Will former Braves' manager Bobby Cox be joined in the Hall Of Fame with two of his front-line pitchers of the 1990's? (Photo Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

Ricky Keeler's Hall-Of-Fame Thoughts

On Wednesday afternoon, the announcement of who will go into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York will take place. Last year, there was a dark cloud over Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writer’s Association of America, as not a single player was inducted into the Hall. This year, the ballot is backloaded with a lot of worthy candidates including a heralded group of first-timers. This includes former New York Yankees’ pitcher Mike Mussina, who finished his last season with 20 wins.

Even though I don’t have an official Hall of Fame ballot, I wanted to share with all of you my thoughts on who would make my list to be inducted into Cooperstown. Keep in mind that every person who has a ballot can only vote for no more than 10 players and a player needs at least 75% of the votes in order to be inducted. There is room for the system to be changed, but that is another debate.

With that being said, here is my ballot:

  • Greg Maddux – Atlanta Braves – As far as most writers are concerned, Maddux should be on everyone’s ballots. This won’t happen considering nobody has ever received a unanimous vote from the BBWAA. This former ace of the Atlanta Braves had some great seasons over the course of his 23-year career. He won 355 games, had a career 3.16 ERA, and won four consecutive Cy Young Awards. Most importantly for Braves’ fans, he was 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA in 1995, the year the Braves won the World Series.

  • Tom Glavine – Atlanta Braves – It is only fitting that Glavine would complete a trio of himself, Maddux, and manager Bobby Cox being inducted together as part of those great Braves’ teams of the 1990’s. If you win 300+ games, you are a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. He is just the sixth lefty to reach the historic milestone. He had five 20-win seasons and won two Cy Young Awards. He got a bad rap for how his stint with the New York Mets ended by giving up seven runs in the first inning in the final game of 2007. However, he was always known as a durable pitcher. The first time he was on the disabled list was when he was 42 years old in 2008. Plus, his career ERA is only .25 points higher than former teammate Maddux.

  • Frank Thomas – Chicago White Sox – Even though the “Big Hurt” spent part of his career with the Oakland Athletics and the Toronto Blue Jays, he will always be remembered for his 16 seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Frank Thomas not only got it done with his power bat (521 home runs and 1,704 RBI’s), but also was a very good hitter for average. He hit over .300 in ten seasons and hit .330 or higher four times. Thomas is regarded as one of the best first baseman/designated hitters in history. He won back-to-back MVP’s in 1993 and 1994. As Hawk Harrelson would say, “You can put him in the Halllllll…. YES!”

  • Craig Biggio – Houston Astros – Last year, the Astros’ second baseman was 39 votes short of being inducted into the Hall. This year, it should be his year in my book. Biggio has 3,060 career hits, one of the major plateaus that usually makes your Hall candidacy a lock. Biggio spent his entire career with the Houston Astros, ever since he was taken by the team in the first round of the 1987 draft. He reached seven All-Star games, won five Silver Slugger awards, and won four Gold Gloves. He was one of the players who brought the Astros back to being a postseason contender during his career with six playoff appearances. Plus, he was versatile having played second base and considering he was an All-Star at catcher as well back in 1991.

  • Mike Piazza – New York Mets – The former Los Angeles Dodgers’ and Mets’ catcher was 98 votes shy of induction last year. This is where we get into the names of players who have used PED’s or have been accused of PED use. Piazza was the best hitting catcher of all-time with 427 home runs (396 of those were at the catcher position) and a .545 career slugging percentage. He made 12 All-Star teams with the Dodgers and the Mets. While his career started in Los Angeles with 32+ home runs in four of his first five seasons, he will always be remembered as one of the players to lead the Mets’ franchise back to relevance. He was on the team that made the World Series in 2000 and had the dramatic game-winning home run in the first game after 9/11 in New York City . Since you will see that I have PED users on my ballot, I won’t let suspicion deny Piazza’s place in the Hall. 

  • Barry Bonds – San Francisco Giants – Yes, I do have someone who has used PED’s on my ballot. My take on the Hall of Fame is you can’t ignore an entire era of baseball when everybody played a small part in it. Even before PED use, Bonds was a Hall-Of-Famer. He won three of his seven NL MVP’s before 1998. Other than being the all-time leader in home runs, Bonds is fourth in OPS, sixth in slugging percentage, and sixth in on-base percentage. He won’t get in to the Hall of Fame this year, but by the time he gets to his 15th time on the ballot, he will get in along with Roger Clemens.

  • Roger Clemens – New York Yankees – Even before his PED use, Clemens was dominant for the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. The man with 354 victories and seven Cy Young awards averaged 19 wins and 239 strikeouts in his first seven seasons with the Red Sox. For his 24-year career, Clemens was 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in eight World Series appearances. He was also a very durable pitcher considering he threw 200+ innings in fifteen seasons.

  • Jeff Bagwell – Houston Astros – Jeff Bagwell’s name has risen on the ballot over the past two years despite PED suspicion. He was one of the top first baseman in the 1990’s in the National League. He made four All-Star teams, had nearly 450 home runs, and won the NL MVP award in 1994. Considering he was a constant on those Astros’ teams that made the postseason along with Biggio and had 100+ RBI’s from 1996-2003, he is the definition of consistency at the position.

  • Tim Raines – Montreal Expos – Considering that most writers regard Raines as the second best leadoff hitter in history behind Rickey Henderson, how is he not in the Hall yet? He is in the top five all-time in stolen bases, had over 2,600 hits, was a seven-time All-Star and was consistent at the plate with his batting average (.290+ in seven straight seasons).

  • Jack Morris – Minnesota Twins – My last vote goes to the player that has stirred up the most debate on this ballot. Even though I admittedly never saw him pitch, I hope he gets in on his 15th and final time on the BBWAA ballot. Morris was a 250-game winner and was an ace on all of the teams he was on. Yes, his ERA is high, but he was always willing to take the ball and pitch to the scoreboard. What stood out to me about Morris was his postseason numbers. We all know about that historic win in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against John Smoltz and the Braves. He had many other successful October starts as he went 7-4 in 13 postseason games, including a 4-2 record in the World Series with a 2.96 ERA. He was the best American League pitcher of the 1980’s in terms of wins, so it’s time he got his due in Cooperstown.

 Let your voice be heard. If you had a Hall-Of-Fame ballot, who are some names you would put on the list? There are other cases that can be made and the debate is the best part of this discussion.

 You can also check out Yanks Go Yard’s co-editor Billy Brost’s official IBWAA ballot by clicking the link here: http://yanksgoyard.com/2013/12/28/breaking-ibwaa-hall-fame-ballot/

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