2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot
J.D. Jackson - The Baltimore Chop
Playing to the hypothetical of my being important enough to actually receive a Hall of Fame ballot, I get to cast my votes for up
to 10 people that I feel are worth being put down in baseball immortality. And this year… well… the first timers frankly are
awful. Rick Aguilera? John Wetteland? Alex Fernandez? Gary DiSarcina?! In years like this, it’s usually a good thing to go back
and look at the guys that have been snubbed in their previous bids to make the Hall. Guys like Jim Rice, Bert Blyleven, and
Andre Dawson. And so, in the spirit of looking back, here is my 2006 Hall of Fame Ballot… you know, if I actually had one:
Bert Blyleven: This year will be Blyleven’s 9th year on the ballot, and this is the year that I think he should get in. Well… I’ve felt
that he should’ve been inducted sometime over the last 6 years as well, but hey, that’s just me.
Blyleven pitched for a gaudy 22 years, ranking 5th all-time in strike outs, 8th all-time in starts, 9th all-time in shutouts, 24th all-
time in wins, and 7th all-time in innings pitched. He had a 20 win season in 1973 and eight seasons of 200-plus strikeouts.
While he never won the Cy Young Award, he did finish in the top five three times, in 1984, 1985, and 1989. He made two All-
Star teams and pitched a No-hitter in 1977.
Yeah, I know he never reached 300 wins. But he was darn close (287). There’s only one guy who’s ever won more games
(Tommy John) without being inducted. He was a victim of pitching for a lot of teams that didn’t score many runs (1985 Indians,
when he went 9-11 with a 3.26 ERA), but his 3.31 career ERA is impressive enough. What stands out for me are Blyleven’s
242 complete games. By comparison, Roger Clemens has thrown 118. Tom Seaver, who pitched in largely the same era as
Blyleven and has already been inducted into the Hall, finished up his career with 231 complete games. Jim Palmer had 211.
Nolan Ryan, who pitched forever, had 222. And Ryan and Blyleven’s careers nearly overlapped each other. Blyleven has 60
shutouts to his credit, placing behind Walter Johnson, Grover Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Eddie Plank, Warren
Spahn, Ryan, and Seaver. Guess what? All eight of those pitchers are in the Hall of Fame. When Blyleven retired, his 3,701
career strikeouts ranked him third all-time. Now, only Ryan, Steve Carlton, Clemens, and Randy Johnson have more.
Sure, Blyleven was never recognized as a dominant pitcher. Sure, he played in a dead-ball era. But he was an exceptional
pitcher even given the age during which he pitched. And when you examine the numbers, there were maybe one or two of his
contemporaries that you can argue as being better than Bert Blyleven was. Is he a top-ten all-time pitcher? Probably not. But I
dare put him in the top 25-30 all-time, and to me, he deserves to be in.
Jim Rice: This is Rice’s 12th year on the ballot, and I don’t believe that he’ll be voted into the Hall this go-around, either. But he
should, and the fact that he hasn’t so far has a lot to do with his being less than cuddly with the media. This is the same thing,
along with an early retirement, that’ll probably keep Albert Belle out of the Hall of Fame, even though his period of dominance
during the live-ball era was absolutely phenomenal.
Back to Rice, though, who played an incredible 16 years with the Red Sox. He won the MVP award in 1978, and finished in the
top-five of the voting five times (1975, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1986). If you’re keeping track, that six times in sixteen years that Rice
was an MVP candidate. He was an All-Star in eight of his 16 years. He led the AL in home runs three times, twice in RBIs,
twice in slugging percentage, once for hits, and once for… get ready… triples. Rice didn’t just hit. He was a speed threat and a
heady base-runner as well. What else can you say about Rice? Well, he had seven seasons of a .300 average or better, four
seasons of 200 hits or more, 11 seasons of at least 20 home runs, four seasons of at least 30 homers, and eight years of
100 RBIs or more. He is still the only player ever to have three consecutive seasons of 35+ homers and 200+ hits. His period
of dominance was outstanding. During the late 1970s, he was one of the most feared hitters in the sport. A lot of people will
make the argument that if you can’t be dominant over the course of your career, you don’t belong in the Hall. For me, when a
player can finish in the top-10 in offensive categories over the bulk of their career… they belong. Well, seven years in the top-10
in homers, nine years for RBIs, nine years for total bases, eight years for hits, eight years for slugging percentage, six years for
OPS, six years for batting average… all of that to me says that Jim Rice belongs.
