The other day, I published a piece about the first-year eligible players on this year's Hall of Fame ballot (seen here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/319445-among-first-timers-alomar-mcgriff-martinez-stand-out ). In that article, I stated that Roberto Alomar, Fred McGriff, and Edgar Martinez should be inducted to the Hall of Fame this year.
In addition to those three, I believe four more players who have hung around on the ballot for several years also belong in Cooperstown.
Here now is a look at each player who has been on the ballot for a while, and my take on whether or not they belong in the Hall.
Tim Raines: It's easy to be impressed and to forget about Raines, all at the same time. This is due in large part to the flamboyant personality and dominant play of Rickey Henderson. It's also due to the fact that Raines' best years were played out of the spotlight in Montreal.
Raines is fifth all-time in stolen bases (808), and he scored over 1,500 runs in his career. He was a seven-time All-Star, and he also led the NL in hitting in 1986.
Raines' numbers were dwarfed in many ways by Henderson, but they compare favorably to another Hall of Fame leadoff hitter: Lou Brock.
From 1981-1990, Raines' average season looked like this:
.302 batting average, .391 on-base percentage, 93 runs scored, 63 stolen bases, park-adjusted OPS+ of 132.
From 1965-1974, which includes his then-record 118 stole base season of 1974, Lou Brock's average season looked like this:
.298 batting average, .351 on-base percentage, 104 runs scored, 67 stolen bases, park-adjusted OPS+ of 116.
While Brock hung on longer as an everyday player, Raines' decade with Montreal trumped Brock's 10 best consecutive seasons with St. Louis.
Does Raines deserve to be penalized for being reduced to a part-time player in the mid 1990s? Should his post-Lupus return to the game in his 40s tarnish what he did in the 1980s?
No. Tim Raines should be in the Hall of Fame.
Harold Baines: Baines has 1,628 career RBI, ranking him 29th all time. Every player ahead of Baines is either in the Hall of Fame, recently retired and a likely Hall of Famer (Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa), still active and adding to their RBI total (Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez), or a known steroid user whose Hall of Fame induction is less likely (Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmiero).
Based on that lone stat, Baines should be in the Hall of Fame, some might argue. Of course, those who argue this point would conveniently leave out the fact that Baines was a full-time player for 20 years and had only three 100 RBI seasons.
Or they would ignore that Baines finished in the top-10 in league MVP balloting twice in those 20 full seasons.
I don't mean to pick on Harold Baines. He compiled some impressive statistics over the course of his career and certainly deserves consideration for baseball's ultimate honor. However, he was not an impact player and does not belong in Cooperstown.
Mark McGwire : Leaving aside the steroid issue, Mark McGwire has Hall of Fame numbers.
He hit 583 HR, and was the first player in league history to hit 70 HR in a single season. Four times in 11 full,healthy seasons, McGwire led his league in each of the following categories: HR, slugging percentange, and OPS+.
Injuries kept McGwire out of action for significant amounts of time in 1993, 1994, 2000, and 2001. He never reached 2,000 hits, and for all those prodigious blasts, McGwire fell short of 1,500 RBI.
McGwire did make 12 All-Star teams in his career, and he finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting five times. He topped 30 HR in 11 seasons, 100 RBI in seven seasons, and finished with a career OBP of .394.
Right now, steroid and preformance-enhancing drug use is a hot-button issue. In 20 years, we may all look back on the wait McGwire faced before entering Cooperstown as a giant mistake in judgement, because advances in medicine and/or biotechnology will have changed the face of professional sports.
I used to believe McGwire and others who used steroids didn't belong in the Hall of Fame. However, I've changed my stance and believe Mark McGwire is a Hall of Famer .
Lee Smith : Lee Smith retired as the all-time leader in saves, with 478. At the time, no one else was within 50 saves of the record.
Smith led his league in saves four times during his career, and finished second on four other occasions. He was a seven-time All-Star, finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting three times, and had one top-10 MVP finish.
Trevor Hoffman, the current all-time saves leader who many believe will sail into Cooperstown, led his league in saves just twice (with five second place finishes). He has also made seven All-Star teams, finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting three times, and twice finished in the top-10 in MVP ballotting.
Hoffman's career ERA+ is 147, while Smith's is 131, and that's a significant difference. Besides that, their careers are very similar. To me, if Hoffman is a Hall of Famer down the road, Lee Smith should be one now .
Andre Dawson : Before it became fashionable to compile 30-30 seasons, Andre Dawson had five seasons with at least 20 HR and 20 SB, including the 1981 strike year, when Dawson hit 24 HR and swiped 26 bags in just 103 games.
Dawson also had nearly 1,600 RBI for his career, to go with 438 HR, 2,774 hits, eight Gold Gloves, and the 1987 NL MVP award.
From 1980-1983, Dawson's average year was: .302 with 24 HR, 87 RBI, 31 SB, 94 runs scored, and an OPS+ of 140. Dawson made three All-Star teams during this stretch, won Gold Gloves in each of the four seasons, finished second in MVP ballotting twice, and seventh one other time. In these four years, Dawson was a great baseball player.
From 1987-1990, Dawson averaged the following numbers: .290, 30 HR, 98 RBI, 76 runs, OPS+ of 130. He won the MVP in 1987 and made the All-Star team in each season. Dawson also won two Gold Gloves during this period.
Dawson's admittance to the Hall of Fame would mean that other borderline candidates such as Dave Parker and Dale Murphy would need to be inducted as well. While Dawson had a very good career with some excellent seasons, he remains on the outside looking in, in my opinion.
