The 2010 Hall of Fame ballot has been hotly debated in the past few weeks, and for good reason: there's no clear-cut person, no Ricky Henderson, no Paul Molitor to draw the majority of the votes.
While it may be boring for some, it opens a whole avenue of discourse for many others. With first timers like Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, and Roberto Alomar, there's bound to be a lot of votes spread around this year.
With return engagements like Bert Blyleven and Andre Dawson, there's no certainty that anyone is going to enter on their first ballot this year.
So let's work through this year's ballot, and distinguish the great from the merely very good.
Roberto Alomar - Second Base, 1988-2009 - SDP, TOR, BAL, CLE, NYM, CHI, ARI
Roberto Alomar is the cream of the 2010 first ballot crop, and his Hall of Fame case is a very strong one.
With over 2700 hits, a .300 career batting average, 400+ stolen bases, and a sterling defensive record, he was voted to the Rawlings All-Time Gold Glove team in 2007.
His career WAR is 63.8, good for 84th all-time, ahead of former greats such as Ryne Sandberg and Yogi Berra.
Will he reach on his first ballot? More than likely not, but his Hall of Fame resume will not hold him back in the long run.
Verdict: Virtual lock, second or third ballot.
Harold Baines - Left Field/Designated Hitter, 1980-2001 - CHW, BAL, OAK, TEX
Baines is a tricky player to evaluate from a traditional standpoint. His defensive ineptitude drastically affected his WAR numbers, a relatively paltry 36.9 Wins Above Replacement, and his time at designated hitter makes him unworthy in the eyes of many baseball writers.
His 2866 career hits, on the other hand, show him as an extremely talented hitter, and his career 120 OPS+ is nearly equal to Tony Perez, a Hall of Famer himself.
Unfortunately, Baines will most likely be on the outside looking in; between his time at DH, and his relatively poor numbers at a prime hitting position, his candidacy falls a bit short.
Verdict: If he does get in, it'll be by the skin of his teeth.
Bert Blyleven - Pitcher, 1970-1992 - MIN, TEX, PIT, CLE, CAL
The fact that Bert Blyleven is in his 13th year of eligibility is why we need more Keith Laws and less idiots like Ken Rosenthal. Blyleven is 5th all-time in strikeouts, has 287 career victories playing primarily for losing ball clubs, and has a career WHIP under 1.2.
His exclusion makes many people scratch their heads, wondering what the BBWAA has against Minnesota pitchers (Jim Kaat, a 280+ game winner, and 16-time Gold Glove recipient, was also blackballed).
Verdict: Will probably enter this year, barring anything mind-bogglingly stupid.
Andre Dawson - Outfield, 1976-1996 - MON, CHC, BOS, FLA
In my humble opinion, Andre Dawson should have been inducted into the Hall last year, ahead of the hype-machine powered Jim Rice.
The man called Hawk was one of the greater power hitters of the 1980s, and spending more than half of his career in the cavernous Stade Olympique certainly didn't help.
In addition to 300+ career stolen bases, his 8 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers make Andre one of the better combinations of speed, power, and fielding of all time.
Verdict: Will in all likelihood enter the Hall alongside Blyleven this upcoming summer.
Barry Larkin - Shortstop, 1986-2004 - CIN
Don't look now, but Barry Larkin was one of the greatest offensive shortstops ever. The 12-time All-Star won nine Silver Sluggers, and was a slick fielder to boot (or not to boot much of anything, in his case.) with three Gold Gloves.
More impressive, and perhaps more telling of his talent is the the 68.8 career mark over 19 stellar seasons, good for 58th All-Time, ahead of first-balloters Tony Gwynn, Carlton Fisk, and Willie McCovey...all of whom played easier positions than Larkin.
Verdict: Blyleven, Alomar, and Dawson will garner most of the votes this time around, so he'll most likely be enshrined in the next few years.
Edgar Martinez - 3rd Base/Designated Hitter, 1987-2004 - SEA
The idea that Edgar Martinez won't end up in the Hall of Fame because he was a DH is absolutely preposterous, and yet some of the more staunch members of the BBWAA will leave him off the ballot for this very reason.
His career line of .312/.418/.515 is video game-esque, and he managed to compile 2247 career hits, the majority of which were after the age of 27. He didn't receive a starting job until that age.
His career 147 OPS+ is good for 39th all-time, tied with greats Willie Stargell and Mike Schmidt.
You've had to have done something special to have an award named after you. The Edgar Martinez Award is handed out to the American League's best DH each year, most recently won by Aubrey Huff, at that time a member of the Orioles.
Verdict: In a perfect world, Edgar is a first-ballot inductee. This world is far from perfect (See: Ken Rosenthal), so hold your breath.
Fred McGriff - First Base, 1986-2004 - TOR, SDP, ATL, TBD, CHC, LAD
Fred McGriff should be in the Hall of Fame based solely on his nickname: Crime Dog. How awesome is that? In all seriousness, McGriff is the definition of borderline.
He's got fantastic power numbers, but none of his seasons really jump out at you. He was remarkably consistent, but somewhat lacking for a First Sacker.
For what it's worth, his top Similarty Scores are both Hall of Famers (Willie McCovey and Pops Stargell), and right below them are Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas, who many believe will find their way to Cooperstown eventually.
Verdict: Really too close to tell. I'll have to go with my gut and say that he'll make it in, if only just barely.
So after all of that, here's who I think will be entering the Hall of Fame in 2010:
Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, and Andre Dawson.
Hall of Very Good: Mark McGwire, Andres Galarraga, Jack Morris, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammell.
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