2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot
Jeff Kallman -
The Catbird in the Nosebleed Seats

Six for Cooperstown, Overdue

Surely you don't need me to say that this year's Hall of Fame candidate roster is very long on first-time listings whose
credentials are particularly underwhelming. Nor do you need me to say that the roster has quite a few returning veterans who
should have had their tickets to Cooperstown punched long enough ago. But in the event you'd like me to answer the question
Who is this fool and from under which ground does he burrow? here would be my votes if I had votes to vote.

First, my "yes" votes and why.

BERT BLYLEVEN---He'd look more obviously like a Hall of Famer if he had spent more of his career even in neutral parks,
never mind the preponderantly hitter-friendly home parks in which he pitched for most of his prime. He might also look more
obviously like a Hall of Famer if he had peak value anywhere close to his career value. But it
is his career value that means
Blyleven should have been in the Hall of Fame already.

Blyleven's trademark: one of the three deadliest curve balls I have seen in a lifetime's baseball watching (the other two: Sandy
Koufax and Dwight Gooden), not to mention sixty shutouts in an era in which shutouts became a lot more difficult to pitch as
his career moved forward.

GOOSE GOSSAGE---The line to Cooperstown for relief pitchers, in order, goes Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, and Lee Smith.
And it isn't entirely cut-and-dried that Sutter should be the first between the three. Sutter revolutionised the repertoire of the
relief pitcher; Gossage was the workhorse's workhorse between the three, and he probably had the image most likely to
suggest that he'd break your arm when reaching down from the mound to shake hands with you, before that hurly-burly motion
suggested a flesh-and-blood Panzer.

In an ideal world, Sutter and Gossage would go in together. Throw in Lee Smith and it may be time for ideal to become real. All
three deserve the honour and it would be an absolute treat to send them in together.

DALE MURPHY---Murphy would go in with no questions asked if all you needed was character. I suspect he has been hurt in
the Hall of Fame voting because he played the prime of his career in one of the two best hitters' parks in the National League,
and he doesn't approach the average Hall of Famer on the Bill James-created batting standards survey. (Murphy rings in at
34.3 to the average Hall of Fame hitter's 50). But he passes the average credibly on another Bill James creation, the Hall of
Fame batting monitor. (Murphy: 115.5; the average Hall of Fame hitter: 100.) He was a hell of a center fielder until the injuries
compromised him irrevocably. But if you think the Hall would be disgraced if Murphy gets in, bear in mind that there are far, far
worse players (never mind men) who
are in.

LEE SMITH---He doesn't quite belong
ahead of Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage, but since they should have had the honour
long enough ago and Smith does deserve the honour, it would be, I repeat, an intriguing treat to send the trio in together.
Smith has been accused of picking up a few too many "cheap" saves, but Smith averaged 67 games per 162 and 87 innings
pitched per 162. I'm not entirely convinced that you can find all that many "cheap" saves in the differential., and I don't think you
could find all that many "cheap" saves in that differential.

But I wonder whether something else didn't damage Smith's image---the deal that sent him from the Cubs to the Red Sox for
Calvin Schiraldi and Al Nipper, just over a year after Schiraldi and Nipper were shot to pieces in a World Series. Think back to
Frank Robinson's wisecrack about the deal: "The Cubs traded a horse and they came away with two ponies." Surely there was
something amiss? I have seen it said that the Cubs were bothered by Smith's knees and back and attitude (then-general
manager Jim Frey: "You get tired of hearing him say [twelve-letter compound euphemism for "maternal fornicator"] every time
you walk into the clubhouse"), but instead of handing the Red Sox a prize for striking when such an unlikely deal was hot,
Smith's reputation may have taken a beating. What kind of horse, after all, is worth a mere two ponies?

The answer, of course, is that the Cubs made a damn fool trade and Smith remained, for the most part, as good as advertised
for just about another decade. It seems to me that it was mostly after he left Chicago that the "cheap saves" tag was tied to his
belt, but Smith might have been seen as cock of the walk among late 80s-to-mid 90s closers if Dennis Eckersley hadn't
opened for business around the time the horse fetched the ponies.

A lot of other guys were having one or two top-of-the-line seasons isolated amidst a passel of so-so years while Smith
continued pitching at his already-established level. To his credit, Smith spent his final full and good season (1995) in
Anaheim, reeling off 37 saves and mentoring the Angels' designated closer of the future. Did it take? Well, from 1996 through
the end of 2004, Troy Percival had
one season landing fewer than 31 saves, and the Angels would not have won their
improbable 2002 World Series rings without him.

