My Baseball Hall Of Fame Vote

levinakl@levinaklCorrespondent IIIDecember 3, 2008

Well, it’s that time of year again, and it's time to start the big Baseball Hall of Fame debate. On the 2008 ballot, there are 23 different names. Let's take a look and say whom we think should get in, and who comes up short. First, let's look at the players returning to the ballot: (in order of most votes last year)

Jim Rice

A veteran of 16 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Rice was one of the most feared right handed bats in the American League. He was an eight-time All-Star, who won the 1978 AL MVP award, finished with 382 HR, 1451 RBI and a .298 batting average. Rice led the league in slugging percentage twice, hits once, total bases four times, triples once, RBI twice and home runs three times. He also had several finishes in the top three in many different categories.

Rice’s biggest argument against seems to be his relationship with the media. Other than that, I don’t really see much argument against Rice, he should merit a vote to get in. In his final year of eligibility, I think this will be the year he gets in, especially since he came oh so close last year. If I didn’t make it clear, Jim Rice would get my vote. (Best year: 1978, .315/.370/.600, 406 TB, 46 HR, 139 RBI, 25 2b, 15 3b, 121 runs, 7 SB) Last year: 392 votes, or 72.2 percent of the ballot

Andre Dawson

"The Hawk" won the 1987 NL MVP, a rare feat for a last place team. His accomplishments also include the 1977 NL Rookie of the Year award, seven Gold Glove awards, and the HR and RBI titles in 1987. Dawson's biggest arguments against is his .279 batting average, and his durability, as he often missed time with knee problems.

He finished with 2774 hits (44th all-time), 438 HR (32nd all-time), 1591 RBI (28th all-time), 1373 runs, 314 SB, 503 2b (41st all-time). In the past, I always shied away from Dawson as a candidate. Upon further review of his statistics, I think he's real close, and I'd probably give him the nod with his impressive power numbers. The tie-breaker for me is the defensive prowess he showed, as he had one of the more feared arms in RF for a long time. So, Dawson gets my vote barely, but gets my vote nonetheless. (Best year: 1987, .287/.328/.568, 49 HR, 137 RBI, 90 runs, 178 hits, 24 2b, 2 3b, 11 SB) Last year: 358 votes, or 65.9 percent of the ballot

Bert Blyleven

An often overlooked pitcher, Blyleven has an awful strong case for a vote into Cooperstown.

Blyleven finished his 22-year career with a record of 287-250, which is all that more impressive when you look at the records of the teams he played for. He has a career ERA of 3.31, and a WHIP of 1.20. He had 60 shutouts, which ranks him 9th all-time. He also had an impressive 242 complete games (91st all-time), 3701 K's (5th all-time), and pitched 4970 innings (13th all-time).

He also had placed in the top 3 voting twice for the Cy Young Award (1984-85), and is known for one of the best, if not the best curve-balls of all-time. He also won 2 World Series (1979, 1987) and was a big part of those respective teams. Blyleven isn't necessarily the first guy I think of as a Hall of Famer, but in the end, I don't see a reason to keep him out.

I don't know this for sure, but I'd bet he'd become the first player born in Holland to make the Hall of Fame. (Best year: 1973, 20-17, 325 IP, 40 starts, 25 CG, nine shutouts, 258 K, 2.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) Last year: 336 votes, or 61.9 percent of the ballot

Lee Smith

Another closer that started out as a Cub in the early 1980’s, Smith had a very long career by closer standards, pitching over the course of 18 seasons.

The longevity allowed Smith to compile 478 saves, making him the all-time leader (subsequently passed by both Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera). Smith was a seven-time All-Star, who won the Rolaids Relief Award three times, as well as leading his league in saves four times. He had only one MVP finish in the top 10 (1991), and three top five finishes in the Cy Young race (one second place in 1991).

Smith was a great closer in his day, and had a great run, but I think he falls short of deserving a vote at this time. There are too many closers that are more deserving than him (at least in my opinion) that have to gain entry before Lee Smith deserves it.

