Memo from the Sports Desk: Baseball Hall of Fame

3 January 2010

Ed. note: Neil Millman will no longer be blogging about sports. While he may be a good at movie reviews, whining about cell phone users or wanting to stay an easy-going 28-years-old, he cannot handle the sports beat, at all. He tried it on this blog twice and both times came off like 6th grader who just repeated the cafeteria menu.

I met Millman in 1985. He was studying Journalism and on the verge of being sent back to Rogers Park like a pothead who came back empty handed in Amsterdam. I gave him a few pointers: how to interview an athlete, where to find a good bookie at the hotel bar and how to sneak a co-ed out of your room at 7:30 am. I gotta admit, he didn’t learn a fucking thing. In fact, I filled him full of amyl nitrite and sent him on a trip to find a Cigar Bar in Evanston, IL, then I disguised myself as him and took the final so he passed Enterprise Reporting. It wasn’t my proudest moment but I had to get the little shit off my back. If you care, there is a place at 640 Lincoln St. that has a great smoking lounge.

From now on, I will handle sports. Carry on mortals.

Raoul Duke Jr.

It’s time for the ultimate ritual of acceptance bestowed by the media to a bunch of people who play a child’s game for a living – Baseball Hall of Fame balloting. As a sportswriter, I should be allowed to vote. That honor was taken away at the 1991 Hall of Fame Ceremony after I told Peter Gammons that his “niece” looked a too young to be gobbling that many hallucinogenics at one time. Later that night, Fergie Jenkins and I were caught in downtown Cooperstown walking in something resembling loincloths carrying machetes looking for the deviant who voted for Burt Hooton.

Even if those festering maggots of the Baseball Writers of America won’t let me vote, I can still give my opinions on the matter and if they disagree, I still have the machete in the fortified compound.

Last year, two former players were inducted, the deserving Jim Rice and the self-referential Ricky Henderson. Just missing the cut were Andre “The Hawk” Dawson, Bert “Be Home” Blyleven, Lee “The Big Black Bitch” Smith and others who don’t have as colorful nicknames. Except for Mark “I’m Not Here to Talk About The Past” McGwire. They are all eligible this year too.

The new class consists of: Roberto “The Spitter” Alomar, Kevin Appier, Ellis Burks, Andrés “The Big Cat” Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros “Matic,” Ray Lankford, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred “The Crime Dog” McGriff, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, Robin Ventura “Highway” and Todd “Good Housekeeping” Zeile. (I still owe that blowhard Chris Berman from 1985. I was the only one irrational enough to take his bet on Villanova beating Georgetown. I even gave him 6.5 points.)

I have always been a stats guy and I won’t let the fact that one of the newbies took me moose hunting with dynamite during the 1993 World Series move me one way or another. As I see it, two contenders from the new class and two from the previous year’s class deserve mention.

Of retired pitchers with the most strikeouts eligible for the Hall, Bert Blyleven has 3701 and is 5th all-time, ahead of other HOF members: Tom “Terrific” Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Walter “Big Train” Johnson and Phil “Knucksie” Niekro. He is 9th in career shutouts and only 29th in career walks. What’s keeping Blyleven out are his wins, or lack thereof. He does not possess the magical 300, like those luminaries listed above. He sits at 287, which is plenty close but apparently not enough. He has however, more wins than HOF members: Robin Roberts, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Palmer, Carl Hubbell and Juan Marichal. Contributing to his exclusion are: 250 losses which is 10th all-time, only one 20-win season, seven seasons with 15-loses or more, 22nd in runs allowed and he played on teams that would have trouble beating the winner of the Clarendon Park 16” softball league. Blyleven’s most daring move was flipping off a live TV camera. That alone should get him in the Hall. It needs more guys like him; he would fit in with the other reprobates from an earlier era. The time has come and Blyleven is on my ballot.

Andre Dawson was one of the most feared hitters of his day. He won the MVP in 1987 with 49 homers and 137 RBI’s, when those stats meant something, playing on the cellar-dwelling Cubs. He hit 20 or more homers in 13 of his 21 seasons, collected 2774 hits, 438 homers and 1591 RBI’s. He was an eight-time All-Star and Gold Glove Winner. He is one of six players with 300 homers and stolen bases. He is one of three in the 400 homers and 300 steals club. He struck out more than 100 times in a season only three times. I was in the press box when The Hawk was intentionally walked five times in a game; it could have been drunken delirium. While I don’t remember the game, Dan Pompeii told me I barked at the Wrigley Field Courtesy Hostess, “I don’t care if it’s past the 7th inning; the bar at Cubby Bear is still open. Walk across the street you vile creature.” Where was I? The Hawk deserves enshrinement and is on my ballot.

