Ken Rosenthal’s Hall of Fame ballot is A-OK
Ken Rosenthal says that he usually limits his Hall of Fame ballot to two or three elite candidates, but this year he votes for nine guys: Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, and Alan Trammell. Rosenthal is only one voter, but since he has so many guys in it I want to talk about, let’s use his ballot as the jumping off point.
At the outset, let me say that the fact that he included Alan Trammell -- my first and truest baseball love -- entitles him to absolution for any of his past ballot sins. Seriously Ken, you could dedicate the rest of your life to getting guys like Dave Parker and Bernie Williams elected and I won’t go too hard on you in light of that Trammell vote.
But beyond my baseball crushes, there’s a lot to like here. It’s a big ballot, sure, but it makes sense. Larkin and Alomar seem like no-brainers to me. You know my thoughts on Blyleven. As I said yesterday, I won’t cry if Martinez doesn’t make it this year because people still need to screw their DH-heads on straight, but I think he belongs. In my mind Raines is a sure Hall of Famer too, for all of the reasons Joe Posnanski outlined a couple of weeks ago.
Which brings us to McGriff, Dawson and Smith. I’m going to put off talking about Smith for now because I’m not sure I have really come to grips with what to do with one-inning closers who were anything short of uber-elite like Eckersley, but I promise to devote some thoughts and words to the subject soon. So, for the time being no on Smith.
That leaves Dawson and McGriff. I think they’re much closer calls than the others and I’m not 100% sure what I’d do with them if the ballot was staring me in the face today. Let’s talk through this.
I think I’d lean yes on McGriff. Given that he straddled the low-offense 80s and high-offense 90s, his statistical case flies under the radar, with his best seasons coming in lower run-scoring environments. 1989 was his best full season (1994 may have been his absolute best but was cut short). That year he hit .269/.399/.525 with 36 homers. That may elicit a yawn by more recent standards but at that time those were MVP numbers. If he had played in places outside of Toronto and San Diego during those early years he probably would have actually won one.
Dawson: I loved the Hawk. Great man. Got royally screwed over by collusion and should have made a hell of a lot more money in his career than he did. Was under-appreciated for what he was in his time, but may be a bit overrated now if that makes any sense. Ultimately I don’t think I could pull the lever for him due to his .323 on base percentage which would be historically low for a Hall of Fame outfielder, and lower than the average player of his day. And I’m not buying Dawson and Rosenthal’s argument that he could have had a higher OBP if he had been told it was important. Not making outs is pretty fundamental to the game, and that’s what OBP is. I don’t think a player as smart as Dawson needed anyone to tell him that. Upshot: Dawson makes my Hall of Very, Very Good, but he does not make my Hall of Fame.
The last slot on Rosenthal’s ballot was empty, and he says who it could have been but wasn’t: Mark McGwire. Like I said, I’ll accept this in light of the love for Trammell, Blyleven and his refusal to put Jack Morris on his ballot, but I think McGwire belongs. I will point out, though, that Rosenthal’s comment on the matter -- “The more we learn about the Steroid Era, the better we understand just how deeply performance-enhancing drugs were entrenched in the game’s culture” -- suggests that he and maybe others will soften on McGwire over time and realize that he was a man of his time. That, though he probably cheated, he was doing it in a league full of cheaters, and thus didn’t have some obscene advantage like is currently portrayed.
So like I said: good ballot. Not perfect -- none is -- but one that I could almost see myself filling out.