Good morning Fackers. Yesterday we took a cursory look at the Hall of Fame voting results, noting Andre Dawson's election and the tantalizing near misses of Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar. The entire ballot spanned twenty six players who met the eligibility criteria. Here are some thoughts on those who weren't as lucky as The Hawk.
Byleven (74.2%) - He's a vitrual lock for next year after coming so close this year and seeing an 11.5% jump over last year. He has two more years of eligibility left and the next two classes aren't particularly strong.
Alomar (73.7%) - I'm not a big believer in drawing distinctions between a Hall of Famer and First Ballot Hall of Famer. Even so, I think Alomar's standing relative to the other men who have played his position make him worthy of first ballot induction. Obviously it will have to wait until next year. If waiting a year is Alomar's penance for the Hirschbeck spitting incident then so be it. I realize there are players in the Hall who have done worse, but waiting a year is a small price to pay for what's one of baseball's more despicable moments.
Jack Morris (52.3%) - Morris vs. Blyleven seems to be the next frontier of the old school vs. new school debate. Morris saw an 8.3% jump over last year, the second biggest gainer outside of Blyleven. He still ranks behind where Blyleven was in his 11th year of eligibility. It'll be interesting to see where this one goes in the year's to come. Does anyone remember when Morris nearly joined the '96 Yankees?
Barry Larkin (51.6%) - Larkin deserves enshrinement, but he clearly has a ways to go in the eyes of the voters. Still, it's encouraging to see him start out at 51.6%. For comparisons sake, Alan Trammell, a similar if inferior comparison, garnered just 15.7% of the vote in his first year of eligibility.
Lee Smith (47.3%) - Smith is the highest ranking former Yankee on the ballot. His continued languishing in the sub fifty percent range makes me wonder if the BBWAA is smarter than we give them credit for being. At the time of his retirement, Smith was the all-time leader in saves. He hasn't thrown a pitch in a dozen years, yet he's been passed only by Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. Normally, that's the sort of thing the writers would eat up: "This guy's the all-time saves leader, he's got to be a Hall of Famer!". Instead, Smith remains far from enshrinement, as he should. I'm just not sure it's because the writers realize the save is a relatively meaningless statistic. More likely, I think Smith serves as an example that the writer's aren't quite sure how to evaluate "closers". The relievers in the Hall - Wilhelm, Fingers, Sutter, Gossage - were "firemen", routinely accumulating 100+ IP per season. Smith accumulated 100 relief IP just twice, in his first two full seasons as a reliever. Smith was at the leading edge of the game-wide transition from firemen to closers. Dennis Eckersley is the only closer in the Hall, and Smith lacks both Eckersley's utter dominance as a closer as well as his years as a successful starter. Smith has seven more ballots for the writers to figure it out.
Edgar Martinez (36.2%) - If the voters don't know what to make of closers, then they have absolutely no idea what to do with designated hitters. The DH has been in existence for 37 seasons now, and it has evolved significantly in that time. What started as place to play the best bench player evolved as a spot to hide defensive liabilities, or to prolong the career of aging veterans, or to protect the health of those too fragile to handle the wear and tear of daily defense. While HoFers like Eddie Murray, George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Dave Winfield, Carl Yastrzemski, and Dawson all spent significant time at DH, Martinez is an interesting case in that he's the first worthy candidate to have spent nearly his entire career as a DH. Offensively he has HoF numbers, and I think he's worthy of induction. I'll be interested to see how his candidacy is evaluated over the next several years.
Tim Raines (30.4%) - Far and away the gravest injustice in my opinion. Raines is worthy of his own post, and I hope to have that before the week is out.
Mark McGwire (23.7%) - After taking a slight dip in his percentage last year, McGwire's number returns to where it was in both of his first two years of eligibility - a long, long, long way from induction. Like Smith and Martinez, McGwire is an interesting test case. McGwire is probably the best pure power hitter in baseball history not named Babe Ruth (1st all time in AB/HR, 2nd all time in IsoP), but the problem is that he wasn't all that pure after all. I'm not sure yet how PED users should be judged, but McGwire's four years on the ballot don't bode well for Rafael Palmeiro next year or for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in 2013.
