The new year is finally here, and with the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 2009, the year 2010 was brought in with the usual fanfare and celebration.
This is a great time of the year for many people. The new year signifies a new beginning to most. It's a time for resolutions, it's a time for optimism, and if you're a baseball fan, it's a time to see which former MLB players are bestowed with baseball's highest honor: enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In December of 2009, the Veteran's Committee voted in former umpire Doug Harvey and former manager Whitey Herzog, but the real drama comes when the Baseball Writers of America announce who they have voted for on Jan. 6, 2010.
No matter who the writers vote for, there will always be a debate as to who deserves enshrinement and who doesn't. It's a great time for debate for baseball fans, especially as the hot stove seasons begins to wind down and spring training approaches.
With that said, here is an unbiased look at some of the players headlining this year's Hall of Fame ballot. So who should be in, and who shouldn't?
Robert Alomar, Second Base (San Diego Padres, 1988-1990, Toronto Blue Jays, 1991-1995, Baltimore Orioles, 1996-1998, Cleveland Indians, 1999-2001, New York Mets, 2002-2003, Chicago White Sox, 2003-2004, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2004)
Alomar at a Glance: Roberto Alomar was one of, if not the, premier second baseman in the game during the 1990's. Alomar is 53rd on the career hit list with 2,724, while scoring 1508 runs, belting 504 doubles, and swiping 474 bases.
During his career, Alomar was selected to 12 All Star Games (all consecutive), and his 10 career Gold Glove awards are more than any other second baseman. Alomar also won two World Series titles with the Toronto Blue Jays (1992 and 1993), and is a .313 career hitter in the post-season.
The Verdict: The best second baseman of his generation should be voted in easily.
Barry Larkin, Shortstop (Cincinnati Reds, 1986-2004)
Larkin at a Glance: Considered by many to be the best all-around shortstop in the NL during his playing days. Larkin spent his entire career in a Reds uniform, and finished in the top five in Reds history in games played (third with 2,180), runs scored (third with 1,329), hits (second with 2,340), doubles (second with 441), walks (third with 939), and stolen bases (second with 379).
Barry Larkin was selected to 12 All Star games, including one in his final season of 2004, was awarded the NL Silver Slugger award eight times, and the Gold Glove award three times. Larkin was named the NL MVP in 1995, when he lead the Reds to the NLCS, and won a World Series title with Cincinnati in 1990.
The Verdict: Great on offense, defense, and a team leader, Larkin is basically the NL version of Cal Ripken. He deserves to make it on the first ballot, but playing his entire career in Cincinnati may cost him some votes.
Edgar Martinez, Designated Hitter (Seattle Mariners, 1987-2004)
Martinez at a Glance: A two time batting champion (1992 and 1995), Martinez changed the perception that DH's were aging players trying prolong their careers. Martinez hit over .300 ten times in his career, while posting an on-base percentage better than .400 eleven times. His .418 career on-base percentage is 22nd all time.
Martinez was selected to seven All Star games and won five Silver Slugger awards.
The Verdict: Martinez was a great hitter who lost plenty of time to injuries. The fact that he didn't play the field doesn't help. He deserves consideration, but he probably doesn't get in, especially on his first shot.
Fred McGriff, First Base (Toronto Blue Jays, 1986-1990, San Diego Padres, 1991-1993, Atlanta Braves, 1993-1997, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1998-2001, 2004, Chicago Cubs 2001-2001, LA Dodgers, 2003)
McGriff at a Glance: Fred McGriff hit 493 career home runs and drove in 1550 career runs. McGriff was the first player to win a home run crown in both leagues, and is still one of only two players to accomplish that feat. McGriff hit 30 or more home runs ten times, including seven consecutive seasons from 1988-1994, and eclipsed the mark for five different teams.
McGriff was selected to five All Star teams, won three Silver Slugger awards, as well as winning a World Series title with the Atlanta Braves in 1995.
