The 2015 Hall of Fame Class
The results are in on 2015 voting for the Hall of Fame, and there weren’t really a whole lot of surprises. At least, the biggest surprise in my mind is that John Smoltz made it in in his first year of eligibility. While I don’t disagree with his Hall of Fame credentials, I wouldn’t have voted from him in his first year of eligibility.
It seems likely that Mike Piazza will make the HOF next year in his fourth year of eligibility. If not in 2016, then 2017 for sure. Piazza certainly wasn’t a Hall of Fame catcher behind the plate, but at the plate I don’t think anyone put up his raw offensive numbers this side of Josh Gibson. Piazza’s batting numbers are all inflated by the era in which he played, but he still has to be one of the five to eight best hitting catchers of all time, and should get in eventually for that reason.
Tim Raines and Lee Smith still aren’t getting any love. Raines has the disadvantage of playing in the same era as Rickey Henderson, the single best lead-off hitter in MLB history. Raines still deserves to get in before his 15 years expires. Jeff Bagwell finished four votes ahead of Raines this year with three more years of eligibility remaining, but I think Raines was the better player.
Lee Smith held the all-time career saves records for 13 seasons, and his career numbers would have looked a lot better if he hadn’t spent the prime of his career pitching in extreme hitters’ parks like Wrigley Field and Fenway. I kind of suspect that when it comes to marginal Hall of Famers, its still helps to be white.
However, Mike Mussina didn’t get enough love either in this year’s vote. However, he still has 13 years of eligibility remaining, and he’s going to get a lot more appreciation if no other pitcher reaches 270 career wins in the next 13 years. In fact, I definitely think the odds favor no active pitcher reaching 270 in the next 13 years, and if any do, it won’t be more than one or two.
I still think that eventually these two have to make the Hall of Fame, because they were simply too good not be there eventually, and there really isn’t any way to know for certain who used steroids in their era and who didn’t. The question is really when they get in, not if they get in.
There would be a certain justice in the Veteran’s Committee voting them in after they’ve both passed on, since its the only real punishment that can be meted out to these guys for cheating (although was it really cheating if MLB’s owners intentionally looked the other way because fans loved the Steroids Era’s on-field performances?). They’ve already won their seasonal awards and received their eight figure annual salaries.
The best thing that could happen for Clemens, Bonds, McGwire and Sosa would be if compelling evidence came out that one of the supposedly “clean” players already elected to the Hall of Fame was in fact using steroids in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. There is no procedure for de-electing a player once he’s in the Hall of Fame, and once one steroids cheat is in the HOF, there really isn’t any good reason for keeping the others out who otherwise deserve to be there.
At the end of the day, Clemens, Bonds, McGwire and Sosa never had attempted murder warrants issued against them as Ty Cobb once did. Ty Cobb biographer Al Stump claimed that Cobb told him he once chased down a mugger and beat him to death.
While subsequent research suggests this never happened, it is a matter of public record that Cobb had a warrant for attempted murder issued against him for beating up an African American hotel night watchman in 1909. Cobb eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, and a civil case was settled out of court. It was not the only time during his playing career that Cobb, a Southern racist, assaulted black people whom Cobb claimed had “insulted” him.