In the end, it’s up to the likes, dislikes and prejudices of the Baseball Writers of America – the arbiters of this decision.
My list falls into 5-6 categories (absolutely, gotta think about this one hard, sorry, but no, hell no!, I thought they were still playing? And then the Less-than-Fab Five).
Here’s my breakdown:
Absolutely – Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Lee Smith, Alan Trammel;
Gotta think about this one hard – Bernie Williams, Curt Schilling, Dale Murphy, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly;
Sorry, but no – Tim Raines, David Wells, Steve Finley, Fred McGriff, Julio Franco;
Hell no! – Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Rondell White, Woody Williams, Sandy Alomar, Jr.;
I thought they were still playing? – Jeff Cirillo, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, Aaron Sele;
Less-than-Fab Five – Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa.
In my mind, “no brainer” votes go to Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros (the only TRUE Astros to have qualified), Mike Piazza (greatest hitting catcher in MLB history), Jack Morris (stop this nonsense about ERA; he was a four-time World Series champion with 254 wins and 1991 World Series MVP and if that isn’t good enough to get it, NO ONE should ever be voted in), Lee Smith (478 saves over 18 seasons and only one man has more and Trevor Hoffman WILL be in the Hall), and Alan Trammell (played the hardest position at an All-Star caliber for one team – six-time All-Star, four time Golden Glove winner, three Silver Sluggers and 1984 World Series MVP). ‘Nuff said!
Under “gotta think about this one,” each player, in his own way, has the numbers and performed very well (even past the point of excellent to greatness at times) to deserve serious consideration. The problem stems from proper value and how does one adjust roles within the game from league to league.
Seattle’s Edgar Martinez was the premier designated hitter of his time (perhaps of ALL-time) yet it (technically) is not a full-time role since it does not involve fielding. Now, whose fault is that? Certainly, not Martinez; he played where he was told to be and was a standout at it. For several years, he was THE best at HIS position – major criteria (in the past) for induction.
Yet he is down-graded as a baseball “player” because of the major difference between leagues. It’s not fair and the argument will grow even louder when Boston’s David Ortiz becomes eligible. His dominance is undisputed and his numbers are more than worthy.
If Curt Schilling is voted into the Hall, it will be based, for the most part, on post-season excellence; his career numbers are very good, but other hurlers, never to be considered, have better (David Wells is such an example). Should Schilling get the call, then Bernie Williams, who played as well as anyone in World Series history, should be right behind him for a notification. And HIS regular season numbers are far better than many of those enshrined.
I believe two-time recipients of the Most Valuable Player award should get far more serious consideration than Dale Murphy has been accorded. And Don Mattingly was a premier player of his day – multiple All-Star, batting champion, leader, icon.
I’m sorry, but really good players, like Timmy Raines and Fred McGriff, are just NOT Hall of Fame worthy and numbers don’t count here. They are more in line with the kind of Fantasy Baseball choices one would make today; you want their stats but they are NOT your first, second or even fifth-round draft selections.
Obviously, the last grouping is the five players, in recent baseball history, with more than enough credentials to enter Cooperstown except for their admitted, or judicially-disclosed, use of steroids. As more and more and more players are being “outed” for continued usage, the question to be asked is how can anyone simply ignore the numbers that remain in the record books (without intentional footnotes),produced by these individuals, in an era when usage seemed to be the norm, not the exception.
It’s fine to be all “holier-than-thou” sitting in the cheap seats, or in the case of the BBWA, in the press box, but the danger becomes losing an entire generation of the sport without irrefutable, conclusive proof of complete guilt, and that others already enshrined weren’t as guilty. Since its ALL perception, it’s a trap door waiting to be spring upon the fans.
This discussion is like anything else – it fills time and kills brain cells, but …is ALWAYS interesting. The new members will be announced (on MLB Network) on January 9.