Monday, November 27, 2006

'Roid Rage and The Hall of Fame

Universal rejection vs. unanimous choice.Both intriguing possibilities were conjured up yesterday when, as expected, Mark McGwire, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn made their inaugural appearances on the baseball’s annual Hall of Fame ballot.

The voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America — those with 10 years or more experience covering the sport — are expected to wrestle with McGwire’s candidacy, and only in part because of his overall numbers.Despite exceeding a time-honored Hall threshold (500 homers) with his 583 home runs, McGwire is very much on the bubble because of the steroid era in which he both thrived and was tainted.

Though McGwire never admitted to or was caught using illegal performance enhancers, he was famously accused of doing so by fellow first-time Hall nominee Jose Canseco.

McGwire has never denied the accusation. His not doing so, most notably before a congressional committee examining illegal steroid use in baseball, could cost him when the results of the BBWAA vote is announced Jan. 9.

Veteran Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley perhaps illustrated some of the simmering condemnation when he told The Inquirer why he won’t write McGwire’s name on the ballot, now or ever.

“I thought his performance before Congress was a disgrace,” Buckley said. “Whenever anyone asks me about his home run numbers, I simply say I am not here to talk about the past.”

But, Jayson Stark of will reluctantly vote for McGwire in part, he said, “because baseball allowed all this to happen.“We know he gave some horrible answers to some members of Congress. But in truth, we hardly know anything about what anyone in the sport may or may not have done.

“So to me, just as baseball allowed [spitball pitcher] Gaylord Perry to go out and win his 300 games — which got him to the Hall of Fame — it allowed McGwire and all of these players to compile their stats and break their records and earn their money and accolades based on those feats.

So I think I’m stuck with evaluating what the sport allowed to happen on the field. Either the ’90s happened or they didn’t.”

The approximately 575 writers aren’t expected to struggle as much, if at all, on the Hall merits of Gwynn or Ripken.

Gwynn, the eight-time National League batting champion, and Ripken, the man who surpassed Lou Gehrig’s legendary Iron Man streak by playing in 2,632 consecutive games, should easily gain the required 75 percent of the vote needed for induction. But will Ripken or Gwynn be named on every ballot?

No player has yet gained 100 percent of the vote. Not Babe Ruth. Not Gehrig, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb or Ted Williams.

Tom Seaver, elected in 1992, came the closest to perfection when he was named on 425 of 430 ballots in 1992, for 98.84 percent of the votes.

Seaver is joined in the top 10 in terms of percentage by: Nolan Ryan (491 of 497, 98.7), Ty Cobb (222-2226,baseball hall of fame website 98.23), George Brett (488-497, 98.19), Aaron (406-415, 97.83), Mike Schmidt (444-460, 96.52), Johnny Bench (431-447, 96.42), Steve Carlton (436-455, 95.82), Ruth (215-226, 95.13) and Honus Wagner (215-226, 95.13).

Rice and Rich “Goose” Gossage return to the ballot as the top candidates not elected a year ago. Rice, the former Boston Red Sox slugger, fell 53 votes shy in his most recent attempt at election. Gossage, one of a host of stoppers hoping to follow Bruce Sutter into Cooperstown, fell 54 votes shy on the last ballot. Cherry Hill East graduate Orel Hershiser is also among the holdovers.