BRUCE SUTTER---The line to Cooperstown for relief pitchers begins here. It has for too long now, and there ought to be no
debate. Sutter should have been in the Hall of Fame already. And, ok---maybe he didn't invent the split-fingered fastball, but he
sure showed everyone what you could do with it if you threw it right.

ALAN TRAMMELL---Trammell seems to resemble Bert Blyleven as a position player: a Hall of Famer who would get in strictly
because of the breadth and not the height of his career. Trammell makes no showing on the Black Ink Test; he shows 40 on
the Gray Ink Test; but he meets 40 percent of the Hall of Fame batting standards (the average Hall of Famer: 50) and 118.5
percent on the Hall of Fame batting monitor (the average Hall of Famer: 100). He was exactly what his supporters call him: a
shortstop who balanced excellent defence and excellent hitting at a time when offence-minded shortstops were only
beginning to make themselves felt.

Was Trammell the best shortstop of his time
and the best player at his position who is not in the Hall of Fame. The first
question is the proverbial no-brainer; Ozzie Smith already has his plaque and you can just about assume Cal Ripken, Jr. gets
his next year, when he finally becomes eligible. Dave Concepcion is also still on the ballot, and there is still a lot of the kind of
sentiment that believes damn near every member of the Big Red Machine (naming strictly those not banned from baseball for
gambling) belongs in Cooperstown. But Trammell, who spent his entire career in a ballpark not quite so friendly to defencive
infield prowess as the Riverfront rug,
was a better shortstop than Concepcion. And his career value does suggest that of the
average Hall of Famer.

Now, the rest of the class, and why I would have voted "no." (A 'U' in parentheses indicates I am really undecided as to whether
the player in question should or shouldn't get a plaque.)

RICK AGUILERA---He was good, not great; I don't remember the conversation bringing him up very often when it turned to the
best in the bullpen when he was converted from having been a useful starting pitcher. The strangest win or save of his career:
He picked up the W in Game Six of the 1986 World Series despite giving up the two runs that broke a three-all tie in the top of
the tenth and set it up for Calvin, The Kid, The Steamer, Mookie, and Billy Buck to commit grand drama in the bottom . . .

ALBERT BELLE---Maybe if Dick Allen had been able to counsel Albert Belle when it mattered most, Belle might have learned
how futile it is to wage war with the world---and Dick Allen had a
lot better reason to wage that kind of war than Albert Belle did.
Both men did as much to keep their teams from winning as they did to help their teams win, but Belle looks a lot worse for his
effort than Allen did. Allen's teams were so badly handled out of the front office that Willie Mays himself couldn't have helped
them win (and Allen, in due course, acknowledged how foolish had been his handling of very real racism and front-office
incompetence); Belle's teams were handled far more intelligently, and made up of far stronger stuff, that they could and did
win no matter what he did.

Think of it this way: If your health provokes your premature departure from the Show when you're obviously at the top of your
operative game, and that departure provokes a heaving sigh of relief louder than the one or two pangs of regret, you might be
somewhere very short of a place in the Hall of Fame. Albert Belle's worst enemy in the end was Albert Belle.

WILL CLARK---A few dozen fewer injuries and The Thrill  might have made himself a Hall of Fame case. How much of one,
impossible to speculate. He may have been one of the more overrated players of his time, and a lot of his injury trouble came
from his hustle, but an injury-free Clark just might have turned up as a slightly above average Hall of Famer. But we don't, and
we shouldn't, cast Hall of Fame votes based on what might have been.

DAVE CONCEPCION---A solid defencive shortstop, but it isn't quite enough to make him a Hall of Famer. Neither is mere
membership on the Big Red Machine, no matter what some fans of the Machine would like you to think. Alan Trammell is the
best shortstop among those who aren't in the Hall of Fame, and if Trammell wasn't on the ballot Concepcion just doesn't have
a strong enough case to call him the best of the shortstops who aren't in.

ANDRE DAWSON---When all is said and done, Andre Dawson was a better man than a ballplayer.  I'd sit down to dinner with
him any day of the week and feel honoured to have his company. As a Hall of Fame candidate, however, he is extremely
problematic, and it doesn't have as much to do with his controversial 1987 Most Valuable Player award (he didn't deserve that
one, but he also didn't win a couple of other MVPs that he
did deserve) as you might think.

