By: Mike Carter
There is always lots of criticism and uncertainty about the players elected to the Hall of Fame every year. We debate who got in, should they have gotten in, who go shafted, who really deserves a second look at their numbers and case for the hallowed ground shared by a little more than 300 players and contributors over the course of baseball history.
This year (2017) saw Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines elected. Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were elected by the Modern Era committee so whoever gets elected this year (2018) will have company. I often sit back and think what I would do if I had a vote. Who would I vote for? How would I consider the careers of the alleged steroid users? What criteria would I use to help me decide? 500 home runs? 300 wins? World Series titles? How do we pick? What criteria would I use as a voter, considering the Hall of Fame has given precious little guidance on the topic?
First off, let me say this: I think if a player isn’t good enough the first time they are eligible, they are probably not good enough five years later. With the game ever-evolving, it feels like the voters are constantly changing and reconsidering the criteria for election. It’s mind-numbing.
Let me use Jack Morris as my example. He was always good enough in my mind to be voted in as soon as he was eligible. Using the old school criteria of 300 wins being automatic, Morris only had 254 career wins. But what I recall about Morris was that he was the ultimate bulldog; pitching through injury, questionable effectiveness at times, always taking the ball for his team. Who could forget his 10 inning performance in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series? He was a gutty performer with laser-like focus. He scared me to watch. He deserved election right away based on his merit, but was only allowed in this year. My question to the writers who vote is, what changed fifteen years later to make his case more agreeable to inclusion?
So, who would I have voted for this year? Absent of any real criteria, here is what I would do with my ballot:
Chipper Jones: A switch-hitting third basemen with power and speed, Jones hit .303 and added 468 home runs and 1623 RBI. He was a number one pick who actually performed to that standard. The only knock is only winning one World Series, and that’s hardly a blemish for me. Nineteen years playing for one team, a twelve time All Star. He’s a cinch.
Jim Thome: Was there a more feared power hitter than big Jim Thome? 612 home runs? 1699 RBIs? Nine times he drew over 100 walks. Six times he hit over 40 home runs. No scandals. No rumors of drugs to enhance his stats. He should be a lock, and as a White Sox fan, I hope he gets in the first time as he deserves it.
Those Also Getting My Votes:
Vladimir Guerrero: .318, 449 home runs, 1449 RBI, 181 stolen bases. He was a complete player and struck fear into opposing teams. He could do it all. He would get my vote this year, first time through.
Jeff Kent: I argued for him last year in this same place. Simply put, the finest offensive player at his position in his era. More home runs (377) than any other second baseman in the history of the game. Over 1500 RBIS, lifetime .290 hitter, on-base percentage of .356. He gets my vote, too.
Edgar Martinez: The best DH of his era. Edgar had 2,247 hits, 309 home runs, 1261 RBIs and a lifetime average of .312. Need more? Career .418 on-base percentage. He didn’t get any cheap hits as he couldn’t run. Those are impressive numbers. I would vote for him.
Fred McGriff: 493 home runs. Come on! What else does the Crime Dog need to show? How about 1,550 career RBI? In an era tainted by a performance enhancing drug scandal, you never heard his name lumped into that. McGriff gets my vote.
Larry Walker: I always thought he was one of the five best players of his time. 383 home runs, 1311 RBIs, 230 stolen bases, and a lifetime on-base percentage of .410. That’s ridiculous. You want to talk about Coors Field inflation? Ok, there is some difference there. But looking at road splits devalues a player their overall career performance. Most players hit better at home than on the road. Nobody brings this up in guys who play in other hitter friendly parks, like Jeff Bagwell in Houston. Simply put, for me, Walker was one of the best players (when healthy) over the course of his 17-year career. He gets my vote.
I would like to add here that until the Hall of Fame folks issues a reasonable statement on how to judge the careers of apparent substance abusers, I could not vote for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez. It’s a confusing situation as each would merit consideration based on pure numbers. But while we’re not electing a Boy Scout Hall of Fame, can we turn a blind eye to what these guys did, and how they tarnished the game while also thrilling fans with their exploits? I cannot vote for them at this time.
Do you like what I did with my vote? Please leave comments here. Are there guys that I missed that should get my vote? Manny Ramirez? Mike Mussina? Trevor Hoffman? How about Clemens? Bonds? The newly-unrecognizable Sammy Sosa? Let’s continue the debate!
Have a happy holiday season, my fellow baseball lovers and friends. Remember, after we take down the trees in the coming week, Spring Training isn’t far behind…only about 55 days. Hold on…