Couldn’t resist weighing into this HOF class. I actually don’t recall a more talented group. Here’s my rant.
That said, in my mind, Ken Griffey, Jr. is the best all-around ballplayer of the last 25 years. Not saying he had the best career, but for sheer skills, who was better? Maybe Willie, maybe Mickey, maybe Hank. But they were of a long-gone generation.
Don’t plague me with suggestions that Bonds was better. He didn’t come close to Griffey’s instincts or abilities in the field, had an average arm, and no matter what anyone says, had assistance that prolonged his status as an elite player, and propelled him to record heights. Griffey? I have never heard any rumors about him cheating. Look what he did despite years of injuries and having to play in Seattle with the ultimate drag of extended air travel after every series. So he’s a guy playing with the all time greats. He could be unanimous.
Mike Piazza? Finally time he gets his due. People keep saying he was the greatest offensive catcher of all time and that’s true, but it makes him appear to be a one-way ballplayer. He was more than that. What they don’t say is that he was a very good receiver, no Ivan Rodriguez, but a good field general and signal caller. But it’s his booming bat that distanced him from all the other catchers of his era. Congratulations, Mike, on a career well done.
Who else belongs? Garret Anderson was one of the most underrated ballplayers of recent years, kind of the Tim Raines of his time. Does either belong? Are they better than others currently in the Hall? Very likely. Will they make it? Slight chance for Raines. No chance for Anderson. Jim Edmonds might have been the new Fred Lynn, more raw talent than just about anyone, but injury prone. Not getting in. Nomar? Remember how good he was for a 5-year stretch back in the Era Of The Shortstop? Well, he wound up with a .313 career average despite all those accomplishments. Awfully close.
Good argument for Billy Wagner, who I always felt was never fully appreciated in Philly or NY. Was he better than Trevor Hoffman? Sometimes. Does either belong in the Hall? Yes, they both belong. But don’t even try to compare them to Mariano Rivera who pitched his entire career against DH-laden lineups in baseball’s toughest division and who did incomparable work on the biggest stage of all. No one dominated like Rivera. He should be unanimous, though some “high principled” sportswriter from Colorado or Texas could easily leave him off the ballot because they want to make room for someone who would otherwise be eliminated. We’ll see with Mariano. But Wagner and Hoffman, vote yes!
Not going to get into the seriously tainted steroids guys…Clemens, Bonds, Palmiero, Sosa, McGuire. But there are some guys who belong (Curt Schilling), other guys who have the stats and question marks (Bagwell, Larry Walker, Sheffield) and believe it or not, Jeff Kent. I don’t know if they were cheaters or not, and you can say Walker was a product of Colorado, but they’re going to be tough to ignore. And then what do you do with Mike Mussina? (See Rivera comment).Try pitching your entire career in the AL East for many years with ordinary or poor Orioles teams. I think he will eventually make it.
Last but not least, Edgar Martinez. How good a hitter would he have been with two good legs? I recently had the pleasure of speaking with (courtesy of Bob and Bill Janetschek and their new Gallery in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown) Carlton Fisk and Jeff Idelson, President of the HOF. I asked them whether Edgar belonged in the Hall. One said he was the best hitter in baseball for 5 years running. The other said unequivocally, yes, he belonged. Will he make it while he’s still on the right side of the turf or go in embarrassingly one season too late as did Ron Santo? I saw Edgar at his peak, and with a bat in hand, he was as good as anyone. Screw the DH bullshit argument. It’s been over 40 years already! Edgar belongs, vote him in now.