Out of the Frying Pan
by Jessica Polko
Tomorrow, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announces the Class of 2007. Today you can read Rotohelp's opinion of the candidates and view the ballot we would submit if eligible.
Please take a look at our 2002 article for an overview of our standards. In the alphabetical review of candidates below, I have linked to commentary from previous years for players on this year's ballot who remain eligible after receiving at least 5% of the vote in 2006. In most cases, I have nothing further to say with regards to these players, but if something has changed in our opinion then I have noted the alteration.
While the presence of Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire among this year's candidates has led many to focus on steroids when discussing the worthiness of potential inductees, I omitted such speculation from my analysis below. I loathe the common stance on steroids and performance enhancers in baseball, primarily because a player can be smeared merely by hearsay and damned by circumstantial evidence. Accusers on a McCarthian crusade parry protests of innocence with the possibility of players using masking agents. I might have opted for a witch hunt metaphor in the previous sentence had Congress not seen fit to lend attention to this matter rather than addressing more pressing concerns.
With regards to those players who have confessed to using various substances, I still do not consider the issue particularly relevant to their Hall of Fame candidacy. Many substances now banned were fully legal and allowed by baseball at the time they were used. The use of those which were illegal and/or banned bears some weight when considering the "integrity, sportsmanship, character" criteria, however those factors rarely stand in the way of players with truly outstanding careers, so I will refrain from a nuanced analysis of the moral aspects of the issue. Furthermore, we lack conclusive scientific studies regarding the effectiveness of purported performance enhancers, and it would be irresponsible to speculatively substance-neutralize player statistics.
Dante Bichette personifies the advantages Coors Field initially provided hitters. He and the ballpark worked well together for most of a decade, but his career does not merit memorialization in the Hall of Fame even before we park-neutralize his accomplishments.
Bert Blyleven received Rotohelp's vote in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Bobby Bonilla accumulated six All-Star invitations, played a big part on the Pittsburgh teams of the late eighties and early nineties, factored in Florida's first World Championship, and also contributed to playoff teams for the Orioles, Mets, and Braves. However, while he played with a number of future Hall of Famers and will belong alongside Robin, Kato, and Chewbacca when the Sidekick Hall of Fame opens, his career falls short of warranting induction into Cooperstown.
Scott Brosius provided Yankee fans with a memorable 1998, but a single impressive season does not merit a Hall of Fame placard.
Jay Buhner's haircut and the offer of free bleacher seats led thousands of fans to volunteer for buzz cuts at the Kingdome. Nevertheless, while he posted notable power numbers in the mid-nineties, his career does not deserve recognition outside of Seattle.
Ken Caminiti's addictions overshadowed an occasionally promising career and eventually led to his death. He should not receive Hall of Fame support.
Jose Canseco swept into baseball as the 1986 American League Rookie of the Year. His power at the plate earned him six All-Star invitations and placed him atop several leader boards in the late eighties and early nineties. While he certainly possessed Hall of Fame potential, injuries and legal problems combined to limit his achievements to sub-Cooperstown levels.
Eric Davis possessed an entertaining combination of power and speed. Unfortunately, while he made an impressive comeback from colon cancer in 1997, injuries and health problems prevented him from sustaining the kind of extended excellence that warrants induction into the Hall of Fame.
Andre Dawson received Rotohelp's vote in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Tony Fernandez demonstrated excellent defense as he moved around the infield from short to second to third, though he may be remembered by many for committing the error that kept the Marlins alive long enough to win Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. During his career, he won four Gold Gloves as a shortstop and received six All-Star invitations. Offensively, he typically maintained a decent batting average, but without any notable secondary skills outside of his sterling fielding, his overall performance does not quite merit enshrinement at Cooperstown.