Dawson's lifetime on-base percentage (.323) is
nine points lower than his league's average over the course of his career. As a
matter of fact, in his MVP season (his no-questions-asked career season and a kind of fluke at that) his on-base percentage
was <
ixteen points below the league average; and, in only six of his 21 major league seasons did Dawson produce an on-
base percentage above his league's average at all. He wasn't much for taking walks,  or getting extra-base hits that didn't clear
a fence. And he had terrific speed until those injuries began to wear him down---Dawson has a .730 stolen base percentage
(average 26 attempts per 162 games, average 19 steals and 7 arrests per the same), which ought to tell you something. What
it tells me is that an OBP sixteen points under the league average in his MVP season and nine points below his league
average lifetime should be
absolutely disturbing.

GARY (The Little Old Lady From) DiSARCINA---One of the ballot rookies. DiSarcina was liked and respected, a hustling
ballplayer and terrific defencive shortstop. He might have been more but how could you tell? He didn't strike out a lot but
neither did he take a lot of walks; he was a mediocre baserunner; he created more than four runs per 27 outs only twice; and,
it seems that he spent almost as much time on the disabled list as he did on the field for a very long time. You just can't make
even an above average career, never mind punch a Cooperstown ticket, when the medical professionals see almost as much
of you for long enough as your teammates and opponents do.

ALEX FERNANDEZ---Another ballot rookie with, perhaps, even less reason otherwise to be there than DiSarcina has.
Fernandez meets the time-retired requirement and that's all, folks.

GARY GAETTI---He was a hustling third baseman for quite a time; he was an excellent defender and a potent enough hitter,
and he managed to last as a bona-fide major leaguer until he was into his forties. But he doesn't quite have enough defence
to sell to Cooperstown on the Mazeroski-Smith-Brooksobatic plan, and he wasn't so potent that he could justify a lifetime on-
base percentage
nineteen points lowerthan his league average. (Gaetti has two less seasons with an OBP above his league's
average than Andre Dawson has, in fact.) Gaetti in essence is Graig Nettles without the drop-dead third base acrobatics. At the
top of his game he was a fine player, but it isn't even close enough to make him a Hall of Famer.

STEVE GARVEY---Forget about his (ahem) Father of the Year awards in the late 1980s. I'm convinced the real reason Garvey
may have been dissed over the years really has to do with his being what Bill James called a Clockwork Baseball Player.

Garvey was
so locked into a program for achieving certain batting levels that it raised very legitimate questions, then and now,
as to whether he could or did step out of his own way often enough, if and when his team needed him most to do it.
Unfortunately, the answers make him short enough of a Hall of Famer. Garvey could and did nail quite a few 200-hit seasons
and he wasn't even close to being a mere singles hitter. But he bunted for hits only x number of times a month (James swears
it was twice); he went with the pitch and the other way only a certain number of times a month; he let himself flat out flog only a
certain number of times a month.

No wonder Garvey was thought to drive his teams nutzoid. The good news for his teams: He rarely fell into a truly profound
slump, even when his power stayed slumping a little longer. The bad news: Garvey proved the classic case of the player who
trained himself
so well that he hindered as often as helped them. And he probably also trained himself right out of the Hall of
Fame.

DWIGHT GOODEN---It is time to knock it the hell off about what didn't ruin Gooden's career (the substance abuse) and, as we
say hello and goodbye to him on what stands to be his lone Hall of Fame ballot appearance, think hard about what <i>did</i>
ruin him. Or, who.

With the best of intentions (and the worst of foresight from the pressuring Met brass), Gooden's first pitching coach, Mel
Stottlemyre, began thinking that the best pitcher in baseball needed to improve. He pressed Gooden to learn two pitches he
couldn't throw comfortably if he'd been bionically reassembled, a changeup and a two-seam fastball. The result? Ask Gary
Carter, who was in the best position to know, and told it to author Jeff Pearlman for
The Bad Guys Won: “I always thought they
should have left Doc alone. Mel thought teaching him a third pitch would be to his advantage. But he didn’t need it. He needed
someone to say, ‘Hey, you’ve been successful. Just keep going at it.’ But they didn’t. I also think it hurt his shoulder. The
pitches didn’t feel natural to Doc, and pitching was so natural to him. It just wasn’t smart.” Ask, too, Ed Hearn, Carter's backup,
likewise to Pearlman: “I remember catching (Gooden) one day in the bullpen and they were working with him on the two-
seam. I’m thinking,
What the hell is this? He was a power pitcher with tons of movement, and they’re trying to teach him
movement? What the hell for

And, just as happened a generation earlier, with Sudden Sam McDowell, when he insisted on adding a changeup to his
ballistic repertoire, hitters learned to stay away from Gooden's dollar repertoire and prayed for the changeup and the two-
seamer. And Gooden was too pliant. "Gooden made a tragic mistake," Pearlman observed. "He listened to everybody."