Andre Dawson: Here’s another player who hasn’t been elected because of never being recognized as a “dominant” player.
But make no mistakes about it… during the early to mid 1980’s, he was easily one of the top three or four players in baseball.
He has all the pre-requisites you look for in a Hall of Famer, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1977, winning the MVP in
1987, and being an eight-time All-Star. He played an expansive career of 21 seasons, and put up some gaudy numbers
during his span. Dawson is 32nd in career homers with 438, 24th in total bases, 41st in doubles, 24th in RBI, 21st in extra
base hits, 44th in hits, and 24th in at-bats. Dawson was one of those players that never did anything extremely well, but
managed to do everything solidly. In addition to his hitting stats, Dawson was an eight-time Gold Glove winner and put up top-
10 OPS’ six times. His career most mirrors the career of Billy Williams, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. Had
he played on a team that was a consistent winner that garnered him more exposure, we probably wouldn’t be having this
conversation. As it was, Dawson made the playoffs twice in his career: 1981 with the Expos and 1989 with the Cubs.
Albert Belle: Okay, I’m going out on a limb with this one, and I know it. And people are going to ask why I’d vote for Belle over a
guy like Bruce Sutter or Rich Gossage. Or even over Dave Concepcion. Well, again, I’m willing to reward a player who
absolutely dominated the game during the time he played, even if it was for just 11 years in the case of Belle. From 1991-
1999, there were no hitters more feared than Albert Belle. Now, consider the guys that shared Belle’s era: Mark McGwire,
Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds… three of the most feared hitters to play the game. In a lot of ways, Belle was a bigger threat
than all three of them. Belle hit for average. He crushed doubles. He was a threat on the base paths. And he was a solid
outfielder. He was better than Manny Ramirez when they shared the spotlight in Cleveland. He was better than Frank Thomas
when they both played for the White Sox. Quite simply, Belle was a one-of-a-kind hitter. What will keep him out of the Hall are
his playing tenure and his surly attitude.
Before you go ignoring Albert Belle based on those factors, however, consider a few things. Consider that from 1991-1999,
Belle finished in the top-10 in AL MVP voting five times. That’s five times in nine years. Belle was named to five All-Star teams
over that nine-year span as well. Eight of his nine dominant seasons had Belle hitting better than 30 homers… three of those
eight saw Belle hit more than 40 homers, and once he hit better than 50 (1995). He had nine consecutive seasons of 100+
RBIs and nine seasons of 30+ doubles. He had four seasons of a .400+ OBP, four seasons of a .300+ batting average, and
four seasons with 100+ runs scored. He led the AL in RBIs three times, in total bases three times, in slugging percentage
twice, and once in runs, doubles, and homers. Oh, he also hit 13 career grand slams. Belle is 17th in career slugging
percentage (.564), 37th in career OPS (.933), 53rd in career home runs (381), and 21st in at bats per homer (15.4). The only
reason that Belle isn’t higher in some of these categories is the degenerative hip condition that cut his career short in 2000, at
the age of 33. He still had at least 3-4 seasons ahead of him of peak production. Belle was the complete package as a hitter.
He could draw a walk, and he could hit with power to all fields. More impressively, Belle was a slugger that struck out more
than 100 times in a season only twice, and walked an average of 72 times a season. Belle reminds me so much of Jim Rice,
and I feel that, considering the dominance that both players showed, regardless of how long they showed it for, it’d be a crime
to keep them out.
And that’s it. I’m not including Sutter or Gossage because of how little value I place in the save. If I had to pick one of them, it
would be Sutter based on his pioneering of the split-fingered fastball. For now, though, I’m leaving both of them, as well as
Lee Smith, off of my ballot. I’m also leaving off my three sentimental picks: Dwight Gooden, Jack Morris, and Orel Hershiser,
simply because Morris was a good pitcher on good teams but was never a great pitcher, Gooden was an amazing pitcher who
flamed out quickly and became an average pitcher during the second half of his career, and Hershiser was consistent but only
had one truly great season. For what it’s worth, Gooden would be my next pick, followed by Morris and Hershiser.