Now for the new class, with all due respect to the BBWA, have you been huffing dry cleaning fluid? Some of these guys spent more time on the DL than they did with any one team. One guy was listed on the Mitchell Report. To call this class woeful would be an insult to the word.

The two of merit are Roberto Alomar and Barry Larkin.

Robby Alomar had a great career: .300 BA, 2724 hits, 474 steals and 10 Gold Gloves. He played on two WS championships and was a 12-time All-Star. He has three more hits than Lou Gehrig and eight fewer than Tony Perez, both in the Hall. His one blemish is as big as that thing that was on Groby’s head. In a game in 1996, he argued about the strike zone, didn’t like the call, spit on the umpire and then claimed he did it because the ump hurled a racial slur at him. Alomar was later suspended then apologized, in that order. That event should not be overlooked nor should his stats. I say give him another one-year suspension and induct him next year or the year after.

Next up is Barry Larkin who is a curious case. He had an above average career on the field, .295 BA and 2340 hits, great stats for a middle infielder. He was a 12-time All-Star, won three Gold Gloves and one MVP. He would have one more but he played at the same time, position and league as Ozzie Smith. Larkin played all 19 seasons with his hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds, which is unheard of nowadays. Last things in his favor are he won the Lou Gehrig Award and the Roberto Clemente Award. If there was ever a role model for a solid citizen in baseball, it is Larkin. The knock against him is injuries. He was injured a lot. He played 150 games or more four times in his career. To get Larkin inducted we have to look at how he did compared to other shortstops residing in Cooperstown, I have to look at how he stacks against other shortstops in the Hall. In all cases, Larkin is right in the middle of them. Eight highest in average, 10th in hits and fifth in steals. I gotta say he deserves it but not on the first ballot. He is not Honus Wagner or Cal Ripkin or Luke Appling, making him a first ballot Hall of Famer puts him in that category. Like everyone on Clark and Addison says around June 15th, “Wait till Next Year.”

Martinez, McGriff and Burkes deserve some consideration but will likely find themselves on the wrong end of 50% well below the mandatory 75% to get in the Hall.

Lastly, there is the case of Mark McGwire. His stats are amazing: 583 homers, 1414 RBI’s .394 OPB, .588 SLG, most homers two times both leagues, led his league four times in slugging percentage, 12-time All-Star, World Series champion and 1987 Rookie of the Year. You can easily make favorable comparisons to Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey. The one thing that cannot be ignored is his alleged use of steroids. Though not proven that he juiced, just as Babe Ruth was never a proven fall–down drunk, he has been implicated in Jose Canseco’s book, he refuses to answer any questions about steroids and his involvement in “performance-enhancements” and he has admitted to taking a substance banned by the NFL and the IOC. Then of course, there was his performance before Congress where he stated he wanted to talk about the future and not the past. Rather than call him out on his statements, Congress lined up to bask in the aroma of his jock. Thankfully, the BBWA has manned up and have not even come close to voting for him. Once in a while my brethren of the Fourth Estate can do something right, other than paying their tabs when called. Big Mac hasn’t gotten more than 25% each of his first three years of eligibility and I doubt that will change.

Next year isn’t the worst thing for some of these guys. Only two players jump out with stats certain for enshrinement: Jeff Bagwell and Rafael Palmeiro. Bagsy’s numbers are close; he was a feared hitter and a decent guy. Palmeiro collected 3,020 hits and 569 homers. In March of 2005, he told Congress “I have never used steroids, period.” Five months later, he was suspended for testing positive for steroids. Cazart!

The announcement comes at 2:00 pm EDT. I will be watching it live at Highland Tap with Fergie’s number on speed dial. If my choices don’t get in, we may have to suit up and go out on patrol this summer.



One Response to “Memo from the Sports Desk: Baseball Hall of Fame”

  1. charley Says:

    2010 is the year The Hawk gets in! They can’t keep one of three players to amass 400 HRs and 300 SBs out.

    Andre Dawson for the Hall of Fame
    hawk4thehall blogspot

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