MLB General

Casting My Ballot

Let’s just say, for sake of argument, that the Baseball Writers Association of America ignored the fact that I am not actually a member of the BBWAA, although I pretend to be. And let’s just say, for sake of argument, that the BBWAA were willing to overlook the 10-year rule, in order for a member to become eligible to cast a ballot for the Hall of Fame voting.

I don’t know why they would bend these cornerstone rules for me, of all people, but let’s just say they did.

Then consider this my official ballot.
Tony Gwynn

Gwynn’s 3,141 hits guarantee him a first ballot election. The only question that remains is whether or not Gwynn will be the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection in the history of the voting. Statistically speaking, anybody who doesn’t vote for Tony Gwynn should be put on trial with the possibility of their Baseball Writer’s Association membership being revoked.

His career batting average of .328 ranks 20th all time. Of the 19 players ahead of him, 14 are Hall of Famers and only two (Bill Terry and Ted Williams) were alive to see Gwynn’s debut in 1982. His eight batting titles are rivaled only by Honus Wagner (8) and Ty Cobb (11). He finished in the top ten in batting for 15 consecutive seasons, and only once- his 54-game rookie season- did he hit under .300 (.289). Gwynn’s 1994 season bordered on the historic, falling just three hits shy of the magical .400 mark. His .394 average was the highest single season average since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.

In addition to his statistical on-field achievements, Gwynn was universally revered by his colleagues, fans, and the media. He is one of only four players to be awarded the Branch Rickey Award, the Roberto Clemente Award, and the Lou Gehrig Award, all for character, integrity, and exemplary community service.

As a friend of mine said, “He was the consummate professional, an ambassador for the game of baseball.” And if there’s any justice in subjective voting, he’ll receive all 545 votes.

Cal Ripken, Jr.

If Gwynn’s career hit total is truly his one-way ticket to Cooperstown, it should be noted that Cal Ripken had 43 more hits in his illustrious career, and should also be considered a favorite to become the first unanimous Hall of Fame entrant.

The number most associated with baseball’s Iron Man, for good reason, is 2,632, but this in itself is not the reason Ripken should be inducted. Granted, showing up to work, day-in and day-out, for 19 years, warrants respect in any industry. If, during that span, you also hit over 400 homeruns and knock in almost 1,700 RBI, then nobody has the right to deny you of the game’s highest honor.

If you’re still one of those people that believe Ripken was overrated, or that his hype was solely due to his inhuman streak of consecutive games played, then reconsider some of the facts you might be less familiar with. Ripken is the only American League shortstop to win two MVP awards. He played in 19 consecutive all-star games. He won two gold gloves, eight silver sluggers, two all-star game MVPs, the Lou Gehrig Award, the Roberto Clemente Award, and a Rookie of the Year.

Cal Ripken, Jr. has no shortage of awards residing on his mantle, but a Hall of Fame plaque should be the crowning piece of hardware.

Bert Blyleven

Bert Blyleven has never gotten the required 75% of votes because his win-loss percentage of just .534 pales in comparison to the canonized pitching greats of the 20th century (even though it is higher than that of Nolan Ryan, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Satchel Paige, and four others in the Hall), and he never won a Cy Young (although, neither did Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro or Juan Marichal). However, the things he achieved far outweigh the things he didn’t achieve.

Blyleven’s 4,970 innings pitched ranks 13th all-time, behind 12 Hall of Famers. His 4,701 strikeouts rank 5th all-time, behind two Hall of Famers and two sure-fire first ballot future Hall of Famers. The eight pitchers behind Blyleven on the all-time strikeouts list are also all Hall of Famers (counting Greg Maddux’s induction as a foregone conclusion).

And while his 287 wins put him 13 shy of the magic number 300, there are dozens of pitchers who have less wins that have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The bottom line is this: Bert Blyleven was a workhorse who averaged 245 innings per year and a 3.31 ERA over 22 Major League seasons. In today’s era of prima donnas throwing only for a paycheck, and considered over-worked if they throw 200 innings, Blyleven deserves baseball’s highest honor for heart and determination, if nothing else.

Rich Gossage

My vote for Goose is one that I go back and forth on all the time. It almost needs a caveat that says, “Since Bruce Sutter is in the Hall of Fame.” Statistically speaking, I never thought Bruce Sutter would get into the Hall of Fame, and I definitely never would have voted for him, but, since over 75% of voters last year felt he was good enough, then he got the call. With that said, Goose Gossage was by far the better pitcher.

Bruce Sutter only pitched for 12 Major League seasons. The Goose pitched until he was 42-years old, and still had a career ERA of just 3.01. During the same 12-year period in which they played, Gossage had an ERA of 3.00 or under nine times, Sutter only had seven, and Sutter never had an ERA under 1.00, as Gossage did in 1981 (0.77).

If Bruce Sutter deserves induction into the Hall of Fame, then without a doubt so does Goose Gossage.

Those Left Out

Jim Rice: Rice loses a vote because we’ve become so stat-shocked by the homerun and RBI totals of modern sluggers (regardless of steroid implications) that when we see a guy who had only 382 homeruns it is all too easy to forget that the era in which he played was entirely different. In another year or two, people will have had enough time to re-evaluate Rice’s statistics in terms of the time he played, and will honor him for being the most feared hitter of his generation.

Mark McGwire: I am not one of those people who say they would never vote for McGwire, because of his alleged steroid use, nor am I the kind of person who differentiates between who should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and who shouldn’t, but I feel that I don’t have enough facts on McGwire and the steroid subject at this time, and to vote him in would be a premature mistake that could never be corrected. If time determines that he should be in the Hall of Fame, then this mistake by the voters will easily be corrected in the years to come.

Jack Morris: Although Jack Morris was the dominant pitcher in baseball during the entire decade of the 80’s, his career numbers fail to stand side-by-side with those of Blyleven’s in almost every statistical category, and unfortunately for him, that comparison is what will keep Morris’s name off ballots.

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