On Wednesday afternoon, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced the induction of Bert Blyleven (among others) after a 14-year wait. Blyleven's election comes on the heels of the elections of Jim Rice (class of '09) and Andre "Hawk" Dawson ('10) after comparably long waits. With these three men all in, we can now turn our sights to other players who have spent many years (five or more for the sake of this article) on the ballot and are still waiting for the all-important call from Cooperstown. I took each player who will be on their fifth ballot or late in 2012. Players are ordered not by merit, but by time on the ballot to avoid any claims of favoritism.
Dale Murphy: 1977-1993 (14th Ballot in 2012): .265 BA, 398 HR, 1,266 RBIs, 1982 and '83 NL MVP, 7-time All-Star, 5 Gold Gloves, 4 Silver Sluggers (12.6 percent in 2011)
With the exception of his batting average, Dale Murphy's numbers compare quite favorably to Hall of Famer Jim Rice. Even if they don't put him in the Hall, they certainly should garner better than 12.6 percent over the ballots cast. Two MVPs for Murphy against one for Rice, seven All-Stars vs eight, four Silver Sluggers vs two, five Gold Gloves vs none. Murphy hit 16 more home runs and drove in 200 less RBIs in two more seasons. When comparing Murphy to Jim Rice, one must ask, are too few people voting for Murphy, or did too many vote for Rice?
Which player will be the next to get to Cooperstown?
Murphy dominated from 1982 through '87, hitting .289 and averaging 36 HR and 105 RBIs. He made the All-Star game each year and won both of his MVPs along with all of his Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers in that period. After 1987, Murphy was unable to match that type of success again. He hit over .250 only once (1991 with the Phillies) and never again drove in over 90 runners.
The .265 career BA and short window of dominance are the biggest marks against Murphy.
Jack Morris: 1977-1994 (13th Ballot in 2012): 254 W, 3.90 ERA, 2,478 K, 5-time All-Star (53.5 percent in 2011)
Morris was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s with 162 victories. The pitchers that led every previous decade in wins have all reached the hallowed hall of Cooperstown. The 1990s' leader Greg Maddux is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer as well. Morris won four World Series rings with the Tigers (1984), Twins ('91) and Blue Jays ('92 and '93). His gutty ten-inning performance in game seven of the '91 World Series is the accomplishment that is most closely associated with Morris. Now that Bert Byleven (a player with significantly better stats across the board) has been inducted, the debate can begin in earnest over Morris.
The two biggest marks against Morris are his 3.90 career ERA and lack of a Cy Young Award. Will that be enough to hold him out? Only time will tell. It is worth noting that of the players on this list, Morris was the only one to receive better than 50-percent of the vote in 2011.
Don Mattingly: 1982-1995 (12th Ballot in 2012): .307 BA, 222 HR, 1,099 RBI, 1985 MVP, 6-time All-Star, 9 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers (13.6 percent in 2011)
"Donnie Baseball" had one of the most dominant six-year periods of any player in that era. From 1982-1989, Mattingly hit .327 and averaged 27 HR and 114 RBIs per season. In that period, Mattingly won his MVP, made all six of his all-star appearances, and collected five Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers.
Unfortunately for Mattingly and his supporters, back problems severely shortened the prime of his career. After the '89 season, Mattingly would never again reach 20 HR or 90 RBIs in a season. Only once ('94) did he manage to hit over .300. I fear that his lack of longevity will be enough to keep him out of Cooperstown.
Allen Trammell: 1977-1996 (11th Ballot in 2012): .285 BA, 185 HR, 1,003 RBIs, 1,231 R, 236 SB, 6-time All-Star, 4 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers (24.3 percent in 2011)
Allen Trammell was one of the key contributors to the Tigers during their run in the 1980s. Playing shortstop in an era dominated by Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith and future Hall of Famer (in my book at least) Barry Larkin led many to overlook the accomplishments of Trammell in Detroit. Trammell was a sure-handed defender playing the toughest position on the field.
However, Trammell was a streaky hitter. There were a handful of seasons when he would hit well over .300 before suddenly slipping back to an average in the .270s or worse the next year. For his career, Trammell struck out more than he walked. Though a solid fielder, he lacked the flashy defensive abilities that defined the careers of Smith and (potential HOFer) Omar Vizquel.
Lee Smith: 1980-1997 (10th Ballot in 2012): 71 W, 3.03 ERA, 478 S, 1,251 K, 7-time All-Star (45.3% in 2011)
For many years, relievers had a difficult time getting votes for the Hall. Recently, this trend has begun to shift. Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter were both elected after long waits and current closers Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera are looking like first-ballot HOFers. At the time of his retirement, Lee Smith had the career lead in saves by over 100 on Dennis Eckersley. Smith was the first pitcher to collect saves in such a large quantity.
Working against Smith is his 3.03 ERA (high for a Hall of Fame-caliber reliever) and low strikeout totals compared to his competition. Many have made the argument that Smith was nothing more than a "compiler" of statistics over his 18-year career.
Mark McGwire: 1986-2001 (6th Ballot in 2012): .263 BA, 583 HR, 1,414 RBIs, 1987 AL ROY, 12-time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers (19.8 percent in 2011)
Mark McGwire was one of the most prolific homerun hitters in the history of the game. "Big Mac" averaged 36 HR per season (that number jumps to 39 if you don't include the 18 games he played in 1986) including injury-riddled 1993 and '94 when he combined for 18 HR.
Given recent revelations, much of McGwire's power numbers have come in to question. Without his HRs, McGwire doesn't have much to stand on. He was a below-average defender at the position widely considered to be the easiest position on the field. He hit .263 for his career and his RBI totals are quite low when you consider how many homeruns he hit (for the sake of comparison, Dave Winfield drove in 400 more runs while hitting 100 less homers).
Tim Raines: 1979-2002 (5th Ballot): .294 BA, 170 HR, 980 RBIs, 2,605 H, 808 SB, 7-time All-Star, 1 Silver Slugger (37.5% in 2011)
The supporters of Tim Raines often refer to him as the Rickey Henderson of the National League. On the surface, that makes a lot of sense. Both were leadoff men who hit for a similar average, stole a bunch of bases, and played LF instead of CF.
However, there is only one stat in which Henderson doesn't blow Raines away. Raines hit 15 points better than Henderson. Other than that, Henderson has over 500 more steals, over 400 more hits, over 100 more homers, and 135 more RBIs.
Now that you have some information on the seven player who will be on the ballot for the fifth time or more in 2012, which ones do you think deserve to be elected? Which ones will be elected? I look forward to reading and responding to your comments on this subject.