Who gets the nod this year?
One of my favorite things to do is wait for the Baseball Writers to tally their votes and determine which baseball players will be immortalized with a plaque in the Hall of Fame.
Every year, one or two candidates prove themselves worthy enough, while the remaining candidates wait a year or are removed from the ballot.
Those who are elected usually are the best of the best: the top hitters, the top pitchers, the titans among men. Last year, it was Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven who got the call from the Hall, but who will it be this year?
The general consensus is that whomever is elected will not be a newcomer. The newcomers this year are very weak in terms of candidacy. The top hitters in the group are Eric Young, who was a leadoff hitter by trade; Bernie Williams and Jeromy Burnitz, whose 315 home runs lead the group.
As for the pitchers in the group, there are only two—Terry Mulholland and Brad Radke. Radke's only claim to fame is that he pitched for the Minnesota Twins, and only the Twins, from 1995 to 2006. Mulholland is nothing special, with a 124-142 record and a 4.41 ERA, although he pitched 20 years in the majors and won against every Major League team.
With that cleared up, we now focus on the returning players, This group is stronger than in previous years, at least in hitting with candidates like Barry Larkin, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker, but in the pitching department, the pool is weak, with Jack Morris and Lee Smith as the only candidates.
With that, we look at how the more deserving players should be considered.
Of the 14 eligible returners, the top five candidates for election are Larkin, Bagwell, Martinez, Morris and Mark McGwire,
Martinez, who played his whole career with the Seattle Mariners, is going to be an enigma for as long as he's on the ballot, and for good reason. His accomplishments are exclusively offensive. Being a Designated Hitter for the majority of his major league career, he certainly does not gain much sympathy, as a DH only does half of the duties that a regular position player does. His stats, however, cry for election, as he leads all DH's in most statistical categories.
Another crowning accomplishment on the slugger's list is his career .312 average. Not many hitters can say that they have a .300 or better career average if they played more than five seasons in the majors. What's even better is that Martinez accomplished everything without the aid of steroids. Martinez will be elected—maybe not this year, but sometime in the future—and when he is you can bet that his No. 11 will be listed as the first number on the wall of Safeco Field, not counting 42.
Larkin played his entire major league career with the Cincinnati Reds, and has been on the ballot since 2010. His statistics are not conducive to a power hitter, but his accomplishments are Hall worthy: 12 All-Star nods, nine Silver Sluggers and one MVP, in 1995.
Larkin is very decorated, and according to statistician Bill James, is the sixth best shortstop of all time. Larkin was the top non-qualifying vote-getter for the Hall of Fame, garnering 62 percent of the votes. Most people agree that Larkin will get the call this year, and with his accomplishments, I would have to agree.
Bagwell, like Larkin and Martinez, played his entire career in one city, Houston. As an Astro, he won Rookie of the Year and MVP in 1991 and 1994, respectively. Bagwell also holds several Astros records, including the most home runs by an Astro with 449. Bagwell is also the resident non-steroid slugger on the ballot, which the Hall voters should take notice of. In short, look for Bagwell to be voted in this year, but if not, very soon.
Morris is the only pitcher on this list. In his career, he has won 254 games, was named a World Series MVP and was the winningest pitcher in the 1980s.
Morris has been a popular candidate since appearing on the ballot for the first time in 2000. He garnered 22 percent of the votes in his first year, and each year since that percentage has risen, to the point where last year he finished with the second highest non-qualifying percentage at 54 percent. Morris seems to be a popular candidate among fans, as many have called for his plaque, and rightfully so. Therefore, he should reach 75 percent this year.
McGwire, like Martinez, is a very controversial case. He has hit 583 home runs, which should automatically qualify him, but his records are tainted by steroid use. In 2005, while testifying before Congress, he didn't confirm that he took steroids—this ultimately would pull down any chance of first-ballot election in 2007.
McGwire admitted he took steroids when he became the Cardinals hitting coach, something which should push up his percentages. While it didn't help last year, as he only pulled 20 percent, should he open up further, he may find himself elected sometime before his eligibility expires.
But among the five, which players will be voted in this year?
My belief is that Larkin will get his plaque, and he will be accompanied by Martinez or Morris. The Hall of Fame voters should stop sticking their collective heads in the sand, and admit that the game is completely different. Therefore, Martinez should be in, while they should also admit that Morris was a pitcher of the decade and deserves enshrinement.
Until voting day, we will have to wait and see who will be voted in. Hopefully, in addition to Larkin, they will pick a deserving candidate.