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Hall of Fame Analysis

I promise that I won’t be talking about the Hall of Fame anymore for at least a month. I wanted to say a year, but who knows when somebody will be do something awesome in May and I’ll want to talk about their Hall of Fame case? Not that I was going too far on a limb yesterday, but I’m pretty happy to have correctly predicted who would have gotten in. Based on my hypothetical ballot, I obviously feel that a few people got slighted (some more than others…some WAY more than others), but there were no Jim Rices on this list who did not and do not belong in any way. Overall, we’re looking at a very strong class with Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick.

There are a couple of points I’d like to touch on here from things I’ve seen around the internet. The first is in regards to Bert Blyleven who made it into the Hall on his 14th try. A lot of people have the question of how someone is not a Hall of Famer for 13 years and then suddenly is in his 14th season. Interestingly enough, I have less of a problem with something like this than someone not getting in on the first time and getting in the second. The reason is that over the course of 14 years a couple of things can happen. The first is that who is voting changes. People die, new people gain a vote, some people give up their vote, etc. Over that long of a period of time, the voting mass can change so dramatically that it can swing a vote one direction or another.

The other reason is that as time passes, more information is readily available and it gives us the opportunity to learn that someone like Bert Blyleven really was outstanding. The man pitched almost 5,000 innings, struck out 3,700 batters, walked just over 1,300, won 297 games and had the most devastating curve ball you’ve ever seen. As people had a chance to look deeper into his career, they found that he was really hampered by playing on poor teams and that hurt his win total, which was still just 13 shy of the magical 300. I’m glad he finally got elected because he deserved it, but partially because I’m a little sick of hearing about how much of a snub he is every single year.

Roberto Alomar, the inductee, is the kind of player for whom the Hall of Fame was designed. I think a lot of people don’t believe he was as great a player as he truly was because of the end of his career. Similar to Carlos Baerga, another Indians second baseman, going to the Mets sparked the beginning of the end of his career. In 2001, Alomar hit .336/.415/.541 with the Indians. In December of that year he was traded to the Mets where he promptly hit .266/.331/.376. In the last three years of his career, Alomar hit .262/.331/.367, which was simply not the player Alomar was through the first 14 years of his career. Even with the rough ending to his career, Alomar had over 2,700 hits, over 500 doubles, over 200 homers, over 1,000 walks, over 450 stolen bases and won ten gold gloves.

The thing that was truly interesting to me about the ballot is that he went from being at 73.8% (I think) to gaining entrance with a whopping 90% of the vote. Now that is a phenomenon I simply do not understand. I’ve heard a couple of reasons for why he wasn’t elected last year and was elected with so much room to spare this year. The first is that people thought he was a Hall of Famer, just not a first ballot Hall of Famer. Now I understand not thinking someone is one of the game’s best ever at first, but over a few years doing some research and learning things and deciding later that he is, but to say someone is not a first ballot Hall of Famer, but is worthy of induction in year two is nothing short of ridiculous.

The other reason I’ve heard is that voters were punishing him for both spitting on an umpire and for some of his post-career troubles. I don’t want to get into that too much, but that does lead to an issue I, and many others seemingly, have with Hall of Fame voting and that is that there is wording on the ballot that indicates character plays a role. That part I don’t mind so much. What I do mind is that this is so open to interpretation that sometimes the true purpose of the Hall is forgotten – to honor the best to ever play the game. Ty Cobb was the first player ever elected, and he was a world-class, grade A bad guy. I understand people’s issues with steroids, though, I don’t agree, but because a guy may not have been nice is no reason to not vote for him.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about a few of the guys who didn’t make it and what I think their chances are moving forward. The player who finished with the third most votes was Barry Larkin with 62.1% of the vote. I was pleasantly surprised by this as I thought he would have a truly uphill climb in spite of his truly strong case. I think he gets elected within the next two years barring anything crazy happening to tarnish his image. 12.9% is not a tough battle to fight. There will definitely be an internet campaign to get him on more ballots next year. He’s got 13 years to make up that ground, so Reds fans should be ready to make a drive to upstate New York very soon.

The players of note who I found very interesting were Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. You all know that I believe Bagwell was wronged here, but he did receive over 40% of the vote. While he doesn’t exactly have the easiest road, as more and more facts come out about his peers and more and more facts come out about how he was clean (which I truly believe), I believe his case will become stronger. If I had to guess, I’d say that next year will be a similar year for him, but he’ll start to see support swelling and he’ll get in within the next five to seven years. Edgar Martinez, though, is not one I’m confident about as his vote total actually decreased from last year. He was one of the greatest right-handed hitters to ever play the game, but unless the votership changes significantly, I think he’s going to be mired in 30-50% Hall Hell.

The two that surprised me more than anything were McGwire and Palmeiro. I’ve grown accustomed to Mark McGwire receiving a low percentage of the vote, but I didn’t expect him to drop under 20%. I wonder if this was backlash from coming clean early in 2010. Ultimately, that was the right move for him if he’s going to have a chance to make the Hall at some point. Next year will be big for him. If voters were simply punishing him this one year and then will reward him next year then he still has a chance. If he stays in the low 20s, then he’ll be a 15-year mainstay, but won’t get anywhere. As for Palmeiro, I expected way more. I didn’t expect even 40%, but I thought that his 3,000 hits and 500 home runs might have helped to wash away the memory of his finger wagging followed up by getting caught. It didn’t. I’m not sure what he can do at this point to make up ground. Not that he’s listening to me, but my best advice would be to apologize and own up to your mistakes. It’s not like things can get worse for him in the baseball world.

So that’s it. We don’t have to hear about Bert getting circled for the Hall of Fame anymore because he finally made it. I didn’t touch on Tim Raines at all here, but I think he and Larkin are going to be the two who get the most support over the upcoming months. If only Kevin Appier had the support he needed to just stay on the ballot for a few years. I’m not saying he should make it, but I’d love to have seen his name on the ballot for awhile longer. I suppose the Royals Hall will have to do for Planet Appier.

  1. January 6, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Nice article, I really enjoyed the read. Roberto Alomar really did deserve the Hall of Fame and as a Toronto Blue Jays fans I’m so glad they put him in this year, especially with a close to unanimous vote. If the only thing stopping him was the spitting incident, which it seemed to be, then there should have been no reason for them to keep him out. I was also happy to see the steroid guys not receiving too much of the vote because I think there is a great difference between those guys and guys like Alomar with character issues. Also, you think you could check out my blog cuz I’d love to hear what you have to say. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/musings-on-the-2011-hall-of-fame-class/

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