I have been a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America for two years. It is a way for internet writers to be part of a bigger whole, as they work towards the BBWAA without the grueling — and arguably outdated — requirements to become a member. It is basically an alliance of writers joined together to discuss and promote our one common interest: baseball.
We also vote. At season’s end we vote on the Awards (Cy Young, MVP, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year), but we also vote on the Hall of Fame. I thought I would share who I voted for this year, and maybe give some insight why.
Let me start by saying that Tim Raines has already been voted in by the IBWAA writers, so his name is no longer on the ballot (along with Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza) because we have all voiced our opinions on Rock. While I think Piazza and Bagwell are victims of their era and may never be allowed passage into the Hall, I do think it is time to let Raines into Cooperstown.
Trust me, I have been told approximately 6.2 millions times that Rock’s WAR of 69.1 is better than Tony Gwynn‘s (68.8) who is the Hall of Fame, and Don Mattingly‘s (42.2) who I will always wish was in the Hall. But you also know that I think WAR is an analytical tool for comparison and not a deciding factor in anything — which I think to many people have come to rely upon.
Raines belongs in the Hall because he was arguably the best outfielder in baseball not named Rickey Henderson in the early 1980s. The guy led the league several times in runs and stolen bases, he was a doubles machine and rarely struck out. He has a career OBP of .385 and for the most part, the career leaders ahead of him in OBP were super sluggers than people were afraid to pitch to and walked.
(I step of my soap box)
Ken Griffey, Jr.
The easiest justification for Griff getting into the Hall is that injuries derailed his career. A guy that slashed .284/.370/.538 with 630 home runs, 1836 RBI and 1662 runs scored should have been better.
It’s true. This is a kid that finished third in the Rookie of the Year despite missing half of July and August AT 19-YEARS of age. The guy won ten straight Gold Gloves establishing the standard for center field play, but that play would often lead him to the DL. He had five straight seasons of 40 or more home runs, but you can easily make the argument that it would have been nine if there weren’t injury shortened seasons in between. Plus, he got to hit back-to-back home runs with his dad. If that’s not every kid’s dream, I don’t know what is.
The Kid should be unanimous, but like Greg Maddux before him, he won’t and I will be furious.
A reliever? In the Hall of Fame? It’s pretty hard for these guys to sneak in, but we all know that Hoffman and Mariano Rivera set the new ideal for what a reliever should be. They were the best relievers in the American and National League for nearly 20 years together. And both will be in with ease.
Two people in the annals of baseball have over 600 saves and it’s Hoffman and Rivera. Third place isn’t even close. In this day and age, where relievers have a shelf life of five to six years, you can already argue that no one else ever will.
I have written numerous articles about why McGriff should be in the Hall of Fame. At the very least there should be a Nickname Hall of Fame because Crime Dog would be in the inaugural class.
The poor guy needed seven home runs to reach 500 which would have let him in. You can argue that the groove he was in during the strike shortened 1994 season would have captured those elusive homers. The Crime Dog also is one of a select few that led both the AL and NL in home runs.
Look at his stats during the 1995 postseason. He was a major factor in why the Braves won their lone championship in that unbelievable run.
THE STEROID ERA GUYS:
It was tough for me, but how can the Hall of Fame continue to shut its doors to players of the Steroid Era?
Here’s what I have seen over the past few seasons:
Alex Rodriguez was caught, served a very lengthy suspension and was welcomed back into the MLB. Two of baseball’s most hated sluggers in Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds both hold (or held) titles of hitting coaches. The Astros hired on Roger Clemens as a special advisor to the GM.
If the sport of MLB is going to welcome them back, then so should the Hall of Fame. Baseball made the decision to ignore blatant PED use in the mid-90s, baseball decided to let these players — unlike Pete Rose who they refuse to let be part of the National Pastime — be paid employees of their league, then in my opinion it’s time for Cooperstown to let them in as well.
That being said, I will not vote for Sammy Sosa. I had to draw a line, and Sosa seemed like 100% product of the Steroid Era. Bonds, McGwire and Clemens all had significant careers in the late 80s and early 90s when they looked like beanpoles. Sosa was a garbage player before 1994, and they even found cork in his bat. This guy seemed to cheat the game in more ways than Ol’ Eddie Harris when he took the mound.
He lied and said he didn’t take steroids. He was an egomaniac. The media and most fans didn’t like him. I also watched a five year span when pitchers refused to pitch the ball to him.
If PEDs made everyone as great as Barry Bonds, we would have seen way more 500 home run guys by the time 2004 rolled around. Bonds was a superstar before he came to San Francisco and bulked up, and regardless of the Steroid Era or not, all of his projections would have wound up on the Hall of Fame level.
The media and fans loathed Ted Williams, and there was no way that guy was being kept out of the Hall of Fame. Just let Barry in and let’s call it a day.
Again, a guy who originally lied, but then apologized to the masses. You know what else you can say McGwire arguably did? Save baseball. He at the very least accelerated it’s comeback.
The argument has been made that PEDs were overlooked by MLB so that more exciting home runs would be hit. Home runs and high scoring games put people in the seats. Seats that were relatively empty after the ’94 strike.
Enter McGwire and the now infamous Home Run Chase of 1998. He would of course outlast Sosa that year and mash 70 home runs, a number unfathomable to baseball fans. How did he get there? Well, we know now, but for some reason nobody cared then.
This was a tough one. He is very much like Bonds in the fact that he has not made friends amongst the media nor the fans. He also is seemingly not very well liked by the vast majority of players he played against… isn’t that right Mike Piazza?
But The Rocket was sick from 1986 to 1992, when he was as slender and svelte as young Elvis (not the old one, mind you). He won three Cy Young Awards in six years, and had over 200 strikeouts in every one of them. He led the league in ERA four of those six years.
If he walked away from the game when Red Sox cut him lose and granted him free agency because they felt he “was done” after the 1996 season, many would be petitioning for him to make the Hall just on those years alone.
Who really knows what Clemens “work out” regiment was before 1997, but Clemens competitive nature would lead you to believe that he really beefed up the PED use after he was let go so he could come back stronger than ever and show up his former employers. He did just that, becoming a 300-game winner, third all time in strikeouts and winning four more Cy Young Awards along the way.
Again, these three choices were tough for me, but at the end of the day, if MLB has forgiven, then it is time for Cooperstown to forgive. Maybe it is on a player by player basis, as I said, I will never give a vote to Sosa. These guys were given awards during a time when everyone suspected there was something afoul and now that we know (or at least think we know) the truth, none of those awards have been revoked. Major League Baseball has let them return to paid positions. They are part of the history of the game, and I just think it’s time to let them be enshrined.