How talented was Gooden, naturally? Talented enough that in
spite of how the Mets' brain trust undermined him into
journeyman position career, The Doctor finished his career meeting forty percent of the Hall of Fame pitching standards and
coming in at 88.5 on the Hall of Fame pitching monitor, 11.5 below the average Hall of Fame pitcher. Talented enough that he
might have had four 20-win seasons, if he had won a mere
six of the twenty-five no-decision games he pitched over the three
other seasons where he might have won 20.

Picture what might have been if the Mets' brass had not decided to "insure" Gooden's "future" in spring 1986; had not decided,
in effect, that the best pitcher in the game---a kid in age only, who knew what he was doing and how to do it on the mound---
wasn't really good enough. When Gooden gets what will amount to sentimental votes if any, on his only Hall of Fame ballot
appearance, from those who were there when he lit up the world in 1984-85, that is what should cross before you one last
time, as you remember what he was, lament what might have been, and pray he finds a way to recompose his life at last.

OZZIE GUILLEN---If he'd played in the 1960s or even in a dead-even overlap to Ozzie Smith's career, Guillen
might look more
like a Hall of Famer. Might.

As with The Wiz, Guillen's biggest sell is a boatload of defence, though not quite to Smith's level. But Guillen also played in the
era when Cal Ripken, Jr. threw the proverbial bar through the ozone layer. And he still would have suffered in comparison to
Smith: Smith made a powerful effort to improve as a hitter as his career advanced; Guillen finished with a lifetime batting
average two points higher but Smith finished with a lifetime on-base percentage 50 points higher and was more run-
productive.

Playing in an era when great shortstops had begun to be offencive as well as defencive bellwethers, Guillen was out of time.
On the other hand, if he'd played in Luis Aparicio's time he wouldn't look like a Hall of Famer, either: Guillen's 62 percent stolen
base percentage isn't even close to Little Looie's 80, and the difference between their on-base percentages is +24, in favour of
Aparicio. Fun to watch as a player, fun to watch as a World Series-winning manager. But this Oz wasn’t quite a Wiz.

OREL HERSHISER---Hershiser was Dwight Gooden without his pitching coach monkeying around with his natural mechanics
and repertoire---not to mention without the substance abuse.

He was an above average pitcher and remains an above-average man, but Hershiser's Cooperstown case seems to rest
entirely on his 1988 season, both his regular season dominance (and his nudging aside Don Drysdale's consecutive shutout
innings streak) and his postseason transcendence. He was highly intelligent, had a good repertoire, knew what he was doing
on the mound, but Hershiser had only four seasons in an eighteen-year career in which you could consider him more than 50
percent above his league's average, and only one in the same period in which you could consider him a dominator.

He suffered a shoulder injury in 1990 that pretty much finished his top-of-the-line position, but if they were electing Hall of
Famers purely on personal class, however, Orel Hershiser like Andre Dawson would go in unmolested.

GREGG JEFFERIES---The spoiled brat who played and pouted his way off a Met club that probably spent as much time trying
to arrange the Franchise-in-Waiting's necktie party as trying to win baseball games. Jefferies grew up too late. He finally put in
a couple of sterling seasons with the Cardinals; when the Cardinals wouldn't give him a no-trade clause, he signed with the
Phillies as a free agent, but incessant injuries drained what power he had and made him into a singles hitter, which he stayed
during a short tour with the 1998 Angels and the 1999-2000 Tigers.

Jefferies learned the hard way about not being able (or, with an injury-addled body, allowed) to play the game anymore when
you finally learn to play it right.  

DOUG JONES---I notice Jones getting quite a bit of attention as the sleeper among the eligible relief pitchers. He had a few
seasons in which he was as good as it got, but I don't remember him being particularly dominant in the stats. What Jones
<i>did</i> contribute, however, was a reminder that you don't have to blow their heads off to get men out and be a door-closing
game finisher, if you know what you are doing out there and have no fear of letting hitters swing the bat.

