By Sweeny Murti
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Thoughts on the Hall of Fame vote:
*First and foremost, congratulations to the four newest members of the Hall of Fame. Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez were simply two of the most fun pitchers to watch in my lifetime, and that is true whether they pitched for or against your team. John Smoltz was one of the best competitors ever. And Craig Biggio was consistently one of the best athletes of his era. Congratulations to all, and it will be another great day in Cooperstown this summer.
Also, my hats off to the voting members of the BBWAA. Seriously. I know there are problems with Mike Piazza not getting in, and I agree with those who feel he belongs without having to wait another year. But the voters I know all take their responsibility seriously, and whether I agree with the results or not that's all I can ask.
I'm sure it will be a long year for Piazza, just as it had to be for Biggio, who fell just two votes short last year. But Piazza belongs and he will get his day. If it happens to be another year, so be it. Besides, how many speeches do you want to hear in one day? There were 15 future Hall of Famers on the 1974 ballot and 14 future inductees on the 1982 ballot. You know how many were elected in those particular years? Two apiece. Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford in '74 and Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson in '82.
I am not a member of the BBWAA, therefore I do not have a vote. So I don't see much point in giving you my hypothetical ballot since it's imaginary. Also, I haven't taken the same fine-tooth comb approach that I know many of the voting members did. Trust me, I've spoken to enough of them to know that they do their homework before sending in that ballot.
Are there guys I think should be in? Sure. I believe Jack Morris should have gotten in last year and I still think Tim Raines has Hall of Fame credentials. There a couple of pitchers I think belong (more on them below). As for the obvious PED-tinged candidate, I go back and forth on these guys all the time. There are days I say let 'em in and days I say keep 'em out. If I were ever given an official ballot I would be forced to take a stance, and I'm just not sure which way I would lean.
Anyway, I've said it before and I'll say it again: Getting 75 percent of a group of people to agree on anything is darn near impossible. That's what makes the HOF voting so difficult, and it's what makes those elected part of something special.
*Of the former Yankees on the ballot:
- Johnson won 34 games in two seasons with the Yankees (2005-06). His 5-0 mark vs. Boston in 2005 (including the clincher at Fenway in Game 161) helped the Yankees edge the Red Sox for the AL East title.
Unfortunately, Johnson also coughed up five runs in each of his two postseason starts as a Yankee, both pivotal Game 3 losses in best-of-five division series in '05 and '06. Johnson's last postseason victory? That would be Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Sorry to bring that up, Yankee fans.
- Raines, part of the 1996 and 1998 world champion Yankees, received 55 percent of the vote, still more than 100 total votes short of election. Raines has been gaining a little steam, and with a bit of the logjam cleared off the ballot (Ken Griffey Jr. is the only lock to join the ballot next year), he stands a chance to make a real move towards the necessary 75 percent next year.
- Roger Clemens, who won his sixth of seven Cy Young Awards with the Yankees in 2001, received 37.5 percent (slightly higher than Barry Bonds, who received 36.8 percent). It's pretty clear that drastic name-clearing evidence or a complete reversal on PED thinking by the public and/or voting body will be needed to get either of these guys into Cooperstown.
- Lee Smith -- who recorded three of his 478 career saves with the Yankees in 1993 -- was as high as 50 percent three years ago, but is now at 30.2 percent. He's no doubt a victim of the crowded ballot. Not sure if his day will come, but he has two more tries on the writers' ballot.
- Mike Mussina was up a bit at 24.6 percent in his second year on the ballot. I feel as if there is a lot of support for Mussina and Curt Schilling (39.2 percent) that is yet to be realized because of the contemporaries that had to go in before them, and have in the last two years (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Johnson, Martinez). Mussina should see a significant jump next year since he was probably squeezed out of many ballots with the 10-man limit. Although my guess is, if he's going to be elected, it will take a few more years to jump all the way to 75 percent. Same goes for Schilling. I'm thinking both get in eventually.
- Fred McGriff, who was a Yankees farmhand before becoming one of the most consistent and dangerous power hitters of the 1980s and 90s, received just 12.9 percent.
- Gary Sheffield, who spent three years with the Yankees and was the runner-up on the 2004 AL MVP ballot, received just 11.7 percent.
-- Don Mattingly, in his final year on the ballot, received just 9.1 percent. More on him in a moment.
-- Aaron Boone and Tom Gordon received two votes each, while Tony Clark received none. All three players will no longer appear on future ballots after receiving less than five percent.
*So about Mattingly…
In between the generation of Yankees fans that loved Thurman Munson and Derek Jeter is the Mattingly Generation. Unfortunately his path to Cooperstown took a severe detour after 1990, and it's really hard to think he ever gets in based on the vote totals.
Mattingly received 28.6 percent in his first year on the ballot in 2001 and hasn't come close since. In fact, he never reached 20 percent again after 2002. His name will now go to the restructured Veterans Committee, part of the Expansion Era ballot which will come up for election again in two years. But expecting the committee to overturn his 15-year run on the ballot in one election is asking a lot, no matter how romantic our memories of Mattingly are here in New York.
It was a different committee that elected guys like Bill Mazeroski and Richie Ashburn, but those players peaked at more than 40 percent during their time on the BBWAA ballot. That's a number that Mattingly never sniffed.
When I was a teenager, Mattingly was undoubtedly one of the three or four best players in the game. And after getting to know him as a person while covering this game, I can tell you he is easily one of my favorite people in the sport. But as pretty as Mattingly's numbers were in his prime, the numbers don't add up very well. My guess is it will take several tries on the Expansion Era Committee ballot before Donnie Baseball is enshrined, if that day comes at all.
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