Monday, January 4, 2016
“It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame – let’s play two!” – Ernie Banks
“Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical” – “Yogi” Berra
Griffey, Jr., Hoffman Should Lead Hall Induction
Sanford D. Horn
January 4, 2016
The year 2016 promises excitement from presidential politics to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but with the Iowa Caucuses nearly a month away and bitter temperatures reminding us that the Olympics are more than half a year away, all eyes naturally turn toward – you guessed it – baseball! While pitchers and catchers don’t report for duty for about six weeks, there is some important baseball business needing immediate attention – the upcoming vote on who will earn entry into the Hall of Fame.
“Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” (http://baseballhall.org/hall-famers/rules-election/bbwaa) This is the standard by which the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) is to do their jobs.
The crux is character and integrity – neither of which was exhibited by Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, or Sammy Sosa, each accused of using steroids during their playing careers. These players’ bad behavior should not be rewarded. They only way they should be allowed into Cooperstown is with a paid ticket for admission. For as many years as these miscreants have been on the ballot, I remain steadfastly opposed to their entry, and will continue to be so in the future until their eligibility is exhausted and beyond.
Candidates are required to earn five percent of the vote in order to remain on the ballot for the next year. Should a few more voters shun Sosa, his 6.6 percent from 2015 could drop enough to bounce him from future consideration. More suckers would be needed to withhold votes from Clemens – 37.5 percent, Bonds – 36.8 percent, and McGwire – 10 percent to remove them from the ballot, if not from our collective memories.
Were I privileged with casting votes to determine the Class of 2016 into the Baseball Hall of Fame, five retired players would appear on my ballot – two freshman candidates, and three holdovers from last year.
Moving from the malevolent to the magnificent, Ken Griffey, Jr. spent 22 years patrolling major league outfields for the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox doing it right and avoiding the scent of scandal. Griffey should be a first ballot entrant in Cooperstown having slammed 630 home runs, currently sixth all time, and driving in 1,836 runs, placing him 15th in that category. In a fascinating piece of, not just Mariners’ history, but baseball history, Griffey and his father, Ken Griffey, Sr., not only played on the same team, but on September 14, 1990 hit back-to-back home runs. This was the first father-son duo to accomplish this feat. And unlike the dopers cited above, Griffey played clean with popularity as an affable major leaguer.
Trevor Hoffman pitched his 18 years in the major leagues with the then Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, and Milwaukee Brewers racking up 601 saves while hurling mostly for mediocre teams where save opportunities were not as prevalent as for sure-fire Hall of Famer to be in 2019 Mariano Rivera. Known as a Padre the majority of his career, Hoffman represented the team as a six-time All Star, and one additional selection as a Brewer. The first pitcher to reach both the 500 and 600 save threshold, Hoffman was four times in the top 10 voting for the Cy Young award and five times received votes for MVP. In 1998 Hoffman converted 41 consecutive save opportunities – a record at the time.
Checking in with 270 career wins is three-time ballot occupant Mike Mussina, who spent 10 years with the Baltimore Orioles and eight with the New York Yankees. A big fan of “Moose,” an economics graduate from Stanford University as an Oriole, it hurt my eyes to see him donning the pinstripes. Mussina was selected to five All Star teams and won seven Gold Gloves. While he was overshadowed by Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz in 2015, Mussina garnered more victories than Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal – with whom Mussina was compared, and Whitey Ford. Mussina ended his career at age 39, the oldest to record his lone 20-win season, going 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA. While a jump from his 24.6 percent to the necessary 75 seems more than unlikely, Mussina remains on my ballot.
Because Mike Piazza played nearly eight of his 16-year career with the New York Mets, naturally he is a favorite. However, the 12-time all-star cracked 427 home runs, batted .308 and earned 10 Silver Slugger awards all while catching 1629 games – top flight numbers regardless of what team he played for. Piazza, the 1993 Rookie of the Year, spent the first six-plus years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a year each with the San Diego Padres and Oakland A’s as well as five minutes with the then Florida Marlins. Piazza’s place in Cooperstown is all but bronzed – is what I erroneously predicted the last three years, but I still believe he will be enshrined. Having mustered up 69.9 percent, the highest of the non-inductees from 2015, Piazza should earn his rightful place in Cooperstown in 2016.
Curt Schilling, bloody sock and all, is on my ballot. The six-time all-star pitched 20 seasons in the big leagues – three with the Orioles, one with the Astros, eight-plus with the Philadelphia Phillies, three-plus with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then calling it a career with the Boston Red Sox. Schilling tossed 83 complete games, appeared in three World Series, and had three 20-plus win seasons within a four year span at ages 36, 38, and 39. Schilling should have his ticket stamped this summer – was my mistaken prediction the last three years, and perhaps he may not be able to leap to 75 percent from his 39.2 percent from 2015, Schilling still belongs among those who will enter the Hall before him.
While it is important to not sully the Baseball Hall of Fame with the likes of Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, and Sosa, the focus must be on the greats who will be enshrined this July and how they will continue to be the true ambassadors to the community as so many before them have been. Ambassadors and class acts such as Ernie Banks and Yogi Berra, who sadly left us in 2015 – Banks at age 83, on January 23, 2015 and Berra at age 90, on September 22, 2015. May their memories always be for a Blessing.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He has been a Patron-level member of the Baseball Hall of Fame since 2007.