2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot
Ed Barnes - The Writers

When Eric Mirlis’ invited me to participate in this Hall of Fame feature, I was excited to fill out a mock ballot. I figured I would be
able to look over the names, do a little research and easily figure out who I would select. With the lack of clear cut choices, I
found myself with more self-doubt than when I was trying to work up the nerve to ask the girl I had a crush on to prom.
     
In the end, there were two things that really shaped my voting...

1) My disagreement with the argument that if a certain player is in, then it means another player should be voted in.

As blasphemous as it might sound, I believe there are players in the Hall of Fame who don’t deserve to be there. Kirby Puckett
immediately comes to mind. He was a very good player and his World Series heroics are memorable but does he really stack
up with other center fielders who are in the Hall of Fame like Mays, Mantle, Snider, DiMaggio and so on? In my opinion, not
even close.

This line of reasoning is exactly the same as the one agents use when negotiating for their clients. For example, during 2004-
2005 off-season, the Mets signed Kris Benson to an utterly ridiculous 3 year, $21 million contract. Now, that contract looks
reasonable because every agent of a number three or four starter insisted on getting at least a comparable contract. Right
Jaret Wright?

The point is, just because a player on the ballot right now is better than the worst Hall of Famer at his position, doesn’t mean I
felt like I should give them my hypothetical vote.

2) The Hall of Fame is for the best players out there. Not the very good, but the best.

I was still on the fence about Rafael Palmeiro getting into the Hall of Famer before everything about steroids broke. Do I really
think Palmeiro is a Hall of Famer because of modern medicine, “supplements” and training allowing him to play effectively for
a longer period of time? My inclination is to say no.

The idea of what the Hall of Fame means made the voting so difficult for me this year. I kept wondering, if I’m going to vote for
any of these players to join the best of the best, why have they not made it in by now?

I’d like to think that the candidates that got my vote all have reasons that they haven’t been put in by now. Still, like anyone’s
ballot, I’m sure there are plenty of things that I will say or not that will cause people to disagree.


The Ballot

IN – Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Bert Blyleven
Goose Gossage was the easiest pick for me. When I think about today’s prototypical closer, I think of someone like Goose
Gossage. Someone who is big, powerful and will blow the ball by you. If you look at him when he was at his best, from 1977 to
1985, he was more than lights out. Over that stretch he had 227 saves with a 2.10 ERA. He would beat you up while closing
the game. While it is easy to point to his relatively modest total of 310 saves, he would work multiple innings and wouldn’t get
into nearly as many games as closers today. He hung around for 22 seasons and that hurts his overall numbers but he was
dominating at his peak and that is what makes someone a Hall of Famer.

Bruce Sutter is the National League’s answer to Gossage when Goose was with the Yankees. Another dominating closer who
brought the split fingered fastball to prominence. Despite his short career, he managed to get 300 saves in a small number of
appearances. Even though he fell off badly during his three years as a Brave, Sutter’s impressive work as a Cub and Cardinal
put him in the Hall of Fame.

I think that both of these players were hurt by the fact that writers haven’t known how to judge closers for a long time. Even
though Dennis Eckersley got in, these players revolutionized the position and that makes them worthy in my mind when you
couple it with their great careers.

Bert Blyleven is a tough guy to judge because he pitched for so long and had some conflicting numbers. The negative is that
he allowed 50 home runs during the 1986 season and that his record isn’t much above .500 and he was only a two time all-
star. However, a closer look at his numbers and circumstances gives him my vote. Blyleven usually played on bad teams and
his record shows that to a point. But if you look at the numbers around his record, they are very impressive. He’s 5th all-time in
strikeouts and has a career ERA of 3.31 even though he probably hung on too long. I guess what I keep thinking when I go
over Blyleven’s numbers is that if he was on better teams for just a few years, he’d be well over 300 wins and he would have
been into the Hall of Fame a long time ago.


The Near Misses
Andre Dawson came from an ERA where OBP just hadn’t gained the importance that it has now. Instead, the focus was on
batting average and this is a guy who only managed a .279 career average. There seems to be a swell of support for him
because he hit his 438 home runs without the benefit of steroids. While I understand the rationale, if he had only had a couple
more years anywhere close to his MVP season, he probably would be getting my vote. He was someone that made me think
that Kirby Puckett is a big mistake as Dawson should be in rather than Puckett. If only his knees hadn’t started to fail him so
early.

Jim Rice was a dominant hitter but he completely ignored any other aspects of the game which doesn’t give him any sort of
benefit of the doubt. Still, for all the talk about his hitting prowess, he only had four 30 home run seasons while playing his
games in one of the best places for a right handed hitter to hit. Not enough.

Dave Concepcion has a better reason for support than most people give him but still not quite enough to get there. His talent
was probably obscured by all of the great players who made up the Big Red Machine. While his offensive numbers are
comparable to Ozzie Smith’s, he doesn’t have that little something to get him over the hump.

Lee Smith seems like he would be a logical choice since Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter made my ballot. While Smith has
478 saves, he wasn’t nearly in dominant in achieving them as Gossage and Sutter. While Smith was being asked to throw
close to 100 innings a year like Gossage and Sutter were, his ERA was consistently in the low 3’s while Gossage and Sutter
were in the mid to low 2’s. His save total is a result of him getting several one inning saves toward the end of his career. When
closers are being asked to throw only one inning, you’d expect them to be even more dominant while achieving these saves
than Gossage and Sutter were if they are Hall of Fame worthy.  

Tommy John is an interesting case because his win total and ERA stack up with Bert Blyleven. Also, there is a call for support
because of the way he recovered from the surgery that now bears his name. I don’t necessarily agree with rewarding him with
a traditional spot in the Hall of Fame for that. In just looking at his numbers, the wins and ERA were achieved while playing
with some Dodger and Yankee teams that were significantly better than the Twins, Rangers and Indians teams that Blyleven
played on. Also, John had almost 80 more career starts than Blyleven. Just not quite dominant enough.

No one else really got much consideration for me as Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly or Dave Parker never really made it into the
discussion for me. These guys were real nice players for extended periods of time but never were the transcendent players
that I was looking for on my Hall of Fame ballot.

Still, I’ve come away from this process with a new appreciation for the agonizing decisions that Hall of Fame voters have every
year. I ended up going back and forth on my decisions several times and my votes don’t even count.