Who’s In - And Out - Of The Hall

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - December 05, 2007
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The only thing guaranteed when the members of the Baseball Writers’Association of America turn in their Hall of Fame ballots is that hype will be more valued than talent, hitters will take a back seat to sluggers, grudges will be held, and changes in the game will cause the worthy to be left out.

Not that this should come as a surprise. As we have reported in this space, great careers do not guarantee easy admission. It took Al Simmons - 307 HR, 1,827 RBI, .334 average and 2,927 hits - eight election cycles to make it. For Harry Heilmann - .342 average, 1,539 RBI and 2,660 hits - it was an 11-year wait. Even Rogers Hornsby had to wait. After hitting 301 home runs and a career .358 batting average, Hornsby was named on only 17.6 percent of the ballots in 1938 and none the year before. He eventually made it in 1942.


The ballots were sent last week.

Hall of Famers

Bert Blyleven - His career winning percentage of .534 is more a testament to the teams he played for than his ability on the mound. Over his 22-year career, the six teams he played for won .501 percent (1826-1820) of their games. His 3.31 ERA puts him in the category with Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez (3.34), Ferguson Jenkins (3.34) and Don Sutton (3.26), but he was a much better strikeout pitcher with 3,701 Ks- fifth all time.

Andre Dawson - One has to wonder how long the Hawk would have to wait if he hadn’t played his first 11 years in Montreal. Dawson is one of six men in baseball history who have hit at least 300 home runs (438) and stolen 300 bases (314). He drove in 1,591 RBI, won eight Gold Gloves in nine years and was the National League MVP for the last place Cubs in 1987.

Rich Gossage - In the days before relievers became closers and when saves were actually earned, Gossage was a terrifying presence on the mound who victimized hitters with a devastating fastball. Though his 310 saves currently rank him 17th, at the time of his retirement only three men had recorded more. Add in his 2.05 ERA over a 10-year span - not including his one season as a starter in 1976 - and his numbers reach legendary status.

Jim Rice - Rice didn’t play very long (16 years) and didn’t exactly endear himself to the voters - this will be his 14th year on the ballot - but what he did on the field throughout the 1970s and ‘80s was exemplary. Rice finished with 373 home runs and 1,451 RBI during a time when 35 home runs and 100 RBI put players in positions to lead the league. Rice finished first in home runs three times and RBI twice. He was the American League MVP in 1978 and for his career averaged 30 home runs, 113 RBI and hit .298.

All-Stars

Mark McGwire - A big hitter who thrived in an era of offensive explosion, Big Mac was a average-at-best fielder with no speed and mediocre batting average (.263). Eighth all time with 583 home runs, McGwire is loved by fans and writers who see him as one of the saviors of the national game. At least they did until his embarrassing testimony before Congress.

Jack Morris - Morris was the winningest pitcher in the ‘80s and one of the game’s best big game performers. His 3.90 ERA is a bit high, but his 254 wins, 2,478 strike outs stand out in an impressive career. One of the last ironman pitchers, he tossed 175 complete games while averaged 241 innings pitched. His 14 opening day starts are the most since Walter Johnson.

Tim Raines - In his first year of eligibility, the slap hitting, base-stealing wizard will make voters think. His 808 stolen bases (fifth all time), 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs (46th) and .294 average deem serious consideration. Comparisons with Hall of Famer Lou Brock are favorable. Brock tops Raines in stolen bases, runs, hits, doubles and triples. Raines leads in home runs and RBI. He also struck out less, was caught stealing fewer times and walked nearly twice as much.

Lee Smith - Though Smith benefited from playing in the modern era of relievers, finishing first in games finished and second in saves says something. He was either first or second in saves eight times, won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award three times and was named to seven All Star teams.


Starters

Harold Baines - Good hitter who stockpiled numbers over a long career. 384 home runs, 2,866 hits, 1,628 RBI resulted in 5.3 percent of the vote last year. Dave Concepcion - The light-hitting middle infielder with a slick glove (five Gold Gloves) and 321 stolen bases was a not-so-poor man’s Ozzie Smith.

David Justice - His 305 home runs, 1,017 RBI, 929 runs and a career .279 average made for a good, but not great career. His mistreatment of Halle Berry also costs him BIG TIME.

Don Mattingly - Over a six-year span, Donnie Baseball was one of the game’s best, averaging 26.6 home runs, 114 RBI, 96.8 runs while hitting .326. Over the next six years he never hit more than 17 home runs or drove in more than 89 runs, and his average plummeted 40 points.

Dale Murphy - The two-time MVP was the face of the Atlanta Braves during the 1980s. From 1978 to 1989, Murphy averaged 149 games played, 88 runs scored, 29 home runs, 88 RBI and a .269 batting average. His five Gold Gloves attest to his overall athletic ability.

Robb Nen - Effective while he lasted, his 314 saves ranked 15th all-time. Career cut short after only 10 seasons.

Dave Parker - Between 1975 and 1979, the Cobra never hit lower than .308 and averaged 22 home runs and 98 RBI. The seven-time All Star bounced back in the ‘80s, but never completely regained his form. His totals - 2,712 hits, 339 home runs, 1,493 RBI and three Gold Gloves - show just how good he was and what could have been.

Alan Trammell - Neither a hitter like Cal Ripken Jr. nor a glove man like Ozzie Smith, Trammell carved out a long career as second best at both. His four Gold Gloves, .285 batting average and 185 home runs would have set a standard in almost any other era.

Bench Players

Brady Anderson - Cal’s best friend went from 16 home runs in 1995 to 50 a season later. Any guesses how?

Rod Beck - Popular player saved 286 games in 13 seasons.

Shawon Dunston - Role player through 18 MLB seasons.

Chuck Finley - Five-time All-Star was a quality starter who won 15 games seven times.

Travis Fryman - Four All-Star games in first six years hinted at talent. Out of baseball after 13 years.

Tommy John - More famous for the surgery that bears his name. Won 288 games in 26-year career.

Chuck Knoblauch - Rookie of the Year and All-Star second sacker in Minnesota crumbled under the pressure in New York.

Jose Rijo - Solid pitcher whose career was cut short by injury.

Todd Stottlemyre - Won two World Series with Toronto.

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