3.....2.....1..... Happy New Year! Ok, now that the ball has dropped on 2011, the first order of business is to look at the Hall of Fame Candidates and cast our Official South Side Sox Ballot. There are some interesting cases up for debate here in 2011. Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker are making their debuts. Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines are hoping this is the year they get called. Here is my take on the candidates.
Roberto Alomar- (Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians, Mets, White Sox, Diamondbacks) (.300/.371/.443, 210 HR, 1,134 RBI, 2,724 H, 474 SB) Its a shame I have to write a blurb about him this year. He should have been in last year. He was probably the best 2nd baseman I've ever saw in his prime. Roberto fell off badly in 2002-2004 and unfortunately that time was spent in New York and Chicago so that may be the reason he isn't in.
Carlos Baerga- (Indians, Mets, Padres, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Nationals) (.291/.332/.423, 134 HR, 774 RBI, 1583 H) Baerga was one of my favorite players in the early 90s. From 1992-1995 he was very good. He then fell off hard, like Alomar, when he went to the Mets for 2 1/2 seasons. He had 137 ABs in 1999 and then disappeared until he resurfaced in 2002 with Boston. He spent the next 4 years as a pinch hitter.
Jeff Bagwell- (Astros) (.297/.408/.540, 449 HR, 1529 RBI, 2,314 H, 202 SB) Jeff Bagwell was born on the same day as Frank Thomas, and performed very similar to him, including a 1994 MVP award. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1991 and continued to be great through 2003. He was one of the most feared hitters in the league for a long time. He didn't reach any "magic" numbers though and was a part of the steroid era. His numbers took a pretty sharp decline after testing started and people have questioned whether or not his numbers are real. The last memory I have of him is also a positive one- Bobby Jenks mowing him down in Game 1 of the 2005 World Series. It should be interesting to see how the voters respond to him. He got the call on my ballot though.
Harold Baines- (White Sox, Rangers, A's, Orioles, Indians) (.289/.356/.465, 384 HR, 1,628 RBI, 2,866 H) If Andre Dawson and Jim Rice are in the Hall of Fame, Harold Baines should be there too. Unfortunately, Harold barely gets enough support to stay on the ballot. The knocks against him are he was a DH the majority of his career and they use that against him. Get over it jabronies, the DH has been around for 40 years. The other argument is that he was very good for a long time, but never great. Very few players in baseball history have been as good for as long as Harold was. In 1999, as a 40 year old, Baines hit .312/.387/.533 with 25 HR and 103 RBI's in 430 at bats. He has the most RBI's of any player that is not in the Hall and who has been on the ballot previously. A lot of people believe that a player cannot be "clutch". Those people never saw Harold Baines. He has my vote.
Bert Blyleven- (Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians, Angels) (287-250, 3,701 K's, 3.31 ERA) Blyleven pitched for some pretty bad teams over the course of his career, yet still managed 287 Wins. He is also is 5th in all time strikeouts. He is also near the top in complete games (242) and shutouts (60). He has all the numbers to be in the Hall, but has yet to get in. This is because when people saw him pitch, he never screamed out Hall of Famer. He will most likely receive the call come Jan. 5th, but I was never much of a fan of his. Don't circle me Bert, because I didn't circle you either.
Bret Boone- (Mariners, Reds, Braves, Padres, Twins) (.266/.325/.442, 252 HR, 1021 RBI, 1775 H) The first 9 seasons of Bret's career were nice years for a second baseman. He was worth a spot on your fantasy teams from 1994-2000. Then 2001 came and he was 3rd in the MVP voting with .331/.372/.578, 37 HR, 141 RBI's. 2002 and 2003 were more of the same for the all of a sudden superstar. Then 2004 came and he fell off the map. He's one of the poster boys for the steroid era in my opinion. He wasn't a superstar, then at 32 he became great, then in 2004, when testing was starting he fell off the map. Jose Canseco pointed at him in his book and I believe Canseco. No chance for Boone.