I would like to vote them all in (as if I have a vote), but for now, I must say that Lee Smith doesn’t get a vote. Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage getting in recently only has to help the chances of Smith going forward, but he has too much competition for now. (Best year: 1991, 6-3, 47 SV, 2.34 ERA, 67 G, 73 IP, 67 K, 1.14 WHIP) Last year: 235 votes, or 43.3% of the ballot

Jack Morris

The biggest money pitcher of the 1980's and early 1990's, Morris was part of three winning World Series teams: the 1984 Detroit Tigers, 1991 Minnesota Twins and the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays. Morris pitched in all three World Series and put up an amazing 4-2 record in 7 starts, and a 2.96 ERA.

Take away 1992 and Morris was 4-0 in 5 starts with a 1.54 ERA. Overall, Morris was 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 13 career postseason starts. Morris was a 5-time All-Star, who won the 1991 WS MVP, led the league in wins twice, strikeouts and innings once apiece, and was generally considered a big workhorse, amounting 3824 innings (49th all-time) and 75 complete games over the course of his career. Jack Morris also had more wins in the 1980’s than any other pitcher, and finished his career with a record of 254-186, an impressive .577 win percentage.

In the end, I think Morris deserves to get in because he was the biggest winner of his time. It is certainly debatable, but I think Morris is deserving of the reward. (Best year: 1986, 21-8, 3.27 ERA, 267 IP, 223 K, 1.17 WHIP, 15 CG, six shutouts) Last year: 233 votes, or 42.9 percent of the ballot

Tommy John

A player who is more famous for the arm surgery he had, then he is for his impressive career on the field, Tommy John will best be remembered for the ligament surgery that has now been made his name famous.

As a pitcher, however, Tommy John also had a very impressive career, putting up 288 wins over a 26-year career. His career ERA of 3.34 over 4710 1/3 IP, with 2245 strikeouts shows great and productive longevity. However, even with three 20-game winning seasons, and three World Series Appearances, I don’t think John showed enough dominance to merit a vote for the Hall of Fame.

He did finish second twice in the Cy Young voting (1977 & 1979), but only made 4 All-Star games in 26 seasons. To me, that simply is not enough. (Best year: 1977 - 20-7 record, 220 1/3 IP, 123 K, 2.78 ERA, 11 CG, three shutouts) Last year: 158 votes, or 29.1 percent of the ballot

Tim Raines

“Rock” Raines was a dynamic lead-off hitter for the Montreal Expos in the early 1980’s. He moved on with some success playing for the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees and finished up his career with stints with the Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and Florida Marlins. Raines was a very solid player, appearing in seven All-Star games, winning the MVP in the 1987 game, and winning two World Series championships, both with the Yankees in the late 1990’s.

His career totals, while impressive, are not impressive enough to the point that he should deserve serious merit for the Hall of Fame. He is 49th in runs scored with 1571, and fifth in stolen bases with 808. Had he reached 3000 hits, he may deserve more merit, but he came up 395 short. As a result, I don’t see any reason that Raines deserves a vote, even though I recognize him as a very good player in his day. But that, doesn’t make him an elite player required to get my vote. (Best year: 1987 - .330/.429/.526, 18 HR, 68 RBI, 50 SB (in 55 attempts), 34 2b, 8 3b, 175 hits, 123 runs) Last year: 132 votes, or 24.3 percent of the ballot

Mark McGwire

The biggest quandary amongst the recent additions to the ballot, McGwire was considered a “no-brainier” when he retired from baseball in 2001. However, when the big steroid controversy came out, and McGwire testified before Congress, he “refused to talk about the past,” which made the general public basically think that McGwire was basically admitting his guilt.

When you look at just his numbers, the 583 home runs and 1414 runs batted in would generally make him a first-ballot hall of Famer. However, many ballot holders have already come out and declared that they do not intend to cast their ballot in favor of McGwire.

While I think he will eventually get in, I do not see it happening in yet, and I can't say I disagree with leaving him off the ballot. However, it does create an interesting dilemma for future potential candidates. After all, where do you draw the line of the impact of the Steroid Era? My stance would be to put McGwire in, he deserves the nod; otherwise, it sets a dangerous precedent going forward. 

