COMMENTARY | It's the most wonderful time of the year -- for baseball arguments.
On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers' Association of America will reveal the results of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame vote. At this point, it looks like Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio will be honored, a break in the rhythm from last year when the electorate was incapacitated by a lack of consensus on evaluation metrics and a desire to somehow police the game a decade after lionizing the same players they now trample.
The arguments will persist, as they always have. Baseball's statistical revolution will continue to redefine the perceived value of player contributions. And the specter of performance-enhancing drug use will plague many candidacies, whether those in question used or did not.
The Boston Red Sox present an interesting cross section of players, some from the Steroid Era, some failed by the electorate many years ago who compare favorably with those already in the Hall. Whether or not they see enshrinement isn't in the hands of the fans, but it's fun to look back and wonder.
Among former Red Sox on the ballot, Clemens stands out for a variety of reasons. His counting numbers are so good they're unsettling. Given the scrutiny he's faced in the wake of the Mitchell Report, the stomachache comes with good reason.
His initial seven-year peak (1986-92) might have been enough for enshrinement. The fact that he rose again at the turn of the century to churn out a number of very good to completely dominant years makes him some combination of Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax -- a horse with elite stuff. Clemens' seven Cy Young Awards creates a nice symmetry with Barry Bonds' and his seven MVP Awards. Both received less than 40% of the vote in their first year of candidacy and will likely remain in limbo until Hall voters figure out what to do with the raft of Steroid Era talents clogging the ballot.
Schilling spent the majority of his career elsewhere but etched his place in Red Sox history with one bloody sock. Whatever your take on the veracity of that event, Schilling deserves his reputation as a winner. He pitched in four World Series, winning three, with career postseason totals of 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.
Schilling's injury history prevented him from compiling great counting numbers (216 wins) but when healthy, he was one of the top arms in baseball, with pinpoint control and unshakable confidence. He received 38.8% of the vote in his first year of candidacy and will likely be lumped in with Mike Mussina -- both were among the best pitchers of their generation but never won a Cy Young and failed to crack 300 wins.
Dewey's eight Gold Gloves puts him among the elite defensive outfielders of all time. All great players have a "moment." Evans' robbery of Joe Morgan in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series stands as one of the greatest clutch defensive gems in history, particularly considering Evans doubled up Ken Griffey after making the grab.
Although he didn't develop into a fearsome hitter until nearly his 30th birthday, Evans compiled some impressive offensive numbers (385 home runs among them). For the new-school voter, there's his .370 career OBP, with three seasons leading the league in walks. For the old-school voter, there's his four 100-RBI seasons and the fact he led the American League in that category during the 1980s (much like Jack Morris had the most wins in the decade, a popular pillar of Morris' candidacy).
Evans suffered the misfortune of ending his career on the cusp of an era of offensive explosion. His career mirrors that of current candidate Alan Trammell, a sure-gloved shortstop with great offensive numbers who retired just as Garciaparra, Jeter and Rodriguez made their way to the majors and blew up the idea of shortstops. Like Trammell's double-play partner, the equally worthy Lou Whitaker, Evans fell off the ballot rather quickly.
The Little Professor wasn't the best DiMaggio of the bunch, but he was one of the more toolsy players of his generation. A seven-time All-Star, he compiled a .383 OBP, led the league in runs scored twice, and was one of the best base-stealers in the game the decade before Maury Wills spearheaded the popular revival of the tactic. Bill James lists DiMaggio as one of the great defensive center fielders. Though he dropped off the ballot in the early 1970s, there's always a possibility the Veterans Committee will take another look at his career.
A few years ago, some excellent baseball writers cobbled together The Hall of Nearly Great to remember those who haven't made it to Cooperstown and whose careers may have less of a shiny glow with no bronze plaque to honor their achievements. Josh Wilker wrote a tremendous piece about El Tiante for the project. Tiant had a wonky, injury-plagued mid-career stretch that kept his numbers from approaching Hall of Fame standards, but his skill, style, and reputation as a big-game pitcher (cemented by hauling the Sox through the 1975 playoffs) certainly rates with fans.
He received 30.9% of the vote in his first year of candidacy but unlike those who experience a slow burn to enshrinement, Tiant never had the pleasure.
Sean Sylver is a Boston-based writer, radio personality and avid gardener. His work has appeared on Babble's Disney Dads and other pro sports blogs. Interact with him on Twitter @sylverfox25.
- Sports & Recreation
- Red Sox
- Baseball Hall of Fame
- Roger Clemens
- Curt Schilling