Kevin Brown- (Rangers, Orioles, Marlins, Padres, Dodgers, Yankees) (211-144, 3.28 ERA, 2,397 K's) Brown had some excellent years with 21 wins in 1992, a 1.89 ERA in 1996 and a 2.58 ERA in 2000. He was a good pitcher throughout his career, but there were too many mediocre seasons mixed in with the good ones for me. He also signed the first 100 million dollar contract in baseball, and failed to live up to it. Good career, lots of money, not a Hall of Famer.
John Franco- (Reds, Mets, Astros) (2.89 ERA, 424 Saves) Between 1986 and 1998 he was a stud closer. He ended his career with 424 saves and currently ranks 4th on the all time list. The voters have shown more willingness in recent years while voting for relievers and he has more saves than Gossage and Sutter ended with. I suppose it depends how you view closers if Franco gets your support. He doesn't get mine, at least not this year.
Juan Gonzalez- (Rangers, Tigers, Indians, Royals) (.295/.343/.561, 434 HR, 1,404 RBI, 1,936 H) The 2 time MVP has the least at bats to 400 home runs out of anyone in the 400 HR club besides Albert Pujols. He had some monster years during years when monster years were common, especially in Texas. Gonzalez career was very strange. He turned down big money from the Tigers because he didn't like playing at Comerica Park, and never received a contract close to that again. It may have been the stupidest decision a player/agent have ever made. He also quit on the Royals in 2004 and ended his career in 2005 with the Indians where he recorded 1 at bat. I liked Gonzalez, but I have to pass on the Hall of Fame.
Marquis Grissom- (Expos, Braves, Indians, Brewers, Dodgers, Giants) (.272/.318/.415, 227 HR, 967 RBI, 2,251 H, 429 SB) I remember the times when Marquis Grissom was the first pick in fantasy leagues. He had a rare combination of speed and power potential that very few have. In 1993, he hit .298/.351/.438 with 19 homers, 95 RBI and 53 SBs. He had some solid years in 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2004 but he never lived up to all of that potential he showed during his early days in Montreal. I liked Grissom a lot but he's a no.
Lenny Harris- (Reds, Dodgers, Mets, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Cubs, Marlins) (.269/.318/.349, 37 HR, 369 RBI, 1,055 H) Lenny Harris was a very good bench player in the NL for a lot of years. He had a nice long career and was a good pinch hitter. That being said, Lenny Harris' mother wouldn't vote for him to be in the Hall of Fame. Next.
Bobby Higginson- (Tigers) (.272/.358/.455, 187 HR, 709 RBI, 1,336 H)- I usually give a bump to those who stay with one team their entire career. Bobby Higginson will not receive said bump. He had some good years, some bad years and some in between years. He was the best player on the worst Tiger teams of all time. Congratulations. Next.
Charles Johnson- (Marlins, Dodgers, Orioles, White Sox, Rockies, Devil Rays) (.245/.330/.433, 167 HR, 570 RBI, 940 H) CJ was a very good catcher in his early years and very few have had the rifle that he possessed. He also had some power. His best offensive season was in 2000, when he hit .304/.379/.582, 31 HR, 91 RBI with the Orioles and White Sox. He was awesome after he joined the Sox hitting .326/.411/.607 for us in 44 games as we nailed down the American League central. A big thank you for that partial season CJ, but you aren't a Hall of Famer.
Barry Larkin- (Reds) (.295/.371/.444, 198 HR, 960 RBI, 2,340 H, 379 SB) Larkin was the best shortstop for over a decade in the National League. The 12 time all star lived in the shadow of Ozzie Smith during some of those years, even though he was a better player than Smith was. He had 9 silver sluggers, 3 gold gloves and an MVP. Without hesitation he gets my vote.
