January 6, 2011 by MarkHanrahan20
Wednesday afternoon the Baseball Writers Association of America announced the 2011 inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of the controversial list of candidates, only Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, were elected for enshrinement. While there are some questions whether Blylevin and his .534 winning percentage belong in Cooperstown, the real questions surround who didn’t make the Hall, and why.
Of the 19 first time eligible players on the ballot, two of them, Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Bagwell proved to have too many questions surrounding their accomplishments for voters to support them. When Mark McGwire only received only 22% of the votes in 2009, his first year eligible for the hall of fame, we knew that there were a number of voters that were holding their votes for those associated with the steroid era. But this year’s eligible players posed a couple of different questions. Palmeiro, who by all accounts is a sure fire hall of famer had he not been associated with PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs), only received 11% of the 75% needed for enshrinement. That’s enough to stay on the ballot (5% needed), but hardly a good sign for his hopes to reach Cooperstown. Bagwell however has never even been mentioned in the PED discussions until recently, with no valid reasons to make those assumptions. The long time Houston Astro received 44% of the votes, and should be voted in sometime in the near future, but what does that say for the players to come who just happened to play in the ‘Steroid Era’?
So, with that I offer my hypothetical ballot, if I were to have a vote. I have just one critereon when determining who I would vote for, a simple thought to myself, is this player one of the absolute best in the game during the time in which he played. Basically, I am taking PED’s out of the equation and not even trying to compare the numbers they players put up to players before or after them. To me, the ‘Steroid Era’ is just another turn on the long and winding, ever-changing road that is baseball… Here is my ballot, in order of confidence behind my vote.
Roberto Alomar – Alomar is quite simply, the very best second baseman I have been able to see play in my lifetime. An absolute wizard with the glove, winning a record 10 Gold Gloves, he made even the most difficult plays look routine. With his defensive accomplishments, he probably could have made the Hall of Fame as just an average hitter, but Alomar was also one of the most dangerous offensive second basemen to have ever played, winning four Silver Slugger Awards, the second most ever by a second baseman. Alomar finished his career a .300 hitter, with 2,724 hits, 210 Home Runs, and 474 Stolen Bases. Everything about Roberto Alomar says first ballot Hall of Famer, it’s a shame he had to wait until the second go around.
Jeff Bagwell – Bagwell made his debut as an undersized 23 year old first baseman, just a year removed from small college baseball. Looking back, that early debut may be hurting him now. Writers are pointing out that he only hit 6 home runs in his short minor league stint and averaged only 18 home runs a year over his first three years of his major league career as a sign that he may have used PED’s. Even if he did, and at this point I could really care less, they are neglecting a two key points to those stats. First, power is often the last statistic to develop in a young hitter, especially one who was just using aluminum bats a year ago. Second, weightlifting was long thought to be taboo among baseball players until the early-mid 90’s. While this is also around the time that many beleive believe performance drugs entered the game, how can one know if the improvements are chemical or just the result of hard work? Football players have been packing on muscle for years; it’s not inconceivable for a baseball player to reach that size with relative ease given the legal resources presented to them. Bagwell may be the biggest snub from this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, but it shouldn’t be long until his .297 average 449 Home Runs, and 1529 RBI reach Cooperstown.
Barry Larkin – I read a great column by Hall of Fame voter John Perrotto in which he said, “If Derek Jeter had range, he’d be Barry Larkin” and I literally laughed out loud, because it’s true. Larkin won nine Silver Slugger awards, meaning he was believed to be the best offensive short stop in the National League almost half of the years in which he played. Oh yeah, he also won three Gold Gloves, not too shabby.
Larry Walker – This is where I resort to, “is this player one of the absolute best in the game during the time in which he played” and Walker passes that test to me. When it comes down to it, there are really three factors working against Walker getting in to Cooperstown, he played in Montreal, he only averaged 116 games a season, and he played in Coors Field. Among Walker’s notable accomplishments; a .313 career average, 7 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, and an MVP. Maybe I am a tad biased since Larry Walker was one of my favorite players growing up, but I really think he deserves a spot in Cooperstown.
Rafael Palmeiro – Palmeiro reached two of baseball’s most hallowed milestones, 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, but questions surround the methods in which he got there. Frankly, I don’t care. If you ask me, Palmeiro had a great all around game, slick fielding, gap hitting and hitting for power. He won 2 Silver Sluggers, 3 Gold Gloves and was a four time All Star. Unfortunately, he will probably be best remembered for this rather than his on field exploits…
Bert Blylevin – The 2011 vote was Blylevin’s last shot at the Hall of Fame. While I probably would have voted him in sooner, I would not vote him in above the players previously mentioned. Maybe my thoughts are skewed because I really don’t remember much about his game, but looking back at the numbers, and the players of his time, I’m not sure I would consider him one of the very best pitchers of his era. In his 22 year career he never won a Cy Young, his best results two 3rd place finishes and only made two All Star games. What the big Dutch born right-hander did do was compile some very impressive career numbers, including 3701 Strikeouts and 60 shutouts.
One notable omission that you may notice is Mark McGwire, who missed out for the second year in a row. Again, I am not taking the Performance Enhancing Drug issue into account at all, even in leaving him out. When I analyze McGwire’s career I see a one dimensional player, much like a player who only excels at defense. Don’t get me wrong, McGwire was a phenomenal power hitter, with 583 RBI. McGwire did win a Gold Glove in 1990, but his defense quickly deteriorated along with his health. When it was all said and done, he finished as a poor defensive player, a .263 hitter with alot of home runs and RBI numbers that don’t really jump off the page.
At the end of the day, I will likely never have a Hall of Fame vote, but as long as I have this blog, I can pretend…