The question of who deserves to get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame has always been a very debatable topic. There are arguments and counterarguments to why a player should or shouldn’t be elected, and these arguments will be on full display over the next few years as players from the steroid era start to become fixtures on the Hall of Fame ballot. Some steroid users will sooner or later get elected, but it is hard to believe the Baseball Writers of America will give in and elect a known steroid user his first time on the ballot. With the blemish steroids has put on the game, there is an abundance of question marks that make it difficult for players to receive the 75 percent vote needed for election. Case in point is this this year: Only one candidate, Barry Larkin, received enough votes.
Larkin has never been involved in any steroid talk and played his career as the face of the Cincinnati Reds franchise. He played with hustle and grace, and did everything he was asked to do for over a decade with the same team. He is a well-deserving Hall of Famer who will no doubt give an memorable speech during his induction ceremony.
But it is interesting he is the only player selected this year. His nine Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and one MVP were more than enough to help Larkin get the percentage of vote needed. The former World Series champ, who is considered by many around baseball as a class act, exemplifies everything baseball wants to be viewed as. With the next few years being polluted with steroid talk, it only makes sense to put a clean-cut, well-above-average player like Larkin in now.
Players like Mark McGwire (a known user) and Jeff Bagwell (hurt by the era he played in) will undoubtedly be sweating worse then Patrick Ewing at the foul line over the next few years while waiting to hear if they will join the likes of Ruth, Mays, and Mantle in what is considered baseball heaven. This year might have been the best chance for players who aren’t first-ballot HOFers because in the near future, no-brainer candidates like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will join controversial figures like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on the ballot and, without a doubt, give baseball writers all over even bigger headaches then most years — and could create more empty ballots.
This year’s ballot consisted mostly of players who were, in their day, considered All-Star players but were not looked at as all-time greats by any means. Larkin was the closest thing to a guarantee on the ballot. He gained 62 percent of the vote last year, so it was logical to see him get the call this year, especially since his name has never been near any steroid speculation. After Larkin, there was no clear-cut Hall of Famer in the mix. Jack Morris, Tim Raines and Bagwell all received support and Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell also had some praise sent their way, but the talent this year paled in comparison to the megastars up for election in 2013 and 2014.
As for this years candidates, Raines had much support thrown his way lately after just receiving 37 percent of the vote last year. Comparisons to Lou Brock have helped his candidacy gain steam, but the fact that he had no MVPs, no Gold Gloves, and only one Silver Slugger does not help his case. I would love to see Raines get in some day, but it doesn’t seem he’s done enough to win over the good old boy baseball writers.
Morris seemed to be on his way to making a run this year, but the appeal seemed to fade away after awhile. Morris is viewed as one of the top pitchers of the 1980s but that may not be enough to put him into the Hall. Bagwell, who has never been implicated in steroids usage but is often lumped in with the steroids crowd, is left between a rock and a hard place. Bags took a nice step toward the 75 percent needed, but it is unlikely that he will keep momentum going with the candidates coming up in the next couple of years.
Trammell, Smith, Martinez, McGwire and Bernie Williams were all key players for their teams, but they never did enough to require an instant Hall call. While the accomplishments of Martinez as a designated hitter and Smith as a closer were at one point considered the top of the game, now those efforts don’t look like enough to get them in.
Trammell (a favorite of mine) had a very good career, but I wouldn’t consider it great, and we all know about McGwire and his part in the steroid mess. Williams is an interesting figure. He was one of the best players on one of the best teams during his playing days, but he declined with age. He will not come close on the first ballot but he may get some play years from now, if he hangs around.
No arguments from me about Larkin; he is very deserving. Class and leadership should matter when considering Hall of Famers and Larkin is full of both.
Unfortunately, Larkin was the only player elected into the Hall in a year that is basically the calm before the storm for baseball writers. Good luck figuring it out next year fellas!