I'll be the first to admit that I'm not much of a historian when it comes to the game of baseball.
I'm far too young to have seen or watched a great player such as Jim Rice play the game. For me, it takes a lot of reading and researching if I want to get a good grasp on history.
However, with enough research and diligence, I don't think that it is impossible to have a valid reason when discussing players along the lines of Rice that should be in the Hall of Fame.
A little background to prepare you for what I'm about to say regarding this year's ballot.
First off, congratulations are in order to the family of the late Joe Gordon, who made it into the Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee and their vote.
The Veterans Committee is there to induct people that don't get in after 20 years of being up for Hall of Fame status.
Provided that they have at least five percent of the writer’s votes, a player can remain on the ballot for 15 years.
For example, Jim Rice is on his 15th and final year of being on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Each BBWAA member can select up to 10 players to vote into the Hall of Fame. I will select no more than that number on my unofficial ballot.
This year, Rickey Henderson, Mo Vaughn, and Mark Grace who are among other first time players on the ballot.
I'm not here to decide if someone should be a first ballot Hall of Famer, to me you are either in or you are out. I may fill my ballot, I may not, and it will be a case-by-case basis. I'm not here to debate about Pete Rose either, let's save that discussion for another time. This is about picking players off the ballot and giving them a yes or a no.
Without further hesitation, here is the ballot of eligible players and following that will be my picks for them.
Harold Baines, Jay Bell, Bert Blyleven, David Cone, Andre Dawson, Ron Gant, Mark Grace, Rickey Henderson, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Jesse Orosco, Dave Parker, Dan Plesac, Tim Raines, Jim Rice, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Greg Vaughn, Mo Vaughn, Matt Williams.1. Jim Rice
I'm going to make this simple for you right off the bat. Jim Rice was three percentage points away from being a Hall of Famer last year, that's just 15 votes. I don't understand how 15 people are going to change their minds this year, but I do understand my mind and he should be in.
An eight time All-Star and former MVP winner, Rice has the career that warrants him to get in. His first and his last years in baseball were the lone years he didn't reach 110 plus hits in a season, which includes a few season of missed games thrown in.
To me, anyone who hovers near or above 2,500 hits is someone who deserves serious consideration. Throw in his 382 home runs and you have yourself quite the all around hitter.
The thing that makes him a Hall of Famer is his three year stretch that showed what kind of hitter he really was. During that time his average was .320, 41 homeruns, and 128 runs batted in.
Rice will definitely be on my ballot.
2. Bert Blyleven
Are we really going to penalize a guy for needing 13 more wins for a magic number?
If 300 wins is are a lock, then 287 wins should also deserve serious consideration.
Let's add in what else Blyleven did throughout his 22 year career in baseball.
Here is a pitcher who had an ERA under 3.00 in his first four years after his rookie year and his rookie year era wasn't too shabby either at 3.18. He had at least 15 losses in all of those seasons for a team that finished below or exactly at .500 in all but one of those seasons.
The point is, he played for mediocre teams and some of those losses he didn't deserve throughout those three years. Let's not punish him for playing on those types of teams.
The most telling statistic that tells me Blyleven is a Hall of Famer is the strikeouts.
There are only four players in the history of the game that have more strikeouts than Blyleven. Two are already in the Hall and the other two are either not eligible yet or are currently playing.
There are four players directly below him that are in and if you think Greg Maddux is destined to get in, that would make five.
Blyleven needs about a 13 percent increase from last year to get in. There is no doubt in my mind that he gets my vote. I'll circle you Bert.
3. Andre Dawson
His former teammate Ryne Sandberg definitely went to bat for Dawson, who definitely should be commended for "doing it the right way."
You can say what you want about the ballpark and his lack of OBP.
What he loses in on base percentage he makes up for in defense.
Eight Gold Gloves tells the story of his defensive prowess, especially when you add in the fact that we are talking about a guy who is only one of three players to hit 400 home runs and steal 300 bases.
