Good news, baseball fans! Pitchers and catchers start to report or spring training in just over a week, in a misguided, crosstown attempt to make us remember that the Bears missed the playoffs, and the most popular athlete in Chicago is still recovering from a torn ACL.
All is not lost, though. The Hall of Fame will announce the voting results for their 2013 inductees. This was the year that had the corpse of Jack Bucks shaking with contempt. This is the year that baseball had to finally face that dastardly scourge known as the steroid era. Of course, not everyone on the list took steroids, and depending on your opinion on the subject, it shouldn’t matter if they did.
Let’s take a look at every player currently up for election for the Hall of Fame this year.
Julio Franco-I find it hard to believe that this is the first year he is eligible for the Hall of Fame, considering he was teammates with Nolan Ryan, Vida Blue, and Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown.
Todd Walker-I feel like it was just yesterday that I was feeling ambivalent about him being a Cub.
David Wells-He isn’t going to make the Baseball Hall of Fame. But he is going to be able to sleep well at night knowing that he is still a member of the Cake Eating AND Mustache Aficionado Hall of Fame.
Woody Williams-I refuse to vote for players named after Pixar characters.
Royce Clayton-At least he can fall back on the fact that he played the role of a guy who will get more votes than him in the movie Moneyball (Miguel Tejada) when Tejada is up for election.
Jose Mesa-Decent reliever in his time. Once tried to eat Roberto Alomar.
Jeff Conine-You’d think he’d never make the Hall of Fame. But he won a World Series for the Marlins in 1997, and Bill Mazeroski already set the awful precedent of making the Hall of Fame for one moment in a World Series game.
Shawn Green-Not a Hall of Famer, but still one of the ten best Jewish players of all time, right? (I’m not researching this to determine the truth behind it.)
Mike Stanton/Jeff Cirillo/Aaron Sele/Ryan Klesko-White people. Also ruined your day if you opened a pack of baseball cards because back in the 90’s you were guaranteed to get every one of these players in EVERY pack.
Roberto Hernandez/Rondell White/Reggie Sanders-See above statement, insert racially insensitive comparison here.
Sandy Alomar-Definitely a Hall of Famer if he put up the numbers he did as a catcher in the 50’s and 60’s. Deserves fault for never properly building a time machine to do this exact thing.
Don Mattingly-Not until you get rid of those sideburns!
Bernie Williams-If this was the Major League Baseball Players Who Also Would Have Been Able to Make it As a Bit Player in the Blues Brothers Band Hall of Fame, then he would definitely make it.
Steve Finley-When you look up comparable players to him, the names Bernie Williams and Chili Davis come up. So, you know, no.
Fred McGriff-While some are championing a consistent run of slugging that was overshadowed by the steroid era, I’m keeping him out because of his continued inability to keep teens off the street as his alter ego, McGruff, the Crime Dog.
Jack Morris-I don’t buy into the love all the dusty old codgers in the media are giving you. Morris has become a revisionist history lightning rod. Everyone who covered baseball in the 80’s, all of a sudden after not voting for Morris for a decade and a half, have randomly changed their minds and decided he’s a Hall of Famer.
He isn’t. He might have had the most wins in the decade of the 80’s. He also gave up the most Home Runs in the decade of the 80’s. And the most hits allowed in the 80’s. And the most runs allowed in the 80’s. And the most losses of the 80’s.
Rafael Palmeiro-Not even the best mustache to not make the Hall of Fame on this ballot. He was a power hitting version of Mark Grace.
Edgar Martinez-Martinez would be a poster child for the Hall of Good. He was never quite great. He was protected in the lineup by great hitters like Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. Jay Buhner, as well. People are defending him now because they forgot about him back in the 90’s when he was the 5th best player on a team that never made the World Series.
Curt Schilling-There is a saying (that I made up just now) that goes “Bad in the video game industry begets Bad at getting into the Hall of Fame begets bad at life.”
Dale Murphy-I hear you are a wonderful person. If you became like Paul Newman and started making your own salad dressings and salsas, I’d certainly buy them. I’m not putting you in the Hall of Fame, though.
Alan Trammell-A much better career than anyone gave him credit for. Is probably a Hall of Famer is Ozzie Smith doesn’t escape the Springfield Mystery Spot (two Simpsons references in one post? Two Simpsons references in one post!)
