A Rather Empty Hall

1

January 21, 2015 by NowhereButPop

by Khalid Bennett

Being a Hall of Famer is probably the most prestigious honor to have bestowed on an athlete.  It indicates that for all your hard work you’ve put into your job, you finally made it to an elite group.  Besides professional sports, no other profession immortalizes and honors its past workers with such esteem.  Of the four major sports, the MLB hall of fame is the one that gets the most attention.  Baseball writers and enthusiasts get excited on who’s on the ballot, who gets elected, and who gets snubbed.

Even though the NFL actually has multiple rounds, which supposedly heighten the excitement, there’s really not much debate as to who should and who shouldn’t be in the hall of fame.  Everyone pretty much has the same opinions on what makes a football hall of famer.  The NBA hall of fame isn’t as iconic because the league doesn’t possess the same majesty and grandeur that the MLB does (or at least did).  It’s also not as iconic because it represents all of basketball, including college and international players.[1]

On January 6th, four members were elected. Randy Johnson, one of the best left-handed pitchers of all-time, Pedro Martinez, one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation (albeit injuries); John Smoltz; part of the Atlanta Braves pitching trio of the ’90s, and Craig Biggio; considered one of the best second basemen (based on stats due to longevity).

Randy Johnson-The original “Birdman”.

 

In recent years, there has been a lot of controversy because baseball players of the Steroid era are now on ballot.  Players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (who should be first-time ballot Hall of Famers) have not been elected yet because they allegedly took steroids.  A lot of the controversy is generated by the baseball writers that are self-described “purists”.  Writers who either refuse to vote for players that took steroids, or who refuse to vote at all are merely trying to retroactively wash their hands clean of any past wrong doing in not blowing the whistle on the rampant use of steroids in the MLB back in the 80s and 90s, when the controversy was still in its infancy.  It’s now after the fact, when it’s easy to call players out that they can sit on their high horse as judge and jury, all the while they knew what was going on at the time and chose not to report on the matter.

I can go more into the Steroid era aspect of the Hall of Fame but that’s been talked about. My concern is about future.

As the players who dominated the ’90s and ’00s are retiring, the Hall of Fame may be getting weaker and weaker.  Players like Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera may be the last set of sure shot Hall of Famers.  What I enjoyed most about baseball in the late ’90s and ’00s was there were still people dominating baseball in their respective positions. In this decade, is there a dominant baseball player that you can say is an automatic Hall of Famer?

The way that some players are today, they almost have the lifespan of a running back. Most running backs have a 3-5 year span of dominance before they decline.  With the epidemic that is causing Tommy John surgery, it seems like most pitchers are going down right as they’re about to take off, never to be the same again.

There’s not that many players now that you can say have been really dominant in MLB. There are a few that may make the cut.

That scowl might not intimidate the writers enough to vote in Andy Pettitte.

Albert Pujols will definitely be a first-time ballot Hall of Famer; he was basically the Alex Rodriguez of the National League.  He might be declining but the St. Louis Cardinals wouldn’t be the Cardinals without Pujols in the ’00s.  Miguel Cabrera is probably the most sure baseball player now to be in the Hall of Fame.  David Ortiz is probably next in line.  If Edgar Martinez doesn’t make it, Big Papi could be the first DH to make it to the Hall of Fame. Although he has been accused of taking PEDs, nothing has been proven yet.  But even the slightest shred of doubt is enough to scare off most writers.[2]  Robinson Cano is another potential Hall of Famer. He has been the most consistent second basemen within the past 5 years or so.  You have players like Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Buster Posey, and Clayton Kershaw who although are dominant, they still have a ways to go before they become sure shot, no-doubt-about-it hall of famers.

Looking purely the numbers, there are a ton of guys who although had astonishing careers, just aren’t hall of famers.  Cliff Lee, Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman, Ryan Howard, and the entire 2002 Anaheim Angels, or whatever the hell they called themselves back then, don’t have what it takes to make the hall.  Guys like Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Paul Konerko are but a few of way too many borderline guys.  From growing trends around the league over the past few years, 300 wins, and 3,000 hits may very well be a thing of the past.  The biggest question that remains though is where that leave the borderline cases.


 

[1] Because who really gives a flying fuck about Oscar Schmidt?

[2] Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are just a few victims of being guilty until proven innocent.

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