I’ve told you before that Major League Baseball is dead to me. I was a card carrying, box score reading, baseball encyclopedia studying, wanna-be baseball historian as a teenager, but I was one of those guys who left during the ’94 Strike and never came back. The steroid fiasco dumped water on whatever smoldering embers may have remained. That being said, the history of baseball still intrigues me and I’m always left scratching my head come Hall of Fame balloting time.
Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. will be the only two going into the Hall this year, but if I had a vote, here’s who I’d choose:
Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. – self explanatory.
Rich Gossage – The “Goose” actually brought people to the ballpark, a rare feat for a reliever. Gossage was dominant for 10 years, a nine time all-star and gobbled up innings winning more than 120 games to go along with his 300+ saves. Twice as many strikeouts as walks, an ERA well below league average, one world title and a postseason ERA better than his regular season ERA. He was one of the five best players ever at his traditionally undervalued opinion.
Andre Dawson – NL MVP, two-time NL MVP runner-up, NL Rookie of the Year, 8-time all star, 8-time Gold Glover, one of the eight or 10 most dominant and influential players of the 1980s, the “Hawk” lead the league in hits once, RBI once, home runs once, total bases twice, extra base hits twice and intentional walks once. For 15 years, Dawson was a .285 hitter good for 25 homers and 95 RBI (back when that meant something) with good speed and an excellent glove.
Lee Smith – For 15 years, Smith was the best player at his position and retired as the best player ever at his position. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Jack Morris – Morris was the bedrock arm of the terrific ‘80s Tiger teams which won a World Series in 1984 and he carried the Twins to another crown in 1991. He’d win a third championship in Toronto. Sure, he has the career achievements necessary for induction - lead his league in wins twice and strikeouts once, he totaled more than 250 wins and just under 2500 K’s – but Morris was more about moments than measurements. Morris’ top moments came in the 1991 World Series when he started three games, pitched 23 innings and allowed only 3 earned runs on his way to being named Series MVP. Morris was one of the top six or seven starting pitchers for the decade of the ‘80s.
Jim Rice – Rice was the dominant power hitter in the American league for a decade, finished in the Top-5 of the MVP voting six times, lead the league in slugging percentage twice, hits once, total bases four times, triples once, homers three times and RBI twice. Between 1975 and 1986, he was good for 110 RBI and 25+ home runs while hitting nearly .300 – remarkable numbers dumbed down in our minds by the steroid freaks of the 1990s.
I’ll admit seven guys is a lot, but I consider myself a tough grader when it comes to halls of fame and I just can’t imagine how anyone could say these men don’t belong. Cooperstown long ago established a bar for induction that may be too low for some tastes, but the standard has been set and all others must now be measured against it.
Bert Blyleven and Dale Murphy give me real pause, but one quick and easy standard I use for Hall worthiness is that if I have to think about your candidacy for more than a minute or so, you don’t belong. Getting into the Hall should be tough.
As far as Mark McGwire and his merry band of steroid freaks from the ‘90s, they’re all gone. McGwire, Palmeiro, Caminiti, Bagwell, Bonds, Sosa, Belle, Juan Gonzalez, Chipper Jones – forget about it, and I am on the fence leaning toward “no” with Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez. If I’m not sure you didn’t, and this goes for you too Roger Clemens, I’m not putting you in.