I sure am glad I voted for Rickey Henderson, or else I would be known throughout the Internet as the son of Corky Simpson.
Rickey was a lock, a linebacker in baseball, the sort of player who could change the game and force opponents to change their game plans to deal with him. Every time he got on base, everyone in the ballpark would be on the edge of their seats to see if Rickey would take off. He was the greatest leadoff hitter I’ve ever seen. For my audio, click here.
Here’s a good wager for the Vegas bookies — an over-under on how many times Rickey refers to himself as Rickey in his Cooperstown induction speech.
I voted for Jim Rice as well. He was among the most feared hitters of his generation, based on watching him play and talking to players who had to compete against him. And his home run numbers (382) have grown more valuable in light of the inflated steroid era numbers.
I am a fairly liberal voter. You can vote for up to 10 candidates, and I usually come close to that, and sometimes hit that limit. I have no personal rules about first ballot candidates. I can be persuaded, though, to change a vote on a player with more evidence and how their accomplishments look with the passage of time.
Here are the other candidates I voted for:
Bert Blyleven — I have come to place more value on taking the ball every fifth day for 22 seasons and the durability and consistency that goes with that. Blyleven ranks fifth all time in strikeouts, ninth in shutouts, 11th in starts and 14th in innings pitched. That puts him among the greats in my book.
Andre Dawson — He is in the same category as Rice. Dawson waq an eight-time All Star whose 438 career home runs look more impressive because of the inflated steroid numbers. He was a great fielder as well, winning eight Gold Gloves.
Jack Morris — if you followed baseball during the era Jack Morris pitched, you knew he was “the” money pitcher, the guy you wanted to give the ball to in the biggest games. It’s no accident he got the ball for 14 Opening Day starts, tied for second all time with Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson and Cy Young. He also started three out of five All-Star games. He pitched for three different World Series champions (Detroit 1984, Minnesota 1991, Toronto 1992) and turned in that memorable 10-inning performance for the Twins in the 1991 seventh game. His numbers (a 254-186 record) make him a candidate. His well-deserved reputation makes him a Hall of Famer.
Dale Murphy — This is one I don’t get. I can’t figure out why Murphy doesn’t get more respect. He was a two-time National League Most Valuable Player, winning the award in back-to-back years in 1982 and 1983, and finished in the top 10 in voting in 1984 and 1985. He was a seven-time All Star and won five Gold Gloves. In the 1980s, Murphy averaged 31 home runs and 93 RBI, and finished his career with 398 home runs, which to me puts him in the same category as Rice and Dawson.
Alan Trammell — I realize this is a borderline candidate, perhaps, but again, having seen him play throughout his career, I believe I was watching a Hall of Famer. He had seven .300-plus seasons and was a six-time All-Star, playing in the same era in the American League as Cal Ripken and Ozzie Guillen. Trammell won four Gold Gloves and was part of the greatest double play combination of his time, along with Lou Whitaker. Trammell was also the 1984 World Series MVP. I think he is certainly Hall of Fame worthy.
Harold Baines — OK, this is the one I will take the most hits for, but that’s okay. He was never a dominant player over the 22 seasons he played, and his career numbers — 384 home runs, 2,866 hits — fall short of the general Hall of Fame standards, perhaps. Baines was a six-time All Star, but more important to me he was beloved by the fans of two franchises he played for, the White Sox and the Orioles. In Chicago, they retired his number after he was traded the first time while he was still an active player, and all he did was play the game with a quiet respect, never calling attention to himself. In my mind, he exceeds these criteria for Hall of Fame voting — integrity, character, sportsmanship and contributions to the game. At least he deserves to stay on the ballot. Call me Corky, go ahead.
As far as who I didn’t vote for, I did not vote for Mark McGwire again, and yes, it is because of the overwheming circumstantial evidence that he cheated and used performance-enhancing substances. This is not a court of law, and I am not on a jury. It is not that standard. It is an honor to be in Cooperstown, and four of the criteria for election have to do with integrity, character, sportsmanship and contributions to the game. I weigh those in deciding who should be honored. As far as those who say there are worse offenders already enshrined, well, I am not bound by every vote that has taken place before me.
I won’t be voting for McGwire in the future, as I won’t be for Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens. I have enough circumstantial evidence to believe they cheated through steroid use and don’t meet the criteria. I didn’t vote for Tim Raines, either. That is one I struggled with and certainly, given the right arguments, could be convinced otherwise.
- Thom Loverro