From the Windup: A Look at Baseball Hall of Fame 2010 First-Time Eligibles
From the Windup is FanHouse's extended look at a particular portion of America's pastime.
The Hall of Fame talk has begun to die down and baseball fans are starting to look forward to that oh-so-exciting date -- February 15th, when pitchers and catchers report -- but before we get there, let's look ahead at the players who will be eligible for enshrinement in Cooperstown for the first time in 2010.
The new class is especially to important to Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, and their fans. The fewer Rickey Henderson-type locks per season, the better the chances that Dawson and Blyleven's vote totals rise into the necessary-for-election 75 percent range. Both were in the 60s this year.
Overall, the 2010 class is not stellar. There are certainly no first-ballot locks like Henderson was this year. There is one guy who is likely to make it at some point -- if not on the first-ballot -- and a few more who have a good shot. So, let's break it down by the likelihood these guys get elected at some point.
Roberto Alomar - After 2001, you could have made a case that Alomar was the greatest second baseman of all-time. Then, improbably, he fell off a cliff. His OPS+ went from 150 to 89 with no warning. He followed up his brutal 2002 campaign with another stinkbomb in '03, and, after 56 games played in 2004, that was all she wrote.
Either way, he still salvaged some pretty impressive ratio numbers, hitting .300 for his career, with a .371 on-base percentage. He got on base more times than Billy Williams, Eddie Mathews, Tony Perez, and a handful of other Hall of Famers -- with 2,724 hits and 1,032 walks in his 17-year career. He even mixed in some power, hitting 210 career home runs and notching four seasons with more than 90 RBI. He stole 474 bases as well.
Along the way, Alomar racked up 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves, five top-10 MVP finishes, and seven postseason appearances -- hitting .313 in 58 total games and winning two rings. He was an emotional leader on many of those teams, especially when he was a veteran, displaying a fire and tenacity for the game. Sure, it spilled over when Alomar shamefully spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck out of frustration, but he later apologized and Hirschbeck accepted, so there's no reason to let the incident linger.
The most similar second basemen to him statistically over the course of his career? Lou Whitaker, Frankie Frisch, Ryne Sandberg, and Joe Morgan. All but Whitaker are in the Hall.
For me, Alomar should be a lock, but you never know with these voters.
Barry Larkin - Here's a guy whose stats can't really carry the whole case. You had to watch Barry play. He was a team leader throughout his career. He played with the utmost respect for the game and always drove his teammates to win. He was the absolute driving force behind the largely pedestrian 1995 Reds team that went all the way to the NLCS. He also won MVP that season.
Still, you can't just start putting guys in based solely upon those intangibles. Let's check the numbers.
Larkin stole 379 career bases, and was only caught stealing 77 times. He walked more than he struck out, which aided his impressive .371 career on-base percentage and 1,329 runs scored. He appeared in 12 All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves and nine Silver Sluggers. The Silver Slugger awards are most important to me, because it shows how much better of a hitter he was than his contemporaries at the same position. It certainly lessens some of his perceived statistical short-comings.
I really hate it when people say, "It's not the Hall of the Very Good." That's just lame. First of all, "very good" isn't on the same medium as "fame." There also aren't statistical requirements to enter the Hall -- we just use them as a baseline for comparison to peers. Larkin's case is one of those where it goes beyond the numbers. Ask any Reds fan who was sentient during the 1990s.
Fred McGriff - A model of consistency, "Crime Dog" hit over 30 home runs 10 times in a season, yet never more than 37. He had seven 100-RBI seasons, yet never hit more than 107. He finished top 10 in MVP voting six times, yet never finished higher than fourth. Again, for a first basemen, a .284/.377/.509 line is pretty good, but not great. The same goes for his five All-Star appearances in 19 seasons. He could have done wonders for his cause if he had hit seven more career home runs and gotten over the 500-homer plateau. For what it's worth -- a ton in the eyes of the Hall voters, apparently -- McGriff has never even been remotely suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
For McGriff, it's going to boil down to whether or not the voters can accept someone who was consistently very good for a long time -- pilling up some nice counting stats -- despite never being a dominant force.
Edgar Martinez - I couldn't do it. He played almost three times more games as a designated hitter than in the field. In order for someone to be a Hall of Famer, in this case, I think he'd need much better counting stats. He ended with 2,247 hits and only 309 home runs. Okay, so if he had moderate power, we could give him a break for his legs, except he wasn't even remotely a base-stealer.
I do like how he walked more than he struck out, which helped him compile a sick .418 on-base percentage and really nice 147 career OPS+. He's actually got the 35th best OPS in history, and ranks 38th in career doubles.
Still, if you expect a DH to make the Hall of Fame, you better have someone with Frank Thomas numbers, not Will Clark and Jon Olerud numbers (Martinez's top two similars).
Andres Galarraga - It's going to be interesting to see how the voting shakes out with "Big Cat." He ended with 399 home runs, though many came in Coors Field. Believe it or not, he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times. Of course, he never finished higher than sixth. He earned two Gold Gloves early in his career. I just don't think his power numbers are nearly good enough for someone in this era, especially with aid of Coors.
Ellis Burks - A pretty good player for a long time, but 352 home runs in 18 years from a corner outfield spot isn't nearly enough in the era in which he played. He'll be a one-and-done.
Robin Ventura - He put together a handful of really solid seasons and was most certainly a well above average major leaguer. Other than getting pummeled by Nolan Ryan, however, he didn't do much to separate himself from a large pack of very good players. Just as with Burks, I'm expecting him to be on the ballot just this once.
Most Certainly One-and-Done
Kevin Appier, Andy Ashby, Dave Burba, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Mark McLemore, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, Fernando Vina, and Todd Zeile (although he did play for 11 teams, I'm sure Corky's intrigued).
What it Means
We're likely going to see two of the Alomar/Blyleven/Dawson group get inducted in 2010. With no other really notable candidates, it's possible Jack Morris, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell gain a little bit more support than they did this year as well. Don't ask me what happens to Mark McGwire. I'm sure his vote total will continue to flounder as the powers that be punish him for his sins against humanity. Dave Parker could even pick up some steam in light of Jim Rice's induction.
I believe Larkin, McGriff, Martinez, and Galarraga get enough votes -- at least for one season -- to remain on the ballot. Larkin and McGriff will probably get in eventually, but I just can't see the voters ever putting Martinez in. Galarraga won't hang around long before falling off the ballot, if he even gets five percent in the first try. It should be close.
The best part about all of this is it will set in motion a whole new set of arguments from a bunch of people -- myself included -- who have absolutely no power on the subject. Hey, at least it's fun.
Now, it's less than a month until pitchers and catchers report. Let's start getting in that spring mindset.