As co-editor of Yanks Go Yard, I believe that I share in the responsibility of promoting online bloggers and Internet writers who share the love of baseball. After I joined the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA), I recently participated in one of the many activities that are requested by members of the association. I was allowed to participate in my very first Hall of Fame voting event.
Howard Cole, who is the founder of the IBWAA went out of his way to ensure that I understood the instructions on the ballot, and how things differed on our ballot than the one completed by the Baseball Writers Association of America. For example, after last year’s ballots were tallied up, Mike Piazza had been elected to the HOF by our association, while not selecting Barry Larkin, who of course has been enshrined in Cooperstown. We members have been encouraged by Mr. Cole to share our ballots in an open forum. We were allowed to vote for up to 10 players, and with this year being a crowded ballot, it was easy to select from the list whom I feel are Hall-worthy. The listing of these players are in no specific order.
- Craig Biggio: To me, this was an automatic and a farse on the part of BBWAA to not select him in his first year of eligibility. For God’s sake, the man has over 3,000 career hits, did so clean in a dirty era of baseball, and remained with the Houston Astros through thick and thin, all the while playing remarkably well at three different positions over his career. He was a core member of the “Killer Bs”, and while Jeff Bagwell retired due to injury, and Lance Berkman left for greener pastures, Biggio remained the mainstay and served as the pillar of the franchise.
- Tom Glavine: Was there a more consistent left-handed pitcher during his era not named Randy Johnson? A major reason why the Atlanta Braves broke off division title after division title, for me, the only black mark on an otherwise stellar career is that Glavine won his 300th career game for the rival New York Mets. The former Cy Young winner is a no-brainer here, as he carried himself with dignity and class throughout a career that spanned the better part of two decades. He is just as much a fixture in Braves history as Greg Maddux or Chipper Jones.
- Jeff Kent: While obviously not a student of history, Kent was arguably one of the greatest hitting second basemen of all-time. He finished shy of 400 home runs, after playing for three teams that weren’t smart enough to hang on to him. His glory started relatively later in his career, as he firmly entrenched himself as a weapon on successful San Francisco Giants teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was the protection that Barry Bonds used to shatter records across the board. While the two men weren’t exactly friends, it doesn’t keep Kent from being on my ballot as a first time selection. He helped revolutionize the position from a hitter’s standpoint. I think he might suffer the same fate as Lee Smith though, and get punished for playing for so many teams. I wasn’t a big fan of Kent, as I thought he was a mouth, arrogant, and a me-guy, but the man could rake. For a second baseman to have these kind of career numbers, he’s on my ballot until he’s elected.
- Barry Larkin: It’s tough not to give the nod to a guy who is already in Cooperstown. If I have one complaint about the IBWAA ballot, it is that a player already in Cooperstown remains on our ballot after he’s been enshrined. To me, once he’s in, he’s in. Larkin was the face of the Cincinnati Reds as he helped guide them to the World Series sweep over the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics back in 1990, as well as bringing home a National League Most Valuable Player award. Larkin took the mantle of shortstop excellence from Ozzie Smith, and belongs alongside Smith in the Hall. He played the game the right way, and rather than accept an offer from another team to extend his career and pad his stats, he simply retired. A class act from a class guy.
- Greg Maddux: Maddux is the absolute epitome of simply going out and doing your job every five days. He wasn’t flashy, mouthy, or arrogant. After winning his first Cy Young Award, he left the Windy City for the Atlanta Braves, and became the final piece of a championship puzzle that culminated with the Braves title in ’95. Cy Youngs and 300+ wins aside, he could challenge Tom Seaver for the highest percentage of votes received in HOF history. It doesn’t matter to me that he hopped from team to team towards the end of his career, for if he had retired when he left Atlanta, he would still be a first-ballot guy in my book.
- Don Mattingly: The greatest New York Yankee never to see a World Series, I believe Mattingly has been punished for playing on several poor teams later in his career. A once sure-fire candidate for 3,000 hits with the likes of Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn, a back injury sapped “Donnie Baseball” of his power and effectiveness with the bat the last few years of his career. His glove never failed, as he brought home 9 Gold Gloves and is considered one of the top two or three defensive first basemen of all-time. Mattingly has an MVP award as well as a batting title. The regular baseball writers had no issue selecting Kirby Puckett on the first ballot back in 2001, but have continued to ignore Mattingly, whose career length, and numbers are practically identical to that of Puckett’s. If Puckett is a Hall of Famer, then so is Mattingly.
- Jack Morris: How can a guy be the winningest starting pitcher of a decade and not be in the Hall of Fame? Not only did Morris snag more victories than any other man during the 1980s, he is currently the only decade leader in wins who is eligible for the Hall of Fame, that isn’t in. Baseball purists argue his career ERA is far too high to be Hall-worthy, but what about the fact that he has three World Series rings, and pitched one of the greatest games in Series history by tossing 10-shutout innings in a complete game, Game #7 victory over the Atlanta Braves in 1991? It is an absolute disgrace that Morris is still waiting, and unfortunately, with a crowded ballot in his final year of eligibility, I doubt he gets the overdue call.
- Tim Raines: One of the great lead-off men of all-time, he was long considered the poor man’s version of Rickey Henderson. Raines played in the Siberia of Baseball, Montreal and didn’t really get the same media coverage or exposure as Henderson because much like his teammate, Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, they were blue collar guys. Raines was the premier table setter in the National League during the 1980s, and while Vince Coleman petered out, Raines continued to produce well into the 1990s helping the Chicago White Sox win a pair of division titles and was a member of two World Series title teams in the Bronx. Rock retired at the age of 43 after spending over 20 years in the big leagues, retiring with a .294 batting average and 808 stolen bases. For me, Raines should’ve been a first ballot guy just like Henderson, and hopefully someday, common sense will prevail.
- Lee Smith: Probably the last of the great multi-inning closers in baseball history, Smith gets overlooked because he played for so many teams during his career. When he retired in 1997, he was baseball’s all-time saves leader with 478. One has to wonder how many saves Lee Arthur Smith would’ve racked up had he pitched in the modern era of one-inning closers. A 7-time All Star selection, he was one of the original “intimidating firemen” of his era, along with Goose Gossage, and Bruce Sutter–both of whom have been recognized for their contributions to baseball and are enshrined in Cooperstown. For Smith not to be in the Hall, just goes to show why the entire selection system as it currently sits, should be tossed out the window and re-designed.
- Frank Thomas: Last but certainly not least on my ballot, “The Big Hurt” was one of the most feared hitters of his era. The former Auburn tight end won back-to-back AL MVP awards, and was the centerpiece of a long suffering Chicago White Sox franchise that was revitalized during his prime along with Robin Ventura and the aforementioned Tim Raines. Even though he was injured and unable to play, Thomas was a member of the 2005 World Series championship team, a career award for sticking it out through some lean years in the Windy City. He is a member of the 500-home run club, and probably one of only a handful of guys from the Steroid Era that tallied Hall-worthy totals without cheating himself and the game. Thomas like most great hitters, probably hung on a season or two too long, but he was a Hall of Fame guy during his era, and he should be rewarded as such.
The thing about being allowed to vote on the IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, is that just as with BBWAA writers, my ballot is subjective. I have my reasons for voting for the players I did, while not casting my vote for other players that may be Hall-worthy. I will say this much: if a player was under suspicion of using steroids or PEDs, they didn’t get my vote. At least not this time around. I didn’t vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Rafael Palmeiro. They could be considered worthy of some people’s votes, but not mine. It doesn’t mean I won’t vote for them down the line, it just means on my very first ballot as a member of this organization, they weren’t getting it this time around.