Rich Gossage received Rotohelp's vote in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Tony Gwynn unquestionably belongs in the Hall of Fame. Playing his entire career for the San Diego Padres, Gwynn accumulated 3,141 hits while winning eight batting titles. Despite rarely hitting for power, he ranked among the best in the game for two decades, during which he logged fifteen All-Star invitations and won five Gold Gloves in the outfield as well as seven Silver Sluggers.
Tommy John received Rotohelp's vote in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Wally Joyner splashed into the majors with the Angels in 1986 and proceeded to play generally solid albeit unspectacular baseball for the next sixteen seasons. He received an All-Star invitation his rookie year but never returned to the mid-summer classic. We do not believe he earned a place in the Hall of Fame.
Mark McGwire spent his first seven seasons as a slugger and then added plate discipline, developing into a truly fearsome presence at the plate. While Barry Bonds has since replaced him in the record books, McGwire's 1998 race with Sammy Sosa to break the single-season home run record revitalized baseball. He smashed the previous record of 61 with an astonishing 70 home runs and, impelled by Sosa's carefree attitude, grew to embrace the fans, press, and most notably, the Roger Maris family after his 62nd home run. Of course, the performance was not entirely unexpected as McGwire early established his home run hitting proficiency, smacking 49 dingers during his first season in the majors. The 1987 American League Rookie of the Year won three Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove while receiving a dozen All-Star invitations. Despite nagging injuries which led him to retire after only 16 seasons, he logged 583 career home runs. He deserves a place in the Hall of Fame not only for his 1998 performance but as a dominating force in the game for more than a decade.
Jack Morris was bumped from our 2003 ballot due to a surplus of worthy candidates. However, as in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006, we feel he deserves a place on our ballot this year.
Dale Murphy did not fit on our ballot prior to last year, and while he received Rotohelp's vote in 2006, he falls off our ballot this year to make room for newly-eligible players.
Paul O'Neill found plate discipline in New York and compiled some solid seasons. He won the 1994 AL batting title and received five All-Star invitations. Nevertheless, the sum of his career falls short of the Hall of Fame.
Dave Parker, like Murphy, did not fit on our ballot prior to last year, and while he received Rotohelp's vote in 2006, he falls off our ballot this year to make room for newly eligible players.
Jim Rice received a vote from Rotohelp in 2005 and 2006.
Cal Ripken, Jr. did not merely appear in the lineup for his record-setting 2,632 consecutive games, the Iron Man contributed to the Orioles offense, redefining offensive expectations for shortstops. The 1982 American League Rookie of the Year retired with 431 home runs, 3,184 hits, two Gold Gloves, eight Silver Sluggers, two MVPs, and nineteen All-Star invitations. We can think of few players more deserving of unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame.
Bret Saberhagen won the American League CY and World Series MVP in his sophomore season with the Royals, followed by the American League Comeback Player of the Year award two seasons later, and then a second CY and the AL ERA title two years after that. Unfortunately, repeated injuries and a detour to Colorado restricted the control pitcher's success, so we do not believe he merits a place in the Hall of Fame.
Alan Trammell received Rotohelp's vote in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Devon White possessed memorable defense, winning seven Gold Gloves in the outfield. He participated in Toronto's 1992 and 1993 World Series wins as well as Florida's 1997 World Championship. White even went to his third All-Star game as Arizona's first All-Star, but his career does not meet Cooperstown standards.
Bobby Witt departed for Oakland in the trade that brought Jose Canseco to Texas, leaving all parties disappointed. The strikeout artist never harnessed the control necessary to achieve consistent effectiveness and does not belong in the Hall of Fame.
1. Bert Blyleven
2. Andre Dawson
3. Rich "Goose" Gossage
4. Tony Gwynn
5. Tommy John
6. Mark McGwire
7. Jack Morris
8. Jim Rice
9. Cal Ripken, Jr.
10. Alan Trammell
Click here to read the previous article.
I can't please all the people all of the time, but I am more than willing to read the comments of the pleased, the irate, and everyone in between. You can send your opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Out of the Frying Pan
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