17 January 2006

Trending Upwards: Future Hall of Famers?

Last week the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the lone inductee of the Cooperstown Class of 2006: Bruce Sutter. Normally, I would use this space to lament the fact that Richard "Goose" Gossage, a relief pitcher roughly half again as good as Sutter was, did not get elected. However, as people with more influence than me, namely ESPN's Rob Neyer and the Goose himself, are already doing that, I suppose I don't need to echo them. The half-dozen or so of you who read my work with any regularity already know what I think about Goose's qualifications, so I won't belabor that point. What's more interesting than my opinion, however, is whether or not Gossage (or Bert Blyleven, or Jack Morris, or Jim Rice, or anyone else for that matter) ever will get the call from Cooperstown.

The truth is that Sutter only made the grade in 2006 for two reasons: For one thing, the rest of the ballot was pretty weak. Nobody on the 2006 list had gotten more than Sutter's 344 votes (66.7%) in 2005, and nobody new with any clout was going to be on the ballot. (Indeed, Orel Hershiser got the most votes of all the first-timers in 2006, with only 58, good for 11.2% of the vote, or roughly 330 votes short of those needed for enshrinement.) The second reason is that there were some pretty substantial media personalities campaigning for him.

If those two items are the main criteria next year, then things are not looking good for Gossage or any of the other holdovers who may have his hopes set on a 2007 induction. In the 2007 election, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire (not to mention Harold Baines, Jose Canseco, and Bret Saberhagen) will all be eligible for induction for the first time, will probably all be elected easily. That is, barring a "tell-all" book by a source more credible than Jose Canseco that proves that McGwire really did use steroids, Tony Gwynn's 5.5 hole was artificially enlarged and/or Cal Ripken's "streak" was due to hair dye. (Of course, finding a source more credible than Canseco is not such an accomplishment. Stevie Wonder could probably say he saw McGwire take steroids and more people would believe him than believed Jose.)

Historically, though, does the advent of two or three super-qualified applicants really detract from another player's candidacy?

Continue reading at All-Baseball.com...

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