I'm tired and cranky and I don't feel like working, so...
The Hall of Fame balloting results will be announced this afternoon. There were 27 names on the ballot. The voters (members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of a certain seniority) can vote for up to ten players. A player needs to be picked on 75% of the ballots for election, and if he's not on 5% of the ballots, or if he's used up his 15 years of eligibility, he's taken off. Here's the list, and who I'd vote for (in bold) if they gave me a ballot.
First year eligibles not named Boggs:
Jim Abbott - Abbott's story is inspirational. He pitched in the majors despite being born without a right hand. That said, his career was mediocre, and in his last full year he was 2-18 with a 7.48 ERA.
Tom Candiotti - Knuckleballer with the Indians and Dodgers, he was a guy who gave his teams lots and lots of innings, and a 50/50 shot at a win.
Chili Davis - Chili was supposed to be the next Willie Mays when he came up with the Giants. He wasn't, but he was a solid player for a very long time.
Mark Langston - Fireballing lefty, the second coming of Sudden Sam McDowell. Threw a lot of strikeouts and innings for some bad teams, and burned out before his time. Won seven Gold Gloves, which really doesn't mean much for a pitcher. The Expos traded young Randy Johnson to get him one mid-season, then lost him to free agency at the end of the season. Oops. Probably the only guy in this group to have an eventual shot at the Hall, but it's really, really long shot. Actually, I take it back. He really just doesn't have the career numbers, and he doesn't have any intangibles to go with what he's got.
Jack McDowell - Black Jack was a dominating pitcher in his twenties, and played in a rock band. It was apt. He crashed and burned when he hit thirty.
Jeff Montgomery - The Royals' closer throughout the nineties. He has a few problems between him and the Hall. First, closers are harder to look at statistically than any other position, because the only real stat they have is saves, and it can be a questionable stat. That makes evaluations of closers very subjective. Second, he played in Kansas City, so the people who make those subjective judgements rarely saw him. Third, there are three other closers on the ballot who were all better than Montgomery.
Darryl Strawberry - Eric Davis and Straw were boyhood friends, and both made it to the majors, and were having Hall of Fame careers in the late eighties. Davis lost his shot because of a series of bizarre injuries (including a lacerated kidney), and colon cancer. Straw lost his when he put every penny of the $20M the Dodgers gave him as a free agent up his nose. I feel bad for Davis. (Me, bitter?)
Tony Phillips - Tremendously versatile player for a very long time. Mostly an infielder, he could play anywhere except pitcher or catcher. He could even hit some.
Willie McGee - Willie McGee looked like ET, facially at least. He was this impossibly skinny guy who looked like you could knock him over with a feather, and he wore a batting helmet that was two sizes too big. He was the perfect player for Whitey Herzog's Cardinal speed teams in the eighties. He was the flukey NL MVP in '85 (it probably should've gone to Pedro Guerrero), and won a few Gold Gloves. Doubles power, but didn't walk much.
Otis Nixon - Willie McGee's evil twin, although not nearly as good a player. No power at all. Stole a lot of bases, but that's about all. Worst player on the ballot.
Terry Steinbach - Catcher for the A's, mostly. A solid player, occasional all-star, but a pretty good step below HoF calibre.
Bert Blyleven - A very good pitcher on very bad teams (usually). Generally considered to have the best curve ball ever. Pitched for a long time (21 years), and piled up some huge numbers. He won 287 games. He also lost 250 games. Career ERA is only 3.31, and he struck out 3701 batters (5th all time). Of the ten most similar pitchers, only two aren't in the Hall, and one of them is Tommy John.
Tommy John - Best known for being the guinea pig for the surgery that bears his name. Pitched for an incredible 26 years, but won only one more game than Blyleven. Didn't lose quite as many as Bert (231 losses), but he spent most of his career pitching for better teams than Blyleven. Career ERA is 3.34. I'm picking Bert here because he also has 1500 more strikeouts. Tommy still has a decent shot at the hall.
Jack Morris - The toughest pitcher to beat in the eighties. Big-time money player. The Curt Schilling of the eighties. Pitched a ten-inning shutout to win game seven of the '91 series against the Braves.
Rich Gossage - Sometime in 1980 or so, The Yanks and Sox were playing, and as usual, things were tense. The tying and winning runs were on base with two outs, and Goose was facing Tony Perez, one of the most dangerous RBI men ever. He ran the count full, then threw the hardest fastball I've ever seen. It was a blur, an absolute blur. Perez didn't even have a chance to react. I doubt he even saw it. The Sox announcers (Ned and Monty, I think) were awestruck. Game over. It amazing to me that he's not in the hall yet. Gossage was the first true closer, as opposed to a short reliever, the prototype for all the big, dominating closers that came after. That's hindered him, I think, because his stats are sort of in between those of an old style short man, and a modern closer. Starting pitchers still finished a lot of games when he pitched. His save numbers were high for his era (304 total), but not compared to guys like Eck, or Gagne, or even Jeff Montgomery. I think that anyone who saw him pitch would vote for him. He certainly the best of the closers listed on this ballot.
