Epic Carnival | Where Sports and Pop Culture Collide: Not a Good Time to Get Into the Plaque-Making Business

Not a Good Time to Get Into the Plaque-Making Business

by JA, The Feed

Mindy Ellis has sculpted the plaques for 54 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame since 1995 but she may have some time on her hands in the coming years. The Veteran's Committee is cutting both the size of the voting pool and the eligible players next year and a seperate group will vote on managers and umpires up for inclusion in Cooperstown's hallowed hall. The Veteran's Committee votes every other year but no one's been elected via that route in three cycles but it remains to be seen if the changes will loosen things up for worthy choices like Ron Santo, Jim Kaat and the umpire Doug Harvey.

Even worse for Ellis is the slate of regular candidates coming down the pike. Goose Gossage will be happy to see a first-year eligible list that includes Tim Raines as its most qualified member. It likely means that Gossage, who just missed joining Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn this year, will get over the hump (hope Ellis works well with facial hair) but he'll almost certainly be going in alone. Raines never got his due from the baseball cognoscenti and it seems like a long shot that popular opinion of Mark McGwire will change by this winter's election. Jim Rice lost support in last year's election and notables like Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven seemed doomed to a lifetime spent with the tag of "very good" rather than "great." And if you're holding your breath for Travis Fryman, Chuck Knoblauch or Randy Velarde, we'll be burying you long before they enter Cooperstown with anything other than a ticket.

The 2009 class has one sure-thing, Rickey Henderson, and a bunch of also-rans. David Cone was very good but doesn't have the requisite resume, Mark Grace had the most hits in the 90's but wasn't a complete enough ballplayer, Denny Neagle will be remembered more for his proclivity for hookers than his pitching and two guys named Vaughn (Greg and Mo) wouldn't add up to one Hall of Famer.

2010 has the interesting cases of Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar to keep people watching but neither one is a slam dunk. I think Larkin will get in but his career comps include guys like Alan Trammell whose HOF hopes weren't realized and he doesn't score all that well on several of the monitoring systems sabermatricians devised to compare players. Alomar was one of the best players in baseball, a career .300 hitter and deft with the glove yet he's remembered more for spitting on an ump and falling apart with the Mets by those with a short memory. Both men should be in the Hall but I've got a suspicion at least one of them won't get it on their first try.

2011 is the last year that's got a full set of eligibles right now. The candidate with the best on-paper credentials is Raffy Palmeiro and until McGwire is dealt with there's no reason to believe that he's got a chance of getting in. Then comes Jeff Bagwell, a player who won a Rookie of the Year, a MVP and was the best first baseman in the National League for several years. I think he's a no-brainer but will the changing statistical landscape of baseball catch up with a player that fell short of 2,400 hits and 500 home runs. That would be criminal, but Blyleven and Kaat have suffered because they didn't notch 300 wins and it took forever for the very similar Orlando Cepeda to get his due from the voters.

A conservative estimate, then, of the next four votes sees Gossage, Henderson and some combination of Larkin, Alomar and Bagwell as likely enshrinees. Other than Rickey, though, I wouldn't start booking rooms for a hotel in Cooperstown just yet. Who knows what the writers will decide about Goose this year and the other three could concievably suffer from the misguided belief of some writers that there's a difference between a first-ballot Hall of Famer and other Hall of Famers. Either someone is worthy of enshrinement or they aren't no matter how hard some of the voters try to establish some secondary criteria about when you may vote for a certain player. If too many of them decide to make the three superstars of the 90's wait for their chance it could be a very quiet stretch in bucolic upstate New York.

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