When it comes to voting for baseball’s Hall of Fame every year – and the criticism that inevitably follows – what it really comes down to is one’s perception of who was a ‘great’ player and who was a ‘good’ one.
Generally, I favor the great ones. Those are the ones who need to get in, first ballot. They have the statistics, above all, and above the rest. They are men of sporting character, which is part of their election consideration. We all know who they are. And aren’t.
This year they are Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. They got three of my seven check marks. They should all be first-ballot guys with 95 plus percentages.
However, from time to time I accept the possibility that good ones also can garner my vote. This is where the debate rages. Everyone has favorites, including me. Everyone has an opinion, including me. It may be one based on obscure statistical acronyms, one based on player-to-player, position-by-position comparisons, or one based simply on eye tests or smell tests.
As for the smell tests, I still haven’t crossed the PED divide. That whole situation stinks. Those players knew they were wrong, they knowingly cheated and don’t deserve consideration until either the Hall of Fame clarifies their status or they personally detail their usage so we can examine their candidacy under bright lights and full disclosure.
It’s not different from the stance taken by current Hall of Famers. They don’t want players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire tainting their hollowed halls. If they can prevent their admission, they will, which tells me something. It doesn’t mean they’re out forever. I believe they’ll all get in one day, just as I think Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe will. It just won’t happen in this current setting.
We’ve already seen one statistically deserving guy drop out, Rafael Palmeiro, a member of the 3,000-hit, 500-home run club. Last year, he fell below the five percent vote needed to remain on the ballot. Strangely, his sudden disappearance has just about gone unnoticed for a guy with remarkable statistics. It has not set off a frenzy among pro-PEDers over its blatant unfairness. And, in my mind, it is unfair to be out so soon but he doomed himself with his finger pointing and unctuous denials.
As for the eye test, there are some guys who may not have the pure statistics to elevate them on a HOF pedestal, but you knew when you saw them they were a cut above. I saw that with Jack Morris, who fell 46 wins short of 300 victories. I voted for him every year and he did generate 61 percent of the vote one year, short of the required 75 percent for selection. That’s a shame but I think the veterans committee might favor him one day.
I also saw Edgar Martinez – just about the best right-hand hitter in the American League for a decade – on a daily basis. By comparison, he doesn’t have the overall career numbers and he was a DH, which are factors that keep him in the 30 percentile. He’s not going to get there with this group of voters but it doesn’t stop me from believing he belongs.
It will be interesting to see when David Ortiz becomes eligible for the Hall, who may start within a couple years for the 39-year-old. The near career long DH has numbers strikingly similar to Martinez. Ortiz has better power numbers while Martinez, the two-time batting champion, had better averages but both are around 2,300 hits. I think the perception is that Ortiz is a strong HOF candidate now. If he is, so is Edgar.
Martinez was one of seven that I checked this year. I also included Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, who came within two votes last year, and his Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell. Admittedly, Bagwell is a stretch for me. He is closer to ‘good’ than ‘great’ but after an examination I figured he had done enough. Like Martinez, it won’t be enough this year – not with this loaded ballot – and he possibly could go 10 years without the needed 75 percent.
As for some others, Jeff Kent, Carlos Delgado, Nomar Garciaparra, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Gary Sheffield, they are all good. Very good. Great? Not sure. But they will continue to get due consideration from me and the other voters. In the big picture, they all deserve a second (to 10-year) thought.