Alright, now onto the ten guys that would make my theoretical ballot.
10) Kenny Lofton-Advanced stat guys like to jump on the candidacy of a player that was good but not great(see the next choice) so I’m just going to get on the Lofton 4 HOF bandwagon early.
9) Tim Raines-Depending on who you ask, he was either a decent player who mostly just compiled numbers over a long career, or he was a great player for a stretch in the 80’s that was overshadowed by the fact that he loved two things: cocaine, and being belligerent to the media. I’ll stick with my stat nerd brethren on this one.
8) Larry Walker-I was always oddly terrified of him and Todd Helton when they would play the Cubs. It never felt like he was simply compiling stats. It genuinely felt like Larry Walker was a triple away from the cycle every time he played the Cubs. If you look at some of the guys that played in the steroid era, Walker deserves the same kind of numbers boost and recognition, having played in the rarified air of Coors Field.
7) Mark McGwire-Gahhh, I hate putting him on because of a deep rooted personal dislike for the man. That said, as I’ll explain after the players, I’ve come to terms with the steroids era. He was one of the best players in baseball for an extended period of time. There are only a handful of people in baseball history where you stopped what you were doing every time they came to the plate in their prime. McGwire is one of three on this year’s ballot.
6) Roger Clemens-If players were doing it, then it’s hard to crucify a pitcher who was on steroids at the same time. His numbers, the way pitchers are protected nowadays, will likely never be matched again. That’s a testament to his dominant early career as much as his steroids fueled resurrection.
5) Sammy Sosa-The MVP award is an arbitrary measure, but I’ve heard it referenced to as “what guy would you pay money to go see. That guy is an MVP.” I can guarantee that a lot of you right now reading this paid money to see Sammy Sosa play. He never hit for a high average, but before the 98 season, he also had several 30/30 seasons under his belt.
It might be sentimentality as much as anything else, but my feeling, along with many others is, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire helped save the game of baseball in the summer of 1998. Baseball became relevant for the first time since they went on strike in 1994. Wrigley Field was always half empty in 1997. It has never been empty since.
4) Craig Biggio-Only one player who got at least three thousand hits during his career DIDN’T make the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, and that was Paul Molitor, who was hurt by the fact that he got many of those hits as a DH. Biggio never was burdened by spending half of the game on the bench. Sure thing hall of famer.
3) Jeff Bagwell-Were him, Frank Thomas, and Ken Griffey Jr. the only guys we can point at and say, “You know what, they probably did it clean?” I believe so. His numbers were better than Orlando Cepeda and Willie Stargell, both comparable players who are in the Hall of Fame.
2) Mike Piazza-Probably the best offensive catcher of our, or any other generation. He is being unfairly treated because some writers say he had bacne, which is a telltale sign of doing steroids. His numbers as a catcher are unparalleled.
1) Barry Bonds-See below.
For many years as the fallout from Jose Canseco’s book and the steroid unfolded, I was very much in favor of keeping everyone out of the Hall of Fame that was suspected of doing steroids. But as years went on, I was able to take more of a long view of the entire era.
And then I realized this. Baseball is a game. Baseball is meant to entertain. For a few hours everyday, you get to live vicariously through a group of ball players on your favorite team. You go out and sit in the bleachers, or you watch from home. You listen on the radio in the car, or while hanging out with friends. Baseball, as all sports, is very much a communal experience.
Didn’t Sammy Sosa entertain you? Didn’t Barry Bonds entertain you? People that are trying to keep these guys out of the Hall of Fame take the game, the Hall, and themselves too seriously. Nobody seems to be interested in kicking Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Walter Johnson out of the Hall of Fame because they played before African Americans were allowed in the game. Nobody seems bothered by the fact that quirky stadium dimensions had those same players hitting home runs over fences that were only 280 feet away.
Baseball is a game. And as a game, the Hall of Fame should be for the guys who were best at the game. Fifty years from now, nobody will care about the steroids era, in the same way that nobody talks about the amphetamine era of the 60’s, and the cocaine era of the 70’s and 80’s.
I’d rather go to the Hall of Fame someday and tell my kid about how exciting it was to watch Sammy Sosa, not how Jack Morris would never be in the Hall of Fame in the first place if Lonny Smith could run the basepaths properly.