While some writers seem to have softened their stances on those connected with steroids, this writer has not. Players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have no place in the Hall of Fame. Some would like to put their heads in the sand and say “everybody was doing it” so that makes it ok to do. Players like Bonds and Clemens didn’t need such advantages because of their natural talent, but once their ages started catching up with them there is little doubt that clean training was not going to be enough for them to keep up with the younger players. They became ridiculously muscle bound and to quote Bart Giamatti about Pete Rose they “stained the game” through their obvious disregard of rules against illegal substances. Debate is certainly welcome at this point.
Another issue that vexes this writer as well as others is the limit on number of players that can be chosen on a given year’s ballot. We can only choose ten which might keep some deserving players out whose record should put them in. The next question for any baseball writer, or fan, is who should go in before whom. To take up these ten slots, some must be left off who are deserving but not before other players get in first. There is a certain bloody-socked gentleman who should go in at some point, but these are my picks for this year.
Who should make it?
1. Pedro Martinez may be the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history. Over seven seasons for Boston, “Petey” was 117-37 with a 2.52 ERA. Considering he pitched in the steroid era, his numbers are incredible. 5 time AL ERA champion, 3 time Cy Young award winner, 3 time AL strikeout leader, back to back ERA+ of 243 and 291 (meaning he was almost 3 times better than the league average) are among his many accomplishments. In 1999, his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) was an unimaginable 1.39 (as if 2.07 ERA wasn’t unbelievable enough.) Purists might say he “only” won 219 games (though a winning percentage of .687, ERA of 2.93), but in the ERA of seven inning starting pitchers, wins are much harder to come by. This should be a shoo-in for voters.
2. Randy Johnson won 303 games in all, 130 with Seattle at the beginning of his career, and 118 toward the end of it with Arizona. The intimidating six foot ten inch lefty out of USC held on a few years too long to get 300 wins, pitching until he was 45, but he was second in the Cy Young at age 40. He won the award five times, including four in a row with Arizona. He struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings lifetime, with 4875 in his career. second only to Nolan Ryan.
3.Craig Biggio tallied 3060 hits, played three different positions (catcher, second base, and center field), slugged 291 homers, had 414 steals, scored 1844 runs (15th all-time). This writer always has thought that 3000 hits should be an automatic induction. Biggio missed by two votes last season, and despite a strong slate of candidates, should get over the top this year.
4.Jeff Bagwell had 449 homers, 202 steals, and went 30-30 in those categories twice. The is a cloud of steroids hangs over him due to physique but nothing was proven or did he ever fail a test. .297/.408/.540 career slash line. Gold Glove at first base and rookie of the year (1991). Though he never led the league in homers or RBI, he led the league in runs scored three times. Might not get in this year, but should get in eventually.
5.Mike Piazza is one of the most prolific hitting catchers in history. Piazza pounded 427 career home runs while catching in 85 percent of his career games. His detractors note his at-best average defense, and as befalls any slugger from the 90s, has also dogged by steroid suspicions. His career .308/.377/.545 slash line while catching over 1600 career games should push him over the top.
6.Tim Raines most eye-opening number is his career 808 steals, He suffers from playing in the same era as Rickey Henderson whose numbers dwarf his. Raines swiped at least 50 bases his first six full years in the majors (in one of them, he had 71 steals in 88 games), won a batting title, and led the league in runs twice. When you are one of the top players in the majors for a decade, making six All-Star teams, you should get serious Hall of Fame consideration
7. John Smoltz notched over 200 wins as well as 150 saves. Smoltz won a Cy Young, made eight All-Star teams (twice in his three years as a closer), and had a 15-4 postseason with four saves in 41 games (27 starts). Red Sox fans will forgive him for his terrible 2009 in Boston, won’t they? He was 42 years old while going 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA over eight brutal starts before his release in August. Given his success as both a starter and closer, the Hall of Fame should be the culmination of a great career.
8. Fred McGriff was known as the “Crime Dog” due to the similarity of his name to the animated McGruff who encouraged people to “take a bite out of crime”. Some pundits believe that McGriff is suffering because he fell short of the 500 homer for his career, ending his career with 493. His batting slash line compares favorably to Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, with a career OPS of .886 to Murray’s .836, but Murray had 765 more hits in his career. His consistent excellence (.917 OPS with ten homers in 50 postseason games) is the reason for my vote, but considering the era he may ultimately fall short.
9. Mike Mussina won 270 games over an 18 year career. As a few analysts have surmised, the “Win” stat itself might be a little overrated, but 270 is still an impressive number considering the difficulty in obtaining wins. You have to have a solid bullpen always behind you. For Mussina, his career-long excellence should get him enshrined in the Hall, as much as his number of wins. Ten times he was in the top six in the Cy Young voting. He won seven Gold Gloves for his fielding excellence. He went out with a flourish, winning 20 games in his final season at age 40.
10. Edgar Martinez is hurt not only by the fact that 70 percent of his games were at DH, but also by the fact that he did not become a regular player until he was 27 years old. This is why he ended his career with only 309 homers and 1261 RBI and 2247 career hits. What voters should focus on is his .312/.418/.515 career batting line, seven All-Star teams, five seasons with over 1.000 OPS and two batting titles. Red Sox fans are biased about the designated hitter being a viable position for inclusion in the Hall of Fame, but by any measure, Martinez had an extended period of excellence that is deserving of enshrinement in the Hall.
The best part of talking about the Hall of Fame is the debate, so comments are welcome. Stay tuned for more Hall of Fame ballots by BSI writers each day until this year’s announcement on January 6.[/related-tag tag="Hall of Fame"]