Alan Trammell : Alan Trammell's career is similar to Barry Larkin's in many ways. The biggest similarity is the fact that both Larkin and Trammell were overshadowed to some degree by Cal Ripken, Jr's many accomplishments.
The fact that Trammell was able to earn three Silver Slugger awards and four Gold Gloves during the prime of both he and Ripken's careers is a testament to the quality of player that Trammell was. He nearly won the 1987 AL MVP award (he had three top-10 finishes in MVP voting overall) and made six AL All-Star teams.
Also, like Larkin, injuries played a role in Trammell's career. Three straight seasons (1991-1993) late in Trammell's prime were cut short by injuries. By age 36, he was no longer an everyday player for the Tigers.
When I wrote about the first-year eligible players, I mentioned that Hall of Fame players usually have a combination of excellence, consistency, longevity, and good health. Trammell had some excellence and longevity, but there were some ups and downs in his statistics, as well as the injuries later in his career, that damaged his chances at Hall of Fame induction, in my view.
Don Mattingly : Growing up, Mattingly was my favorite player.
His average season, from 1984-1989: .327, 27 HR, 114 RBI, 97 runs scored, and an OPS+ of 147. In those six years, Mattingly made the All-Star team in each season, won five of his nine Gold Gloves, won the 1985 AL MVP award and had three other top-10 finishes in the ballotting, and won three Silver Slugger awards.
In 1990, Mattingly missed nearly half the season with a severe back injury, and was never the same player:
His average season, from 1990-1995: .286, 10 HR, 64 RBI, 65 runs scored, OPS+ of 104.
I would love for Don Mattingly to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he's not worthy of induction, and he's not really worthy of being in the conversation.
Jack Morris: Here's a statistical look at two pitchers from the same era. One is Jack Morris. The other shall remain nameless for the time being:
Mystery Man: 245-193 record, 3.70 career ERA, career ERA+ of 106, led league in complete games two times and led league in innings pitched, shutouts, and ERA once apiece. Made four All-Star teams, and had two top-5 finishes in Cy Young balloting.
Morris: 254-186 record, 3.90 career ERA, career ERA+ of 105, led league in wins twice, and led league in innings pitched, complete games, shutouts, walks, and strikeouts once apiece. Made five All-Star teams, and had five top-5 finishes in Cy Young balloting.
The only major difference between Jack Morris and the Mystery Man is the top-5 finishes in Cy Young balloting. On the strength of three 20-win seasons, Morris put together more Cy Young caliber seasons than the other player. Other than that, there isn't a lot to distinguish Morris from the Mystery Man.
The Mystery Man? Dennis Martinez, who received 3.2% of the vote in the lone year he was eligible for the Hall of Fame. Jack Morris is closer to Dennis Martinez than he is to a Hall of Famer.
Dale Murphy : Murphy had six wonderful years in the early-to-mid 1980s, and then his statistics dropped considerably at age 32. By age 35, Murphy was done as an everyday player, although if he hadn't won two MVPs earlier in his career, the plug would have been pulled on him before that.
Murphy's average season, from 1982-1987: .289 average, 36 HR, 105 RBI, 110 runs scored, 18 SB. He was an All-Star in each of those six years, won two MVP awards (1982 and 1983), won five Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers.
If he could have sustained that pace for another two or three years, Murphy would be a lock Hall of Famer. Instead, he's on the outside looking in.
Bert Blyleven : Blyleven is 5th all-time in strikeouts and 9th all-time in shutouts. The only pitcher ahead of Blyleven on both lists is Nolan Ryan. That's it.
Blyleven is also 14th all-time in innings pitched. One doesn't get the opportunity to throw nearly 5,000 innings without being a quality pitcher. Blyleven does has a tough case, largely because he didn't hit any "magic numbers."
He didn't hang on to reach 300 wins (missed by 13). He won 20 games just once. He led the league in losses once, and had seven season with 15 or more losses, unheard of among great pitchers playing today. In fact, Blyleven is 10th all time in losses (250).
Not helping his case are his paltry All-Star team selections (2) and top-5 Cy Young finishes (3) in his 22-year career. Also, his career 3.31 ERA is solid, but pedestrian compared to other Hall of Famers.
Blyleven's pitched mostly for bad teams though, which is why he lost so many games. To overcome this, 20.9% of his career wins were shutouts and, when given the chance to play for winning ballclubs, he was a big reason for his teams' successes.
Blyleven is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in 8 postseason appearances (6 starts). While that won't place him among the postseason legends, it does prove that, when given the opportunity in the playoffs, Blyleven was at his best.
Bert Blyleven's induction wouldn't mean that lesser players would also need to be elected in subsequent years. The pitchers whose careers were most comparable to Blyleven were Don Sutton and Gaylord Perry. They're in the Hall of Fame. Bert Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame, too.
Dave Parker : Like Dale Murphy, Dave Parker had a tremendous peak period during his career.
From 1975-1979, Parker won two batting titles, an NL MVP award, and three Gold Gloves. His average season during that span was: .321 average, 23 HR, 98 RBI, 95 runs scored, OPS+ of 147.
Parker only had one more season of that quality: 1985, when he hit .312 with 34 HR, 125 RBI, and finished second in the NL MVP balloting.
So, like Muprhy, Parker had six truly great seasons. Parker was a good player for the remainder of his career, a career that was longer than Murphy's and in some ways more productive (more career hits and RBI).
I view Parker and Murphy as similar players in many respects, including the fact that neither sustained excellence long enough to be considered Hall of Fame-worthy.
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