And Peter K’s Hall of Fame Votes Go To…
By Peter Kerasotis // December 28, 2012
As I hold my National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in my hands, pen poised to check the boxes next to those names whom I feel are deserving, a thought occurred to me.
Might we have no inductees in 2013?
I wouldn’t be surprised.
Under normal circumstances, we’d have a handful of former players inducted. But the circumstances surrounding this Hall of Fame ballot are anything but normal.
This is the year we knew was coming. It’s the year when a host of known and suspected steroid users appear at the ballot.
What to do?
What do you do with names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, along with Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, all of whom appear for the first time on the ballot? How about holdovers Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro?
It’ll be interesting.
That’s why I asked for your input, and got it at the bottom of this posting.
You gave me a good cross-section of thoughts and opinions, and I appreciated it. What I took away is that there is no overwhelming, clear-cut, no-brainer name on the list. Or, to borrow a phrase from another sport, nobody is a slam dunk.
Which is why I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody is elected.
It’s happened before, but not in a while. The last time nobody was voted into the Hall of Fame was 1971, when the leading name on the ballot was Yogi Berra, who garnered 67.2% of the vote, short of the 75% necessary for induction. Berra got in the next year, with Sandy Koufax and Early Wynn, when he received 85.6% of the votes.
Most of you who posted your thoughts like Dale Murphy. I do, too. But not for the Hall of Fame. Perhaps if there is a Hall of Very Good, Murphy would deserve a plaque. But this is the Baseball Hall of Fame, the most exclusive of them all. Only the creme de la creme get in. The greatest players of all-time.
There is a guy who works security at Tropicana Field, and when we’re getting our bags checked and our credentials inspected, he individually asks us if we’re Hall of Fame voters. When the answer is yes, he follows up with, “Did you vote for Dale Murphy?” If not, you get the sales pitch.
I suspect that he and a lot of other folks who want me to vote for Dale Murphy grew up in the South, when the only team in the region – and on TV – was the Atlanta Braves. They thus not only became Braves fans, but huge Dale Murphy fans.
I get it.
I grew up surrounded by Braves fans. I watched a lot of Braves baseball on TV. I can still close my eyes and hear Milo Hamilton and Skip Caray in all their broadcasting bluster. I understand the emotion for Dale Murphy. But sorry, I can’t vote on emotion.
Instead, I look at Murphy’s stats and see a career .265 hitter who fell almost 900 hits shy of 3,000 and didn’t break the 400 home run barrier. Yeah, Murphy won back-to-back MVP awards (1982-83). But so did Roger Maris (1960-61), and Maris and his .260 batting average aren’t in the Hall of Fame, either.
Besides, even if I did vote for Dale Murphy, he wouldn’t get in. Again, you need 75% of the votes, and he’s never gotten more than 25%. He received 14.5% a year ago. This is his last year on the ballot.
But this is where it gets tricky for me, because since I don’t vote emotion, I wonder about Don Mattingly, who is my all-time favorite athlete from my all-time favorite team.
Mattingly was, in my opinion, the greatest all-around first baseman of his generation. He put up some monster offensive years, while also winning nine Gold Glove Awards. He won the MVP once, led the AL in batting once and holds the MLB record for most homers in seven consecutive games (9) and eight consecutive games (10), doing so by hitting at least one home run in each of those games.
His career, though, was cut short at 34 years old because of a back injury.
I have two thoughts about that.
I don’t like to vote for guys based on sheer endurance and length of career. I also don’t like to sell short someone who had a Hall of Fame career truncated by injury. Or an illness, for that matter. Which is why, if you look strictly at his numbers, Lou Gehrig doesn’t have the 3,000 hits or the 500 home runs that are Hall of Fame benchmarks. Yet, no sane person would argue that Gehrig isn’t a Hall of Famer.
I’m not saying Don Mattingly is Lou Gehrig.
But I still say he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
And while we’re at it, although he’s not on the ballot any longer, I believe Thurman Munson belongs in Cooperstown, too. I just can’t see penalizing him for dying young.
Again, I don’t think that’s the fan in me – i.e. emotion – coming through. Hey, Bernie Williams is on the ballot this year, but he’s not getting my vote.
Neither is Fred McGriff, a former Yankee farmhand and another player many of you want me to vote for. McGriff’s numbers – .284 BA, 493 HRs, 2490 hits – are very good. They’re just not great. Even with his longevity, he didn’t surpass certain Hall of Fame benchmarks.
So who gets my votes?
We’ll get to that.
But first, let me point out that we’re allowed to vote for up to 10 players, though we don’t have to vote for any. Below, in alphabetical order, are the names on this year’s ballot.