Al Leiter- (Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets) (162-132, 3.80 ERA, 1,974 K's) Leiter had some good years later in his career for some good Marlins and Mets teams and pitched well in the 2000 Subway series. He would have been a nice addition to the pitching starved Sox in the late 90s or early 2000s but he is in no way a Hall of Famer.
Edgar Martinez- (Mariners) (.312/.418/.515, 309 HR, 1,261 RBI, 2,247 H) Edgar Martinez was a great hitter for a number of years and is just as much a part of Seattle baseball history as Griffey, Johnson or Ichiro are. He was a 2 time batting champion and a 7 time all star. Like I said with Baines, the DH is a position and should be recognized as such in Hall of Fame voting. I think any pitcher that faced them will tell you as much. Martinez had bigger years than Harold did, but not as many good ones as Harold did. Baines and Martinez both deserve to be Hall of Famers in my opinion.
Tino Martinez- (Mariners, Yankees, Cardinals, Devil Rays) (.271/.344/.471, 339 HR, 1,271 RBI, 1,925 H) Tino was a fan favorite for the Yankees during their impressive run of the late 90s/early 2000s. He came into a rough situation having to take over for Donnie Baseball and he did an outstanding job. He was 2nd in the MVP voting in 1997 with 44 homers and 141 RBI's. He had some impressive seasons from 1995-2001 but is not in the top 5 of first basemen on this ballot alone. Good career, no Hall.
Don Mattingly- (Yankees) As a kid first starting to watch baseball in the early 80s, very few people struck more fear into my little heart as Don Mattingly did. His 1984-1987 are historically good. He had batting averages of .343, .324, .352 and .327 in those campaigns, had 200 + hits in 3 of the 4, 30 + homers in 3 of the 4, 110 + RBI in all of them. All of this while playing excellent first base. Unfortunately back problems derailed what was sure to be a HOF career. After those four seasons, he became a good player along the lines of Mark Grace. He doesn't have the big career numbers, so you have to look at peak seasons. He had as good of a peak as anyone, but it was only for 4 years. I loved Mattingly and if you would have asked anyone in 1986 if he's a Hall of Famer they would have said yes, but unfortunately I have to decline.
Fred McGriff- (Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Devil Rays, Cubs, Dodgers) (.284/.377/.509, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 2,490 H) This is a really tough call for me. McGriff was a great power hitter for many years. He led each league in homers and was a 5 time all star. He also has my favorite finish to a swing. I reserve the right to change my mind in future years, but right now I have to say no, even though I really feel bad about doing it. My guess is in 10 years people will look at McGriff's numbers and say "how in the hell isn't he in", kind of like they are doing for Blyleven now.
Mark McGwire- (A's, Cardinals) (.263/.394/.588, 583 HR, 1,414 RBI, 1,626 H) McGwire has well over 500 home runs which is usually an automatic bid. However, he is an admitted steroid guy. He's been getting in the low 20%'s so far in his 4 tries on the ballot. He did fully "talk about the past" during 2010 when he became the hitting coach of the Cardinals. Will this give him a bump in voting? I did vote for him last year, but this year I left him off. The reason, I already voted for 9 guys and if I included him I would have to include Palmeiro too and there isn't room for them. To me if you vote for one, you vote for the other and if you leave one off you should leave the other off.
Raul Mondesi- (Dodgers, Blue Jays, Yankees, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Angels, Braves) (.273/.331/.485, 271 HR, 860 RBI, 1,589 H) Mondesi was full of potential when he started off on the Dodgers, winning the Rookie of the Year in 1994. He had some good offensive seasons in LA, I remember thinking him and Sosa were about the same player. Sosa obviously took off, Mondesi evened out and fell off. He isn't nearly as good as Juan Gonzalez and I already voted him down, so its a no go for Mondesi. By the way, I don't ever remember him playing on the Pirates and Angels. That shows where his career ended up.
