Eliminating Cooperstown Candidates as Easy as Picking Them
With the clock ticking toward the midnight deadline on New Year's Eve, I'm sitting here looking at my 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. And you know what? Something keeps occurring to me after more than two decades of filling out these things.
This is going to be so easy.
Roberto Alomar gets a check mark next to his name, and so does Barry Larkin. I'll also select Bert Blyleven for the 14th consecutive time (that's how many times he's been on the ballot), and I'll go with Fred McGriff again and Lee Smith again.
That's about it.
Oh, just so you know, you can choose up to 10 folks out of the overall 33, but here's why this is easy: Several candidates promptly were eliminated -- at least in my little Cooperstown justice system -- even before their names hit the ballot.
Mark McGwire. Rafael Palmeiro.
You're outta here.
I mean, NOBODY who was an active participant during the steroid era gets into Cooperstown on my watch.
Among the few rules they give us as Hall of Fame voters is to consider the "integrity" and the "character" of candidates. In other words, the combination of juicing and swinging is an automatic disqualifier. While McGwire admitted to doing as much, Palmeiro keeps lying about it.
Earlier this week, Palmeiro continued with his convoluted explanation of how he failed a drug test five years ago that turned his lifetime batting average of .288, 3,020 hits and 569 home runs into frauds. He said a teammate gave him a shot of what he thought was a vitamin (you know, as opposed to an anabolic steroid), and then he said the dog ate his homework before he put the check in the mail.
Yeah, well. Save your fables, Rafael, for the next time you're wagging your finger at a congressman.
You also have Juan Gonzalez on the ballot, and he was cited in baseball's investigation into performance-enhancing drugs called the Mitchell Report for getting stopped by custom agents in Toronto for carrying a bag filled with syringes and other things that smacked of steroid use.
Actually, it was good for me.
It just made Gonzalez one less candidate I had to consider during my early studying of the ballot.
Then you have the rumored steroid guys on the ballot such as Bret Boone, Benito Santiago, Kevin Brown, Raul Mondesi and Jeff Bagwell. In contrast to McGwire and Palmeiro, none among that group was caught or confessed regarding steroids. But here's the thing: Guilt by association -- as in, they played during the Steroid Era, and they all had puffed-up bodies, statistical jumps out of nowhere or a combination of both that made you wonder if it was coincidence or needles.
In addition to that steroid thing, there is that DH thing, which also makes voting easier this year.
Edgar Martinez is the first full-time designated hitter eligible for Hall of Fame consideration, and that means no consideration as far as I'm concerned. If you can't spend most of your career playing baseball like a man (translated: The majority of non-pitchers in baseball use a bat AND a glove), then you have no business in Cooperstown.
Like Gonzalez, Martinez is a marginal candidate anyway.
So are Dave Parker and Tim Raines, but you can make a decent case for both guys. Parker, for instance, was as dominant as anybody as an all-around player from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. He was a splendid blend of average and power. And Raines was among the most prolific base-stealers of the latter 20th century while finishing his 23 seasons with a lifetime batting average of .290.
We're back to "integrity" and "character." Parker and Raines were involved in drug controversies to cause many of my colleagues to push them out of Hall of Fame consideration. If I thought they were Cooperstown-worthy, I'd vote for them anyway.
But I don't think they're worthy.
Elsewhere on the ballot, you just have a bunch of names. Charles Johnson. Bobby Higginson. Lenny Harris.
As for my five picks, I know what some are saying, especially when it comes to "integrity" and "character." They're saying Alomar spit in the face of that umpire. They're also saying he was accused by a former girlfriend -- and more than a year later by his wife -- of having unprotected sex without acknowledging that he is HIV-positive.
This goes back to Parker and Raines. Unlike the artificially enhanced guys of the Steroid Era, the off-the-field issues of Parker, Raines and Alomar weren't done to enhance their playing ability.
And unlike Parker and Raines, Alomar has the credentials to reach Cooperstown with his 10 Gold Gloves at second base and .300 batting average over 17 seasons.
Larkin was a National League MVP, and he was a 12-time All-Star with a lifetime batting average of .295. He shouldn't be penalized (which means he has been) for playing the end of his career in the shadows of new-wave shortstops Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
Blyleven? Well, he has 287 victories while ranking third in strikeouts and ninth in shutouts in history. That's great enough for me. And McGriff hit 30 or more home runs seven straight years. Plus, he had another stretch when he did so three more years along the way to 493 career homers and a lifetime batting average of .284.
Not only that, McGriff once told USA Today baseball writer Paul White that this was his proudest thing in the game: "I haven't changed (physically, as in no steroids) over the years. I'm still the same size."
That's Cooperstown stuff. So is the work of Smith, who dominated National League hitters as a closer during the early 1990s. He is third all-time in saves, and if his contemporaries such as Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage are in, then he should be in.
See how easy that was?
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