He's a Rookie of the Year and MVP award winner along with his eight All-Star game selections.
I have a hard time denying someone who puts up the all-around effort like Dawson.4. Don Mattingly
As you may or may not know by now, I'm a Cleveland Indians fan.
Watching Travis Hafner in 2006 and how feared of a hitter he was makes me realize just what kind of an accomplishment it is to hit six grand slams in a season.
Certainly it takes the right situation to even get the opportunity, but to just do it.
I'm trying not to compare players when I do this, but if guys like Kirby Puckett and Sandberg are Hall of Fame worthy offensively, Mattingly deserves some consideration.
After debating with myself, I decided that Mattingly is getting a yes on my ballot.
He only played 14 season, but that's what makes his accomplishments that much more meaningful.
Over 200 home runs, 2,000 hits, and a career average over .300.
If defense is a part of the equation, then Mattingly's nine Gold Gloves are just more of a reason to put him in.
5. Mark McGwire
Like Pete Rose, I'm not here to talk about controversial inductions or non-inductions. But I will talk about the past, even if Mark McGwire doesn't want to.
If we are going by the numbers here, there is no question that McGwire belongs in the Hall of Fame with the other players who have hit at least 580 home runs.
Was he on steroids?
Some evidence suggests so, but we can't start making those judgments for one guy, because how can you be so sure for another?
I'm looking at numbers and performance and they indicate to me that McGwire is a deserving member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I’ll put him in and let someone else make the decision to take him out because he shamed the game.
6. Lee Smith
Here is where I start to get picky about who I let in and who I don’t let in. Trevor Hoffman could very well save 600 games if he gets himself a two year deal this offseason.
Mariano Rivera is on pace to match Trevor Hoffman provided he continues to gain about 40 saves for the next two years.
If the standard of great Hall of Fame closers is going to be set around 500 saves, I’ve got a hard time saying Lee Smith doesn’t deserve it.
Whether you like the one inning save or not, it’s now part of the game. Goose Gossage absolutely deserves the induction he got in 2008 because of the way he got his saves.
Am I going to sit here and say Lee Smith should be turned back because his saves were the one inning variety?
Seven All-Star appearances, not really a serious contender for the Cy Young outside his seasons in 1991 and 1992 in which he placed second and fourth for the award.
I have a hard time telling Lee Smith he isn’t a Hall of Fame player. Maybe I’m going soft on him, but we need to establish a boundary when it comes to letting the one inning closer in. It looks as if the voters aren’t willing to set it at Lee Smith.
However, I’m willing to do so. What’s this mean for John Franco when his time comes? Franco pitched three more years, but like I said, this is a case by case basis.
Smith is in for me, but he’s one that probably never will get in and I can understand why.7. Rickey Henderson
Let me make this easy for you.
1,406 stolen bases.
No one is ever going to touch that number. Not Jose Reyes, not Carl Crawford, not anyone in the minor leagues.
3,000 hits in addition to the stolen base record, the runs scored record, the most lead-off home runs and 10 all star selections. Don’t forget he’s a two time World Series winner.
Could this guy be any more of a lock? You could say he played too long to get to some of these things, but he stole 427 bases in his first five years before his 25th birthday. Reyes only stole 234 before his 25th birthday in the same amount of season, Crawford just 227.
That’s what kind of record pace this guy set early in his career. Even if you take the final five years off his career, his total sits at 1,291, something that probably won’t be touched either.
He’s beyond the Hall of Fame standard when it comes to stealing bases. For that, he’s probably the one guy you don’t even have to think about this year.
Did Not Make the Ballot
1. Tommy John
I’ll be honest, this was a tough one and I can see why he’s not already in the Hall of Fame.
He held on to long, so the argument that he’s won more games than some of the people in the Hall of Fame loses its luster.
Here is my case though.
You may think it’s extremely corny and stupid, but we’ve got a surgery named after the guy!
