Editor’s note: One thing that I love about this blog is that we have a range of viewpoints among the writers here. I personally differ from Joe Guzzardi on how many players should be the Hall of Fame (he’s an exclusionist, I’ve become more welcoming in the last couple years), but I’m glad to share his views.
Barry Larkin is in the Hall of Fame. As opposed to last year’s choice of Bert Blyleven, I guess I’m sort of okay with Larkin, the winner of nine Silver Slugger awards, named to 14 All Star Games and one of the outstanding shortstops of his era. I’d have been okay if Larkin were passed over, too.
Luckily for Larkin, he’s untainted by steroid charges, an issue that will confront the Baseball Writers Association of America next year.
According to an analysis by the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner, 33 players over the next five ballots (including Larkin) could make what he calls “a realistic case” for their induction. As Kepner describes it, “They may not have a winning argument, but they belong in the conversation.’
Kepner broke his 33 players into four categories:
1) Virtual locks, barring evidence of steroid use: Larkin (2012); Craig Biggio (2013); Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas (2014); Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz (2015); Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman (2016).
2) Possible, barring evidence of steroid use: Curt Schilling (2013); Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina (2014).
3) Doubtful, based on playing career, voting track record or both: Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker and Bernie Williams.
4) Left out because of performance-enhancing drugs: based on suspicion, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza; based on admission, Mark McGwire; based on evidence, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa; based on admission/evidence/playing career, Juan Gonzalez and Andy Pettitte.
According to Kepner’s projections, by 2016 ten new Hall of Famers will have been elected. Seven reached a significant round number: 300 victories for Glavine, Johnson and Maddux; 3,000 hits for Biggio; 500 home runs for Thomas; 600 home runs for Griffey; 600 saves for Hoffman. Larkin was a most valuable player; Smoltz won a Cy Young Award, and Pedro Martinez won three.
But on my ballot, only Glavine, Johnson, Maddux, Biggio, Thomas Griffey and Martinez would get votes. A single Cy Young season (Smoltz) is more an argument for being passed over than being inducted.
As for Hoffman, the standard for earning a save is so artificial and watered down I can’t see ever putting any relief pitcher (including Mariano Rivera!) in the Hall of Fame. In his 18 year career, Hoffman averaged 60 innings
pitched per season (out of about 1,500 team innings played) —simply too insignificant a contribution to merit Hall of Fame status.
As for Kepner’s “possible,” “doubtful,” and “left out” categories, I wouldn’t vote for any of them.
In previous blogs, I’ve noted that most of the ESPN talking heads like Peter Gammons, Buster Olney and Jayson Stark advocate for the steroids’ crowd.
When you hear these guys talk, it’s as if they are obligated to vote for multiple candidates each year. Attention: There’s no such requirement.
Here’s Jayson Stark’s 2012 ballot which he posted on the Internet:
Larkin, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Jack Morris, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and what he describes as the “Steroid Guys” Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.
Even if Palmeiro never used steroids, it would be a joke and an insult to the truly great players to include him in a Hall that has Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Stan Musial.
I’m in Bob Costas’ camp: The Hall of Fame is “too big” and should be reserved for the absolutely best, not just the very good. My January 2011 blog on that subject, including Costas’ opinion, is here.