The Verdict: McGriff was never considered dominant, or the best at his position at any point during his career, and the fact that he came up seven home runs shy of 500 probably really hurts his chances. Still, the writers have shown that they will penalize the steroid users, and for a guy like McGriff, who's numbers were attained presumably without any chemical assistance, the writers may vote for him simply to prove a point. Other than that, McGriff is a long shot, especially on his first try.
Is This The Year?
Bert Blyleven, Pitcher (Minnesota Twins, 1970-1976, 1985-1988, Texas Rangers, 1976-1977, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1978-1980, Cleveland Indians, 1981-1985, California Angels, 1989-1990, 1992)
Blyleven at a Glance: Blyleven finished his career only 13 wins shy of 300, with a 3.31 ERA, 242 complete games, and 60 shutouts (in comparison, that's more shutouts than Hall of Fame pitchers Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins, and Don Drysdale). Blyleven's 3,701 career strikeouts currently ranks fifth all time, and ranked third when he retired in 1992.
Blyleven was named to two All Star teams during his career, and was a two-time World Series champion in 1979 with the Pirates, and 1987 with the Twins.
The Verdict: It's hard to believe that Blyleven hasn't made it yet, and his time is running out. This will be his 13th try at enshrinement, meaning that if he doesn't get in this season, he has only two more chances to be voted in by the baseball writers. The good news is, Blyleven received 62.7 percent of the vote last year, well short of the 75 percent needed for induction, but it is his highest total to date. With no overwhelming candidates this year, Blyleven could finally get in.
Andre Dawson, Outfield (Montreal Expos, 1976-1986, Chicago Cubs, 1987-1992, Boston Red Sox, 1993-1994, Florida Marlins, 1995-1996)
Dawson at a Glance: Arguably the most complete player in the NL during the late 1970's, Dawson could do it all, as proven by his well rounded career numbers. For his career, "The Hawk" batted .279, collected 2,774 hits, scored 1,373 runs, drove in 1,591 runs, belted 503 doubles, 438 home runs, and stole 314 bases. Not to mention, Dawson had one of the greatest outfield arms of his generation. He was the Dave Winfield of the NL.
Andre Dawson was a NL All Star eight times, won eight NL Gold Glove awards, and four Silver Slugger awards. He was named NL Rookie of the Year in 1977, and NL MVP in 1987.
The Verdict: Tough call here. The fact that Jim Rice finally got inducted helps Dawson's chances, and he has steadily gained more support over the years, but as good as Dawson was, playing his best seasons in Montreal didn't help his exposure, not to mention that by the time he left the Expos, the Olympic Stadium turf had ruined his knees, and other than his MVP season of 1987, was not the same player he was in Montreal.
Jack Morris, Pitcher (Detroit Tigers, 1977-1990, Minnesota Twins 1991, Toronto Blue Jay, 1992-1993, Cleveland Indians, 1994)
Morris at a Glance: Morris was a steady as they come, posting a streak of 10 straight winning seasons from 1979-1988, and a streak of seven straight seasons of 235 innings pitched from 1982-1988. While his career numbers are good, 245 wins, 2478 strikeouts, 175 complete games, Morris made his name by being one of the best clutch pitchers in baseball history. His 10-inning, complete game shutout in game seven of the 1991 World Series is arguably one of the greatest postseason pitching performances in the history of the sport.
Morris was named an Al All Star five times. He won four World Series title (pitching in three) with the Tigers, Twins, and Blue Jays, and was named the 1991 World Series MVP.
The Verdict: This will be Morris' 11th try at induction, and he has yet to even receive 50 percent of the vote, plus Blyleven, who many feel is more deserving than Morris, isn't in yet. Also, while Morris was great in a big spot, his numbers, especially his 3.90 ERA aren't overwhelmingly great. In other words, Morris is probably a long shot this year.
Deserving But Doubtful
Mark McGwire, First Base (Oakland A's 1986-1997, St. Louis Cardinals 1997-2001)
McGwire at a Glance: Mark McGwire was one of the most feared hitters of his generation, and one of the most prolific sluggers of all time. McGwire holds the single season home run record for rookies, with 49 (1987), and was the first player to hit 70 home runs in a season (1998). His .588 career slugging percentage ranks ninth all time, his 583 career home runs ranks eight all time, and his HR/AB ratio of 10.6 is not only the best ever, it's more than a whole at bat better than the next best player, the great Babe Ruth.
