Sports

Baseball's Next Hall Of Famers

We’ll say this about baseball’s Steroids Era: It has made the Hall of Fame balloting more compelling, and this is one of the most interesting years in memory. With reports that this year’s ballots have been sent out, here’s a look at some of the candidates:

Rafael Palmeiro
On the surface, Palmeiro’s 569 home runs and 3,020 hits would make him a shoo-in for election. Only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray also belong to the 500/3,000 Club. But there’s that pesky matter of a suspension for steroid use, just months after Palmeiro wagged a finger at Congress and insisted he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.

I have Palmeiro rated as the 15th-best first baseman in baseball history, but he won’t come close to induction this year or next year or the year after that. Which brings up the question: Who will be the first known steroid user to be inducted? At what point will the taint of steroids diminish enough for somebody to be elected?

I’m guessing the first player will be Alex Rodriguez. He might have to wait a year or two once he becomes eligible, but eventually the righteous indignation over the Steroids Era will begin to subside. But that’s just a guess.

Juan Gonzalez
One of the most overrated players of this or any other lifetime, with or without the steroids use. Gonzalez won two MVP awards, both of which were egregious votes. Consider this: His career mark of 33.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks 386th all-time, about the same as Jose Valentin, Ron Gant, and Brian Jordan.

Roberto Alomar and Barry Larkin
Alomar received 73.7 percent of the vote last year, missing the Hall of Fame by eight votes. He’ll likely get in this year. But as we wrote a year ago, it’s ridiculous for Alomar to have so much support while Larkin received 51.6 percent of the vote (I just reread that post; it’s a good one). They’re basically the same player.

By the way, Larkin ranks 90th all-time in Wins Above Replacement, while Alomar is 126th.

Bert Blyleven
Probably should have gone in long ago.

Jeff Bagwell
By almost any subjective measure, Bagwell should be a first-ballot selection. I don’t think he will be.

Tim Raines
Should be a Hall of Famer; hasn’t received more than 30.4 percent of the vote in his three years on the ballot.

Edgar Martinez
And finally, the most interesting name on the ballot, at least from a Northwest perspective. Martinez received 36.2 percent in his first year of eligibility. That’s a decent start when compared to some recent inductees: Andre Dawson received 45.3 percent in his first year and was elected in his ninth; Jim Rice had 29.8 percent in his first year and was elected in his 15th; Rich Gossage received 33.3 percent his first year and was elected in his ninth.

So, yes, it’s possible that Edgar Martinez will go into the Hall of Fame before the end of the decade. It will be interesting to see whether his support grows this year.

Here’s my ballot for this year. You know, if they let me have one:

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, and Mark McGwire.