The process of voting for the new inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. has started with the names of the candidates to be considered by the 16-member Veterans Committee.
Up for consideration are players Al Oliver, Ted Simmons, Vida Blue, Tommy John, Rusty Staub, Davey Concepcion, Steve Garvey and Ron Guidry, former manager Billy Martin, former MLPA executive director Marvin Miller and the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
If I had a guess, I’d say Steinbrenner will be selected and perhaps someone like Garvey (he would be a borderline candidate). If I had a vote, I’d pick Steinbrenner, Miller, and Concepcion – with John as my dark horse.
Concepcion was the model of Latin-American shortstop that was employed by up-and-coming players to guide themselves at the position and in their careers. If someone like Luis Aparicio can be voted into the Hall, Concepcion, leader of the Big Red Machine’s defensive prowess, deserves induction.
John won almost 300 games over a 26-year career (second most in Major League history behind Nolan Ryan) and his comeback from a surgical procedure that changed the face of medical recovery for pitchers might have been the most important advancement in sports over the last 50 years.
To be inducted, a nominee must earn 75 percent of the 16 ballots (that means 12 votes) on the committee.
In January, the new members to the Hall of Fame will be announced and this begins, in earnest, the era of the PED player vying for inclusion to Cooperstown. Along with stellar holdovers Bert Blylevan, Roberto Alomar, Jack Morris, Barry Larkin, Lee Smith and Edgar Martinez (all of whom probably deserve election based on their statistics and honors), the first-time names include those highly suspected (or proven guilty) of using steroids and other banned substances during their careers.
Topping the list are Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker. The first two names were singled out in the infamous Mitchell Report on PEDs in baseball, Bagwell was under suspicion (but never had any evidence brought against him) as well as Walker.
For sure, based on how baseball writers (who do the voting) have treated slugger Mark McGwire with ballot distain, Palmeiro (despite more than 600 home runs) will never be elected, and the same goes for Gonzalez (despite winning two MVPs).
Bagwell is another story; his MVP came during the 1994 strike-shortened year (1991 Rookie of the Year) and several teammates were caught using PEDs. But he played for the same team throughout his MLB career and according to statistician Bill James, ranks as the fourth all-time first baseman in the game’s history. He was a pillar in the Houston community and richly deserves inclusion.
Walker, perhaps the finest player to emigrate from Canada, had excellent stats and anchored two franchises – Montreal and Colorado. He was the NL MVP in 1997, a five-time all-star and recipient of seven Gold Gloves. However, he never won a World Series title, retiring one year before St. Louis (the team from which he retired in 2005) won the championship in 2006.
The next two years must be the time when the holdovers earn their best opportunity to get into the Hall. Only ex-Yankee Bernie Williams merits ANY consideration in 2012 among first-timers before the true storm hits the fan in 2013.
The first-time names on the 2013 ballot will bring the entire PED controversy to a head with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling going before the writers. Piazza and Biggio, you would think, are shoo-ins, Schilling would be the subject of long and intense debate of his qualifications (regular seasons versus post-season dominance) and under “normal” circumstances, no one would ever question placing Bonds, Clemens or Sosa into immortality.
But the point comes at the end of a syringe and it, plus legal outcomes, will be the overriding factors in everyone’s deliberation.
At that moment, everything you knew about the Hall of Fame and who does and doesn’t belong will alter forever.
By the way, if you are truly a baseball fan, you MUST take the journey, at least once in your lifetime, to this tiny burgh and see this incredible museum dedicated to the sport. You are completely immersed in history unlike any other hall of fame shrine in this nation. In the Hall of Plaques, to stand and look at the names and faces – Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Cobb, Mays, Aaron, Mathewson, Alexander, Gibson, Koufax, Greenberg, oh, the list could fill volumes on this blog – is inspiring and mesmerizing.
Situated on Lake Cooperstown, and combined with the statues and history surrounding author James Fennimore Cooper, it makes for the totally unforgettable visit.