Earlier this offseason, we'd been kicking around a variety of baseball topics in this little space called the Tuesday Talker List, where I ask for your opinions on a baseball topic and chime in with my own later in the day. The demands of hot stove developments and the holidays have pulled us away from that, but for the first Tuesday in a new year, I'm bringing it back.
(And before you ask: There's not much new to report on either Adam LaRoche or Carl Pavano. The Nationals are still the front-runner for LaRoche, and Pavano's decision will likely come down to whether he wants a longer deal or a more comfortable set of surroundings in Minnesota. I've got some calls in, and will post what I find out later today.)
Anyway, for our Tuesday Talker topic, here's my question: Which player, or players, on this year's Hall of Fame ballot deserve to get in?
The Baseball Writers Association of America will announce results of this year's ballot on Wednesday, but there have already been a series of reports suggesting that Bert Blyleven, the former Twins/Pirates/Indians/Angels pitcher who has been on the doorstep of the Hall for years, is finally going to get in. Those reports have also suggested second baseman Roberto Alomar, who won two World Series in Toronto and appeared in 12 All-Star Games, will be inducted in his second year of eligibility.
Those two players are the only ones who have been close in years past, and would seem to be the only ones with a legitimate chance. Jack Morris and Barry Larkin have only received around 50 percent of the vote in years past, and voters haven't been kind to steroids-era sluggers like Mark McGwire in their first years on the ballot. The steroids specter figures to keep Rafael Palmeiro out in his first year on the ballot, and might get Jeff Bagwell, too. But outside the question of who will get in, we can certainly discuss who should.
Take a look at the ballot, with career stats, over on Baseball Reference. Then tell me who you think deserves to get in. I'll post my thoughts later this afternoon.
UPDATE AT 3:05 P.M.: OK, you've had a chance to weigh in with some of your thoughts on this year's Hall of Fame class. I've only got three years in the BBWAA, so I don't have a vote, but if I did, here's who would be on my ballot:
Blyleven, Alomar, Bagwell and Larry Walker.
Blyleven, as it has been noted many times before, has been helped by the advent of sabermetrics as much as any player in history. He never won a Cy Young, only made two All-Star teams and fell 13 wins short of the magic 300 number that virtually guarantees enshrinement. But he is fifth all-time in strikeouts, and has the 13th-best WAR of any pitcher in history. He led the AL in shutouts three times, and is ninth all-time with 60 shutouts. His win-loss record is only 287-250, but that's a product of pitching on plenty of bad teams. The rest of his numbers suggest he belongs.
Alomar didn't get in last year, missing by just eight votes in what was seen as a slap on the wrist for his famous 1996 incident, when he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck while he was with the Orioles. But he won 10 Gold Gloves, a record for a second baseman, and hit over .300 nine times, retiring with a .300 career average. Alomar could draw walks, steal bases and score runs, making him one of the best top-of-the-order hitters of his generation. He'll get in this year, and he deserves to get in.
Bagwell's reputation has taken a hit recently, due to suspicion he might have used steroids. But there isn't a whit of hard evidence linking him to PEDs, only the fact he played with known user Ken Caminiti. He hit 449 homers, retired with a career .297 average and .948 OPS, and had a 149 OPS+, which accounts for differences in ballparks and eras. He also stole 202 bases, twice reaching the 30-30 club as a first baseman. If Bagwell didn't use steroids, those are Hall-worthy numbers. And we have no evidence he did.
Lastly, Walker: He's a polarizing candidate for many people, because he put up some of his best numbers in pre-humidor Coors Field. But his career OPS+ of 140 is tied for 72nd all-time, better than Reggie Jackson or George Brett, and he was one of the great right fielders of his era, winning seven Gold Gloves. He retired with a career .313 average, and won a MVP award in 1997. I'm not sure he'll make it this year, but I'd put him on a ballot.
So there's my hypothetical ballot for this year. Let me know what you think of the choices.