This is the 15th and final time on the ballot for Steve Garvey, who was on 26 percent of the ballots cast last year. His best finish was 43 percent in 1995, his third year. This is the 14th year for Dave Concepcion (13 percent last year) and the 13th year for Rice (65 percent) and Tommy John (30).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your poll of writers indicates that no one will be surprised if Mark McGwire is rejected in Hall Of Fame voting this year (especially since a few writers indicated that they will never vote for him in the years to come).
So Tony Gwynn's and Cal Ripken Jr.'s elections and McGwire's rejection should be expected, ho-hum affairs.
The real interesting cases will be to see if Jim Rice and Goose Gossage, who have been increasing support in recent years garner the additional support they need to get over the hump and into Cooperstown.
Even as a big Yankee-hater I have to admit that Gossage was the difference in the Yankees eeking out divisional titles in '77 over Baltimore and Boston, in '78 over Boston, and in '80 over the Orioles in down-to-the -wire races. Sure Goose made things interesting in the one-game playoff with the Red Sox in '78, but without his best stuff that day Gossage bent but didn't break. When he had his good stuff, he was simply unhittable.
One wonders if Jim Rice had played one extra season to reach 400 home runs, along with a near-.300 career average whether he'd be in the Hall by now. He had a half-dozen extremely dominating years.
Andre Dawson has been moving up in the vote totals, but this may not yet be his time for election.
Looking forward to February's Veterans Committe election Gil Hodges and Ron Santo are in a very similar position to Gossage and Rice, with 65% of the vote in the last election and moving forward towards the critical 75% mark. Wouldn't it be fitting if Hodges is elected in the 50th anniversary year of the last Brooklyn Dodgers team of '57.
Ex-Twins stars Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva are building support towards likely election by 2009 or 2011.
Finally comes my underdog candidate, Orestes "Minnie" Minoso. Can the voters "think out of the box" for once and beyond the black and white of statistics and see that Minoso is extremely deserving of Hall Of Fame honors. Minoso in the past has been penalized as both a Negro Leagues and a Major Leagues candidate, with neither type of basball "claiming him", and both saying he played too short a time in their leagues to have built up worthy statistics for election. Can't the voters see for once that Minoso was a "Tweener" who came along at the end of the segregated era and whose entry into the majors was delayed considerably by the remnants of the racial barrier. Taken together his statistics and his nearly perennial All-Star status in both the Negro Leagues and the Major leagues should add up to a Hall Of Fame career. Consider that when he made his major leagues debut in 1949, Minoso was only the eighth black to break the color barrier, and the first Black Hispanic to reach the majors. He would later be the first Black Hispanic to become an All-Star (1951). A total of seven All-star years would follow, mostly in his 30's before age began to slow him down. So Minoso has an important trailblazing legacy that should significantly add to the qualificatins on his Hall Of Fame resume.
He was a selfless teammate, a key factor in taking the New York Cubans to the 1946 Negro League Series (those leagues' equivilant of the World Series), and in that team taking the title in '47, his last full season in the Negro Leagues. That he wasn't able to duplicate that success n the majors could be explained by one thing. In his 14 full big league seasons 1951-1964, he was an American League player (mostly with the Chicago White Sox) for 13 of those 14 seasons. (He spent 1962 in the NL with St.Louis). In none of those seasons did he play for the dynastic, New York Yankees, who won the American League pennant in 11 of those 13 years. Don't penalize Minoso for having played on the wrong team.
These facts about Minoso's accomplishments and contributions have been glossed over inthe past by voters in all previous times he has come up for election. By pointing out your HOF-worthy accomplishments, this is my tribute to you, Minnie, on this your 84th birthday.
Dennis Orlandini
Irvington, NJ
P.S.: In addition to 280+ wins,and the most Gold Gloves in history for fielding excellence as a pitcher, Jim Kaat wasn't a bad announcer either, and I'd give him my vote. He brought a much needed voice of impartiality to Yankees broadcasts, where over-the-top Yankees worship is all too common. In his first year as a Yankees broadcaster in an early-season game where the Yankees were down by one run in the bottom of the ninth , with runners on first and third, Kaat called an exciting game-ending play, with a photo-finish on the play at first, witj the resultant Yankees loss. Some Yankees fans the next day on Sports Talk radio wanted his job, but Kaat was always a baseball fan first, rather than playing to Yankees die-hards. He called exciting plays that went against the Yanks with as much enthusiam as when the Yankees won World Series and he gave credit to the opponents when they deserved it. He just retired from the broadcast booth at age 68. His stories about his experiences with the division- winning Phillies teams of the late 70's, the '65 AL champ Twins, his 20-win seasons with the White Sox and the '82 Worlds Champion St. Louis Cardinals showed young Yankees fans that there was baseball life beyond The Bronx and Yankeedom.