On Monday, Jan. 9, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce if any former major league players will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York.
Candidates must be named on 75 percent of ballots to be elected and receive at least 5 percent of the vote to remain eligible for future consideration. If a player is not elected after 15 years, his name is removed from the ballot.
The 2012 ballot contains 27 names, including 13 players on the ballot for the first time. They include pitchers Brad Radke and Terry Mulholland, infielders Bill Mueller, Eric Young, Phil Nevin, Tony Womack and Vinny Castilla. The lone catcher is Javy Lopez and outfielders Brian Jordan, Tim Salmon, Jeromy Burnitz, Ruben Sierra and Bernie Williams round out the first-timers.
Only Williams is likely to get more than the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot. It's a little like the Oscars; it's nice to be nominated.
Many are called, few are chosen.
Of the 14 holdover candidates, three deserve induction.
Players on this ballot were active during the mid 1990s and into the early 2000s. Steroids were a part of baseball during this time. There is no true way to define this period.
Everyone is free to make their own conclusions, but if you used, you lose. Starting in the fall of 2004, players were tested under MLB's new collective bargaining agreement. Prior to that, who knows how many were using? Prior to 2004, baseball didn't have laws against them, but the federal government would have had another opinion.
The game was not played on the level. Things were not legit. Performances were enhanced. For these reasons alone, say no to Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. The following players are also unworthy, for various reasons.
Don Mattingly: 14 years a Yankee, six outstanding seasons, but a bad back scuttled what could have been a Hall of Fame career
Dale Murphy and Juan Gonzalez: Both won two league MVP awards during their career, but Murphy's last six years in the majors contributed little to what became a borderline Hall of Fame career.
Gonzalez had five seasons with 40 or more home runs, but was an ordinary player by age 32 and was finished at 35.
Fred McGriff: A very consistent player with 493 home runs, 1,550 RBIs, and a .509 career slugging percentage, but only once was he ever in the top five balloting for an MVP award in 19 seasons (fourth place, 1993). What if he had gotten those seven home runs? Would this discussion be different?
Larry Walker: In 17 years he had only 2,160 hits despite a .313 career average, 383 home runs, 1,311 RBIs, seven Gold Gloves, and winning the 1997 NL MVP. He played a lot of those years in hitter's friendly Colorado.
Edgar Martinez: He is often cited as the game's best designated hitter ever. MLB even named the annual award for best DH after him. But for such an offensive position, Martinez had only 309 career home runs and 2,247 hits. Some of his other career totals are excellent: .312 average, .418 on base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. The designated hitter was employed by the American League in 1973 and no player has been enshrined representing that position.
Tim Raines: His supporters for the Hall of Fame claime he's the second greatest leadoff hitter in the history of baseball, behind Rickey Henderson. Raines' 805 career stolen bases rank him fifth all-time, but he's not even in the top 30 all-time in other categories like walks, runs scored, hits or even times on base. From 1981 to 1993, he was a very productive offensive player, but in his last six years of his career, he played a reserve role, providing a solid veteran presence to his teams, but producing diminished offensive numbers.
Lee Smith: When he retired in 1997, he was the all-time leader in saves with 478. Today, he's third all-time trailing Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Smith had a lot of one-inning saves on his docket, unlike a Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter, who often worked two or more innings to record them.
Through no fault of his own, Smith only pitched in the postseason twice in 18 years, for the doomed '84 Cubs and the '88 Red Sox. This is Smith's 10th year on the ballot. His best total was 47 percent in 2010. The wait gets longer for him.
Jeff Bagwell: The slugging first baseman in 2,150 games batted .297 with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs, winning one Gold Glove and being the NL MVP in 1994. Bagwell is the first of many candidates on the ballot being looked at in comparison to the time and era in which they played — a time when home run and slugging percentage totals soared to levels never seen before. The scrutiny on the ballot is going to be here for another 15 to 20 years, although the process will eventually sort itself out.
Some players will be elected, others will have to wait a lot longer.
Here's the trio that deserves induction: Jack Morris, Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell.
Do not be put off by Morris' 3.90 career ERA. If elected, it would be the highest ERA of any pitcher in the Hall. Look at his 254 wins, 175 career complete games and 2,478 strikeouts. A three-time 20-game winner, he won more games in the 1980s (162) than any other pitcher and helped three teams to World Series titles.
Won games does not make a career, but for added measure, Morris was the winning pitcher in one of the best baseball games ever: Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Morris, pitching for the Twins, threw a 10-inning 1-0 complete game win that was as exhilarating as any sports moment ever. He belongs.
Larkin, the best shortstop in the National League in the 1990s, was a dynamic offensive performer, batting over .300 seven times with nine seasons of 20 or more stole bases. The NL MVP in 1995, Larkin won three Gold Gloves and his .974 career fielding percentage at shortstop is third best all-time, trailing only Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith.
In Trammell's 12th year on the ballot, it's time voters finally came around to him. When his career is compared to the 21 shortstops already enshrined in Cooperstown, he ranks 11th in average, fourth in home runs, seventh in RBIs, tied for 10th in slugging percentage and 11th in on-base percentage. Defensively, he's twelfth in putouts, eighth in assists, fifth in double plays turned and his .976 fielding percentage ranks him a little higher than Larkin. Amazingly, no Tigers players from their 1984 world championship team are in the Hall, though manager Sparky Anderson was elected in 2000.
This could be the first year since 1996 that the writers will not have elected any players. Next year's ballot is going to be the most talked about since they started voting in 1936… but for all the wrong reasons.
First-timers on the ballot will include Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Kenny Lofton, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa. This 2012 ballot is the calm before the storm. In 2013, it will be the imperfect storm.