Other people do argue he was too one dimensional o fa player, but I think he was such a good home run hitter and run producer, that he deserves entry. (Best year: 1998, .299/.470/.752, 70 HR, 147 RBI, 21 2b, 0 3b, 1 SB, 152 hits, 130 runs, 162 walks) Last year: 128 votes, or 23.6 percent of the ballot.

Alan Trammell

Trammell played 20 seasons with the same Detroit Tigers squad, and formed one of the more famous double play combos of recent days with Lou Whitaker, with whom he played together for 19 of them.

Trammell won the World Series MVP in 1984, was a six-time All-Star, and also won the Gold Glove four times, but he never really did anything in my opinion that set him apart from the field enough to make him a Hall of Famer. He was a very good player, in fact, one of the better SS in the game during his career, but that alone does not cut it.

When you are required to be one of the very best, 2365 hits and a .285 career batting average over 20 seasons, coupled with 185 HR and 1003 RBI do not give him enough to be worthy of a vote to Cooperstown. (Best year: 1987, .343/.402/.551, 28 HR, 105 RBI, 21 SB, 34 2b, 3 3b, 205 hits, 109 runs) Last year: 99 votes, or 18.2 percent of the ballot

Don Mattingly

Here is a great debate that goes on, especially amongst hard core Yankee fans, most of whom think Donnie Baseball deserves entry. They use the argument that Mattingly compares favorably to Kirby Puckett, who has already been voted in.

However, despite 222 HR and 1099 RBI, and a .307 career batting average, I do not think Mattingly deserves the nod. There is no doubt that had Mattingly not suffered the back pains he had throughout his career, he would likely be a much more deserving candidate. His seasons from 1984-1987 are Cooperstown-esque, but the period of dominance unfortunately did not last long enough.

Mattingly was an exceptional defensive player, who won 9 Gold Glove Awards, and won the 1985 AL MVP. He also won a batting title in 1984, led the AL in hits twice, doubles three times, RBI once, and total bases twice. He had a great run, but his career falls short of great and keeps him out. (Best year: 1985, .324/.371/.567, 35 HR, 145 RBI, 211 hits, 107 runs, 48 2b, 3 3b, only 41 strikeouts in 652 AB) Last year: 86 votes, or 15.8 percent of the vote

Dave Parker

“The Cobra” was one of the more feared left handed hitters in the game, who played 19 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels and Toronto Blue Jays. Parker is best remembered for his days with the Pirates and Reds, where he was part of the 1979 “We are Family” winning World Series team with the Pirates. Parker went on to help the A’s reach the 1988 World Series and helped them to also win the 1989 World Series.

Parker was the 1978 NL MVP, as well as the 1979 World Series MVP. Parker won back-to-back batting titles in 1977 & 1978, led the NL in slugging twice, and the league three times in total bases, twice in doubles, once in RBI and hits, and also amassed three Gold Glove Awards. Parker finished his career with 339 home runs, 1493 RBI, 1272 runs, and a .290 career batting average.

His defense brings him within a whisker of being selected, but as long as a guy like Rice stays out, Parker is a notch below Rice, and thus doesn’t get my vote at this time. (Best year: 1978, .334/.394/.585, 30 HR, 117 RBI, 194 hits, 102 runs, 20 SB, 32 2b, 12 3b) Last year: 82 votes, or 15.1 percent of the ballot

Dale Murphy

Dale Murphy played 18 seasons, over 14 of them with the Atlanta Braves. In his first 14 seasons (12 full seasons), Murphy amassed 354 HR for Atlanta, and posted a rare back-to-back MVP awards in 1982-1983. He was a 7-time All-Star, who also won five Gold Glove awards.

Murphy led the NL in slugging twice, runs once, total bases once, home runs and RBI twice apiece, and walks once. On the downside, Murphy led the NL in strikeouts three times, and is 13th on the all-time list with 1748. The biggest arguments against Murphy are his .265 career batting average, and the amount he struggled in the last four seasons of his career.