Alan Trammell (22.4%) - This was Trammell's ninth year on the ballot and his best showing yet. He's still so far off that it's unlikely he'll ever be elected. As a shortstop, Trammell is Hall of Famer. He's comparable, if slightly inferior, to contemporaries and Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr, Robin Yount, and Ozzie Smith. I think the problem for Trammell is that he was overshadowed by those three for most of his career, and in the years since the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada, and Hanley Ramirez have completely changed the concept of what a shortstop could do. Had Trammell begun his career 20 or 30 years earlier he'd likely already be in Cooperstown. At this point the Veterans' Committee looks like his best bet.
Fred McGriff (21.5%) - One of the worst trades the Yankees ever made. McGriff was a great player for a long time. But as a first baseman, his numbers don't really separate him from his contemporaries. It doesn't appear that another 7 HR to get to 500 would have made the difference for him either.
Don Mattingly (16.1%) - This is the best showing for our beloved Donnie Baseball since his second year on the ballot back in 2002. But it's still well off from his career best of 28.2%. As much as we'd all like to see it, Mattingly's not going to the Hall nor should he - his career nose dived way too soon. But I hope he continues to get the requisite 5% to stay on the ballot until his 15 years run out.
Dave Parker (15.2%) - The induction of borderline guys Jim Rice and Andre Dawson in back-to-back years lends itself to slippery-slope style arguments. I don't think The Cobra was as good as either one of those guys, but he wasn't off by too much.
Dale Murphy (11.7%) - Much like Mattingly, Murphy went from amongst the best in baseball to done seemingly overnight. Murphy was a contemporary of Dawson, and like Dawson is considered and all-around class act and good guy. The two make for an interesting comparison. Dawson had a longer and better career, and voters seem to favor players who decline gradually, like Dawson, to players who fall off a cliff, like Murphy. But if you look at their primes, Murphy was arguably the better player. And if you look at their peaks, Murphy was clearly the better player.
Harold Baines (6.1%) - The last player that will still be on next year's ballot. With the arrival of Edgar Martinez, Baines is no longer the best DH eligible for enshrinement.
Andres Galarraga (4.1%) - I'm surprised he didn't get the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot. Certainly not a HoFer, but a pretty good player during a rather lengthy career. I wonder if Galarraga dropping off after one year gives any insight as to how the voters will view the Coors Field effect. It'll be interesting to keep in mind as Larry Walker becomes eligibile next year and Todd Helton no fewer than six years from now. At 43 years old and stuck on 398 career HRs, Galarraga signed a minor league deal with the Angels in 2004. He spent a month in AAA and was given a token September call up. In the 160th game of the season, Galarraga pinch hit in the ninth inning of a game the Angels led 9-0. He homered to get to 399, and celebrated waaaaay too much for a player of his stature, particularly considering he was just hanging on to pad his numbers and had just hit a meaningless home run in garbage time of a late season game. I remember seeing the highlight and thinking it was a little below him. The again, Galarraga lost a season to lymphoma during the most productive stretch of his career and had suffered a relapse earlier that same year that may have cost him additional service time, so maybe I'm just a jerk for begrudging him a little celebration.
Robin Ventura (1.3%) - The second lowest ranking former Yankee on the ballot (Todd Zeile didn't get a single vote). In 1999, Nolan Ryan received 98.79% of the vote, the second highest percentage of all time. He was six votes short of being the only unanimous selection in history. Perhaps he'll beat Ventura up again, steal his seven votes, and add them to his own total to give him 100.2% of the vote.
Michael "Mike" Jackson (0.0%) - Listed only to give me an excuse to link to this. It probably wasn't particularly funny then; now it's neither funny nor timely.