- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

POINT/COUNTERPOINT

Each week, Nationals beat writers Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling debate an issue in major league baseball. This week’s question: Who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame next year?

MARK ZUCKERMAN: Only two players who are eligible for the first time in 2010 merit serious consideration: Roberto Alomar and Barry Larkin. Each is a borderline case, but I believe each will make it. Alomar was the best second baseman in the game throughout his career, a complete player. Larkin was overshadowed by Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken, but he is among the best shortstops who have ever played. So I think they both get in. The question then becomes whether any of the older guys finally crack the magic 75 percent mark.

BEN GOESSLING: It’s funny how things like 3,000 hits and 300 wins have gone from automatic qualifiers for Hall membership to prerequisites. Neither Larkin nor Alomar got to 3,000, but in their primes both were outstanding hitters and fielders who did enough to overcome the fact that they didn’t crack the magic hits barrier. In 1999 Alomar put up some incredible numbers for a second baseman — he hit .323 with 24 homers, 120 RBI, a .422 on-base percentage and 37 stolen bases. I also wonder if, as we get more and more of the steroid suspects on the ballot, guys like Andre Dawson will get more respect from voters for putting up solid numbers without suspicion of juicing.

MZ: I definitely believe guys like Dawson and Dale Murphy are going to start getting more attention the next few years. I’ve always believed Dawson belongs in Cooperstown — he was one of the most-feared hitters of his time. I also wonder if any of the borderline pitchers (Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Lee Smith) are going to start getting more support. You think any of those three gets in?

BG: That’s tougher to see happening. (Look at me putting my Twins bias aside.) Blyleven has been on the ballot for years and had his best showing last year, but he was mostly a good pitcher on a lot of bad teams. Morris had some great years and has three World Series rings. For me, his numbers get dropped for the same reason Dawson’s get elevated — his ERAs don’t look as solid in the 1980s as they do now. I’d be inclined to vote for Morris over Blyleven, but I don’t think either of them gets in. And Smith, like a lot of closers, is meeting resistance from voters who aren’t that awestruck by saves. Too few of those came in October for me to be impressed.

AWARD TRACKER

Looking at the front-runners for baseball’s season awards. This week: NL MVP

Albert Pujols, Cardinals

Pujols has been the favorite to repeat as MVP since Opening Day, and he has done nothing to change that. He still leads the league in homers and RBI, and he ranked fifth with a .325 average going into Monday. But he also leads the NL in OPS, runs, slugging, walks — you name the category. If someone is to unseat Pujols, it’s going to need to be through a late-season surge that carries a team to the playoffs. Prince Fielder and Raul Ibanez are certainly capable of doing that.

Others to watch: Raul Ibanez, Phillies; Prince Fielder, Brewers; Hanley Ramirez, Marlins

MLB POWER POLL

Rank, team Record Comment

1. DODGERS 62-36 If they land Roy Halladay, print the World Series tickets.

2. YANKEES 60-38 The best team in baseball for a month. Can they keep it up?

3. RED SOX 57-40 Suddenly looking at a dogfight to the finish line.

4. PHILLIES 56-40 Finally playing like the defending champs.

5. ANGELS 58-39 Just as hot as the Yankees lately; they’re just not getting the attention.

6. RAYS 54-45 Time to step up and challenge the big two ahead of them.

7. ROCKIES 54-44 Your NL wild card if the season ended today.

8. RANGERS 54-42 They shouldn’t be this good, but somehow they are.

9. GIANTS 52-46 They need to pick up a big bat to help the pitching staff.

10. TIGERS 52-45 Someone has to win the AL Central. Will it be Detroit?

Records and stats through Sunday


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