WILLIE McGEE---Whitey Herzog had him pegged right: "heads up, no bull baseball." He was fun to watch and a good contact
hitter, but McGee really wasn't very run productive for a player with his bat control and his baserunning ability.  

HAL MORRIS---A decent player. That's all.

JACK MORRIS---MLB.com's Jason Beck, noting that Morris's vote percentage trickles up each year, isolates as well as anyone
can do it in short space the primary problem with Morris's Hall of Fame case:

"The main criticism to his candidacy, in many voters' eyes, is a 3.90 lifetime ERA that sits less than two-tenths of a run under
the league average over the course of his career. Most of the damage came during his final six seasons, when he finished with
an ERA less than 4.00 in only one of the six years.

"The dichotomy between a high win total and a high ERA raised the question: Did Morris win because his teams were so good,
or was his ERA uncharacteristically high for a great pitcher because he pitched to the score? The fact that he tossed a
complete game in nearly one out of every three starts would help suggest the latter. The fact that he had more games with five
or more runs of support than most of his peers in the American League argued the former.

"During an interview with MLB.com last year, Morris suggested he pitched to the score.

"If I had a three-run lead, I was throwing fastballs down the [middle] trying to get the inning over," he said. "If I threw a fastball
down the middle and they hit it out, they hit it out."

Morris doesn't exactly convict himself with his own testimony, but neither does he enhance his defence. Let's look at the
winningest pitcher of the 1980s: Morris's average season for the nine 1980s seasons he pitched (based on 162 games)  is
18-13 with a 3.66 earned-run average. That's not even Fernando Valenzuela (16-13, 3.19 ERA, and oh, by the way, 25 more
strikeouts, in 8.16 years based on 162 games), never mind Roger Clemens (20-9, 3.06, 251, in 4.85 years based on 162
games).

I don't know if or when Morris will get into Cooperstown, but I do know that I'm just not convinced too strongly that he is a Hall of
Famer. But neither am I convinced entirely that he isn't. Yet. (U)

DAVE PARKER---If Andre Dawson had a better on-base percentage he'd be Dave Parker. Ranked objectively as one of the
fifteen best right fielders in history, Parker has a borderline Hall of Fame case. Perhaps if he had learned earlier than he did
about when to leave his ego at the stadium gate: Told once that Parker called him his idol, Willie Stargell is said to have
replied, "That's pretty good---considering his previous idol was himself."

JIM RICE---What helps his case: He
was one of the most feared hitters in the game for awhile. What hurts his case: He was far
less feared in the road ballpark than he was in Fenway Park; he has a home-road split far wider than Dale Murphy, who also
suffers from a home-road comparison. But if Rice had played his prime in a neutral home ballpark, I'm not convinced that he
would look as good as they look before you make note of his home park, or that he'd rank on the Hall of Fame batting monitor
as high as he does. (Murphy? In a neutral park he would probably look better.)

Rice was not as terrible a defencive left fielder as he was often said to be; he was serviceable enough even when he was
compared (unfairly) to the man he succeeded, Carl Yastrzemski. But Rice was also a guy you did not mind seeing with men
on base because he was as likely to give you an inning-ending present of grounding into a double play as to cash in a run or
two. There are five men ahead of him on the all-time GIDP list, and the five are either Hall of Famers or a year away from going
in in a walk. But they all had longer careers, and were far more productive over those additional lengths, than eventual injuries
allowed Rice to be.

WALT WEISS---Meets the time-retired ballot eligibility requirement but just about nothing else. His membership on a few great
Oakland teams and a pocketful of other winners (he made thirteen postseason series with the A's, the Rockies, and the
Braves) makes him seem to have been better than he really was; it helped him win a Rookie of the Year award (1988) that
should have gone to the ill-fated California Angels relief pitcher Bryan Harvey. But Weiss was a useful player in a fourteen-year
career. Weiss also had one intriguing consistency: He walked more than he struck out eight times in his career, but for his
career he ended up walking
and striking out dead even: 658 times each, averaging 71 of each per 162 games.

JOHN WETTELAND---Not quite. But even if you dismiss him as the stereotype Lee Smith is merely believed to have been (the
one-inning finisher), Wetteland
was terrific for a few years.