In the 2007 Hall of Fame balloting by the BBWAA, there were two clear-cut, no-lose, first-ballot candidates in Cal Jr. and Tony Gwynn. This year, the only addition to the roster of candidates who has a better than even-money chance of inclusion is one of the greatest base-swipers and most dangerous leadoff men of all time in the form of Tim "Rock" Raines, possessor of arguably the most telling and indictable nickname in recent memory. Raines brings with him the juxtaposition of someone who has admitted to flagrantly flaunting the law while he played the game, in comparison to others on the list of candidates that have not admitted to disregarding the law while playing the game but over whose history hangs a dark cloud, the important and debatable points being how a player’s personal flavor of vodka may have impacted their performance and whether that issue or their mea culpa (or lack thereof) is relevant to their consideration.
Sticky pharmaceutical and ethical quandaries aside, the most deserving member of this ballot is Jim Rice, who has waited too long for his recognition in Cooperstown. It’s his 14th time on the ballot; in the previous voting, he saw his percentage of the vote drop from 64.6 to 63.5 (75 percent is the threshold). If Rice doesn’t get elected this year, next year will be his last chance unless at some point the veteran’s committee sees fit to eventually overturn what would be an egregious omission. Blyleven should be in, as should Tommy John. Goose will make it (if not this year, then soon; it’s his ninth turn) and I’m pretty comfortable with the thought of Lee Smith enshrined. I used to waver on Andre Dawson, but now I’m sure he belongs. The problem is people, myself included, really like Hawk, which is the most difficult thing for me to rectify when looking at Rice V. Hawk. Rice belongs, and this year may serve as his best chance to see him placed considering his body of work compared to the other worthwhile candidates. The writers do not have to elect anyone to the Hall, but that has not happened since 1960, and should it really come down to yet another snub of Rice in favor of another perhaps equally worthy, but certainly not more worthy, candidate than he based on the fact that Hawk was/is popular and accessible (arguably the most popular Cubbie in recent history along with Santo), whereas Rice had a tumultuous relationship with the press, his teammates and his fan base?
This year, a somber inclusion is the exceedingly popular Rod Beck, whose five-year waiting period was waived due to his passing. Next year, the big name on the ballot will be Rickey, a sure-fire first ballot choice, unless Rickey chooses to put Rickey’s cleats back on, which is extremely unlikely, but hey, he’s Rickey. The full list follows.
by Awards/HOF · 27 comments
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