One of the things I get most excited for in the Hot Stove season of baseball is hearing the debates for Hall of Fame ballots. Whether it's Brian Kenny making his case for Fred McGriff or Gary Sheffield or tracking HOF votes from Ryan Thibodaux's Hall of Fame Tracker. I love when mlb.com writes articles about who the future Hall of Famers playing today are. Every year there are players who fall off the ballot because they were just below the vote percentage cut or they didn't get voted in after enough years either because their numbers didn't jump out enough to the voters or their campaign was not persuasive enough. This is a monthly blog to go back and remember the players that either weren't quite good enough to get in and have been forgotten.
When I was little I was interested in baseball. I had a little Mets hat and some posters on my wall, but I didn't really fall head over heals for the game until 1992 when I was getting a $1 allowance from my parents and the CVS by my house was selling Score baseball cards for 33 cents a pack. Over two weeks of allowance I could get five packs of baseball cards and flip through them over and over again as my mom would take me to church. One of the ushers that would bring us to our pew was an older man who grew up in Boston who would tell me about how when he was my age he would sneak into Boston Braves games. He told me I could keep my had on in church once I finally got a Red Sox hat. Soon after I read a book by Mickey Mantle about all of the World Series he played in and the Ken Burns documentary came out just a couple years later.
When I was little I loved the bright blue of the Mets, by middle school I appreciated the Braves because I was able to see them on TBS and enjoy their big three pitchers. The Red Sox have been the main focus of my fandom most of my life. I grew up half-way between Boston and New York in Connecticut and I still watch them as much as any other team. I own at least a dozen Red Sox tee shirts and have worn out at least a dozen more. In 2010 I had a great summer where I was able to go to a lot of Pirates games at PNC park. For five years I lived in Phoenix and gradually came to really enjoy following the DBacks. I now live in Minneapolis and even though I go to a lot of Twins games it's hard to dive into being a fan of them while following the Sox, Bucs and Snakes so closely. This summer I will be moving to Sacramento and I'm sure I'll be trying to get my two month old son to become an A's fan because I am most biased against the Giants and Yankees. I don't know why it is, but the only two teams I have never seen in person are the Yankees and Marlins. The Derek Jeter Special.
I say all this not just to show my love for the game, but to kind of point out that my knowledge of baseball is strongest from the '90's until now, and from the early days of the game to the late '60's. I will admit that I have a pretty big blind spot for the '70's and '80's, which apparently is the era of ugly uniforms. After college I worked in sports data but I am not an advanced metrics guy. I read Moneyball and love the movie but OBP isn't as sexy as a stolen base to me and I still appreciate a 100 RBI season although I never remember what a good OPS number is. Awards mean something, but that doesn't mean a player who never won an MVP wasn't one of the top players of their time.
Steroids might have brought baseball back after the strike then tarnished the game but there was such a mixed bag of results of players being on them and not performing, or enhanced pitchers facing enhanced hitters or clean players outperforming the dirty that I don't really know what I think of those players. I don't know if Manny Ramirez failing tests after there were rules against PEDs is equal or worse than players like Mark McGuire who used them before they were banned. I don't know if it should be held against a player if they never admitted to using PEDs but were outed in investigation like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens vs players who used them and admitted it like Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield.
I look at this year's ballot with a sour taste for some players like Bonds and Clemens and don't feel as awed by players I used to admire like Manny Ramirez, but that doesn't mean I don't think they should ever be in the Hall of Fame. This is just a great batch of players and with the Veterans Committee players (Jack Morris and Alan Trammell) I would be happy and not overly surprised to see seven great players giving speeches in Cooperstown this year.
My Ballot that doesn't count:
He had the most electric arm in the game and was known for destroying even the worst pitches. 449 home runs and a .318 batting average, he was the 2004 MVP and a 9 time All Star.
The one-time all time saves leader with 601 saves. Career 1.058 WHIP and averaged more than a strike out per inning. Eight time All Star. He began the trend of closers entering the game with a signature song "Hell's Bells" before Mariano Rivera came in to "Enter Sandman."
1999 NL MVP, 1995 World Series Champion, 2008 NL batting champion (.364), 468 career homer runs, .303 career AVG, 2726 career hits and an eight time All Star. He was the face of the Braves for 17 years.
Perhaps the best DH to play the game, he was a two-time batting champion (.343 in '92 and .356 in '95) and doubles leader, lead the AL with 145 RBI in 2000 and was a .312 lifetime hitter. He contributed about as much on defense as Ted Williams and won just as many World Series.
The Crime Dog was one of the most exciting players of the '90's. He lead the league in homers twice, 2490 career hits, 493 home runs from a player without a whiff of PED suspicion.
270 game winner in an era where the 300 game winner seems extinct. Eight time Gold Glover brought his teams to two World Series.
509 career home runs, 253 stolen bases, .292 career batting average and nine time All Star. He starred as a short stop, third baseman, left fielder and right fielder. He was known for his strong throwing arm and violent swing that was thought to be the highest mile per hour swing in the league in a time before StatCast. He lead the Marlins to the 1997 World Series Championship.
612 career home runs, he hit 40 or more home runs six times. He received MVP votes in nine seasons and lead the Indians to two World Series and hit 17 post season home runs over his first six post season runs.
He isn't getting nearly as much of a vote as I had expected. I thought he'd be a shoe in first ballot player with 2877 hits and 9 straight Gold Glove Awards (11 total). He was the best fielding shortstop in a golden age of short stops. With the eye test he was the best fielder I believe I had ever seen at any position.
Colorado players don't get any love but he did lead the league in homers once, batting average three times (with a .379 average in 1999). He was a seven time Gold Glover, three time Silver Slugger, and the 1997 NL MVP.
In the upcoming months this blog will look at the good enough players who deserve a little extra recognition. I will have some posts about an individual players, some about groups of players, some about teams, and some about active players who don't get enough of a spotlight on their careers as they are.