Three plus one for the Hall
If I had a vote in the Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, I would, as a matter of principle, write in Pete Rose and leave the rest of my ballot blank.
Understand that I abhor the man, his actions, his attitude, his philandering ways – I think he is the biggest jerk to ever step on a field (well, second after Don Zimmer). Yes, he broke the cardinal rule of baseball. However, that was as a manager – and he should be inducted for what he did on the field.
Did he stick around a little too long? Probably. But when he broke Ty Cobb’s record, he was still somewhat productive – it’s not like he was going all Rickey on us.
But, since this Rose thing is pretty much beating a dead horse, here is how I’d vote this year:
1) Bruce Sutter
2) Goose Gossage
3) Wade Boggs
And that would be about it.
I don’t subscribe to the theory that you have to be the dominant player at your position for an era – that’s why I don’t think Jack Morris or Ryno gets in. Sandberg was a very, very good second baseman – next to Tommy Herr, perhaps the best of his generation. But to me, that’s not good enough. You can be the best of your generation, or second best, and still not be Hall worthy -- look at shortstop before Nomar and A-Rod came along - people ridiculed the position for its dearth of talent. Does that mean Barry Larkin is automatic for the Hall?
There are enough non-Hall worthy already enshrined.
Sutter goes in for two reasons – one, he was a dominant closer – just dominant – for I’d argue eight years. People point out to his relatively short careeer (12 years, with four ERAs over 4.00) as a detriment. But I’ll say this – show me five closers who were dominant for more than eight years, and I’ll show you five Hall of Famers. Not merely good, but dominant. When Sutter came into a game in his prime, it was over. Done. You knew it. Kind of like Mariano Rivera these days.
The second reason for Sutter is that he pioneered the use of the split-finger as an effective weapon. Sure, other pitchers used it before Sutter. But he perfected it – he threw it ahead in the count, behind or even. Hitters knew it was coming and could do nothing with it. He paved the way for the next generation – where would Schilling be without his split? Clemens? Etc. This might be a weaker argument than his dominance, but hey, if Candy Cummings can be inducted for pioneering the curve, and Curt Flood has arguments in his favor for challenging the reserve clause (yet still losing!), this is just as valid.
Goose goes in for similar reasons as Sutter – dominant and overpowering. Goose redefined the closer’s role by throwing 120 innings a year, then when the overall role was adapted further in the mid to late-1980s, he threw his 50-70 innings equally well. To me, Goose was the first of the 'true' closers. For 22 years, Gossage instilled fear in hitters. The Red Sox KNEW in 1978 that the playoff game was lost when Gossage came in. He pitched for 22 years – 12 of them he posted a sub-3.00 ERA. In one, he had a 0.77 ERA. He threw almost 2,000 innings – as a closer. Unheard of. Of course, he goes in as a Padre, though.
Boggs is an easy choice. Best pure hitter, with George Brett and Tony Gwynn of the 1980s. Worked at his fielding to the point of winning two Gold Gloves. There’s not much to argue with Boggs, so I won’t even try. If he’s not first-ballot, I will be stunned.