It’s been rather quiet since the recent volley of bullpen acquisitions, so while I have some time I’ll go ahead and make my picks for this year’s Hall of Fame class.
One major thing to keep in mind when reading my ballot: I don’t penalize heavily for alleged steroid abuse. My feelings can be summarized by the idea that many, many Hall of Famers have benefited from outside influences over the years, whether it was amphetamines, doctored pitches, a segregated “whites only” league, gambling, etc. I don’t see why we should draw a line at steroids while ignoring all of these other things that have skewed the baseball almanacs for nearly 150 years.
We have a strong ballot this year, and I’ll end up using the maximum 10 votes. I can’t remember another year in which I would have voted for 10 guys. I’ll list my inductees by order of preference, along with the team that should be on their cap in Cooperstown. In the interest of time, my argument for each will be very brief.
1) Barry Larkin – SS – Cincinnati Reds
12-time All Star, 2 Top Ten MVP votes, 1 MVP, 1 World Series Ring
Larkin is quite possibly one of the top ten shortstops in the history of the game. He may not have had Cal Ripken’s durability, but he was on par with Ripken in nearly all other facets. Played his entire career for the same franchise (this gets you a slight edge in my ballot). Would have received around 90% of the vote last year if he played in a big market (he ended up with 50%).
2) Jeff Bagwell – 1B – Houston Astros
4-time All Star, 6 Top Ten MVP votes, 1 MVP
It’s kind of odd to see that Bagwell only made 4 All-Star teams, but the 1990′s were an era with lots of good first basemen (three of them are on this ballot). Easily the best hitter in Astros franchise history.
3) Tim Raines – LF – Montreal Expos
7-time All Star, 3 Top Ten MVP Votes, 1 World Series Ring
Played his entire career in the shadow of Rickey Henderson, and thus is severely underrated. Raines actually had a better SB percentage than the SB king himself (86% vs 81%). Maybe the most productive NL outfielder during the 1980′s.
4) Mark McGwire – 1B – Oakland A’s
12-time All Star, 5 Top Ten MVP Votes, 1 World Series Ring
People are starting to forget how much of an offensive wrecking ball this guy was. Right now, you can buy a ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame and marvel at the plaque of Joe George “High Pockets” Kelly, but not McGwire’s. A bunch of pretentious writers will probably ensure that it stays this way.
5) Bert Blyleven – SP – Minnesota Twins
2-time All Star, 4 Top Ten Cy Young Votes, 2 World Series Rings
The arguments I’ve read for not voting for Blyleven (“he wasn’t a big game pitcher”, “you never looked at the scorecard and said ‘oh no, we’re facing Bert Blyleven”, “baseball is about winning, and he didn’t win enough ballgames”) are all stupid. Nine of Blyleven’s top ten comparable players on baseballreference.com are Hall of Famers.
6) Roberto Alomar – 2B – Toronto Blue Jays
12-time All Star, 5 Top Ten MVP Votes, 2 World Series Rings
Alomar never really identified himself with one franchise, which I think is a reason for his lack of support last year. He and Blyleven were both a couple of votes short, so I’m guessing that they both get in this year.
7) Larry Walker – RF – Colorado Rockies
5-time All Star, 4 Top Ten MVP Votes, 1 MVP
The fact that his best seasons were played in Coors Field probably hurts him in the eyes of some voters, but Walker’s numbers would have been impressive if his home park was located on one of Jupiter’s moons.
8) Alan Trammell – SS – Detroit Tigers
6-time All Star, 3 Top Ten MVP Votes, 1 World Series Ring
Alan was hurt by inconsistency. He has some years that were truly great, followed up by years in which he was so-so. Still, next to Ripken, he was the 2nd-best SS in the American League during most of his career.
9) Raphael Palmeiro – 1B – Texas Rangers
4-time All Star, 3 Top Ten MVP Votes
An excellent player for a very long time. I fully expect Raffy to get less than 10% of the actual vote and fall of the ballot completely. If voters want to discount his career that much based on a PED he may have ingested later in his career, that’s fine. It’s not how I would vote, though.
10) Kevin Brown – SP – Texas Rangers
6-time All Star, 5 Top Ten Cy Young Votes, 1 World Series Ring
Like Alomar, he bounced around for most of his career, and he was also a notorious douchebag. Both of these things will hurt him in the voting. His career is pretty similar to that of Curt Schilling, who would also get my vote once he becomes eligible.