In or Out: Hotly Debated Hall of Fame Picks to Be Decided This Year

Zac Wassink@https://twitter.com/ZacWassinkFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2017

In or Out: Hotly Debated Hall of Fame Picks to Be Decided This Year

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    Jordan Strauss/Associated Press

    Debates regarding whether a certain athlete deserves to be in a hall of fame generate clicks and spark back-and-forth conversations on sports talk radio programs every year. 

    Pete Rose may be the greatest hitter in the history of Major League Baseball, but his alleged links to gambling on the sport resulted in the former player and manager receiving a lifetime ban. Per John Popovich of WCPO, Rose remained ineligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame as of last summer. 

    Plenty of former great athletes who are eligible for such an honor remain out of halls of fame for one reason or another. 

    The perception is that wide receiver Terrell Owens is not yet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame more so because of his personality than his play. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were two dominant players of their generations, but they may never be honored in Cooperstown because of substances they may have used during their careers. Mark Recchi seemingly shouldn't have to wait much longer to receive a call from the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

    Some observers and fans hold the highest of expectations for any hall, and thus they believe such a hallowed domain should be reserved only for the very best of the very best athletes. 

    Who, among the 10 athletes mentioned, do you believe doesn't deserve a spot in a hall of fame? 

Morten Andersen

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Kickers already own spots in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Both George Blanda and Lou Groza played other positions during their careers, but Jan Stenerud was only a place-kicker in the NFL. Ray Guy, meanwhile, remains the only punter in the Hall of Fame. 

    It's time for Morten Andersen to receive the honor he deserves. 

    For starters, Andersen remains the leading scorer in league history with 2,544 points, per Pro-Football-Reference.com. As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett explained, Andersen made seven Pro Bowl squads during his career and is the all-time leading scorer for both the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. He proved he could perform on the biggest of stages when he kicked the Falcons into Super Bowl XXXIII. 

    Andersen may not be the greatest kicker of them all as it pertains to accuracy, but his resume speaks for itself. He belongs in the Hall ahead of any other kicker who isn't enshrined and will hopefully be honored in Canton later this year.

    Verdict: In 

Edgar Martinez

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Voters need to realize the designated hitter isn't going anywhere. Baseball fans under the age of 30 have never known the American League without the DH. Players who excel at this position shouldn't be ostracized in voting. 

    The annual award given to the top DH for a season is known as the Edgar Martínez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. That could be atop Martinez's resume regarding any argument about his status as a Hall of Famer. 

    Per Baseball-Reference.com, Martinez finished his career with a lifetime average of .312 and 2,247 hits. His on-base percentage of .418 is good for 21st all time, and he led the league in that category on three occasions. Perhaps most impressive of all is that Martinez received at least one MVP vote 13 different seasons, which says plenty about his longevity. 

    It's fair to say not every DH deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame. All things considered, Martinez may be one of the best 100 hitters in MLB history, and that's how he should be remembered by generations to come. 

    Verdict: In 

Mark Price

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    Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Mark Price is an example of an athlete who belongs in a "hall of very good" rather than in the Hall of Fame. 

    Per Joseph Casciaro of theScore, Price is in an elite group of players who averaged 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the charity stripe in a single campaign. Price accomplished this achievement in his third NBA season, according to Basketball-Reference.com, and he never shot the ball better, statistically speaking, than he did in 1988-89. 

    Unfortunately for Price fans, the argument against him is easy to make. 

    Price never led the league in assists during a single season. He finished in the top 10 for three-point percentage only three times during his 12 seasons in the league. He made four NBA All-Star rosters, but he never won a title. 

    Price is a Cleveland sports icon who deservedly has his number retired by the Cavaliers. He falls just short for the Hall of Fame, though, and this debate should end later this year. 

    Verdict: Out

Mark Recchi

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    It sometimes feels as if some hockey fans and observers take Mark Recchi for granted. 

    Recchi's importance to his teams should not be undervalued. As ESPN.com's James Murphy explained, Recchi became the eighth player in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup at least once in three different decades when he helped the Boston Bruins win the title in the spring of 2011. He played in the NHL from 1989 through 2011, according to Hockey-Reference.com, and he remained a reliable point producer late into his career. 

    Only four players in history played more NHL games than Recchi (1,652). Recchi is currently 12th in career points (1,533), 15th in assists (956), 18th in power-play goals (200) and 20th in goals (577). 

    This is an easy one. Recchi belongs in the Hall of Fame, and this wrong should be rectified in 2017. 

    Verdict: In 

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    It's time for the likes of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds to get into the Hall of Fame. 

    When the 16-person Today's Game Era committee elected former Commissioner Bud Selig into the Hall of Fame this past December, that group, intentionally or not, unofficially announced individuals associated with what is known as the Steroid Era are eligible for the game's highest honor. As ESPN.com's David Schoenfield wrote, Selig "ignored the flush of steroids into the game" and "helped enable the whole era to happen in the first place."

    Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted she now plans to "hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated." 

    Odds are even casual fans know Clemens and Bonds as two all-time greats. Clemens, as Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated explained, won the Cy Young Award seven times and finished his career with 357 victories. Bonds, per Baseball-Reference.com, is the sport's greatest slugger, a man who hit a record 762 homers during his career. 

    Selig, Bonds and Clemens all deserve to be in the Hall of Fame for their contributions to the game, and all three will forever be linked with steroids and/or performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds and Clemens should be in Cooperstown alongside Selig. 

    Verdict: In for Both

Kurt Warner

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Kurt Warner would probably already be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn't for former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes. 

