The Baseball Writers of America Association released the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot yesterday. Of the 37 former players on the ballot, 24 are on the ballot for the first time and they’re already sparking a helluva lot of debate. Names like Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Piazza, and Schilling are the big names–the lightning rods of this class. I don’t want to talk about those guys–I want to talk about the 6 guys I have no problem voting for and who I think should be in the Hall of Fame THIS YEAR.
Jeff Bagwell. This is Bagwell’s 3rd year on the ballot and, frankly, I think the fact that he’s still on there is a travesty. Sure, he played during the “Steroid Era,” but I’ve never heard his name mentioned whenever there was talk of PEDs or Balco or any of that crap. All Jeff Bagwell did was win the Rookie of the Year Award in 1991, the MVP in the strike shortened 1994 season, was a 4-time All-Star, 3-time Silver Slugger winner, and won a Gold Glove. He finished his career with a .297 batting average, 449 home runs, 2314 hits, 1529 RBI, .540 slugging, and a .948 OPS. Let’s face it, until some guy named Pujols game along, Bagwell was the best first baseman in the National League in the 1990s, and along with Craig Biggio, was the heart & soul of the Astros organization, playing in the NLCS twice (2004, 2005) and the World Series once (2005). He should be in this year.
Craig Biggio. Biggio is on the ballot for the 1st time this year, and aside from Nolan Ryan, this is the guy I most associate with the Houston Astros. As far as what he meant to the organization, I’d put Biggio on par with Tony Gwynn & the Padres, Cal Ripken Jr & the Orioles, Johnny Bench & the Reds, Ernie Banks & the Cubs. To me, Craig Biggio is the Houston Astros. That alone doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer, but 3060 hits while being an All-Star at THREE DIFFERENT positions (C, 2B, OF) in his career do, plus 291 homers, and 414 stolen bases. Hell, the 285 times he was hit by a pitch should garner him some consideration. Playing catcher is hard enough on the body (or so I’m told) without having the ball peg you while you’re batting (he led the league in HBP five times and it’s the 2nd most all-time). The guy was just good, and I can’t think of a single organization in baseball that wouldn’t have been better with Craig Biggio. I also think it would be very fitting for Biggio & Bagwell to go into the Hall of Fame together. Maybe that’s what the voters have been waiting for, kind of like when “The Return of the King” won Best Picture at the Oscars as kind of an acknowledgment to all three “Lord of the Rings” movies.
Jack Morris. I thought Jack Morris should have been in the Hall of Fame simply for the 1991 World Series–has there been a better pitched post season game than Game 7? Jack Morris pitched 10 shut out innings that night! 18 years, 254 wins, 175 complete games, 28 shut outs, 3.90 ERA, 1.29 WHiP. At first glance, Morris’s number don’t impress, but when you consider his post season numbers, that where things start to jump. His teams went to the playoffs 4 times & Jack Morris started 13 games, winning 7 of those games, with 5 complete games, and a 3.80 ERA. In three World Series appearances, he was 4-2 (7 starts) with a 2.96 ERA, and 3 complete games. He won the World Series in 1984 with Detroit, 1991 with the Twins, and 1992 with the Blue Jays. If talking heads are giving Curt Schilling extra consideration for his post-season prowess, then Jack Morris needs an extra vote or two for what he did in the post-season, as well. This is his 14th time on the HOF ballot and I think it’s time for Jack Morris and his fantastic mustache to be voted in.
Dale Murphy. His 15th year on the ballot, Dale Murphy is one of those guys that fans loved and respected, but his numbers make you think “That’s it?” (or maybe that’s just me). Either way, he won the MVP Award in 1982 and 1983, was an All-Star in 6 out of 8 seasons (5 straight years from ’82-87), finished with over 2,000 hits, 398 homers, 1266 RBI, a .265 BA, and a .815 OPS. Again, his numbers don’t have the “Wow” factor of Rafael Palmero or Barry Bonds, but they’re still good and if not for the steroid inflated numbers of the 1990′s, I think he would have been in a long time ago.
Tim Raines. Tim Raines is one of those guys that I can’t help but picture in those goofy Montreal Expos uniforms. Hell, he was to the Expos what Biggio was to the Astros in a lot of ways, and he played for 23 years. In those 23 seasons, Raines stole 808 bases, had a
career batting average of .294, an OBP of .385, with an OPS of .810. In 1981, he finished 2nd in the ROY voting, in the top 20 of the MVP voting, and was an All-Star. All-Time wise, Raines in the top 100 in Games Played (55th), At-Bats (75th), Plate Appearances (59th), Runs Scored (53rd), Hits (77th), Walks (36th), Stolen Bases (5th), Intentional Walks (48th), and had 123 Assists in LF (11th all-time). Call me crazy, that’s pretty effing good. He may not have been Rickey Henderson or Lou Brock, but this is his 6th year on the ballot, and Tim Raines needs to be in the Hall of Fame.
Lee Smith. Closers are a new breed of Hall of Famers. Let’s face it, there aren’t many in the Hall of Fame, and other than Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera, there aren’t too many guys who were primarily closers that are sure-fire, slam dunk Hall of Famers. Lee Smith has been on that line for 11 years. First and foremost, he had 478 saves (3rd All-Time), with a 3.03 ERA (175th All-Time), 1251 strike outs, a 1.256 WHiP in 1289.1 innings pitched during 18 seasons. That’s the good. His 71-92 career record tells me that Smith blew a lot of saves, but that’s to be expect of closers at some point in their career, right? Even Hoffman wasn’t automatic the last few years of his career. Lee Smith was also a 7-time All-Star and won the Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year Award 3 times (’91-92 NL, ’94 AL). His 8.732 K’s per 9 innings is 15th best All-Time and his 1,022 games pitched are 11th most. So is Lee Smith a Hall of Famer? I think if you compare him against Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter, I think he is.
“Close, but I just don’t know…”–Fred McGriff. McGriff has better numbers than Dale Murphy, and other than the ROY and MVP, he has pretty much the same numbers as Bagwell (493 HRs, 1550 RBI, 2490 hits, .284 BA, .509 SLG, and 1305 walks). For some reason, I think the fact that he played for 6 organizations in his 19-year career (Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Devil Rays, Cubs, Dodgers) hurts him–don’t ask me why, just seems that way. He also had the misfortune of playing in the late-1980s and through the 90s and the cloud of suspicion is hanging right over him, even though I haven’t heard one thing about McGriff being dirty. I loved the guy (until the Padres traded him to Atlanta in ’93), and would love to see him get a call from the Hall of Fame, but I don’t think it’ll happen.
I’d really like to consider Alan Trammel and Bernie Williams. I think those guys are right on that border line where I wouldn’t have too much of a problem if they got in (like Barry Larkin and Kirby Puckett), but I also don’t have a problem that they’re not in.
That’s just my 2 cents, for what it’s worth. We’ll see what happens when the votes come in.