The nominees for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 have been announced. The results will not be tallied until January, but it seemed fitting to take a look at the most interesting candidates, see where they will fall, and give predictions for who will make it into the Hall this year and why.
Locks for induction:
Ken Griffey Jr.– One of the greatest home run hitters of all time, Griffey has one of the prettiest swings in the history of the sport. He hit 630 homers without a hint of steroid use, was a 13 time all star, and the American League MVP in 1997. He lead the American League in home runs 4 times and won 10 Gold Glove awards. Griffey helped the Mariners rise to relevance and popularity in the 1990’s, making it to the ALCS in ’95 and ’97. He will get voted in very easily on his first year of eligibility.
Trevor Hoffman– The second greatest closer of all time, and the second greatest Padre of all time. Hoffman collected 601 saves over 18 seasons in the majors. He retired as the all time saves leader, and was the first to get to 600 saves. He helped the Padres to the playoffs multiple times, including a run to the World Series in 1998. He will also be voted in very easily on his first year of eligibility.
Mike Piazza-The most prolific offensive catcher in the history of the sport, Piazza has been on the ballot for four years, and fell just short of induction last year. He is trending upward, and looks to join the immortals this year. His .308 average and 427 home runs while never striking out more than 100 times in a season, while playing the most difficult position in the sport, should merit Piazza’s induction this season.
Deserving Induction, Might Fall Short
Jeff Bagwell– Bagwell made the Houston Astros relevant in the 90’s and early 2000’s. He ended his career with a .297 average and 449 home runs. He won a league MVP and a Gold Glove, and helped the Astros to their first World Series appearance in 2005. He is a respected hitter, and was an excellent defensive performer at first base. So why might he fall short? He trailed off at the end of his career, played for a mostly mediocre franchise, and has a vague connection to steroid use. There doesn’t seem to be convincing evidence that he used anything however, so it remains a weak reason for keeping him out.
Lee Smith– Smith is one of the few journeyman candidates who has a good shot of going to the Hall of Fame. He held the record for most saves at the time of his retirement in 1997, before sure-fire hall of famer Trevor Hoffman claimed that mark. He was the Relief Pitcher of the Year three times and was the force out of the bullpen that made the Cubs, Red Sox, and Cardinals competitive in the 80’s and early 90’s. However, he played for five other teams to end his career, and was only good with all of them. He will have a difficult time gaining induction, but he is certainly deserving of election.
Tough Luck Candidates
Curt Schilling– Schilling is a curious case. His regular season statistics are excellent, but not the greatest. He ended with a 3.46 ERA, 206 wins, and the 15th most strikeouts of all time, 3116, and was more known for his (horrible) public commentary than for his play on the field. But his postseason numbers are stellar. He started 19 games, went 11-2, collected a 2.23 ERA, and was the driving force on the mound behind four trips to the World Series and three championship rings. Schilling will likely not be elected this season, but will increase his vote total over past years, potentially being elected late in his eligibility, a la Jim Rice.
Edgar Martinez– Martinez defines the debate over the DH. He was one of the most feared hitters of his time, is the only designated hitter to ever win a batting title, and finished his career with a .312 average. Many of the greatest pitchers of the age, including Pedro Martinez and Mariano Rivera, have said that Edgar was among the most difficult batters to face. There’s just one enormous problem: Martinez is a one dimensional player, as he was a DH for most of his career. The baseball purists who vote in the Hall of Fame ballot will keep Martinez out of the Hall this year and likely for his entire eligibility.
Alan Trammell– This guy is criminally underrated. A World Series Champion in 1984, a four time Gold Glove winner and a four time All Star, Alan Trammell defined consistently good performance with a career .285 batting average and sustained defensive excellence from 1977-1996. His biggest knock? He played in a small market, Detroit, and is popular among the Sabermetric community, which does not fill the Baseball Writers Association of America. He will likely fall short and be considered by the Veterans Committee for induction, as this is his final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot.
Mike Mussina– Talk about poor timing. Mike Mussina was the ace of a Baltimore Oriole team that never had enough in the tank to beat the New York Yankees. He then signed on with the rival Yankees, came within one tantalizingly close win of being a champion in 2001, and played excellent baseball for the rest of his time, but the Yankees didn’t win a World Series until 2009, one year after he retired. Mussina retired with 270 wins, more than Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Bob Gibson, and Carl Hubbell. He won 20 games in his final season, earned 7 Gold Gloves and 5 All Star nods. Why won’t he get in? He was consistently good, but never the best in the business. Also, Mussina is a Yankee without a ring. He’s probably the best Yankee to not win a championship, and that’s not a compliment a player wants on his resume. His stats earn respect and probably should put him in, but his lack of a ring will keep him out for now.
Barry Bonds– Bonds is simultaneously the most feared hitter from the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and the most hated player of the age. He is the poster child of the steroids era. He hit 73 homers in one season and is the all-time home run champion in baseball history. He also caused investigations and distrust in the sport of baseball that continues to hurt the sport today. Bonds’ numbers before 1998, the year when he is alleged to have started taking steroids, are good enough to earn induction to the Hall of Fame on their own. His numbers post 1998 merit election in a special ceremony separate from the regular process the second he retired, and yet he is marred by scandal and illegality. He will not be elected this year and quite possibly never be inducted.
Roger Clemens– This is one of the saddest stories in recent memory. Twenty years ago, Clemens was on the short list of greatest pitchers in baseball history and most beloved in baseball history. Even ten years ago, he was one of the most dominant players in baseball history. 7 Cy Young awards, 11 All Star appearances, 2 World Series rings, an AL MVP in 1986, and 354 career wins are just the beginning of another resume that should be an easy selection for the Hall of Fame. However, because of his link to steroid use in the Mitchell report and in other sources, Clemens falls into the same category as Bonds, a great player who would be in the hall on the first ballot without steroids. He is the most likely of the steroid candidates to make it into the hall, but he will not be elected this year.
Mark McGuire/Sammy Sosa– I list these two together because of their performance in the summer of 1998. They injected life into the game, and made baseball a spectacle to watch again. But they have both been clearly linked to steroid use and would be the poster children for the issue if not for people mentioned earlier in this list. McGuire’s 583 homers and Sosa’s 609 are tainted and will not get these two into the Hall of Fame.
Nice Guys Finishing Last
Mike Lowell– Lowell is the most interesting candidate I’ve looked at. He won three World Series in his career, winning the MVP award of the 2007 World Series with the Red Sox. He won a Gold Glove in 2005, and was a four time all-star. He was respected as a good player and the consummate professional, but likely will not make it into the Hall, or receive the minimum 5% of the vote to stay on the ballot.