It’s not like we are throwing him in just because of that though. He did win just as many games as the guy I just put in, Bert Blyleven, and his career 2.65 ERA in 14 postseason games is nothing to sneeze at.
Tommy John is apart of history and it would make sense if he was put into the Hall of Fame in some way. I did not put him on my ballot and I totally understand why. But maybe, just maybe we should get him in there in some way, just for historical purposes.
2. Tim Raines
If Rickey Henderson is the gold standard when it comes to stolen bases, Tim Raines is teetering near the Hall of Fame standard.
Like Henderson, Raines didn’t make much of a dent in that stolen base total in his final five years, just 21 to be exact. He stole 787 bases in 18 season of baseball, which included seven All-Star selections and a .294 average.
However, I couldn’t bring myself to put Raines on my ballot at first and here is why.
He didn’t do much other than hit and steal bases. The numbers guys really support Raines, but I cannot and I’m basing this largely on numbers, so that must tell you he didn’t do enough.
The deciding factor for me in not picking him is how long I struggled to decide. Usually when someone is this much of a question, then maybe they aren’t Hall of Fame worthy. I didn’t fill my ballot, but this is one guy I’d seriously consider putting in on a different year. You can blame the BBWAA for back-logging the number of worthy players for the Hall.3. Harold Baines and Dale Murphy
I’ve grouped these two together because I debated on them just as long as I did Tim Raines.
Sure, things would be easier if everyone played the same amount of years, but then you can’t reward someone for longevity.
You also have to be careful when you deem someone for holding on too long, at least when it comes to guys who are borderline when it comes to making the Hall.
Baines hit .312 at the age of 40 and that’s playing in 135 games that year.
You can’t accuse him of holding on too long at all.
Both these guys have lots of pluses when you look to their case.
Baines has a career .289 average and was a reliable hitter all throughout his career, coming up with clutch hits and grand slams as evidence by his placement on such lists.
He was also awfully close to the illustrious 3,000 hit club, which would probably assure him Hall of Fame status.
Dale Murphy was a few home runs shy of the 400 home run club in his 18 year career. He’s a two time MVP winner and has five gold gloves on his mantle.
I could put either guy in or I could put either guy out. But it comes down to the same reason I kept Tim Raines off my ballot. Just too many discussion leads to skepticism.
No Serious Consideration Given
One thing that I came across in my research was how much sabermetricians and guys like Bill James make the case for certain players.
The only one I can buy is Tim Raines, who has a support system beyond his statistics in awards and two World Series wins.
A guy like Alan Trammell put together a hell of a career and maybe if he would have became a good manager, all of that combined could get him in. However not only does he not scream Hall of Fame, he doesn’t even shout it. All of the guys on my ballot at least shout it.
Matt Williams was a great player as well, but he doesn’t have enough for me to give him a nod. Jack Morris’ four World Series wins and 250 plus wins is something to look at as well, but guys like him lack in one or more category.
If anything, this entire undertaking made me realize just how stingy the BBWAA is when letting people in. We’ve become back-logged with all sorts of players that really deserve it, or at least more consideration than they are being given. It’s taken Jim Rice 14 years to get this close? What makes him a Hall of Famer in 2009 that didn’t in 2008?
That’s why I’ve put eight players on my ballot and it looks like I’m allowing everyone and their mom in. If you broke this down by the year they were eligible, I’d only be allowing one player in this year, Rickey Henderson.
I can see baseball not wanting to let in tons of people, only truly great players should be allowed in the Hall and I suppose if players like Jim Rice and Lee Smith had gotten in before this year, I’d probably be more apt to have given votes to Tommy John and Tim Raines.
Should baseball reformat the way they do things? I don’t really know. 75 percent seems like it’s a good number and it’s certainly unique in terms of how they do things. But it makes you wonder what the BBWAA doesn’t see in a guy like Tim Raines who only got 24 percent his first time around.