Murphy stayed on a little too long, and fell short of the 400 HR mark by just two home runs. As much as I loved Murphy, and his long consecutive streak of 740 games played between 1980 and 1986 is quite impressive (was 12th all-time back then), he is similar squeezed out like Dave Parker. (Best year: 1983, .302/.393/.540, 36 HR, 121 RBI, 30 SB, 24 2b, 4 3b, 131 runs) Last year: 75 votes, or 13.8 percent of the ballot

Harold Baines

Baines played 22 seasons, and was one of the ground breakers in terms of being a full-time designated hitter, setting many records for the position along the way. Of the 2830 games Baines took part in, he only played the field in 1061 of those games, including only one past 1992. Baines made six All-Star teams, and had two top-10 MVP voting appearances (1983 & 1985), as well as three Top 10 performances in batting average.

However, in the end, Baines was more of a stat accumulator than a worthy Hall of Fame candidate. Even in those 22 seasons, Baines put up a modest total of 2866, good enough for 40th all-time.

When you look at the numbers, they may look impressive, but similar to his 384 home runs (ranking him 53rd all-time), and 1628 RBI (28thall-time), there really aren't any numbers to support a real claim for Baines to be a member of the Hall of Fame.  Before people bring up the Paul Molitor DH argument, I say that I don't think Baines was anywhere near as good a hitter as Molitor was. (Best year: 1985, .309/.348/.467, 22 HR, 113 RBI, 1 SB, 29 2b, 3 3b, 198 hits, 86 runs) Last year: 28 votes, or 5.2 percent of the ballot

Now, on to the ten new candidates, some of which can be easily eliminated:

Jay Bell

 Bell was a solid player who played parts of eighteen years with the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Indians (plus short stints with the Royals and Mets). Jay Bell was a member of the 2001 Arizona Diamondback World Championship team, but other then that, Bell doesn't really have much of a leg to stand on as far as being a Hall of Famer. (Best year: 1999, .289/.374/.557, 38 HR, 112 RBI, 7 SB, 32 2b, 6 3b, 170 hits, 132 runs)

David Cone

A rare (at least these days) five-time World Series winner, Cone was at his best when it counted most. He had a 2-0 record with a sparkling 2.12 ERA in 6 starts. Cone was a five-time All-Star, and won the Cy Young Award in 1994 with the Kansas City Royals and added two top ten MVP finishes.

Cone was “the hired gun of the 1990’s, coming close to the standard Jack Morris established in the 1980’s as a big game pitcher. However, he didn’t accumulate the same resume that Morris did. He is currently 22nd all-time in strikeouts with 2668 and does have a very impressive .606 winning percentage. His total of 194 wins hurts him the most, as his 3.46 career ERA is impressive, especially when you compare it to the league park adjusted ERA of 4.17.

To me, Cone is very close, but comes up just short. Early in his career, I think Cone wasted too many pitches and may have cost himself a few too many wins that might’ve made him a Hall of Famer. (Best year: 1988, 20-3, 231 1/3 IP, 35 games (28 starts), eight CG, four shutouts, 213 K, 2.22 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)

Ron Gant

Ron Gant early in his career seemed destined to possibly become a Hall of Famer. However, it seemed he never recovered from some serious off-season injuries after the 1993 season to become the player he might have been. Don’t get me wrong, Gant had a very productive career, posting career totals of 321 home runs, 1008 runs batted in, and 1080 runs scored.

However, he only made two All-Star games and his career batting average of .256 pretty much ends any discussion of Gant being deserving of entry into Cooperstown. (Best year: 1993, .274/.345/.510, 113 runs, 166 hits, 27 2b, 4 3b, 36 HR, 117 RBI, 26 SB)

Mark Grace

Grace was the all-time hits leader in the 1990’s and seems to be genuinely a good guy (also very funny). However, Grace is hurt by his lack of power at first base, which is home to many power hitters. His 173 home runs and 1146 runs batted in leave him well short of other first basemen who haven’t come close to being inducted. He never had a 200-hit season or 100 runs batted in, and had only one season above 100 runs scored.

