To a lot of people, talk of voting ended nearly 3 weeks ago with the mid-term elections held on November 7 but what they didn’t understand was that was just a precursor to the important vote. Today Major League Baseball announced that the Hall of Fame ballots were officially sent out to the baseball writers. This is an important day to a lot of players as they attempt to be selected to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York. It will be a banner year for candidates but also marks the first vote affecting players whose careers included the steroids scandals. It will be interesting to see how that impacts the voters and whether a player’s chances are impacted by implications of performance enhancement drugs. Regardless of the controversy, there are some very deserving players who are eligible for the first time this year.
Leading the list of first-year eligible candidates are two familiar names Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn. Both are expected to be elected in their first ballot. Gwynn whose entire career was spent in San Diego was the epitome of the science of hitting. His career average of .338 and his 3,141 hits seem to almost guarantee inclusion in the Hall of Fame. This coupled with being elected to 15 all-star games and his athletic abilities which included being drafted by both MLB and the NBA seem to ensure his trip to Cooperstown.
Ripken likewise seems to be a lock for the Hall of Fame. Ripken like Gwynn had over 3,000 hits when he retired. Cal had 3,184 and had a .276 batting average. He was voted to 19 all-star games while a member of the Baltimore Orioles and was a 2-time MVP winner (1983 and 1991). While these marks are definitely worthy of induction, it is his record of playing in 2,632 consecutive games that gets the most notoriety.
The remaining 15 first time candidates include Harold Baines, Dante Bichette, Bobby Bonilla, Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Eric Davis, Tony Fernandez, Wally Joyner, Paul O’Neill, Bret Saberhagen, Bobby Witt, Devon White, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire. It is these last three names on the list that will garner the most attention. Canseco and the late Ken Caminiti are both admitted steroids users while McGwire refused comment on the subject when questioned by Congress. I would anticipate a backlash by the baseball writers to make an example of these three players by showing they will not tolerate or reward cheating. And given the veteran’s committee’s lack of tolerance to character issues in the past will make it doubly hard for these players to be elected. One interesting name on the list of first-time nominees is Devon White. White was on the original Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998 and was Arizona’s representative at the 1998 all-star game in Colorado. Had the National League won that game While would have been voted most valuable player. I doubt he will garner enough votes to reach the Hall of Fame in his first year but it great to see former Diamondbacks being eligible.
Besides the 17 new candidates there are 15 returning who are hoping for election. This list includes Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Dave Concepcion, Andre Dawson, Steve Garvey, Rich Gossage, Orel Hershiser, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dave Parker, Jim Rice, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, and Dale Murphy. Of that list I strongly believe that Smith, Gossage, Dawson and Murphy are most deserving. Murphy will again be passed over proving that character and a player’s dominance in an era are secondary to pure statistical analysis. I wish all the candidates the best of luck and I hope the baseball writers have an open mind when they fill out their ballots.