When the Major League Baseballl Hall of Fame voting results for 2011 are announced on January 5, it’s likely that the new class of inductees won’t look much like we thought it would when the 2005 season ended. That’s when Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, and other huge stars of the nineties hung up their spikes and began the five-year wait to inevitable enshrinement and immortalizaty. Some funny things happened on the way to forever, though, and we’re consequently left with the following likely outcome.
Setting Things Right
Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar should have been in the Hall of Fame before this year, but they’ll get theirs this year. Blyleven has probably benefited more than any other retired player from the modern proliferation and appreciation of advanced statistics ( sabermetrics ), and Alomar served his penance for off-field issues by not being elected in his first year of eligibility (2010). These men should start preparing their induction speeches now.
Should Get In But Won’t
No matter how strong of a hold new statistical toys seem to have on baseball fans these days, there seems to be a dark corner of the baseball writers guild that remains concrete-bound, at least when it comes to evaluating certain players. Pray for a full-blown Renaissance, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell.
Should Get In But Won’t, Asterisk Division
Mark McGwire was a slugger of mammoth proportions. Unfortunately for Big Mac, those proportions were apparently a little too mammoth and too assisted to appeal to Hall of Fame voters. Hey, maybe he can get in as a hitting coach!
They Might Grow on You
There is a cadre of players who seem to perplex voters in one way or another. Some played in launching-pad home ballparks that might have inflated their stats, some played a position that has recently changed in historical significance, and some are just legitimate borderline candidates. It’s likely that some among Barry Larkin, Lee Smith, Jeff Bagwell, and Larry Walker will get in eventually. It’s probably just won’t be this year.
Should Never Get In … But Might
As with Raines and Trammell, Jack Morris’ HOF candidacy continues to be influenced by old-school voters who seemingly refuse to consider anything beyond their own memories of specific games and romanticized images of baseball in the 1980s. Morris won a lot of games pitching in front of some great teams, but his performance was truly very mediocre. Durable, yes. Immortal? Hardly.
Not Enough Talent, Not Enough Votes
That heading may be a little harsh, as some of these players were actually very talented and either didn’t play long enough or didn’t play well long enough. Welcome to the commons bin: Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Dave Parker, Dale Murphy, Harold Baines.
One and Done
These guys were good enough to log the necessary ten years in the big leagues to merit Hall of Fame consideration, but they’re likely to fall short of 5% of the total vote, meaning that their names will slide off of the ballot next year. Some will strike out because they were simply not good enough to make the cut, while others will be locked out because of various, um, issues that have come to light over the last few years. A couple of these players were considered Hall locks late in their careers (Palmeiro, Gonzalez), but have seen their reputations and the perception of their accomplishments take a beating at the hands of a presumed steroid taint. The one-hit wonders: Carlos Baerga, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Al Leiter, Tino Martinez, Raul Mondesi, John Olerud, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, B.J. Surhoff.
All in all, it appears that 2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the Retreads in terms of baseball’s Hall of Fame election. We’ll probably see Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar gain admittance, and they may be joined by Morris. It’s unlikely that any “rookies” will make the cut this year, but the holdovers should make for some good hot stove banter and exciting elections in the years to come.