With the new Hall of Fame ballot out, it’s time to announce to a breathless, adoring audience my 10 picks for the Hall. I always vote for 10 no matter the list (well, I can make exceptions, but not many) because it gives me a chance to acknowledge a personal favorite who I know doesn’t seriously belong in Cooperstown (unless he pays for a ticket) but who deserves at least a mention as a stalwart. So now for the breathless and adoring crew (and the rest of you too) is the 2017 list:
1 Jeff Bagwell–after Albert Pujols the best first baseman in the last 30 years. One MVP award, a World Series appearance at the end of his career. There is some question about steroids, but not enough to worry me.
2. Trevor Hoffman–arguably the finest reliever in the National League. He’s second in saves, but has the same problem as any other reliever; too few innings pitched. I’d still take him as the best in NL history.
3. Jeff Kent–overlooked at second base. He’s something of a borderline case for me, but ultimately I think I’d take him. Has an MVP and lots of good numbers.
4. Edgar Martinez–came up late because the idiots at Seattle were idiots. Probably the best Designated Hitter ever. They named the DH Award for him (but then there’s an award for everything and you have to name them for somebody). I don’t hold being a DH against a player. It’s been a position for 40 years and isn’t going away so we’re going to have to deal with it.
5. Mike Mussina–has the problem of never winning a Series, or of having a lot of 20 win seasons. Still one of the better pitchers of the era although he gets lost behind Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Randy Johnson, etc.
6. Tim Raines–Please, Lord, it’s almost the end for his time on the ballot. Let the BBWAA finally figure out he was really, really, really good.
7. Curt Schilling–bloody sock or not, he was a terrific postseason pitcher, a premier pitcher on multiple pennant winning teams (don’t forget the Phils) and a consistent thrower. Unfortunately, his political views may create a problem for him, but remember he’s being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame not to the State House.
8. Larry Walker–I don’t want to hear about Coors Field. He was terrific in Montreal, great in Colorado, damned good on the road with the Rockies, and still pretty fair while with the Cardinals late in his career.
9. Vlad Guerrero–the Will Rogers of the late 20th Century. He never met a pitch he didn’t like. Not much of a fielder, but the man could hit a white ball in a snowstorm. I can’t imagine he gets in on the first try, but I’d take him.
10. Jorge Posada–catchers have lower numbers to begin with, but Posada was a mainstay on a ton of Yankees teams that won a lot of games. He fit the 1990s Yanks mold of being very good at a lot of things. Again, I don’t think he’ll make it (after all he’s not Yogi Berra or Bill Dickey) but Jeter wasn’t the only player on that team worthy of consideration.
All of which brings me to the question of who I left off. The obvious new name is Ivan Rodriguez. He’s one of the handful of players you can legitimately call the greatest catcher ever (although I wouldn’t), but there is the stench of steroids hanging over him. Until that is resolved he joins Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa as guys you couldn’t pay me to vote for (well, maybe for enough money). I’m sorry to have left off Fred McGriff who I think suffers from ending just short of 500 home runs and looking like a piker after the steroids era. I’d like to have thrown a vote toward Tim Wakefield. And frankly, I’d like to give J.D. Drew a shout out. He deserves remembering, but he’s not really a Hall of Famer.
That’s my list and I’m sticking to it.