The Baseball Writers’ Association of America revealed the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot yesterday, and with it we learned the 19 candidates whose names will be appearing for the first time. At this slow stage in Baseball’s off-season, it’s always fun to have something to speculate over, so let’s take a look at who has a chance at the necessary 75% of the BBWAA’s votes.
Right off the bat we’re going to eliminate the Carlos Baerga’s and Charles Johnson’s on the list. They were good players, but a .245 Avg. over twelve seasons isn’t going to get it done, Charles, even if you are Fred McGriff’s cousin.
That whittles us all the way down to 5 candidates (sorry, Bobby Higginson) who appear to have a decent shot at an eventual election to the Hall (it should be noted that Juan Gonzalez and, more so, Rafael Palmeiro have the numbers to be there. However, if Mark McGwire is any example, the steroid speculation surrounding them will ruin any chance at election)
1. Jeff Bagwell
Though nobody on the list is a sure-fire first-ballot selection, the former Astro is as close as they come. With Bagwell we’re talking about a guy who was 1991’s Rookie-of-the-Year, and from ’93-’04 was consistently one of the best hitters in the league. In his MVP season he hit 39 HRs and 116 RBIs while scoring 104 Runs. That season? 1994–the strike year. That’s right, Bagwell put up those power numbers in just 110 Games. His career OPS was .948 while he added solid defense, earning himself a Gold Glove award in 1994.
Verdict: He’s in, this year or next.
2. Al Leiter
Leiter always struck me as a classy player who loved every second of his career. He pitched in three World Series, one of which his team won (’97 Marlins). Since retirement, Leiter has also offered insightful commentary in the announcer’s booth. However, none of this adds up to a HOF selection. 300 Wins will get you to Cooperstown, no doubt. Al has 162. Multiple Cy Young awards aught to do it as well. His closest finish was sixth place, in ’98. I always liked watching him play, but in the end, he just doesn’t deserve to make it.
Verdict: Sorry, Al.
3. Kevin Brown
Brown has a stronger resume than Leiter, his former Marlins teammate. 211 Wins, 3.28 career ERA, and six All-Star selections to go with his World Series title. Unfortunately, if you take a closer look at the resume, under “interests,” he clearly lists “‘roiding with my strong friends.”
If you use the “similarity score” feature at Baseball-Reference, you’ll find that Brown compares quite similarly to Hall-of-Famers Don Drysdale and Catfish Hunter. So, he’s got a shot, just not a great one.
Verdict: The steroids speculation hurts an already iffy chance, so we’ll say no, he doesn’t make it.
4. Larry Walker
Here we have the hardest decision on the list. When I think of Walker, I think of an elite player. Throughout his playing days he was always one of the best. His 383 HRs might be a little low, but his career On-Base-Percentage sits at a fantastic .400 and his OPS is actually higher than Bagwell’s at .965. Born in Canada, Walker used to shag fly balls in the darkness of a deep forest (can’t find a source, but it sounds true) and the training paid off in the result of seven Gold Gloves. He was the 1997 NL MVP with a slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .366/.452/.720, while putting up even better numbers in 1999.
What will likely hurt Walker is the feeling that his power numbers are inflated. Not by steroids–no, he always seemed to play the game right. Inflated instead by the amusement park that is Coors Field in it’s pre-humidor days. You needn’t look any further than Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette to realize Coors produced some souped up numbers, and in the end, the voters could hold that against him.
Verdict: He probably won’t make it in his first or second chance, but I think eventually Larry Walker will find himself the second Canadian elected into the Hall.
5. Tino Martinez
If all writers were Yankee fans–and it sometimes seems that way–Tino would be a lock for Cooperstown. Unfortunately for him, that’s not the case, and his numbers just don’t add up. I would imagine everyone thinks of Martinez as better than he actually was because, as a Yankee, he was in the playoffs every single year. And don’t get me wrong, he was certainly a solid player–he just doesn’t have the stats he needs to get a plaque in the Hall.
Verdict: Won’t make it.
Clearly, of the five, Bagwell is the only near-lock. Expect him to get over 75% and to join Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar, who both barely missed election in last year’s vote.
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