Recently, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Golden Era Committee failed to select anyone to the Hall, with Dick Allen and Tony Oliva coming tantalizingly close, much to my chagrin, especially for Tony O., who was my favorite American League player not on the Yankees when I was growing up.
Once again, time for me to think about the players, who will be voted on by the baseball writers, the results of which will be announced on January 6. “To be enshrined, players must be named on at least 75% of the Committee members’ ballots.”
Here are the players on the ballot. Last year, three players were inducted – Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux, pitchers for the Atlanta Braves, and Frank Thomas, first baseman for the Chicago White Sox. Still, there are lots of quality picks available. The sportswriters who vote can select up to 10 players, though, clearly, most do not.
These are my picks if I had a ballot:
1. Lee Smith, who had more saves than anyone when he retired in an era when relievers often pitched more than one inning. 13th year on the ballot. He got 29.9% of the vote last year, much worse than the year before. I’ve supported his selection for years.
2. Craig Biggio. Second basemen aren’t usually expected to be selected for power, but for defense. Yet thrice he won both the Gold Glove (for fielding) and the Silver Slugger (for hitting) in the same season. 3rd year on the ballot. Last year, he got 74.8% of the vote, when 75% was the threshold.
3. And if you put in one of the Astros’ B-boys, why not power-hitting first baseman Jeff Bagwell. Last year, he got 54.3% of the vote; this will be his fifth year on the ballot.
4. Mike Piazza. A good hitting catcher, who was never specifically accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PED), but everyone who bulked up in that period was suspected by some. There’s no reason to believe it so. Last year, in his second year of eligibility, he got 62.2% of the vote.
5. Randy Johnson, along with Roger Clemens, THE dominant pitcher of his era, mostly with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks. Definitely should be elected on his first year on the ballot.
6. What the heck, his pitching com-padre with the Diamondbacks, Curt Shilling, who also won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox. For some reason, don’t much like him much, but it does not cause me not to support him. He got 29.2% of the vote last year, but I’m wondering if Johnson on the ballot will help him the third time out.
7. Pedro Martinez is another first-timer I’d support, a pitcher with the Expos, Red Sox, and Mets, among others. Usually the ace of the staff.
8. If he had been eligible last year, first-timer John Smoltz might have been picked with his pitching teammates Glavine and Maddux.
9. Now, we get to the Steroid Era players. No one would argue that Barry Bonds wasn’t the best position player on the ballot and in fact one of the best players ever. The steroids weren’t specifically banned at the time he probably took them. Last year, he got 34.7% of the vote, and in his third year, he’s likely to do no better.
10. My final vote was going to Roger Clemens. But there’s a recent rule change:
On July 26, 2014, the Hall announced changes to the rules for election for recently retired players, reducing the number of years a player will be eligible to be on the ballot from fifteen years to ten. Three candidates presently on the BBWAA ballot (Lee Smith, Don Mattingly, Alan Trammell) in years 10-15 will be grandfathered into this system and remain under consideration by the BBWAA for up to the full 15 years.
So, now Mark McGwire is not in the 9th of 15 years, but the 9th of 10, which seems like an unfortunate bait-and-switch. With 11% of the vote, it’s incredibly unlikely he’ll make it this year or next.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t vote for suspected PED user Gary Sheffield in his first year.
So I’ve left off Tim Raines (in his eighth year, who I supported last year), Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina (both in their second years), as well as PED-tainted Clemens and Sammy Sosa (both in their 3rd year).
Who would you pick?