There are 23 official candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame on the 2009 ballot. Voters can select up to ten players for election, with those receiving at least 75% of the vote being enshrined. This year’s list of candidates is on MLB.com as well as various other news sources. If I had an official vote, I would cast my ballot for the following players:
Bert Blyleven: 3.31 ERA, 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts (fifth place alltime). He appears to be the best pitcher eligible. Between the ages of 20 and 38, Blyleven had ten different full seasons with an ERA below 3.00. He pitched a nohitter in 1977 and was a workhorse and the ace on every team he ever pitched for. We may never see another pitcher with as many as 242 complete games or 60 shutouts again. This hard work should be recognized. Circle me Bert!
Andre Dawson: Had great power and ran well before his knees deteriorated. A rare 400300 player whose effort and natural ability made him an eighttime All Star. He was the 1987 National League MVP with 49 home runs. He put some some strong raw totals despite years of injuries. Dawson’s multiple great talents should be rewarded with the ultimate prize.
Ron Gant: Only the third player in MLB history to achieve consecutive 3030 seasons. Also a great fielder with a flair for diving catches, he could beat any opponent in multiple ways. The fact that Gant did as well as he did before and after his dirtbike accident is a testament to his athleticism and appreciation for the game. Plus he was one of my favorite 1990s Braves, so I’m biased.
Rickey Henderson: Rickey the best. This is an obvious choice. He was the greatest leadoff hitter of the modern era. His 1,406 stolen bases are a record by an unheard of margin for most major statistical records. His 2,190 walks were also an easy record at the time he last played. Henderson also hit 297 home runs and was never satisfied with mere singles despite his blazing speed. If he is not inducted by at least 95% of the voters, it is a sham.
Don Mattingly: Hey, it’s a Yankee. He never won a World Series with them, but I don’t think that exempts anyone from the Hall of Fame. Mattingly was one of the best contact hitters in recent memory, hitting .307 with 222 home runs despite a back injury limiting his play in his final six seasons and cutting his career short. He only struck out 444 times in 7,002 official atbats, no small feat for a powerful hitter in his era. He actually wrote a book on how to hit .300. He can also write one on being hugely popular in New York without a championship. That alone calls for a vote.
Dale Murphy: Another Braves legend, Murphy hit 398 home runs and had an amazing 3030 season in 1983. He won five consecutive Gold Glove Awards after his move to the outfield. Speaking of awards, for those who love to use them in the voting process, he won two straight MVP Awards (198283). Other than him and Barry Bonds, only Ernie Banks, Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt have done that in the National League. And where are they now? That’s right, the Hall of Fame. It’s time that Dale got to join his crew.
Tim Raines: One of the greatest baserunners of all time, overshadowed in a powerlaced era. His 84.7% success rate in base stealing is second in MLB history, minimum 300 attempts (Carlos Beltran is first). The 808 stolen bases he amassed ranks him 4th alltime. Raines also walked more than he struck out (1,330966) while hitting .294 with 170 home runs not bad at 5’8″. This seventime All Star should not have to wait seven ballots for his induction.
Jim Rice: People talk about him every year, yet he never gets in. This is his final ballot before he would have to go before the Veterans’ Committee. Let’s not make him have to go that far. A model for consistency throughout most of his career, Rice hit 382 home runs with a .298 batting average. This despite having proudly never lifted a weight. He would have easily hit over .300 for his career without his premature downfall. The 1978 MVP, Rice hit .315 that season with 46 home runs while having to contend with the Green Monster. It’s time to end all the delays and induct this man.
Lee Smith: From the ages of 22 to 39, Lee Smith was one of the most feared closers in the game. His 478 career saves were once thought to be a record out of reach. His 3.03 ERA in 1,022 games shows both his talent and durability. He posted five straight years of 30+ saves, followed by a separate streak of three 40+ save seasons. His legendary fastball should finally speed his way into the Hall of Fame.
Alan Trammell: Rounding out the list is a player who rounded himself out by making the best use of his individual abilities. Spending his entire career with the Detroit Tigers, Trammell won four Gold Gloves at shortstop and hit .285 with 185 home runs and 236 stolen bases. He was one of the best offensive as well as defensive shortstops of his time, peaking in 1987 when he hit .343 with 28 home runs and 21for23 base stealing. His walkstrikeout ratio was nearly 1:1 and he made the most he could out of every atbat. If you love October contributions, he was the 1984 World Series MVP. Let’s finally celebrate an underrated player and give him his due enshrinement.
