On November 27th, the Hall of Fame released the 2010 ballot for enshrinement into its hallowed halls. It’s an intriguing bunch, with no sure-fire, no-doubt-about-it, first ballot players. And sometimes that’s more fun. You can’t argue about the merits of a Hank Aaron or a Willie Mays, but you can get some good discussions going about the first real full-time DH on the ballot, and a familiar name to Mets fans who spit in the face of an umpire.
Roberto Alomar is the face spitter, of course. Ask anyone who only saw him play for the Mets, and they’ll tell you “no way that stiff belongs in the Hall.” But he has a very strong case. He was the dominant second basemen throughout the 1990s in the American League. He was a 12 time All-Star, won 10 Gold Gloves, collected 2724 hits, and batted .300 for his career.
Barry Larkin’s case is pretty much the same as Alomar’s. The dominant shortstop in the NL in the 1990s, he also made 12 All-Star teams. He won 3 Gold Gloves, plus an MVP award. Larkin hit .295 with 2340 hits.
Edgar Martinez is the first career designated hitter who has a legitimate shot at the Hall. He could just flat out hit. A lifetime .312 hitter, Martinez (left) hit 309 home runs and had 1261 RBIs, including 6 seasons with 100+. He led the league in hiting twice, and hit .300 or more 10 times.
Fred McGriff is the last of the first-timers who enters the conversation (sorry to ex-Mets Kevin Appier, David Segui, Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile). McGriff gets consideration based on one statistic alone — his 493 home runs. He also hit .284 and had nearly 2500 hits, but it’s the home runs that will get him in — or the 7 that he didn’t get that will keep him out of Cooperstown.
Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven and Mark McGwire are the key holdovers from previous ballots. I’m not even going to get into McGwire here — a column on steroid users and the Hall of Fame is upcoming. Dawson and Blyleven have come close in recent years — failing last year by 44 and 67 votes respectively.
My predictions: Alomar (left, the only time he looked happy in the blue and orange — and black) and Larkin are very worthy candidates, and both will eventually be enshrined, but not this time. They just don’t feel like first ballot Hall of Famers to me. The “feel” test is something I’ve always thought about when it comes to whether players deserve to be in the Hall (although I seriously considered discarding the theory when I heard Steve Phillips espouse it a couple of years ago). While they were the dominating players at their positions, their offensive statistics fall well below most other members of the Hall. That’s not enough to keep middle infielders out, but it does usually keep them off the first ballot (think Ryne Sandberg and Luis Aparicio).
Martinez is a very interesting case. I don’t think he should be kept out because he was strictly a DH. He shouldn’t be penalized for playing by the rules of his league. Having said that, I don’t think his numbers are good enough compared to other sluggers. He barely reached the 300 home run plateau, and his 2247 hits is pretty pedestrian. Martinez was just a very, very good hitter, but not Hall of Fame caliber.
McGriff is never getting in. And he may not have gotten in even if he had hit those final 7 home runs. He was never a particularly dominant player — he made just 5 All-Star teams in 19 years. He just doesn’t feel like a Hall of Famer to me. He was very good — he hit 30+ home runs 10 times, and had 100+ RBIs 8 times. McGriff had several big years before the steroid era began, but in these days of inflated home run totals, 500 (let alone 493) doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
Because of the relatively weak freshman class, I think this is the year Dawson and Blyleven finally get in. I am stunned it has taken Dawson (left) this long — this is his ninth year on the ballot. When I watched him play, I always thought, “there’s a Hall of Famer.” He was one of the most feared sluggers in the 1980s, winning the 1987 MVP with the last place Cubs. He finished with 438 home runs, 1591 RBIs, a .279 batting average and 2774 hits. The main strike against Dawson is a low .323 on base percentage (he hardly took a walk). Also, when you really look at his career, he did not have many huge years. He only hit 30+ homers 3 times, and had 100+ RBIs 4 times — not even McGriffian. But still, he was steady and consistent, and deserves to be in the Hall.
Blyleven (left) also deserves to be in, in my opinion. Younger readers never saw him play, but anyone who did still marvels at his curveball. It simply was one of the best, ever. Blyleven had a 3.31 ERA, struck out 3701 batters (5th all time), and won 287 games. The problem is he also lost 250 games. He only won 20 games once, and was named to just 2 All-Star teams in 22 years. Some of this is because he pitched on some really horrible teams. But should voters punish him for that? Also, he’s been openly campaigning for induction, which turns off some voters. If he doesn’t get in this time around, Blyleven would only have two more years of eligibility before he’s turned over to the Veterans Committee.