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Hall of Fame Vote

Larry Walker

Voters for new members of the baseball Hall of Fame had to submit their ballots last week; the results will be announced on Wednesday. Recall that players become eligible for election five years after retirement and can remain on the ballot for 15 years, though they are dropped from the ballot if they get too few votes. To be inducted, a player needs 75% of the votes.

Last year, Andre Dawson was the lone player elected, in his ninth year of eligibility, with 420 votes out of 539 cast. Next was Bert Blyleven, with 400 votes, just missing election by 5 votes in his 13th year of eligibility, and then Roberto Alomar with 397 votes, missing induction by 8 votes in his first year of eligibility. It is widely anticipated that both will be elected this year.

The Hall of Fame credentials of those in the next several spots in the 2010 voting have been widely debated. They (with vote totals) are:

Jack Morris (282)
Barry Larkin (278)
Lee Smith (255)
Edgar Martinez (195)
Tim Raines (164)
Mark McGwire (128)
Alan Trammell (121)
Fred McGriff (116)
Don Mattingly (87)
Dave Parker (82)
Dale Murphy (63)

Of course, there’s a long list of former stars who are newly eligible this year, including Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, and Larry Walker. And each voter can vote for ten players maximum.

In recent days, various baseball writers have expressed their views on who should or shouldn’t be voted in. Among the standard debates:

1. What to do about players who were on steroids, most notably McGwire and Palmeiro.

2. And by the way, who exactly was on steroids? And does it matter if they admitted it or lied about it? And does it matter if they were on steroids at a time when players weren’t being tested (and so, in effect, were permitted to be on steroids), or after testing began?

3. Was Blyleven really a great pitcher (his amazing career totals notwithstanding)? And wasn’t Jack Morris a clutch pitcher, a sure Hall of Famer (even if his career totals aren’t as amazing)?

If you want to check the stats, start with a page from baseball-reference.com listing the players on the ballot and their career totals. Also see Sports Illustrated baseball writer Jon Heyman’s treatment two weeks ago of the Blyleven-Morris debate, followed by his review of his own voting. And, if you have a half hour to spare, preferably before the results are announced Wednesday, read Joe Posnanksi’s five-part series last week (a post a day) in which he analyzed all the players on the ballot and explained his vote. The posts are here, here, here, here, and here.

There’s little of value I can add to their posts. In case you’re wondering (and since I don’t have a vote, why would you?), I would join those voting Alomar and Blyleven into the Hall. I would vote for McGwire too. Slam dunk. Steroids? Well, no one said he wasn’t allowed to use them. And at a time when almost everyone did, he stood above his contemporaries as the era’s dominant home run hitter.

Let me focus on two players in my remaining remarks: Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker. They are, to my mind, among the greatest hitters in the history of the game. They should both be voted into the Hall, the sooner the better. Edgar fell way short last year, his first year of eligibility, receiving less than half the votes needed. The case for him will need to build over time in voters’ minds, and I hope it does. I have written about that case several times before, such as here and here prior to last year’s voting.

It’s Larry Walker’s first year on the ballot. The knock against him, I suppose, is that his hitting stats are inflated by playing at Coors Field in Denver. But what numbers they are! My gosh. See for yourself, here. In the five years from 1997 to 2001, he had a batting average of .357, an on-base percentage of .445, and a slugging percentage of .658. In 1997, those three stats were .366, .452, .720 and two years later they were .379, .458, .710. This is staggering. Plus, he was an outstanding right fielder. What’s there to debate? Vote him in!

We were fortunate to see Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker play against each other during Walker’s wondrous 1997 season. That was the first year of interleague play, and the Mariners played the Rockies, first here in Seattle in June, then in Denver at the end of August. Each team had an overwhelming offense that year, the best in its league. Having missed the Rockies here in June, and eager to see Coors Field as well as the two offensive titans, we decided to head to Denver.

This isn’t the place to write about the trip. The short version: three days staying at Estes Park and visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, followed by three days in Denver. We intended to see just the first game of the two-game series, on Thursday, August 28. (Box score here). It turned out to be a depressing experience, not so much because the Mariners lost but because of the four drunken louts behind us who knew nothing about the Mariners players other than Griffey, made fun of Edgar because he was Hispanic, said extraordinarily coarse things all night about women, and just acted cool, as they imagined cool to be. All dressed up, I should add, professionals, straight from work, stockbrokers I’d guess, late twenties or thirty. I finally turned around and asked them to shut up, what with our ten-year-old son at our side, not that that should have been relevant. But the evening was not what we were hoping for. After taking the official Coors Field tour the next day, we walked out onto quiet streets in stultifying heat and humidity, found a lone scalper, and bought three tickets for that night’s game. This time we were far, far away, the upper deck in left center, as far removed from a game as I can remember, and the louts were replaced by two families, young kids who weren’t paying attention, and mothers who weren’t either but just talked the whole time.

You can’t win. And indeed, the Mariners didn’t, giving up two runs in the bottom of the 9th to lose 6-5. (Box score here.)

Still, it was a great trip. And I haven’t even mentioned our deciding to have lunch at a pub a block from Coors Field after we bought the scalper tickets, only to find that Randy Johnson had chosen the same pub for his lunch. Randy didn’t pitch in that series. One of the big issues that week was whether he was being kept out to avoid the big-hitting Rockies. Hard to believe. That doesn’t sound like Randy, does it?

I’m straying. Let’s get back to the issue here. If you could vote, I’d say: Vote for Edgar. Vote for Larry. But you can’t vote, and the votes are in, and almost surely neither will be elected this year. Too bad.

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Categories: Baseball
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