseball’s worst and most misleading stats. The only thing 300 wins signifies is that a pitcher had a long career as a starting pitcher, causing random fluctuations in run support to even out over the years.
While it is true that there are no bad pitchers with 300 wins, the milestone is not the reason that they were great. There are plenty of other great pitchers who fell just short, with Mussina chief among them.
A strong case can be made that Tim Raines is the second-best leadoff hitter ever to play the game. An on-base machine who might be the most efficient base-stealer in history, Raines also had a five-year peak in the 1980s where he had a legitimate claim to being the best all-around player in baseball.
But Raines has two things working against him: His peak occurred while he was playing for the small-market Expos, and his career coincided almost perfectly with the Rickey Henderson era. Raines was not on Rickey’s level as a player, primarily because only a handful of players in MLB history were ever on Rickey’s level.
A handful of voters might also hold Raines’ admitted cocaine usage against him, though that does not appear to be a serious factor at this point.
If Raines got started a decade earlier, he’s an easy selection for the Hall of Fame. If he had peaked in Chicago instead of Montreal, he’d be an easy selection. Instead, Raines is still languishing on the ballot having never received 50 percent of the vote.
A-Rod’s name was illegally released from the list of 104 MLBers who tested positive for steroids in 2003, and to his credit he did to fess up to usage during his time with the Rangers after he was confronted with that test and has not gone after anyone for retribution.
But the reasons that people want to hold Alex Rodriguez out of the Hall go way beyond steroid usage. To many, A-Rod became an overpaid prima donna the moment he left Seattle to sign his famous $252 million contract with the Rangers following the 2000 season.
He has also been accused of everything from playing dirty (which does not apply to others?) to conspiring with opponents to build stats (completely unprovable) to not coming through when it matters most (because the 2009 postseason apparently does not count).
It’s almost enough to make people forget that A-Rod is the active leader in WAR by a significant margin and remains the biggest threat to Barry Bonds’ career home run mark.
Pudge is one of the greatest all-around catchers ever to play the game, combining a solid frontline bat with some of the best defense the game has ever seen.
But he is another player who is dogged by rumors of steroid usage. He was named specifically in Jose Canseco’s first book, and he all but admitted that he could be one of the 103 names on the infamous list (though this is not the same as admitting usage).
Essentially, what could keep Ivan Rodriguez out of the Hall of Fame amounts to little more than hearsay.
It’s time to play the comparison game for this one:
Player A has a career WAR of 65.7 over 17 seasons, a career OPS+ of 122, has played in seven All-Star games, and is regarded as one of the most fundamentally-sound players ever to play his position.
Player B has a career WAR of 68.1 over 18 seasons, a career OPS+ of 117, has played in 13 All-Star games, and has a long history of postseason success.
Is it fair to call Rolen the most underappreciated player of the current generation?
Sosa was supposedly one of the players who tested positive on the infamous 2003 list, and his sudden inability to answer questions before Congress did little to dissuade people from believing he is guilty of PED usage.
Like McGwire, Sosa’s role in bringing baseball back after the damaging 1994-95 strike is being devalued and downplayed. How quickly we forget the joy that watching two classy individuals chase a historic mark and then each other right down to the final day of the season can bring.
Oh, and the 609 career home runs are not too shabby, either.
Can anybody think of a reason why Jim Thome should not be in the Hall of Fame? He has never tested positive for PEDs or even been suspected of their usage. He has long been regarded as one of the classiest individuals in all of professional sports. And his career numbers (.277/.402/.555 with 609 homers) scream not only Hall of Famer, but first ballot selection.
But Thome has never had that one season that captured everyone’s imagination, and he has never been interested in media attention. Perhaps this is why so many people do not realize just how great his career has been.
Trammell’s support is starting to pick up, as he has been stuck on the ballot for more than a decade, but he’s yet another one of the greats from the 1980s whose career has gone underappreciated.
Contrary to popular belief, Trammell’s biggest problem is not that the shortstops of the 1990s dwarfed his numbers. No, Trammell’s biggest problem is similar to that of Tim Raines in that he is not the equal of his primary rival, as Cal Ripken also dominated the American League in the 1980s but had slightly more power and a historic record to his name.
But at least Alan Trammell’s name is still on the ballot. Longtime double-play partner Lou Whitaker was dropped after one year, even though he has the second-highest career WAR of any eligible player not in the Hall.