Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Larkin, Bagwell shine above all first-timers on this year's Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

What do you think of Jeromy Burnitz?

How ‘about Vinny Castilla?

Or Brian Jordan? Javy Lopez? Bill Mueller? Terry Mulholland? Phil Nevin? Brad Radke? Tim Salmon? Ruben Sierra? Bernie Williams? Tony Womack? Eric Young?

OK, let me ask you this: When I mention any of those above-mentioned names does the phrase “Hall of Famer” come to mind?

Exactly my point.

Those 13 players appear on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year and none of them are going to get my vote. No offense. They were all good and talented players but not slam dunk Hall of Fame players.

Bernie Williams batted .297 and played on four World Championships with the Yankees. He was a key player for the Yankees but more a complimentary player than a star player, unless you throw-in a guitar. But he never won an MVP award. He was on the top 10 twice. That’s it.

But because he played in New York and is baseball’s all-time leader in RBIs in the post-season, some voters will think he is Hall of Fame worthy.

Not this one.

The other first-year guys? Castilla I remember him for hitting a bunch of home runs playing in home-run friendly Coors Field. Jordan? Great athlete. Lopez? Great-hitting catcher on a great Braves’ pitching staff. Mueller? Brad Radke? I didn’t even know he retired. Was Red Sox third baseman who got game-tying hit off Mariano Rivera in bottom of ninth inning in Game 4 of ALCS in 2004 against New York Yankees and we all know what happened after that. Mulholland? I was at Shea Stadium the night a ground ball got wedged in his glove so he tossed the ball AND the glove to Bob Brenly, who was playing first base for the Giants that night. Ruben Sierra? Traded for Jose Canseco.

I think of them and not once does “Hall of Fame” come to mind. But some of them, if not most, will get at least one Hall of Fame vote. Bret Boone and Benito Santiago got one last year. B.J. Surhoff got two. Former Yankee Tino Martinez got six. Kirk “Woody” Rueter didn’t a check mark on any of the 581 Hall of Fame ballots submitted and he’s a Hall of Fame guy.

Thus, I’m going to vote again for the same two guys I like who didn’t make it in the Hall of Fame last year: Former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (who was third in voting last year in his first year on the ballot) and former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell who hit .297 with 449 career home runs and 1529 RBIs. He was a unanimous winner of the National League MVP in 1994 and finished in the top 10 five other times.

Larkin and Bagwell had great careers. Hall of Fame careers in my mind.