Jack Morris-(Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays, Indians) (254-186, 3.90 ERA, 2,478 K's) Ok Blyleven guys, be prepared to hate me. I did select Jack Morris for the Hall of Fame. To me, Morris was the best pitcher of the 80s in his league, he was the ace of 3 World Champions and was the World Series MVP for the Twins. He also threw a no-hitter and growing up in the 80s, you knew you were in for a very long night if Jack Morris was taking the hill. It is true that he would have the highest ERA among any pitchers in Cooperstown, but if I had to pick a pitcher in the AL during the 80s to pitch a game for me- it would be Jack Morris.
Dale Murphy- (Braves, Phillies, Rockies) (.265/.346/.469, 398 HR, 1,266 RBI, 2,111 H, 161 SB) Murphy was as good as they came in the early 80s. He is a 2 time MVP (1982-83) and played very solid defense, earning 5 gold gloves. He also appeared in 7 all star games and won 4 silver sluggers. He is another guy that should receive some more consideration based on the fact that Rice and Dawson are in. Murphy was just as good as those guys were. However, I am not going to be the one to vote him in. I just don't think he was as good for as long to make it. The last 6 seasons of his career were very forgettable.
John Olerud- (Blue Jays, Mets, Mariners, Yankees, Red Sox) (.295/.398/.465, 255 HR, 1,230 RBI, 2,239 H)- He was a very solid hitter and his 1993 was just magnificent for the Blue Jays when he hit .353/.473/.599 with 54 doubles and 24 homers. He was a very nice hitter, who stacks up very comparably with Mattingly. My Hall of Fame first basemen need more power, however, so Olerud gets voted down.
Rafael Palmeiro- (Cubs, Rangers, Orioles) (.288/.371/.515, 569 HR, 1835 RBI, 3,020 H) Palmeiro came into the league with the Cubs and hit .307 with 8 homers in his first year of full time duty. He then got traded because the Cubs thought Mark Grace had more power at first. Suddenly, he found the magic Texas booty juice and became one of the greatest hitters of all time. 3,000 hits... check... 500 homers.... check... 1800 RBI's... check. Unfortunately for him, Jose Canseco called him out in "Juiced". Everyone thought Palmeiro was clean and he went to Congress firmly denying that he ever used. A couple of months later and he tested dirty and was out of the game. Obviously, he is in if you are ready to induct proven steroid guys. Are you? I thought I was, but apparently I'm not because he isn't on my ballot.
Dave Parker- (Pirates, Reds, A's, Brewers, Angels, Blue Jays) (.290/.339/.471, 339 HR, 1,493 RBI, 2,712 H, 154 SB) This is the Cobra's 15th and final time on the ballot. He should be getting more consideration since his numbers (both prime and career) stack up pretty favorably to Dawson and Rice. However, Parker got only 15.2% last season. The problem most have is his sharp decline starting in 1980-1983. It was at this time where Parker suffered injuries, gained weight and admitted to heavy cocaine usage. He rebounded in 1985 and 86 with the Reds and then again with the A's in 89 and 90. If he would have had big years in the early 80s he would have probably been a lock. Unfortunately, his fate will rest in the hands of the veterans committee.
Tim Raines- (Expos, White Sox, Yankees, A's, Orioles, Marlins) (.294/.385/.425, 170 HR, 980 RBI, 2,605 H, 808 SB's) Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest players to ever play the game and in my opinion the guy closest to him was Tim Raines. The Rock was an all star 7 times in Montreal and in my opinion was better than his teammate who got elected last year. He was the prototypical leadoff man that got on base a ton, stole a lot of bases at a higher percentage than anyone else and had some good pop in his bat. In 1991, he came to the Sox and put up wonderful numbers. He was a key part to the 1993 championship team with a line of .306/.401/.480, 16 homers, 54 RBI and 21 SBs. He hung around late in his career as a bench player, but Raines was very productive in that role as well. It wasn't like he was just hanging on, as he produced some big numbers off the bench for the powerful Yankee teams of the late 90s. This one is a no doubter for me. I don't understand how people leave him off.
