Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Released

In an annual winter ritual, the Baseball Hall of Fame released this year’s ballot with 10 first-time candidates, joining the 13 holdovers for the smallest list of candidates in the Hall’s history.

This year, Rickey Henderson, the all-time leader in stolen bases and arguably the best lead-off hitter in the game’s history headlines the newcomers.  This also marks the final season Jim Rice is eligible under the Hall’s rules – he may be considered by the veteran’s committee later down the road.

Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for 10 consecutive years are eligible to vote, with the results to be released on January 12, 2009.  A candidate needs to appear on 75% of ballots to be elected.  Here is who I would vote for, if I was a member of the BBWAA:

  • Rickey Henderson – The 1990 AL MVP, Henderson is the all-time leader in stolen bases, runs, and is second in walks.  He played 25 seasons, hit 297 home runs (as a lead-off guy), while producing an on-base percentage over .400 for his career.  A 10-time all-star that was the 1989 ALCS MVP Henderson  won his lone gold glove in 1981. I think there is no question that Henderson is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and he should get in.
  • Andre Dawson – A 21-year MLB vet, “The Hawk” merits consideration for a very strong, consistent career.  He’s been on the ballot for a few years now, and here are his main selling points: 8 All-Star games, NL Rookie of the Year in 1977, NL MVP 1987, 438 home runs.  His detractors have never seen him in the World Series and aren’t fans of his .279 career average (although that’s Henderson’s too).  His average season is .279, 27 home runs, 98 RBI which I think is pretty good.  He earned 65.9% of votes last year and I think he inches closer to the magic 75% this year and athough he may not get elected, the Hawk is destined for Cooperstown.
  • Don Mattingly – Call this my Yankee bias, but if defensive wiz Bill Maseroski (a .260 career hitter! I don’t care about his 8 gold gloves or 1960 World Series home runs… I mean baseball-reference compares him to Royce Clayton) is in Cooperstown, Mattingly should be too.  My problems with his candidacy are that he only played 14 years and suffered through back problems in last last several, which affected his production.  However, let’s compare him to Kirby Puckett, a favorite of mine that played in the same era and a hall of famer with a 12-year career.   Average Season – Mattingly: .307/20/100 Puckett: .318/19/99.  MVPs: Mattingly: 1, Puckett: 0, All-Star Games: Mattingly: 6, Puckett 10.  Gold Gloves: Mattingly: 9, Puckett 6.  Batting Titles: Mattingly: 1, Puckett 1.  The advantage Puckett has over Mattingly is playoff experience: Puckett has two rings, Mattingly only played in the ALDS once (1995, his final season, but he hit .417).  I know this is controversial, but during his peak of 1984-1989, there was no one better than Donnie Baseball.  He was 15.8% last year and won’t see that enormous of a jump this year.  He may have to wait until the veterans committee.
  • Mark McGwireI know this one will be controversial as well and this leads to a greater argument of “steroid-era” players, but let’s not forget that although the public may not have known or may have been naive about performance-enhancing drugs, Mark McGwire brought baseball back to prominence in 1998 when he broke Roger Maris‘ home run record.  A 12-time all-star, McGwire’s 583 home runs rank 8th all-time and let’s face it, despite his horrible performance on Capitol Hill, Big Mac never failed a drug test.  I’ll save my steroid-era Hall of Fame rationale for another post, but he shouldn’t be punished for playing in a generation where I believe 85-90% of players were on something.  He was a great player and should be remembered for that, not his performance before Congress.  Although he got a paltry 23.6% of the vote last year, in due time Mark McGwire will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, it would be the right thing to do.
  • Tim Raines – If there was no Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines would be classifed by many as the best lead-off hitter of all-time.  Raines was always in Henderson’s shadow, in terms of ability and was definitely not as good as Rickey, but he was no slouch himself.  He played in 23 seasons and was an All-Star 7 times, coming off the bench for most of the end of his career.  He won the NL batting title in 1986 and ranks fifth all-time with 808 stolen bases. Raines was listed on 24.3% of the ballots last year and should see that number shoot up since last year was his first year and the writers are reluctant to elect players in their first year of eligibility.
  • Jim Rice – With 72.2% of the vote last year, Rice was left at the altar by the writers and should be elected this year.  He was a great player for Boston for 16 years, with an average season of .298/30/113 and it’s a travesty he’s had to wait this long.  Rice was an all-star eight times and won the AL MVP in 1978.  He hit .298 in his career and clubbed 382 home runs.  Another player who suffered for lack of World Series exposure, Rice deserves to be in.

I elected six players and I’m pretty confident that the BBWAA won’t take that many.  Nevertheless, I think there are compelling arguments for each of these guys.  With that said, here are the notable players I omitted this year:

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6 Responses to “Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Released”

  1. nl mvp Says:

    Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has reportedly been saying the Tigers are not interested in acquiring any

  2. Notes on the Past Week « Backwards K Says:

    […] Monday, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Back in December, I selected who I thought should make it and I picked six players, including the two that were […]

  3. dangerdan21 Says:

    Mark McGwire in the hall of fame? Really? Did Vincent Conte contact you and tell you to insert that because McGwire is a cheater. McGwire ruined himself and his name because you don’t know whats real with him. By that i mean that you don’t know when he started using or how much or if he ever didn’t cheat.

    • backwardsk Says:

      You could argue that about anyone that played the game from about 1992-today. He’s a product of his generation in which, I believe, there was a level playing field. Everyone was doing something whether they admit it or not. Have you forgotten about 1998 and what that meant to the game? It’s easy to turn your back on the guy now, but that wasn’t the reaction until he looked like an idiot on Capitol Hill. MLB and the owners were just as happy to pocket the cash from people buying tickets to watch him play and now he has to suffer? That’s not right.

  4. dangerdan21 Says:

    So you say put him in because, although he cheated, he gave the game money?

    • backwardsk Says:

      Well, one could argue that he never cheated because he never failed a test, but I won’t argue that now. The fact that he played in what is/will be known as the Steroid Era may inflate his numbers, but most players from that/this generation will also have inflated numbers so you can’t randomly go around and eliminating some from consideration arbitrarily.

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