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Hall of Fame Vote

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s been a week since the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the results of the 2012 vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for Hall membership. To be elevated, a former player must receive at least 75% of the vote. Only Barry Larkin reached that level. Baseball-Reference.com has kindly provided complete voting details, from which I have drawn the following list of the top fourteen vote-getters, with their number of votes (out of 573 ballots, with 430 needed for election) and their vote percentage:

Barry Larkin 495 86.4%
Jack Morris 382 66.7%
Jeff Bagwell 321 56.0%
Lee Smith 290 50.6%
Tim Raines 279 48.7%
Alan Trammell 211 36.8%
Edgar Martinez 209 36.5%
Fred McGriff 137 23.9%
Larry Walker 131 22.9%
Mark McGwire 112 19.5%
Don Mattingly 102 17.8%
Dale Murphy 83 14.5%
Rafael Palmeiro 72 12.6%
Bernie Williams 55 9.6%

The significance of this subset of the full list is that these are precisely the players (besides Larkin) who earned the right to stay on next year’s ballot, while those lower in the voting will drop off. One gets fifteen cracks at election, provided one stays above the 5% minimum vote threshold and gets carried over to the next year. Dale Murphy has only one year of eligibility left, Jack Morris two, Don Mattingly three, Alan Trammell four, and Lee Smith five. The rest have many more chances, with Mark McGwire the next in seniority at nine years to go.

With all the learned commentary that appeared in the days before the voting and then just after, it is difficult to have anything useful to add to the discussion. Joe Posnanski alone has written many thousands of words (here, for one), based on years of study and data analysis.

All I can do is add a few personal thoughts, minus the analysis. Just the thoughts of a simple fan, one who detests arguments based on “I know one [a Hall of Famer] when I see one” but has not done the research to rise to a higher level. So, based on the rejected premise that I really do know one when I see one, here goes. And let me point out that I have but one dog in this hunt, as may become clear. I’ll take the players one by one.

1. Larkin. Of course. He should get in. Good thing he did.

2. Morris. The consensus seems to be that with last year’s election of Bert Blyleven, Morris’s time has come. That was quite the controversy, arguments going back and forth on why one can’t get in unless the other does first, or why one shouldn’t be in at all. Well, Blyleven’s in. Morris is next. Should he be? I’ve read the arguments. I don’t know. Or care. I do believe that he shouldn’t get in on the basis of one game, yet that one game seems to underlie many of the passionate arguments in his favor. That game being the 7th game of the 1991 World Series (box score here), the one in which Morris pitched a 1-0 ten-inning shutout over the Braves to propel the Twins to World Series victory.

I can tell you where I was. At home, with the game on on a tiny TV in the bedroom while Halloween craziness filled the rest of the house. Joel, then four years old, had said something to Gail about his vision or Halloween that she interpreted to mean he wanted his pre-school class over for a party. Something may have gotten lost in translation, but Gail ran with it, and the whole class came over, parents in tow. It was standing room only. Gail also invited our friends Cynthia and Rich over with their children. Rich, a former college baseball player and big fan, would retreat to the bedroom with me every so often to check on the score. But for the most part, we were part of the party. I missed a classic. And maybe that’s why I’m not an enthusiastic Morris backer.

3. Bagwell. Of course he’s a Hall of Famer. First ballot. He’s paying the penalty for being part of the steroids era without even being accused of being a steroids user. The suspicions are there, though, so he must spend time in purgatory.

4. Smith. I don’t see the case. Apparently, a lot of voters don’t either and he’s probably not going to make it.

5. Raines. Of course. Vote him in already.

6. Trammell. Ditto. Unfortunately, he might not make it.

7. Martinez. That’s my dog. More below.

8. McGriff. I’m thinking he’s not going to make it. But I supported Jim Rice, who finally did, and I see McGriff as a similar player. He should be in.

9. Walker. The knock is the big numbers he put up thanks to the welcoming environs of Coors Field. Maybe so, but he was a beautiful hitter. A great one. I think he should be in.

10. McGwire. How can there be a Hall of Fame without McGwire? It’s a joke. Enough with the steroids penalty already. He did nothing illegal. Blame Selig. Blame the owners. Blame the networks. Blame everyone, but let him in.

11. Mattingly. Nope. Sure, he had some great years, but not enough. He would have fallen off the ballot long ago but for the Yankee hype.

12. Murphy. Posnanski has argued for him. I didn’t follow him closely enough. No opinion.

13. Palmeiro. Another steroids case, of course. I imagine he won’t make it. And it’s still a mystery how he put up all those huge career power numbers when no one was paying attention. Funny case. I don’t know.

14. Williams. See Mattingly.

Back to Edgar Martinez. I already played the “how can there be a Hall of Fame without him” card on Mark McGwire, but this deck has two. I’m playing it again.

How can there be a Hall of Fame without Edgar Martinez? He was a great hitter, maybe the best pure hitter of his time other than Barry Bonds. Yes, that good.

I won’t make the arguments. They’ve been made elsewhere. I’ll just point out that he had his Jack Morris moment. Two of them, on successive nights.

Let’s go to game four of the Mariners-Yankees 1995 playoff series, on October 7, at the Kingdome in Seattle. I wasn’t there. I should have been. I was at home watching in the basement with Gail and Joel. The Yankees won the first two games of the series at home and were up 2-1 in games at this point, with the score tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 8th and Yankees closer John Wetteland pitching to the top of the Mariners order. A walk to Vince Coleman, Joey Cora bunts safely, Ken Griffey is hit by a pitch, and up comes Edgar. The season is on the line, and he wallops a magnificent home run. As we jumped up and down, screaming, I announced that we were going to game five the next day, whatever it took.

That wasn’t the end of the game, of course. Buhner would hit another homer two batters later, the Yankees would come back with two runs in the 9th, but the Mariners held on to win. The next morning we saw an ad in the Seattle Times for a ticket broker, made a call, Gail drove to a Bellevue hotel with Joel for a furtive meeting with the broker, and came home with three tickets for the decisive, all-or-nothing game five. Great seats, between home and third in the section where the Yankees wives and families were sitting. Some Yankee must have put the tickets up for sale.

I needn’t tell the story of game five. The greatest game in Mariners history. The greatest game in Kingdome history. The game that saved baseball in Seattle. The game that helped renew baseball’s popularity after the strike that prematurely ended the 1994 season. So many great moments in a back-and-forth game, but none greater than the end, with dual heroes. Edgar and his glorious double to left field in the bottom of the 11th, Griffey scoring from first with that electric smile peeking out as he lies on home plate at the bottom of a pile-up. The Yankees hopes dashed, though they would have the last laugh with four World Series victories in the next five years.

Edgar is a Hall of Famer. A great hitter, who proved it when the stakes were highest. The Kingdome had those crazy exterior ramps you had to walk down, back and forth and back and forth, round and round and round, to get the heck out of there. Usually a drag, as if sitting in the Kingdome itself wasn’t drag enough. Not that night. Thousands of us looped around, chanting in unison “Eeeeeeeed gaaaaaar, Eeeeeeed gaaaaar” [Short e, not long e]. Years later, Griffey has become the face of that moment, with his mad dash from first to home. That night, Edgar was our hero.

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