The Baseball Writers Association of America will soon decide who will be elected into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
Among those who are trying to make it to Cooperstown, I believe only five will receive the necessary 75 percent needed to make it to the Hall.
First-timers include three MVPs in Jeff Bagwell (1994), Larry Walker (1997), and Juan Gonzalez (1996 and 1998). Another first-timer is Rafael Palmeiro, who probably would've been a shoe-in his first try, but it was revealed in 2005 that he used steroids.
Beyond first-timers there are many other intriguing players, such as Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar, both in their second year of eligibility.
When it comes long-term candidates, Bert Blyleven is the cream of the crop. He is on his 14th ballot (out of 15 chances) and will have a controversial decision whether he gets in or not.
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Teams: Cincinnati Reds, 1986-2004
A hometown hero, Barry Larkin is one of the greatest Cincinnati Reds of all-time. He is also one of the greatest shortstops of all-time.
To me he seems like a simple choice for several reasons: first, he was the best shortstop of the 1990's hands down; second, he was a 12-time All-Star selection; third, he led the Reds to a 1990 World Series title, their last. He batted nearly .300 and smashed 2,340 hits in the process of his illustrious career. Additionally he won three Gold Gloves and nine Silver Sluggers.
Larkin was a team player as well as a ballplayer. In order to become closer to his Hispanic teammates, he learned Spanish. He was also never questioned about steroids in a period when they were at an all-time high.
He was quiet, and despite being somewhat overshadowed by other shortstops like Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, and Ozzie Smith, he got the job done and deserves a spot in the Hall.
Teams: Minnesota Twins (1970-1976 and 1985-1988), Texas Rangers (1976-1977), Pittsburgh Pirates (1978-1980), Cleveland Indians (1981-1985), California Angels (1989-1992)
Perhaps the most obvious choice out of 2011's candidates, Bert Blyleven undoubtedly has a spot reserved for him in Cooperstown.
As a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan, I am deeply upset to see a pitcher (and now television announcer) that I so love not in the Hall. Despite his still great stats, writers don't completely understand that he played on awful teams throughout his career.
With 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts (fifth all-time) and a career 3.31 ERA, there is no question that Blyleven should belong with the greatest. They say just because he gave up a lot of home runs he shouldn't be in; well, to me this is absolute garbage.
I look forward to Bert's speech to a wait that has gone years too long.
Teams: Houston Astros (1991-2005)
Jeff Bagwell was a quiet slugger throughout the 90's who went about his business without distracting the baseball world with steroids nonsense.
He won the NL MVP in a shortened 1994 season that saw baseball players go on strike. He hit .297 over his storied career and slugged 449 dingers. He won Rookie of the Year in 1991 and was a four-time All-Star. He also could steal bases, totalling more than 200 while racking up two 30-30 seasons in the majors.
Additionally he won three NL Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove to go with it.
To me, Bagwell is the easiest first-time choice on here, and he proved throughout his days in Houston that the Hall of Fame has a special place reserved for him.
Teams: 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)
Roberto Alomar and Joe Morgan are the best second basemen in the last fifty years. There, I said it. Bold? Perhaps, but it is true.
In a nutshell, Alomar was extremely solid. He had 10 Gold Gloves and a career average of .300. He collected more than 2,700 hits. He had controversy, however, with the spitting incident in '95 but since has reconciled and become life-long friends with the umpire he once spewed all over.
One word that describes Alomar is "traveler", the reason being that he played for seven teams in his 17-year career. Although he changed teams a lot, his talent did not as he racked up 12 All-Star appearances, a record for second basemen.
Overall Alomar will receive the 75 percent necessary (he was eight votes short in 2010) and deservedly so will get a plaque in Cooperstown.
Jack Morris: The hometown hero of the 1991 World Series pitched a 10-inning shutout for the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 in a 1-0 victory. He had solid stats in 254 wins and 3.39 career ERA, but won't get in until at least when fellow Twin great Bert Blyleven is inducted.
Juan Gonzalez: Okay so maybe this is a stretch, but Gonzalez was one of the dominant sluggers of the 1990s while with the Texas Rangers. "Juan Gone" was the 1996 and 1998 AL MVP, and had 449 homers and 1,404 runs batted in over his 16-year career. Look for him to get some votes this year, and have a shot next year.
Lee Smith: I feel bad leaving Smith out, as he was the game's all-time saves leader when he retired. Ever since, he has been surpassed by future Cooperstown faces Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. With 478 saves and a 3.03 ERA it hurts to say no, but try me again next year.