This seems appropriate, given that Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo were officially inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame a few days ago. There is no higher honor that can be bestowed upon a player than being enshrined into Cooperstown, where only the best of the best (unless your name is Pete Rose and are unjustly kept out for leading an immoral lifesty–sorry…back on track) reside.
We can already look forward to next year’s potential induction class, because the names among first-time eligible players is mind-blowing. We have three steroid-users, two sure-fire fan favorite Hall of Famers, and a World Series hero who might not quite have the numbers to garner 75 percent of the vote.
Let me break down this group of candidates one by one (predicted induction teams along side):
Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants
You may be surprised, considering I’m a true blue Dodger fan, to read that I truly believe Bonds is a Hall of Famer. Even if just for the seasons preceding 2001, Bonds was a one-of-a-kind talent. Power, speed, intelligence and defensive prowess seemed only to be matched in that generation by Ken Griffey, Jr.
That being said, there’s a difference between deserving the Hall and actually making it there. I don’t think the voters will forgive Bonds on the first ballot, but that he eventually will be rightfully enshrined a few years later. There’s no way the all-time single season and career home run leader* will be shut out of Cooperstown.
Career stats: .298 average, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI, 514 SB, 1.051 OPS, 2,558 BB, 7 MVP awards, 8 Gold Gloves, 14-time AS
Predicted HOF induction year: 2017
Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox
The Rocket is another guy like Bonds. He was clearly an incredible player from day one, who got caught up in performance enhancing drugs later on in his career. But based on his resume overall, there’s no way Clemens can’t be in the Hall.
What worries me about guys like Clemens and Bonds is that it sets a certain precedent for the rest of potential Hall of Famers who used steroids. If Bonds and Clemens are in, does that mean Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire are in? Does that excuse Pete Rose from his lifetime ban? This all remains to be seen.
Career stats: 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4,672 K, 8.6 K/9, 7 Cy Young awards, 1 MVP award, 11-time AS
Predicted HOF induction year: 2018
Sammy Sosa, Chicago Cubs
Sosa was kind of an under-the-radar guy until his golden steroid age of 1998. His muscles blew up, and so did his home run totals. Baseball fans can’t deny that the home run race between Sosa and McGwire that summer was incredibly epic and exciting, but it was all a sham.
But did Sosa have the overwhelming numbers like Bonds and Clemens to earn a trip to Cooperstown? The fact that 402 of his 609 home runs were from 1998 and on (in some voters’ minds, anything after ’98 is considered tainted) is very worrisome for his chances. Still, his other numbers are very impressive.
Career stats: .273 average, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI, 234 SB, .878 OPS, 1 MVP, 7-time AS
Craig Biggio, Houston Astros
If there is a more deserving, clean Hall of Fame nominee in this first-year class than Biggio, I want to see him. Not only was Biggio the ultimate utility man (started as a catcher, played mostly second base, but also used in the outfield), he put up big numbers no matter where he played.
Biggio is a member of the exclusive 3,000 hit club, and will always be remembered for his impressive hustle and scrappy-ness (not to mention his trademark tarred helmet). The facts that Biggio was a huge fan favorite in Houston, played his whole career for the Astros, and never even gave reason to entertain the thought of juicing, are bonus points.
Career stats: .281 average, 291 HR, 1,175 RBI, 414 SB, 3,060 H, 4 Gold Gloves, 7-time AS
Predicted HOF Induction Year: 2013
Mike Piazza, Los Angeles Dodgers (sorry, Mets fans)
Here is one of those no-brainer inductees. Piazza is widely regarded, and deservedly so, as the greatest offensive catcher who ever played the game. From winning Rookie (and Mullet) of the Year with the Dodgers in 1993, to leading the Mets to a World Series appearance in 2000, Piazza was a force in the middle of lineups his whole career.
Piazza never would have been confused for a good defensive catcher, but that’s not what he’s on the docket for. Instead, it’s his nine 30-homer seasons, and over-.300 career batting average. Piazza really was a complete offensive star, and never gave any reason for PED speculation in an age where steroids ran rampant. Not bad for a 62nd-round draft pick.
Career stats: .308 average, 427 HR, 1,335 RBI, .922 OPS, 1 Rookie of the Year, 12-time AS
Predicted HOF induction year: 2013
Schilling will forever be remembered, especially in New England, for his gutsy pitching performance in the 2004 World Series run that helped bring an end to the long Red Sox title drought. The bloody sock has become an icon all its own, standing for strength, perseverance, and victory.
But does one huge postseason allow voters to look past the career numbers and enshrine Schilling in the Hall? Will an 11-2/2.23/0.97 career postseason line actually trump a win total well below 300 and no major awards? Time will tell; I wouldn’t be surprised either way. In my mind, Schilling is one of the best pitchers of all time, worthy of enshrinement.
Career stats: 216-164, 3.46 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3,116 K, 8.6 K/9, 6-time AS
Predicted HOF Induction Year: 2022
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)