If Keith Hernandez is not a Hall of Famer, then Mark Grace falls well short of it, since he never was the fielder Hernandez was, and he didn’t win an MVP award either. (Best year: 1995, .326/.395/.516, 97 runs,180 hits, 51 2b, 3 3b, 16 HR, 92 RBI, six SB)

Rickey Henderson

Quite simply, a very easy choice here. Its not a matter of whether or not Henderson will get inducted, it’s only a matter of how many people won’t vote for Henderson. He could challenge Tom Seaver’s record for receiving the highest percentage of votes in his first year being eligible. The ten-time All-Star is the all-time Major League Baseball leader in runs scored with 2295, stolen bases with 1406, and ranks second in base on balls with 2190.

He had 3055 career hits and an on base percentage of .401. To be honest, if Henderson isn’t inducted, there shouldn’t be a Hall of Fame. He was that great a player, and revolutionized the entire lead-off batting spot. It often seemed like he could knock a ball out of the park just as easily as he could steal second and third bases and get knocked in with a sacrifice fly.

Henderson was also a winner, being a part of two World Series teams and had impressive post-season numbers to say the least, with 33 stolen bases, 47 runs scored and 37 walks in 60 career post-season games. (Best year: 1985: .314/.419/.516, 146 runs, 172 hits, 28 2b, 5 3b, 24 HR, 72 RBI, 80 SB, 99 walks)

Jesse Orosco

Jesse Orosco seemed to pitch forever, and is the all-time leader in games pitched, with 1252. When I was a kid, I used to change the words of Rick Springfield’s Jesse’s Girl, to “Jesse’s Arm, Where can you find a reliever like that?” Orosco was a two-time All-Star, with both appearances coming with the Mets. Orosco played for 24 seasons, including 10 different teams overall.

People remember Orosco the most for two series-closing performances, one in Game Six of the 1986 National League Championship Series, where he struck out Kevin Bass with two outs in the 16th inning against the Houston Astros. The other was when he struck out Marty Barrett of the Boston Red Sox, to end Game Seven of the 1986 World Series. To this day, I’m not sure if Orosco’s glove ever came down after being thrown in the air after the strikeout of Barrett.

Jesse finished his career with 144 saves and 87 wins, plus a 3.16 ERA. While these stats are solid, they don’t even come close to putting Orosco into the Hall of Fame, as much as he was a personal favorite when I was a kid. (Best year: 1983, 13-7, 110 IP, 62 games, 17 saves, 84 K, 1.47 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)

Dan Plesac

Plesac was a three-time All-Star, who had a good run as closer for the Milwaukee Brewers in the late 1980’s. As the 1990’s rolled around, Plesac became more of a left-handed specialist, rather then a traditional closer. In fact, after compiling 124 saves in his first five seasons, Plesac would only accumulate 34 saves the remainder of his career, which was an additional thirteen seasons with the Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies.

Plesac finished with a career record of 65-71, and an ERA of 3.46. There is not much I can produce to give a legitimate reason for him to receive a vote for Hall of Fame induction. That being said, I’m sure one or two writers from the BBWWA will give him a vote for some reason. (Best year: 1989, 3-4, 61 1/3 IP, 52 games, 33 saves, 52 K, 2.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)

Greg Vaughn

Vaughn was a highly touted prospect coming up with the Milwaukee Brewers in the late 1980’s. Vaughn displayed a ton of power, and played for four All-Star teams, connecting for 355 home runs over parts of 15 seasons with the Brewers, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays and Colorado Rockies. His best work came with San Diego, in the 1997-98 seasons where he combined for 95 home runs.

After everything we’ve learned about Ken Caminiti and his admitted use of steroids, it makes you wonder if Vaughn was doing something similar. After all, these two seasons stand out far above his other seasons, so it does at least make his performance somewhat questionable. Either way, it doesn’t really effect his status as a potential Hall of Famer, as his career .242 batting average and 1513 strikeouts pretty much eliminate any real thought anyone would have for his election. (Best Year: 1998, .272/.363/.597, 112 runs, 156 hits, 28 2b, 4 3b, 50 HR, 119 RBI, 11 SB, 79 walks)

Mo Vaughn

The “Hit Dog,” was his name, but it appeared eating was his game. At least once he passed the age of 30 that is. Vaughn came up with the Boston Red Sox in 1991 and took the city of Boston by storm. In his fifth season, Vaughn won the MVP award and was almost like “Big Papi” before David Ortiz came to the Red Sox. Vaughn had a superb six seasons from 1993 – 1998, but his career took a sever downturn when he left Boston.

