In January of 1979, 23 voters did not vote to allow the newly eligible Willie Mays to enter the baseball Hall of Fame. Assuming that those 23 voters were still alive at the time, the only way to look at that fact is as proof that yes, anything can, indeed, happen. So far as we can tell, there was no involvement on the part of the Russians.
Fortunately, 409 voters thought that the Say Hey Kid qualified for the hall, so he made it. It is also fortunate that human beings still do the voting on these matters rather than having the task assigned to some soulless computer evaluating ballplayers based on what the corporate types now refer to as the metrics. One does have to wonder sometimes, though.
Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, and Ivan Rodriguez will each deservedly join Mr. Mays in Cooperstown this summer along with the car salesman. Several athletes suspected of helping the owners regain prestige until blabbermouth Jose Canseco tried to squirrel the deal have not yet garnered enough votes to qualify. Two great players that came close without getting the requisite 75 per cent of votes tallied were not harmed by steroid suspicions and may, eventually, make it. Those two are Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. I think that the slugger from the Dominican Republic should be there and the relief pitcher from Bellflower, California should not.
The career numbers on Guerrero are impressive if not sensational. Perhaps the fact that serious injury robbed him of part of the superb skills he demonstrated early in his days while he played in relative obscurity in Montreal has caused the voters to remember only his later seasons when he was slower and less agile in the field. You wouldn’t want to evaluate Mickey Mantle based on his last few seasons either but, like Mantle, Guerrero was still very dangerous as a hitter to the end. Okay, metrics: a career on base percentage of .379, career batting average of .318, 449 home runs, 477 doubles among 2,590 hits. Career slugging percentage:.553. 37 stolen bases in 2001 and 40 more in 2002. Plus, again, in the earlier years he was very good in the field, with a rifle arm matched by few in cutting down baserunners. Sixteen very above average seasons gets him to the hall in my opinion.
As for Hoffman, he was valuable with the deadly change up but Hall of Fame? Sorry, but it’s that over rating of saves thing. 601 saves in 18 years would impress me if saves really meant something. His best years were very good, between 1996 and 1999. He never appeared in more than 70 games or pitched more than 90 innings. I realize I am part of a growing minority but hey, if you don’t want to pitch the ninth inning (with a lead!) put me in, coach.
Opinions are like, uh, belly buttons–almost everybody has one. These are mine.