Now that Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the career list of managerial victories, have been “elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame [on December 9] by the expansion-era committee,” it’s 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 8. “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, NO players were inducted – which was too bad – so now, with new players being retired for five years, there’s a real backlog. The sportswriters who vote can select up to 10 players, though most apparently do not.
These are my picks:
1. Jack Morris. It’s his 15th and final year on the ballot. He got 67.7% of the vote last year; put him in.
2. Lee Smith, who had more saves than anyone when he retired in an era when relievers often pitched more than one inning. 12th year on the ballot. He got 47.8% of the vote last year, but this year, I fear he’ll do worse. I’ve supported his selection for years.
3 and 4. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Both pitchers are worthy, and Maddux should be a lock with over 350 wins; Glavine had 305, and 300 has been the threshold for years, probably too high in the five-man rotation. It would be nice if they could go in with their longtime Atlanta manager Cox. Both 1st year on the ballot.
5. Frank Thomas. They didn’t call him The Big Hurt for nothing. He hit 500 home runs, yet also batted over .300 for his career; power hitters often sacrifice average for power.
6 and 7. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Now we come to the Steroid Era players. No one would argue that these aren’t the best position player and pitcher, respectively, on the ballot, and in fact two of the best players ever. The steroids weren’t specifically banned at the time they were allegedly taken them. Last year, I understood why Bonds only got 36.2% and Clemens, 37.6% of the votes; the writers didn’t want them to go into the hall on the first ballot. But they still belong, even cutting their numbers by 25%.
8. 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 first year of eligibility, he got 57.8% of the vote. Some writers who didn’t want him in in his first year might vote yes in his second.
9. 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) asnd the Silver Slugger (for hitting) in the same season.
10. Tim Raines. I’ve become convinced that being the second-best leadoff hitter in his era, after Rickey Henderson, is worthy of the Hall. He had over 800 stolen bases in his career.
I had to leave off people I most definitely would have considered: Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, whose home run race in 1998 reengerized the baseball fan after the 1994 strike, both tainted by PED use; first baseman Jeff Bagwell, pitcher Mike Mussina, and pitcher Curt Schilling, who I dropped in favor of Raines. Probably three or four others I would have picked in another year.