Mark Mcgwire was named an All Star 12 times, won three Silver Slugger awards, and one Gold Glove award. He was a unanimous selection for AL Rookie of the Year in 1987, and won a World Series title in 1989 with the Athletics.
The Verdict: For the most part, the Baseball Writers of America have made it known that they plan to make anyone linked to performance enhancing drugs pay, and so far, McGwire has been the sacrificial lamb. His return to baseball as the Cardinal's hitting coach may help garner more votes, but after three tries, Big Mac has only received about a quarter of the vote. He may eventually get in, but the writers will probably make him sweat it out for a few more years.
Alan Trammell, Shortstop (Detroit Tigers, 1977-1996)
Trammell at a Glance: Alan Trammell, along with players such as Robin Yount and Cal Ripken, help change the perception that shortstops were simply defensive player and offensive liabilities. In the storied history of the Detroit Tigers, Trammell ranks fifth in games played (2,293), sixth in runs scored (1,231), seventh in hits (2,365), sixth in doubles (412), tenth in RBI (1,003), and fifth in steals (236). His 1987 season, in which he finished second in the MVP voting, is one of the best all around seasons ever by a shortstop.
Alan Trammell appeared in six All Star games, won four Gold Glove awards, and three Silver Slugger awards. He won a World Series title in 1984 with the Tigers, and was named MVP of the series.
The Verdict: If Alan Trammell didn't play in the same era and league as Cal Ripken, he probably would be in already. His numbers are solid, but look better because of the position he played. Nowadays, however, great hitting shortstops are rare as they used to be. Trammell was one of the guys who changed that, but he'll probably continue to get overlooked.
Don Mattingly, First Base (New York Yankees, 1982-1995)
Mattingly at a Glance: Mattingly was one of the most complete players in baseball, and one of the games best hitters during the 1980's. From 1984 to 1989, Mattingly put up five seasons batting at least .300, with 20-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI, numbers very few players reached in the 1980's. He's a career .307 hitter,good for seventh in Yankee team history, and he ranks in the top ten in Yankee lore in hits, doubles, and RBI.
Don Mattingly made six All Star game appearances, won three Silver Slugger awards, and was named the 1985 AL MVP. His nine Gold Glove awards at first base are second only to Keith Hernandez's 11.
The Verdict: This will be Mattingly's tenth try at induction, and he probably will fall short again. Basically Mattingly had five great season, before back injuries took their toll on his offensive game. His defense alone probably deserves enshrinement, but first basemen don't get in because of their glove. Spending his entire career in pinstripes and not winning a ring soesn't help his cause either.
Tim Raines, Outfield (Montreal Expos, 1979-1990, 2001, Chicago White Sox, 1991-1995, New York Yankees, 1996-1998, Oakland A's, 1999, Baltimore Orioles, 2001, Florida Marlins, 2001)
Raines at a Glance: Other than Gary Carter, Raines may be the best player in Montreal Expos history. Raines scored 1,571 runs, collect 2,605 hits, and his 808 stolen bases are the fifth most in baseball history. He was the NL's version of Rickey Henderson for much of his career, and was one of the most exciting player to watch during the 1980's. Raines lead the NL in steals four straight times, runs scored twice, and won one batting crown.
"Rock" made seven All Star Game appearances, and won one Silver Slugger award. As a member of the New York Yankees, Raines won two World Series titles in 1996 and 1998.
The Verdict: There was no way Raines was getting in before Henderson, who did everything Raines could, only better. Now that that's out of the way, it will be interesting to see if Raines is remembered for his dominant days in Montreal, or as a guy that played way longer than he should have.
The Rest of the Ballot
Lee Smith, Pitcher (Chicago Cubs, 1980-1987, Boston red Sox, 1988-1990, St. Louis Cardinals, 1990-1993, New York Yankees, 1993, Baltimore Orioles, 1994, California Angels, 1995-1996, Cincinnati Reds, 1996, Montreal Expos, 1997)
The well traveled closer retired as MLB's all time saves leader, and his 478 saves still rank third best ever.
