My 2011 Baseball Hall Of Fame Ballot (If I Had One)
As we rapidly approach January, members the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) are filling out their ballots for the 2011 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame. With the Winter Meetings over, January's HOF announcement is the biggest story until pitchers and catchers report in about six weeks.
For those of you who don't know how the balloting works, here is a brief summary. All candidates that received greater than five-percent of votes in the previous year remain on the ballot. Players that have spent 15 years on the ballot without getting elected are dropped.
The holdovers from the previous season are joined new candidates selected form a pool of players that have been retired for five years (or deceased for six months) and played a minimum of 10 MLB seasons.
Voters can choose to put up to 10 players on their ballot. Any players appearing on over 75-percent of submitted ballots are inducted the following summer. With that in mind, here is my ballot.
2011 BBWAA Ballot
Here is an alphabetical list of of the 2011 candidates (* indicates a player's first appearance on the BBWAA ballot).
*B. J. Surhoff
Bert Blyleven: 1970-1992 (14th Ballot)
Career Statistics: 287 wins, 3.31 ERA, 3,701 K, 2-time All-Star
I honestly have no idea how Blyleven has gone 14 years without getting in. After finishing five votes short in 2010, I think this will be his year. He's fifth all-time in career strikeouts and he is one win behind Tommy John for most by a non-member of the HOF.
Blyleven has a higher win total than many current Hall of Famers (including the late-great Bob Feller, though I'm not saying Blyleven was a better pitcher). He also had one of the nastiest curveballs in baseball history.
Keep in mind that Blyleven put up his numbers while playing on some pretty awful teams for a large part of his career ('80s Indians, 90s Angels, '70s Twins).
I don't mean to count my chickens before they hatch, but I'm really looking forward to hearing his acceptance speech this summer. I expect it will be filled with lots of emotions after a decade-and-a-half wait.
Roberto Alomar: 1988-2004 (Second Ballot)
Career Statistics: .307 BA, 210 HR, 1,134 RBI, 2,724 H, 474 SB, 12-time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers
As an Indians fan, I had the joy of watching Alomar in person for three seasons from 1999 through 2001. I don't think I'm going out on a limb to say that Alomar was far and away the best second baseman of his era and one of the best to ever play the game.
Anytime a player hits over .300 while winning 10 Gold Glove Awards, he's a no-brainer to me.
Last season he finished eight votes short of induction, largely because of his incident with umpire John Hirschbeck in 1996. Both individuals have worked out their differences and apologized for the unfortunate incident. Though I understand why some voters didn't for him last year, I don't agree with them.
Barry Larkin: 1986-2004 (Second Ballot)
Career Statistics: .295 BA, 198 HR, 960 RBI, 2,340 H, 397 SB, 1995 NL MVP, 12-time All-Star, 3 Gold Gloves, 9 Silver Sluggers
Think about the 10 best shortstops in baseball history...can you produce a list of ten without including Barry Larkin? I know I can't. If you were to put together an all-'90s team, Larkin and Robbie Alomar would be the starting middle infielders. He was clearly the shortstop of the decade for the 90s as far as I am concerned.
Larkin and Cal Ripken were the players who broke the mold of the soft-hitting defense-first shortstop that was prominent for most of baseball's history. Barry was Jeter, A-Rod, Nomar, and Tejada long before baseball fans had even heard of the latter players.
I think Barry (as well as Alomar) was deserving of first-ballot induction. I think that Larkin doesn't get his due many times because he was overshadowed by players who came immediately before (Ozzie Smith) and after (Jeter, A-Rod, et al) him.
Lee Smith: 1980-1997 (Ninth Ballot)
Career Statistics: 71 W, 3.03 ERA, 478 S, 1,251 K, 7-time All-Star
When Lee Smith retired in 1997, he had a lead of nearly 100 saves over second place (Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley). He has since been passed by future Hall of Famers Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. Several years ago, relievers had difficulty earning votes.
With the recent elections of Eck and Goose Gossage, it seems that the BBWAA seems to be warming up to the idea of putting relievers in the Hall.
As one of only three players to reach 450-plus saves, I think its safe to say that Smith is the most deserving of the eligible relievers. Though I don't think he'll make it this year, once Bert Blyleven is elected, Smith will become the next "when will he get what he deserves" player.
Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005 (First Ballot)
Career Statistics: .297 BA, 449 HR, 1,529 RBI, 2,314 H, 202 SB, 1994 NL MVP, 1991 NL Rookie of the Year, 4-time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers
Of my five picks, this is the one that will probably be met with the most resistance. Bagwell was one of the most complete first basemen of an era in which players (especially corner infielders, I'm looking at you, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro) juiced up and swung for the fences.
He hit for average and power while playing a very good defensive first base and even stealing a couple of bases (he was a 30-30 player twice). Though he didn't hit any of the landmark numbers usually associated with the Hall (500 HR, 3,000 H, 1,700 RBI), I think his total body of work makes him a Hall of Famer.
