By Matt Spiegel, co-host of The Danny Mac Show, and host of Hit and Run.
Baseball Hall of Fame decisions have to be a well educated instinct. Voters, and fans who enjoy the debate, need to inform themselves as best they can, and then simply trust their gut. I have always used a simple 5 point list of factors; I answer these questions about a particular player, than weigh the outcome.
1) Were you among the 2 or 3 best at your position for a considerable period of time? 7-8 years is a solid start…your prime.
2) Did you have longevity surrounding that prime, in which you were often very good?
3) Did you have the opportunity to shine in big moments during your career, and did you?
4) Do your overall numbers compare with those in the HOF at your position?
5) Were you the kind of complete player, and teammate, that increased your value beyond what your statistics might indicate?
These are listed in importance from top to bottom. If 3 or 4 of these answers are a marginal yes, that can be enough. If one or two are a dominant yes, that can be enough.
One factor, if a sound enough YES, can outweigh others. The excellence of the “prime” of Sandy Koufax or Pedro Martinez is such that the longevity concerns fade away. If you think Bert Blyleven or Don Sutton’s longevity is more important than their non-elite primes, so be it. I do not. Does Edgar Martinez’ sheer greatness as a hitter outweigh the fact that he was not a “complete player?” In my mind no, but it will for Frank Thomas, who was better.
Notice how low the “overall numbers” factor is pretty low. This allows open-mindedness on a few things: the egregious inclusions of the past (Mazeroski skewing 2B), the evolving respect for certain statistics (wins), and yes, the steroids era. Steroids enter in to 4 of the 5 factors…primes were extended, longevity extended, overall numbers affected, and “kind of teammate,” allows for character concerns. Yes, character matters, at least to me, character as a player and teammate. Vote your conscience.
My ballot for 2011 would start with Roberto Alomar, the best 2B of his generation. He’s a slam dunk yes on 4 of my 5 factors, with the spitting incident the only blight on number 5. Jack Morris has always been a HOF’er to me. He’s a yes on 1, 3, and 5, and in a big way. He was the dominant starter of the 80’s, and was a stud in 3 world series. Tim Raines is a yes for me, overshadowed by Rickey Henderson his entire career, but one of the best 3 or 4 leadoff hitters of all time. Jeff Bagwell is a no for now, while I sort out steroids factors further still. My vote, I’ll do with it what I want.
Bert Blyleven is a no for me. The 287 wins are impressive, and most have said that number not being 300 is what held him short. But he was top 5 in Cy Young voting just 3 times…never truly considered elite amongst his peers. Don’t let years of rising voting percentages and growing historical respect change your mind too much.
Educate, then trust yourself. You know if someone was truly great. Don’t you?