Vaughn joined the Anaheim Angels as a free agent in 1999, and while he put up good numbers, he never came close to the stardom he had with the Red Sox. After two seasons, he was shipped off to the New York Mets for Kevin Appier. Vaughn’s career quickly fizzled, as too many injuries and too much weight took their toll.

His resume does include the aforementioned MVP award, as well as three All-Star appearances, two 200-hit seasons, and a silver slugger award. His career slugging percentage of .523 ranks him 56th all-time, but his 1429 career strikeouts rank him 55th all-time. Vaughn was an enjoyable player to watch in his prime, and he hit some mammoth home runs. He also did extremely well when he made contact. Unfortunately, he didn’t make contact enough to warrant a vote. (Best year: 1996, .326/.420/.583, 118 runs, 207 hits, 29 2b, 1 3b, 44 HR, 143 RBI, 2 SB, 95 walks, 154 strikeouts)

Matt Williams

Here is an intriguing case to look at, as Williams was a top third basemen in the 1990’s. He formed a great 1-2 combo with Barry Bonds with the San Francisco Giants. He had ten consecutive 20+ home run seasons, including 43 in just 112 games in 1994. We can thank the labor dispute for not finding out how well his season could have turned out. Williams had four 100-RBI seasons, four Silver Slugger awards, four Gold Gloves and was a five-time All-Star. He also had two top three finishes in the MVP voting, and was a member of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks championship team, and was on a world series losing team twice (1989, 1997).

All that being said, Williams was a really good player, but I don’t think he qualifies as one of the best. I reserve the Hall of Fame for the very best, and Williams comes up short. Had he accumulated higher stat totals then 378 home runs and 1218 runs batted in, or if he drew more walks (just 469 over parts of 17 seasons) there would be a better argument.

I think if Williams played in an older era, he would’ve also had more of a chance, as his numbers don’t stand out all that much from guys like Vinny Castilla, who had some solid numbers, but come up far short of the Hall of Fame with other numbers. (Best full season: 1993, .294/.325/.561, 105 runs, 170 hits, 33 2b, 4 3b, 38 HR, 110 RBI, 1 SB, 27 walks, 80 strikeouts)

Well, there you have a look at the 23 players on the ballot. Of those, I think that Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson are all worthy enough, that if I had a ballot, these six names would be included. On top of that, there is one name that I think truly got overlooked when he was on the ballot, and wanted to mention him here.

Albert Belle

He is a tough one to figure out. Belle had a seven-year run that was close to Ruthian from 1993-99. Who knows what kind of career numbers he would’ve ended up with if not for a degenerative hip injury he suffered that seemingly ended his career. Belle finished with an impressive .295 batting average, with 381 home runs and 1239 RBI. Considering he only played 10 1/2 seasons over twelve years, it makes the numbers all that more impressive.

While I think Belle’s well-known attitude problems are what have kept him out, I think they should be separated from his on-field performance. While guys like Ralph Kiner and Kirby Puckett have been voted in, I see no way to leave Albert “Don’t Call me Joey” Belle out of Cooperstown. Just be sure not to be mixed up for a trick-o-treater if you go to his front door to give him the news.

In the end, he was too big of a bat not to give him the nod. How many hitters can you say that have had over 100 extra base hits in a single season? The answer is twelve, but only three have done it in the last sixty years (Todd Helton and Barry Bonds being the other two). (Best year: 1995, .317/.401/.690, 121 runs, 173 hits, 52 2b, 1 3b, 50 HR, 126 RBI, 5 SB (tough call between 1994, 1995, 1996 & 1998))

This is obviously a debatable topic, so feel free to write your opinions and we can debate all you like!  I'd also like to thank for all of the stats I looked at to help form my opinions.


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