With the MLB and the Players’ Union reaching a new agreement, the Winter Meeting’s happening and the Braves, Astros and Mariners’ making their presence felt, the MLB off-season is in full swing. We are a month past the epic Game 7 in the 2016 World Series which saw The Chicago Cubs end their 108 year title drought, and The Cleveland Indians’ continue, in what was probably the most exciting game since the 2007 NL-Tiebreaker between the Colorado Rockies and The San Diego Padres (in which Matt Holliday still has yet to reach homeplate). But my personal favorite part of the off-season? It isn’t the 24/7 excitement of Hotstove, nor is it seeing what moves my team may make to be a contender for the upcoming season. My favorite thing is one word, and one word only…Cooperstown.
Each year, we celebrate our National Past Time the best way we know how: The MLB Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame features some of the biggest names in the game’s history, ranging from Babe Ruth to Tom Glavine; Willie Mays to Hal Newhouser; Nolan Ryan to Tom Seaver. We’ve seen journeymen like Rickey Henderson elected. We’ve seen players like Cal Ripken, who spent his entire career with one team (The Baltimore Orioles) put in the Hall. We’ve seen players on the same team be elected (Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski). Players are elected on defensive (Ozzie Smith) and offense (Mike Piazza) alike. To me, Cooperstown is something special. It holds the history of the game we love at your fingertips for you. It reminds me of why I love this game, it shows the diversity of the game. That’s what baseball is about. So who makes it this year? Between the Veteran’s Committee and the annual BBWAA, are we going to have a stacked class?
Prediction #1: Trevor Hoffman, Closer. Election Method: BBWAA.
Trevor Hoffman’s undeniably a Hall of Fame player, and the only reason he missed it last year is because his name isn’t Mariano Rivera. Hoffman, who retired the MLBs All-Time Saves Leader, was the first closer in MLB history to reach 500 and 600 save milestones. With a career 2.87 ERA, if Hoffman was on a better team than The Padres, where he was the face of the franchise, for so long, he would be the All-Time Saves Leader to this day. That’s not discrediting the greatness that was Mariano, but rather discrediting the Padres ability to put a team around Hoffman, or lack thereof. Hoffman was a 7x All-Star and had 1,133 career K’s. Hoffman wasn’t a strikeout pitcher either. He’s in every way a Hall of Fame closer. With more 40 save seasons than any other pitcher in MLB history and the most strikeout per inning ratio put up by a reliever, he will get in. It’s all just a matter of time.
Prediction #2: Tim Raines, Left Fielder. Election Method: BBWAA.
The fact that Tim Raines isn’t already in is absolutely absurd. The legendary Montreal Expo was the greatest lead-off hitter not named Rickey Henderson in MLB History. Tim Raines’ exemplifies how you play the game of baseball. You reach base any way you possibly can, and he reached base safely more times than Lou Brock, Tony Gwynn, Roberto Alomar, Brooks Robinson among other MLB Hall of Famer’s. Reaching safely 3,977 times, it really hurt his case having around 2,600 hits only. Raines also has the highest stolen base percentage of all-time. As a lead-off hitter, you need a threat on the basepath, and nobody was more of threat than Raines. “The Rock” is entering his 10th and final year of eligibility, barely missing election this past year.
Prediction #3: Jeff Bagwell, 1B. Election Method: BBWAA
Known for his unique batting stance, Bagwell is long overdue for enshrinement into Cooperstown. Batting over .300 6 times over a 15 year career, he’s arguably the greatest Houston Astro to ever play. The 1991 NL Rookie of the Year recipient was a 4 time All-Star and a gold glove defender at 1st base. Bagwell finished his career with 449 homeruns and a stellar .297 career average over 15 years. He made his only World Series appearance in his last year in the league.
Prediction #4: Bud Selig, Commissioner. Election Method: Veteran’s Committee.
In which is probably the only Hall of Fame “lock” this year, former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig takes his first shot at the Hall of Fame. There really isn’t much to say about it, other than the dude’s the 9th commissioner, let’s be real. His presence is still felt today.
Ivan Rodriguez, Catcher. Election Method: BBWAA.
Pudge is far and away a Hall of Famer. 13 Gold Gloves as a catcher, an MVP award, 311 homeruns and a .296 career average. He’s the greatest catcher since Gary Carter, maybe Johnny Bench. Why he might not make it? Jose Canseco’s PED allegations.
Lou Piniella, Manager. Election Method: Veteran’s Committee.
Another person who should make it in but may not, Lou Piniella. “Sweet Lou” was a multi-time Manager of the Year who led The Lovable Losers to the playoffs multiple times, though didn’t make it very far. He also managed many great Yankee teams, the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, and the Mariner team that won 116 games. Why he might not make it? He only won one World Series.
George Steinbrenner, Executive. Election Method: Veteran’s Committee.
“The Boss” was the legendary owner of the Yankees from 1973 to 2010, in which they won 7 World Series championships and 11 American League pennants. He’s one of the biggest winners’ and most beloved figures in the history of baseball. Why he might not make it? Unlimited payroll. He was able to put together winning teams to spend nothing but money on players like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Winfield, Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly.
Orel Hershiser, SP. Election Method: Veteran’s Committeee.
The legendary Dodgers’ pitcher fell off of the BBWAA ballot in 2 years. But was that a mistake? Hershiser holds the MLB record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings and one of the best post-season pitchers to ever play. Winning 23 games in 1988, he won the NL Cy Young Award. He was a gold glove defender and a silver slugger, and reached 200 career wins. He also has a lower career ERA than legendary Brave Tom Glavine, who made the Hall on first ballot in 2014. Why he might not make it? After leaving the Dodgers, he had some shaky seasons after his dominate seasons; specifically with the San Francisco Giants.
It will be interesting to see how many make it from the VC tomorrow night, especially with Mark McGwire on the ballot. Who makes it in? Who’s once again snubbed for another year? We’ll find out soon enough.
Jameus Mooney, Editor and Writer
Follow Me on Twitter: @TheJameusJack