Lee Smith - Smith has the numbers that Gossage lacks (478 saves), but he wasn't as good a pitcher. The knock against Smith is that a lot of the saves he earned were "questionable" ones, easy pickings that were essentially mop up work. I dunno about that. Even if a third were questionable, he'd still have more than 300 legitimate saves. He was the first of the one-inning closers, as opposed to guys like Gossage and Sutter who were often called upon in the seventh or eigth innings. He was a dominating pitcher for a long time. I suspect he'll make it eventually.
Bruce Sutter - Sutter has Gossage's numbers in a career that was only about half as long. And that's the problem. He just didn't pitch for very long (only 12 years). Still, he has a shot.
Dave Concepcion - In the mid-seventies, Concepcion was the best shortstop in the National League. Then Ozzie Smith showed up. Concepcion had a very good career, but he was never a great hitter.
Alan Trammell - Trammell was the leader of the Tigers for a long time. Unfortunately, the Tigers sucked for most of that time. He has three Gold Gloves, but he's another guy who gets hurt because he was a transitional player, sort of in between the old style smallish, light hitting shortstops (like Concepcion), and the slugging shortstops of today (like Jeter and Nomar). Plus, he played at exactly the same time as another transitional shortstop, Cal Ripken, and Cal was just flat out better than Trammell.
Ryne Sandberg - Joe Morgan is generally considered to be the greatest second baseman of all time. Ryno has a higher career batting average, more home runs, and almost as many RBIs as Little Joe, in six fewer seasons. He had nine Gold Gloves to Joe's five. Joe, OTOH, had two MVPs to Sandberg's one. Joe was a better base stealer, but Ryno had 54 one year, something that I didn't realize. The only reason I can think of that he's not in the Hall yet is the stigma of playing all those years for the Cubs. (My theory about the Cubs is that they weren't on TV as much as other teams because most of their home games are day games, so people just didn't see as much of the players as they would on other teams. Helps explain why Ron Santo isn't in, either.)
Steve Garvey - I loved Steve Garvey when he was on the Dodgers. He always seemed to get the key hit when needed on the Dodger teams of the seventies. he certainly got all the press. Four Gold Gloves don't hurt, either. The thing is, his numbers are kind of weak. He hit for average, but he never, ever walked. He hit for moderate power, but wasn't exceptional. Looking back, Ron Cey was actually the best player on that team, so how can you put Garvey in the Hall with Cey on the outside?
Wade Boggs - Boggs is a no-brainer. Led the AL in batting five times with some amazing batting averages for the time (career .328). He was always among the leaders in walks, as well, so he got on base a lot (career .415 OBP). He also worked hard at his fielding, and won two gold gloves late in his career. Not especially well liked for a lot of his career, which may be the only thing that keeps him out in his first year of eligibility.
Don Mattingly - In the late eighties, Donnie Baseball was the best player in the majors. Period. He'll have a hard time getting in the Hall, though, because of the chronic back problems that left him a shell of his former self in the nineties. Captain of the Yankees in the lean years, he retired the year before Torre and Jeter showed up. What a shame.
Andre Dawson - Won an MVP with a last place team. Hit lots of home runs, stole lots of bases, and played a great center field (eight Gold Gloves). His problem is that he spent most of his career with the Expos and Cubs.
Dale Murphy - Won two consectutive MVPs with Atlanta, before the the tomahawk chop days. Great center fielder, too (five Gold Gloves). Looked to be headed to Cooperstown, and then one day he somehow forgot how to hit. His last six seasons were terrible.
Dave Parker - Another shoo-in for the Hall whose career took a wrong turn. Was a powerful hitter, and a great fielder (three Gold Gloves) with a tremendous arm (I still remember a throw he made to cut down Brian Downing at the plate in as All-Star game). Then he started doing cocaine, and although he didn't completely fall apart the way Strawberry did, he was never the same player after that.
Jim Rice - The most feared hitter in the American League in the late seventies-early eighties. A poor fielder when he came up, he worked hard and became better as time went on. Should have been in the Hall years ago. He has two problems. First, like Murphy, when he lost it, he lost it all at once. Second, he never had a good relationship with the media, who always preferred Fred Lynn.