With spring training workouts in full gear, hopefully, we can put the PED (Perfromance Enhancing Drugs) Era aside to actually talk about what goes on between the lines. There are lots of interesting questions as the 2008 season approaches, but no other topic will generate more discussion over the next decade as Hall of Fame considerations.
Will the alleged use of PEDs keep Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Baseball Hall of Fame? It certainly looks like it has and will keep Mark McGwire out as the former slugger has received just 23 percent of the vote the past two years.
Jim Rice continues to be overlooked, as does Alan Trammell, and this is an injustice. Rice was the game’s most feared slugger from 1975-1986, a 12 year period in which six of those seasons were bonafide HOF ones. He began to slow down the latter half of the 1986 season, but still batted .324 with 20 home runs and 110 RBI. The home run and RBI totals are not HOF worthy, but add the batting average to the equation and 1986 would be HOF worthy. Of course, had Rice had HGH, he might have been able to be a productive 35 year old player.
Trammell was a much better all-around shortstop than the overrated Ozzie Smith. Trammell was a .285 career hitter; Smith, .262. Trammell hit 185 home runs; Smith, 28, and before you give the obligatory “Smith was the greatest fielding shortstop,” remember that Trammell won four Gold Gloves for himself. I use the “if he’s in, then he should be in,” theory and if Smith’s in, Trammel has got to be in.
The 2010 ballot will be an interesting one because two FTEs (first time eligibles) will be up for consideration in Roberto Alomar and Edgar Martinez. Alomar should be a no-brainer, though his spitting incident and aloofness may prevent him from getting in on his first year of eligibility. There is no doubt that Alomar was the game’s best second baseman for the 1990s decade. He retired in 2004, with 2,724 hits, 210 home runs and a .300 batting average, and 10 Gold Gloves. And, let’s remember this: Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame, with his .260 average, 138 home runs, 2,016 and eight Gold Gloves. Unlike many, I find Mazeroski to be Hall of Fame worthy and if he’s in, Alomar is in.
Edgar Martinez is also an FTE in 2010 and he will be a fascinating study. My prediction is that Martinez will get in, but it will take him ten or more years for his case to gain steam. At first, he will be dismissed by the voters because he spent most of his time as a designated hitter. Once again, this puzzles. The DH has been in baseball since 1973, not 2003, that’s 35 years! Let it go, purists, let it go. In fact, adopt in in the National League, the only league in organized baseball that doesn’t use it. It is an important and vital position in the American League, just like the punter is in football. You don’t win the American League pennant with an average DH.
Over time, the writers will see that there aren’t a ton of great candidates and then they will begin to really examine Martinez’s numbers. When they do, they will see extraordinary figures. In 18 seasons, he batted over .300 10 times and had an on-base percentage over .400 11 times, with an OBP of .418 for his career. His career batting average is .312, which for a right handed hitter is sensational. Off the top of my head, that ranks right behind Kirby Puckett (.318) and Roberto Clemente (.317) in modern right handed hitters who are enshrined in Cooperstown. His 309 home runs dwarf Clemente (240) and Puckett (207). He also won two batting titles with a high water mark of .356.
The biggest question will come from those who think “playing” designated hitter is not a real baseball player or position. Paul Molitor became the first DH to make the HOF, but he had over 3,300 hits, 300 more than the magic automatic figure of 3,000. Both Molitor and Martinez were good fielders before injuries relegated them to the DH position.
For those who think the DH is not a real baseball position, nothing said here can change that. Eventually, the older writers will move on and the BWAA will be replaced by younger voters who won’t even blink when somebody sees DH next to a player’s name.
Martinez “only” collected 2,247 hits, which for me, is fine, but look at the quality of this man’s numbers: .312/.418, 308, 1261. That says enough.
He’s a no-brainer—-in 2022.