The Great Debate

Major League Baseball distributed ballots this week to the BBWAA Hall of Fame voters and this upcoming vote is the one we’ve been anticipating for several years. PED suspicion / confirmation surrounds many of the first timers: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa in particular. These are players with gaudy numbers and unprecedented accolades: Bonds, a 14-time All Star, 8-time Gold Glover, 7-time MVP, the single-season AND all-time home run king; Clemens, #9 all-time in wins, #3 all-time in strikeouts, 11 times an All Star, 7-time Cy Young award winner, with an MVP and an All Star MVP award to boot; and Sosa, the only player with 3 60 home run seasons under his belt, a 7 time All Star, #8 all-time on the HR list.

And yet, it is highly doubtful that either of these three will garner enough votes for election on this initial ballot. Baseball writers have long extolled the virtues of being a “first ballot” Hall of Famer, implying that the “late” elections of recent players like Bruce Sutter and Jim Rice somehow relegate them to “lesser” status among baseball’s royalty. I seriously doubt these same writers will bestow the “first ballot” honor on any of these three. Eventually, baseball is going to have to figure out what to do with these guys and their numbers (along with Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, etc.).

But that time is not now.

For now, the vote will simply be “No”. “Not now.”

That being said, it’s looking like Craig Biggio, of all people, is the one bona fide shoo-in on this year’s ballot. I’ve heard some of the talking heads blather on about how Biggio doesn’t “feel” like a Hall of Famer to them. I don’t know what these morons are talking about; look at the guy’s numbers and it’s clear he belongs. In his latest edition of Historical Baseball Abstract, sabermatrician guru Bill James ranked Biggio as the 5th greatest second baseman of all-time, and that was while he still had a half dozen good years left in the tank. Without a doubt, Biggio belongs in the Hall and he deserves to go in on the first try.

If I had a vote, I’d also cast my lot for Tim Raines. I’ve written about him before (in this space actually, where I commented again about the whole notion of someone “feeling” like a Hall of Famer). Raines is probably remembered for the final few years of his career, when he was basically a platoon player. But the first half of his career was brilliant. Might not be enough to get him in, but I’d like to see it.

Of course, there are a few other players out there who will merit consideration. I think Bagwell gets in eventually, and maybe even Fred McGriff. But for now, come January 9th, there’s only one name you should expect to hear: Craig Biggio.

When it happens, I’m hoping he’ll feel like a Hall of Famer.

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2 Responses to The Great Debate

  1. I think Dale Murphy, arguably the greatest outfielder in the 80’s, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Two-time MVP, seven-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove award winner, and four-time Silver Slugger. If you’re keeping guys out based on their character, then his status should be elevated based on character alone. Plus, if he hits 2 more home runs (and gets to 400), I think he’s a shoe-in anyways.

    • Jason says:

      I think you can make a decent case for Murphy, but he has several things working against him, too. His “prime” years ran from 1980-87 (with a so-so ’81 strike-shortened season), which probably isn’t a long enough stretch of “greatness” for HoF voters. He also ended up with a career average of 265, which is a bit low. And, through no fault of his own, his 398 HR doesn’t look nearly as impressive today as it did before the steroid era. In the end, I think Murphy belongs in the Hall of Very Good, but not the Hall of Fame.

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