Dale Murphy, Outfield (Atlanta Braves, 1976-1990, Philadelphia Phillies, 1990-1992, Colorado Rockies, 1993)
Dominant player in the 1980's who hit 398 home runs, and won back-to-back MVP's. One of only three eligible players to win multiple MVP's and not be inducted (Roger Maris and Juan Gonzalez are the others).
Dave Parker, Outfield (Pittsburgh Pirates, 1973-1983, Cincinnati Reds, 1984-1987, Oakland A's, 1988-1989, Milwaukee Brewers, 1990, California Angels, 1991, Toronto Blue Jays, 1991)
One of the baddest, most fear sluggers of the 1970's. Won 1978 NL MVP, and World Series titles with Pittsburgh in 1979, and Oakland in 1989.
Mike Jackson, Pitcher (Philadelphia Phillies, 1986-1987, Seattle Mariners, 1988-1991,1996, San Francisco Giants, 1992-1994, Cincinnati Reds, 1995, Cleveland Indians, 1997-1999, Houston Astros, 2001, Minnesota Twins, 2002, Chicago White Sox, 2004)
Much traveled relief pitcher appeared in 1005 games, and collected 142 career saves.
Pat Hentgen, Pitcher (Toronto Blue Jays, 1991-1999, 2004, St. Louis Cardinals, 2000, Baltimore Orioles, 2002-2003)
1996 AL Cy Young winner compiled 132-112 career record before injuries ended his career at age 35.
Robin Ventura, Third Base (Chicago White Sox, 1989-1998, New York Mets, 1991-2001, New york Yankees, 2002-2003, LA Dodgers, 2003-2004)
Former all-around third baseman hit 294 career home runs and won six Gold Glove awards.
Ray Lankford, Outfield (St. Louis Cardinals, 1990-2001, 2004, San Diego Padres, 2002-2003)
Under-appreciated outfielder combined speed and power, belting 238 career home runs while swiping 258 career bases.
Kevin Appier, Pitcher (Kansas City Royals, 1989-1999,2003-2004 Oakland A's, 1999-2000, New york Mets, 2001, Anaheim Angels, 2002-2003)
Quality start spent his best season in Kansas City, finishing his career with 169-137 career record and a 3.74 ERA.
Eric Karros, First Base (LA Dodgers, 1991-2002, Chicago Cubs, 2003, Oakland A's, 2004)
1992 NL Rookie of the Year is third amongst Dodger in career home runs and sixth in RBI.
David Segui, First Base (Baltimore Orioles, 1990-1993, 2001-2004, New York Mets, 1994-1995, Montreal Expos, 1995-1997, Seattle Mariners, 1998-1999, Toronto Blue Jays, 1999, Texas Rangers, 2000, Cleveland Indians, 2000)
Much travel, slick fielding first baseman finished career with 1,412 hits and a .291 career batting average.
Shane Reynolds, Pitcher (Houston Astros, 1992-2002, Atlanta Braves, 2003, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2004)
Former All Star pitcher, and 19-game winner, Reynolds pitched 11 seasons in Houston, and ranks eighth in Astros' team history in wins, and sixth in strikeouts.
Todd Zeile, C-3B-1B (St. Louis Cardinals, 1989-1995, Chicago Cubs, 1995, Philadelphia Phillies, 1996, Baltimore Orioles, 1996, LA Dodgers, 1997-1998, Florida Marlins, 1998, Texas Rangers, 1998-1999, New York Mets, 2000-2001, 2004, New York Yankees, 2003, Montreal Expos, 2003)
Well traveled, both around the league and the diamond, Zeile belted 253 career home runs and drove in 1,110 career runs, while helping three different teams to the post-season.
Indeed, there are many players to choose from this season. Some are deserving, some not, and some most certainly will be overlooked.
So who's in, and who's out? The debate begins on January 6, 2010.