Kirk Rueter- (Expos, Giants) (130-92, 4.27 ERA, 818 K's) Had a couple of serviceable years for the Bonds era Giants. Lenny Harris' mom wouldn't vote for him either. Next.
Benito Santiago- (Padres, Marlins, Reds, Phillies, Blue Jays, Cubs, Giants, Royals, Pirates) (.263/.307/.415, 217 HR, 920 RBI, 1,830 H, 91 SBs) Santiago was one of my favorite catchers when he was on the Padres. He would gun people out from the crouch with ease. He was also Rookie of the Year in 1987 with a .300/.324/.467, 18 HR, 21 SBs. These were big numbers for catchers at the time as Piazza and Rodriguez were yet to come around. However, Santiago soon became a wanderer for the rest of his career, always possessing the rocket arm and occasional power. Think of a slightly better Miguel Olivo and you have Santiago. Not nearly a Hall of Famer, but was fun to watch in the late 80s. Thanks for that at least, Benny.
Lee Smith- (Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, Expos) (478 saves, 3.03 ERA, 8.7 K/9) Lee was the first (at least one of the first and most successful) modern closers. When he retired he left with a then record 478 saves, which have since been passed by Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. If you are willing to let the modern era closers in, Lee Smith has to get in first. He defined a new role of reliever that has been prevalent in baseball for the last 30 years. The thinking is starting to move back (at least around here) to getting the last 3 outs when you are up 3 is no big deal. I did vote for Lee Smith. I think if you are going to consider any modern closer you have to take Smith and for god sakes he was better than Sutter who is already in. Go ahead and bash away!
BJ Surhoff- (Brewers, Orioles, Braves) (.282/.332/.413, 188 HR, 1,153 RBI, 2,326 H, 141 SBs) I liked BJ Surhoff. I thought he was a good competitor and a nice hitter. He had a real solid career and should be very proud of what he accomplished. However, this is the last time I want to think about BJ Surhoff in my life.
Alan Trammell- (Tigers) (.285/.352/.415, 185 HR, 1,003 RBI, 2,365 H, 236 SB) I really don't get it. I would have bet everything I had that Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell would be Hall of Famers when they retired. They both should be. I don't understand how Whitaker is off the ballot (one of the biggest Hall travesties ever in my opinion) and Trammell receives very little support. No, he didn't have the power like Ripken or the flash like Smith, but he was as solid as they came. He was great in the field, great with the glove, played on a World Champion, stayed with the same organization his whole career.... I just don't get it. Don't make the same mistake as the writers probably will. Vote for Trammell.
Larry Walker- (Expos, Rockies, Cardinals) (.313/.400/.565, 383 HR, 1,311 RBI, 2,160 H, 230 SB) Larry Walker had some very solid years on the Expos before going to Colorado and becoming one of the poster boys for "Coors Field aided hitting". Some of his batting averages are off the charts- .366, .363, .379, .350. He had some pop too, going for 49 (his MVP year of 1997), 38, 37, 36 in single seasons. He also retired when he was still producing instead of hanging on a la Mondesi and Murphy. I just can't put him in the Hall. I am sure he will garner some good support, it just won't be from me.
So there you have it. My ballot consists of 9 guys. I have said many times that I am a Big Hall kind of guy and this year is no exception, as I voted for Alomar, Bagwell, Baines, Larkin, E. Martinez, Morris, Raines, L. Smith and A. Trammell. After I think about it, maybe I won't be such a Big Hall guy in a few years. This just happens to be when most guys from the 80s and early to mid 90s are on the ballot, and that was when I was a kid and these guys were my heros. It is what it is. Cast your votes- remember only 10 max and if you don't think anyone should be in- go choose none as an option so we get an accurate reading. Special thanks go out to U-God who did this last year and came up with the spreadsheet process. Everyone have a Happy, Healthy, Safe New Year and here is to 2011 being as wonderful as 2005!