It's a small group on the Hall of Fame ballot this year. 23 guys are on there...very small for a HOF ballot. Of the group, I see two guys getting in...but of the two, I only agree with one. So, for poops and giggles, I break down this year's group.
No Chance In Hell: Dan Plesac, Greg Vaughn, Ron Gant, Mo Vaughn, Jesse Orosco, Matt Williams, and Jay Bell.
Hall of Good: Dave Parker, Mark Grace, Tommy John, Harold Baines, and David Cone. Good players, but not guys we should be talking about as the best of all time.
Hall of Very Good: These guys are the borderline guys that always have their supporters, but sadly, do not belong alongside the greatest of all time.
The former Brave slugger was feared in his day and is regarded as possibly the nicest guy ever to play in the big leagues. He was a good player from '78-'89, but only had two years batting over .300 in that time. His career average was .265 and unless you manage to hit 600 home runs with that average, you don't belong in the Hall of Fame.
Case in point. Big Mac hit 583 homers with his career average of .263. His career OPS is .982 and had the magical year of 70 homers and 147 RBIs. Reggie Jackson's in with a .262 career average and 20 less home runs than McGwire. However, the cloud of steriods hangs over McGwire's head and it's going to keep him out...for now.
Smith had 478 career saves playing for 9 teams in the majors. But closers don't get much love in the Hall and quite frankly, Smith doesn't deserve the love. Saves are an overrated stat, in my opinion. His career record is 71-92 with an ERA of 3.03. He only struck out 1252 in 1289.1 innings. He just wasn't dominating like Sutter, Goose, and Eckersley were.
Donnie Baseball is the Trammell of the Yankees. (I'll get to Tram in a minute.) Mattingly never made the World Series in all his years of bad teams in New York. His career fielding percentage of .996 is outstanding to go along with his .307 average, 222 HRs, and 1099 RBIs. However, injuries kept Mattingly from playing very long as he was awesome from '84-'89. From '90-'95 he was just a shell of his former self. He's a Yankee great, but not a Hall of Famer. So, sorry Don...thanks for the memories.
Rock Raines is very close in my mind. If you include walks, in over 10,000 plate appearances, the man had a .385 OBP...very good. He stole over 800 bases in his career with a 84.7% stolen base rate. He had 2605 career hits finishing his career with a line of .294, 170, 980. But was Raines a dominate player deserving to get into the Hall? I don't think so. I don't think anyone ever said, "Holy hell...Raines is up." He was very good, but not great.
The Hawk amazed me as a kid growing up. I thought he was great. But for his career, his OBP was .323 with an OPS of .806. Those aren't very good. He had 2774 hits and 1591 RBIs...less than Harold Baines on both counts. He had 314 SBs, but was thrown out 26.8% of the time. His OPS+ for his career was 119...19 points over average, but nothing to get excited about. Injuries probably cost him the chance at greatness, much like Mattingly. But it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of What Could Have Been.
Rice is one of the two that I think will get in this year. It's his last year on the ballot and he almost made it last year (72.6% when 75% is needed). For those reasons, I think they give it to him this year. But he shouldn't be there. His career numbers are good: .298, 382, 1451. But he was only good from '77-'79 and '83-'84. If we're going to let guys in for padding their career stats with a couple good years, then let's make plaques for Albert Belle, Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis, and Doc Gooden while we're at it. Rice's career OPS was .854. That's not high enough for a guy that was supposedly the most feared hitter in the game in the 80's. So, sorry Jim Ed, I don't support your election into the Hall...even though you'll probably be there this year.
Now for the two that hurt...
Jack was my favorite pitcher as a kid. He was so intimidating and wanted to win so friggin' bad. He was the winningest pitcher of the '80s and had a sweet split-fingered fastball before everyone was throwing them. But Jack's numbers don't look like Hall of Fame numbers. He won 254 games with a career ERA of 3.90. 3.90? Nate might even be able to put up an ERA of 3.90. His career ERA+ is 105...barely over league average. He allowed 389 homers in his career and had a career WHIP of 1.30. Jack had 175 CG and 28 shutouts...Bert Blyleven had 242 and 60 and he's not in. Jack, I'll never forget watching you as a kid, especially your 10 inning shutout to win the World Series for the Twins...but you're like Kirk Gibson: A very good ballplayer that will remembered for an unbelievable moment in the postseason. But not a Hall of Famer.
I can't believe I'm writing this. He was my childhood hero. I always said if it weren't for Cal Ripken, Trammell would be the God of 80's shortstops. But he's not. He hit .285, 185, 1003 for his career with an OPS of 767. He had 236 SBs, but his SB% was only 68.4%. His OBP of .352 isn't that impressive. The '87 season where he hit .343, 28, 105 is what part of what made me a baseball fan. I was outraged when he got jobbed out of the MVP to George Bell that year. But other than 1987, the man only hit over 20 homers one other time. (21 in '86) He never hit more than 15 in any other year. Tram is a sure Tigers Hall of Famer...but not in the real deal in Cooperstown.
Hall of Fame: And here's the two that I would vote for if I had a say in it...
It amazes me that he isn't in there already. This guy played on some of the crappiest teams in baseball history and still won an amazing 287 games. His career ERA is 3.31...that would get him $15 million a year nowadays. As I said when talking about Jack, Bert had 242 CGs and 60 shutouts in his career. He's 5th on the all-time strikeout list with 3701. He had a career WHIP of 1.20 and 9 times in his career, his ERA was under 3. That's amazing. 6 years, his ERA+ was 133 or more...Morris never did that once. I don't think Bert will get in this year, but not only SHOULD he...they should apologize for screwing him over for so many years before this.
Finally, the choice that I don't think anyone can argue seriously against. Rickey's the all time stolen base king with 1406. Rickey's second all-time in walks to Bonds with 2190. Rickey's career OBP is .401 and has more lead off homers than anyone in history. Rickey hit 297 total homers as a leadoff guy with 1115 RBIs. Rickey started every sentence he ever said with the word, "Rickey"...therefore so will I here. Rickey's the greatest leadoff hitter of all time and I say congrats on your plaque in 2009. Just go in as an Athletic...not a Yankee. I can't wait to hear the acceptance speech.