- Jeff Bagwell
- Craig Biggio
- Barry Bonds
- Jeff Cirillo
- Royce Clayton
- Roger Clemens
- Jeff Conine
- Steve Finley
- Julio Franco
- Shawn Green
- Roberto Hernandez
- Ryan Klesko
- Kenny Lofton
- Edgar Martinez
- Don Mattingly
- Fred McGriff
- Mark McGwire
- Jose Mesa
- Jack Morris
- Dale Murphy
- Rafael Palmeiro
- Mike Piazza
- Tim Raines
- Reggie Sanders
- Curt Schilling
- Aaron Sele
- Lee Smith
- Sammy Sosa
- Mike Stanton
- Alan Trammell
- Larry Walker
- Todd Walker
- David Wells
- Rondell White
- Bernie Williams
- Woody Williams
As I mentioned, I’m voting for Don Mattingly, although he won’t get in. He only got 17.8% of the votes last year, well short of the 75% needed.
Alan Trammell also gets my vote. Like Barry Larkin, who went in last year, Trammell one of the greatest shortstops of his era.
I’m giving a vote to Tim Raines, too. He’s fifth on the all-time base-stealer list, behind Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Raines belongs there, too. Raines, though, is the greatest switch-hitting base-stealer in baseball history, and he ranks second all-time for highest stolen-base percentage (84.7% based on 300 or more attempts). He won the NL batting title in 1986 and was a very good defensive player, leading NL outfielders with 21 assists in 1983.
Based on Raines’ position on the all-time base-stealing list, you’d think that Lee Smith, third all-time in saves, also deserves a vote. Maybe so. But I just can’t bring myself to check the box next to his name. I can’t get past his 71-92 record, or his 0-2 postseason record with an 8.44 ERA. Closers and saves are still a relatively recent phenomenon in baseball, and I suspect that’s why, more than anything, Smith is third all-time. I also think that longevity, rather than dominance, helps Smith a lot.
Likewise, I think Jack Morris falls just a tad short, though a strong argument might convince me otherwise. Morris had perhaps the greatest postseason of any starting pitcher ever,throwing 10 shutout innings against the Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. And his regular-season record is a solid 254-186. But he did finish his career with a 3.90 ERA. For me, it’s very good, but it falls short of being great enough.
Similarly, Curt Schilling, on the ballot for the first time, falls short for me. He’s similar to Jack Morris. Very good career with an over-the-top postseason performance (see: the bloody sock). But his overall numbers just aren’t there for me. Again, like Jack Morris, I could see myself caving in to a good argument. I’m that close to ticking the box next to both their names. But I’m not.
People argue that Edgar Martinez and his career .312 batting average belong in the Hall of Fame. But for a guy who played almost his entire career as a designated hitter, I need more than that. And I certainly need more than 2,247 hits and 309 HRs.
That finally brings us to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza.
I can’t vote for Bonds or Sosa. Or, for that matter, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, who are still on the ballot. I understand the Bonds argument, that he was a Hall of Famer even before he did steroids. But he did steroids, and I can’t get past that. It’s the same reason why I’ve never voted for McGwire and Palmeiro, who’ve been on the ballot seven and three years respectively.
Clemens is a dilemma for me, because he had the gumption to adamantly deny that he juiced, and he did so all the way to a court of law. I might one day vote for him. But for now, I still want more time to pass to see if additional information is forthcoming.
Same goes for Mike Piazza, the game’s greatest offensive catcher. Piazza is supposed to have a book coming out this spring, in which his publisher says he’ll address the steroid speculation that has swirled around him. I’d like to wait and see what he says.
Jeff Bagwell? I think his numbers are probably there for Cooperstown. But I also wonder about steroids with him. His body-type changed during his career. He also was a close friend of the late Ken Caminiti, a steroid poster child who admitted to juicing.
Same with Craig Biggio, who definitely has Hall of Fame credentials by virtue of his 3,060 hits. But I look at his body-type transformation and so many of the whispers surrounding his name, that I just want to wait.
There’s time to sort through what this so-called Steroid Era wrought.
I’m not going to apologize for being cautious with players that I suspect did steroids. And I certainly don’t think I need to explain why I’m leaving known juicers off my ballot. It was, after all, this generation of players who created the Steroid Era. They’re the ones who kicked up this dust. I’m just choosing to wait until more of it settles.
So those getting votes on my ballot are:
— Don Mattingly
— Tim Raines
— Alan Trammell
We’ll see if they get in. For that matter, we’ll see if anyone gets in. Based on your diverse comments, there are no certainties.
Normally, there is.
But this is anything but a normal Hall of Fame ballot.