Some players on the ballot (Jay Bell, Dan Plesac) were good but will never see the light of day in the Hall of Fame. Others (Mark McGwire) have tainted images of their careers thanks to highly suspected cheating. But the ten players I have listed above are, on this ballot, the ones I found to be the most deserving. Almost every single submitted ballot is different. These are just my opinions supplemented by stats. The results will be announced on MLB Network on January 12, so watch and be surprised… or not.
Now how long is it until a Ray makes the Hall of Fame?
August 7, 2007. A clear Tuesday night. My mom’s 47th birthday. (Apologies to you for giving away your age. It’s good to just let it go.) And a night on which, in San Francisco, California, 43-year-old Barry Lamar Bonds, son of Pat and the former MLB star Bobby Bonds, broke the most sacred individual record in North American team sports, previously held by Braves (and Brewers) legend Henry "Hank" Aaron.
He hit his 756th home run.
I wasn’t sure how to initially react or what any of my opinions would turn out to be after Bonds finally hit the home run. In the immediate aftermath of the accomplishment, things are starting to become more clear. Bonds hit the home run to right center field on a second 3-2 pitch off of 29-year-old Washington Nationals left hander Mike Bacsik. Bacsik’s father, like Barry’s, also played in the Major Leagues. The home run, in the bottom of the fifth inning with one out, tied the game at 4. Afterwards, Bonds congratulated everyone, then saw a pre-recorded message from Aaron on the video screen. Even if he read it from a teleprompter, it still surprised Bonds, who probably didn’t even care how real it was. He then briefly thanked everyone (sans Greg Anderson), including the Nationals, for their support. He conveniently left out the part where he bashed every one of his critics individually. He’ll probably get to that later. The delusional Giants fanbase cheered as the guy who came up with the ball was hauled away as if he were an almighty world leader. (Personally, I wanted one of those girls that got tangled up in the mob to end up with the ball. That would have been interesting.) Bacsik actually pitched the rest of the inning when the game resumed about…three years later.
Those were the facts…now for a few mixed opinions. As a long-time Atlanta Braves fan (I even include them in my Devil Rays rants), I found it more difficult to cheer for anyone to break Aaron’s record, as Aaron did it as a Brave back in 1974. I found it even more difficult to cheer for Barry Bonds to do it. I believe Bonds took steroids knowingly, dating back to at least 1999. Eyewitness accounts and testimony have backed this up, and right now I believe it. While he was far from alone, he was certainly the most noticeable. Anybody who’s head grows to be the size of a watermelon when he’s in his mid-30s will draw attention. And so will a guy who has treated so many people like dog **** the way he has. He has turned down charitable causes for his time and autographs. He has ripped teammates at the most inopportune times. He has criticized the fans and, more so, the media, even dragging unwilling family members into it. And because he acted alone in being a complete and utter dillweed (the most I can say refraining from my usual MA-rated dialogue), it may be even more so for that reason than over the steroid accusations that I wanted Barry Bonds to fail. It was only a matter of time before he did hit 756 home runs, unless he was run over by a trolley car, but that never happened. I just wasn’t sure that I wanted to see it. To watch this guy who took so much and gave far less over the years and lied about performance enhancers celebrate becoming the home run king would prove to be very difficult. If not for his inflated 2001 season, the record may still be out of reach. In a way, I wish it was. I, for the most part, didn’t want to see Bonds as the home run leader. But now he is. At least it’s over, and we can, years from now, move on to the next guy. I’m a huge fan of what Bonds could do as a player, especially in his early years when he had power and speed like nobody’s business. However, I’m not overly enthralled with this new development. I envision asterisks next to this record now, and that can never be a good sign.
And neither, for that matter, could Bud Selig and Hank Aaron no-showing.
For its historical significance, I caught the entire thing on my DVR. I’ll watch it again the next time I need to escape from reality. Or, better yet, find the true harshness of it.
R.I.P. 755, 1976-2007