Bagwell was one of the few star players of his era to avoid steroid allegations in recent years (with the exception of Bryant Gumbel speculation last January).
I think it's important for baseball and the BBWAA to celebrate the players of the "steroid era" who managed to succeed while staying clean. Bagwell (as well as Alomar and Larkin) are great guys to start with.
Others Already Being Inducted
There are several other ways for people (players and otherwise) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are multiple committees set up to decide on managers, executives, umpires, players, and media members. In 2011, two non-players will be honored at the induction ceremony.
Pat Gillick, Executive (Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners, and Phillies)
Gillick has been the best general manager of the last quarter-century. He won a pair of World Series while running the Toronto Blue Jays organization, led the Orioles to the playoffs twice, assembled the record-setting 2001 Mariners team, and laid the foundation for a dynasty-in-the-making in Philadelphia.
His tenures in Toronto and Seattle were far and away the most successful years in each franchise's history.
Dave Van Horne, Announcer (Ford C. Frick Award)
Every season, the Ford C. Frick Award is given to a broadcaster for their contributions to the game. Frick winners have plaques in the Hall of Fame building, give a speech on induction day, and are eligible to be members of one of baseball's veteran's committees (effective 2011). However, they are not considered to be Hall of Famers.
This year's winner was long time Expos play-by-play man Dave Van Horne. Van Horne was the English-language radio man for the Expos for 32 seasons until 2000.
Since a new radio contract couldn't be reached, Van Horne has been calling games for the Florida Marlins since.
Bill Conlin, Writer (J. G. Taylor Spink Award)
The BBWAA annually gives one of its own the Spink Award. Also referred to as the "writer's wing" of the Hall of Fame, the Spink and Frick award winners have similar rights though they aren't members of the Hall itself.
This year's winner is Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News. It's ironic that I'm congratulating him here, given his negative view of bloggers.
Conlin created a controversy in 2007 when he stated: "The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler's time on earth: I'm sure he would have eliminated all bloggers." Regardless, congrats, Bill.
Tim Raines: 1979-2002 (Fourth Ballot)
Career Statistics: .294 BA, 170 HR, 980 RBI, 2,605 H, 808 SB, 7-time All-Star, 1 Silver Slugger
Raines is the player that I'm most on the edge about. Being a "Small Hall" person, I would leave borderline guys out on my ballot. Raines is the ultimate borderline guy in my eyes. The guy Raines needs to be compared against is Ricky Henderson.
Ricky has over 500 more steals, over 400 more hits, over 100 more homers, and 135 more RBI while putting up a BA about 10-points less than Raines.
The other problem that Raines has is that he spent the majority of his career in LF, a position that puts a higher premium on power (as opposed to CF, which puts a greater premium on speed and defense).
John Franco: 1984-2005 (First Ballot)
Career Statistics: 90 W, 2.89 ERA, 424 S, 975 K, 4-time All-Star
John Franco has great numbers, especially when compared to the other Hall of Fame level relievers of his era and beyond. I think Franco deserves to be in the hall eventually.
However, I don't think he should be elected if Lee Smith isn't. Franco was an outstanding closer, but Smith set the gold standard for closers in his career. If/when Smith gets elected, I would begin considering Franco.
Jack Morris: 1977-1994 (12th Ballot)
Career Statistics: 254 W, 3.90 ERA, 2,478 K, 5-time All-Star
Morris was one of the dominant pitcher of the mid 80s. However much like John Franco, there is another player more deserving still on the outside looking in.
Until Bert Blyleven (who has better stats in almost every category) gets inducted, I don't think Morris should even be considered. In the end, I don't think Morris is quite Hall-worthy, but he deserves to be in the discussion after Blyleven gets in.
I Will Never Vote For...
Every year, there are a handful of voter who cast a write-in vote for Rose. His dirty hit on Ray Fosse in an exhibition game notwithstanding, Rose did more to ruin the game's credibility than help it. By gambling on the game, Rose broke the game's cardinal rule.
As soon as people begin to question whether or not the games are fixed, baseball has the credibility of the WWE, NBA or BCS. For the first century of the game, gambling was the one and only unforgivable sin, until...
Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro
It is debatable whether or not steroid use is on par with betting on the game. That is a debate that will continue for many years.
I'm still on the fence, but I'm leaning toward putting users in and putting "admitted steroid use/tested positive for steroids/named in Mitchell Report" on their plaque along with their other stats. Guys like Bonds, Clemens and A-Rod were HOF-level talents long before they started using PEDs.
McGwire and Palmeiro on the other hand are guys that I don't think would be HOF-level. McGwire was a lousy average hitter (.263) and rather poor defender. All that he has going for him are his HR numbers, something that you can't be sure how much is attributed to his PED use.
Palmeiro's benchmark numbers (500 HR and 3,000 RBI) were primarily a product of his longevity, something that can be attributed to the healing attributes of PEDs.