    Warner threw a go-ahead touchdown pass late in Super Bowl XLIII, but the defense of the Arizona Cardinals couldn't prevent Holmes from making one of the greatest catches in NFL history during the final minute of that encounter. Without Holmes' incredible touchdown pass, it's possible Warner would've been named Super Bowl MVP a second time.

    Per ESPN.com, Joe Montana, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady and Eli Manning all won multiple Super Bowl MVP awards over the years. Brady and Manning will eventually join the other three in the Hall of Fame. 

    Warner's career is unique in many ways. His first stellar season with the St. Louis Rams, per Pro-Football-Reference.com, occurred after he turned 28 years old. He won regular-season MVP honors in 1999 and 2001 and led the league in touchdown passes both of those seasons. His last two seasons with the Rams were mostly forgettable, though, and he didn't make it through an entire campaign with the New York Giants before he lost his job to a rookie named Eli Manning in 2004. 

    Warner enjoyed a career resurgence with the Cardinals, but his best days with that club occurred over only a three-year period. 

    Warner's was a joy to watch as the on-the-field leader of The Greatest Show on Turf, and it's a shame we'll never know what he could've been had he been given a real chance to play in the NFL as a younger athlete. We can only evaluate what we saw, and, thus, Warner just misses out. 

    Verdict: Out 

Chris Webber

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    I admittedly went back and forth with Chris Webber, so much so that this is the second time I've rewritten this portion of the post.

    Take away his name and look only at the numbers, and Webber's Hall of Fame resume is, on its own, solid and perhaps even great. He played in back-to-back championship games during his only two seasons at the University of Michigan, where he and his teammates became icons as the Fab Five. He then won Rookie of the Year honors his first season in the NBA and his pro career improved from there.

    Per Basketball-Reference.com, he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting five straight seasons beginning with the 1998-99 campaign after he made the switch from the Washington Wizards to the Sacramento Kings. He was consistently the best player on those Washington and Sacramento teams while healthy and at his physical best, and he was a five-time NBA All-Star.

    In total, he averaged 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game during his career.

    The knocks against Webber are real and go far beyond a timeout he called in the final minute of a game.

    Webber's prime faded quicker than expected due to multiple injury woes. He played in over 70 games only five seasons from 1994-95 through 2008. He never made a single NBA All-Defensive team. He also never played in the NBA Finals, as he was unable to guide the Kings past the Los Angeles Lakers led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

    Perhaps voters were spot-on with Webber from the beginning. Webber wasn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he's waited long enough.

    Verdict: In

Paul Kariya

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    When you think of Paul Kariya, you may first remember his career ended earlier than it should have because of issues stemming from concussions. Do not, however, forget how special an offensive talent Kariya was when healthy. 

    Per Hockey-Reference.com, Kariya averaged one point per contest during a career that included 989 games. He scored 50 goals as a member of the Anaheim Ducks in his second season back in 1995-96 and followed that up by notching 44 tallies the following campaign. As ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote, Kariya was first runner-up for the Hart Trophy in 1997 and proved himself to be a legitimate draw for a California franchise launched one year before his NHL debut. 

    Kariya quickly became the face of the franchise and, per Burnside, the league's youngest team captain at the time. 

    As Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski once pointed out, Kariya played much of his career during the "trap years" that rewarded teams that concentrated on playing boring, defensive hockey centered around preventing opposing sides from advancing through the neutral zone.

    We can only assume how many more goals and assists Kariya would accumulate in today's NHL. 

    Verdict: In 

Joe Jackson

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Baseball needs to heal wounds from the past. That process begins by putting Bud Selig, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson into the Hall of Fame. 

    Some may claim Pete Rose should be included in that list. Rose, remember, signed an agreement banning him from baseball in 1989, as CNN's Paul Caron wrote. Jackson, known as one of the members of the Chicago White Sox team accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, never put pen to paper on such a document. 

    Jackson's supposed role in the "Black Sox" scandal has been disputed over the years. Per Graham Womack of Sporting News, Jackson batted .375 and hit a home run during the series against the Cincinnati Reds. According to ESPN The Magazine's Wright Thompson, Jackson committed zero registered errors during the series. 

    Jackson was arguably the greatest hitter of baseball's "dead-ball era" and posted what remains the third-highest batting average in history (.356). 

    It's been almost 90 years since the infamous World Series that resulted in Jackson and seven of his teammates receiving lifetime bans. If Selig can enter the Hall of Fame while the events of the "Steroid Era" remain fresh in our memories, Jackson deserves that honor in 2017. 

    Verdict: In 

Terrell Owens

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    It's ridiculous we're having this discussion. 

    As Des Bieler of the Washington Post wrote, voter Gary Myers explained on the Dan Patrick Show last February that former wide receiver Terrell Owens failed to make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because he was "so disruptive" during his career. 

    Owens may not have always been a great teammate, but his reputation doesn't erase his on-the-field production. 

    Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, Owens is second in receiving yards (15,934) to only Jerry Rice, third in receiving touchdowns (153) and eighth in all-time receptions (1,078). While Owens never won a title, he remains responsible for one of the greatest Super Bowl performances in history.

    As ESPN.com's John Clayton explained, Owens surprised many when he started for the Philadelphia Eagles against the New England Patriots at Super Bowl XXXIX only seven weeks after he broke his leg and tore a ligament in his ankle. 

    Owens caught nine passes for 122 receiving yards in the losing effort. 

    In March, Elliot Harison of NFL.com listed Owens as one of the 10 greatest receivers in NFL history. Put T.O. in the Hall of Fame, voters, and don't embarrass yourselves a second straight year. 

    Verdict: In