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Sunday 18th Feb 2018

Baseball, like politics and religion, never lacks for both variance of opinions and complete clarity of said view, irrespective of the divergence of said perspectives.

I will say that I applaud the addition of the wonderful Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, who was a core piece on a couple of the best fantasy teams I ever had, to the sacred walls of Cooperstown.

Of course, as usual, there were those two absolute hits, but a lot of moaning and misses as fans and pundits all chime in on who should make it, and why.

I try not to get too wrapped around those pros and cons, though like everyone else, I have a list of players I think should at least merit more consideration than they seem to ever get, or have gotten.

Jim Kaat, with his 284 wins and 17 Gold Gloves (including 11 in a row) for example, or Tommy John, who not only bagged 288 wins, but lent his name--now reduced to initials--and body to the surgery that was an experiment on him but routine today. Darrell Evans, who smashed 414 homers, including 40 for Detroit at the age of 38, not to mention hit 40 in each league, and, well, see how many players did that--and was for awhile among the all-time RBI (1354) and walks (1605) leaders. Or ,Bill Buckner, who likely would have had 3000 hits had he not played with such reckless abandon. 

But, the thing is times and numbers have changed, and where 400 homers and 250 wins were the old barometers of my youth for Hall inclusion, those numbers seem to have fallen as the game has become a full-time year-round job, something it was not during the entirety of my youth. Now, 500 homers, 300 wins and 3000 hits are the baselines for the most part.

Not that I am feeling nostalgic, for while there are indeed more games played per team these days (162 as opposed to 154), there similarly were four-man rotations, meaning at least for starting pitchers, those who lasted had at least as many opportunities to establish numbers commensurate with today's top hurlers.

Although, in saying that, the game has changed and while innings and wins might be part of the equation, only Walter Johnson and Cy Young live in the all-time strikeout list Top 20 with the remaining hurlers all beginning their careers in the 60's or later.

I know the idea is to try to stay empirical and logical when applying some sort of reasoning to our HOF selections, but in the end, for most of us, our judgement is spoiled or enhanced in one way or another. 

For example, I get how good Curt Schilling was as a money player, but I have heard him talk enough, and think he is such an asshole that I could never vote for him, while the much cooler Mike Mussina is a no-brainer.

I still have a hard time with the inclusion of Jim Rice, who did give a fine .298-382-1451 line over 16 seasons. Not that Rice was not a great and feared hitter, but Dwight Evans, who hit .272-385-1384 over 20 years, was arguably THE defensive right-fielder with the best arm in baseball for more than a decade. Why one, and not the other?

Like I said, it is so subjective and we all filter, but if there is glory in the history of baseball, and joy in the watching of it, then there is almost something understandingly familial about arguing about those moments of joy and glory.

As with the All-Star selections, which are sort of a mid-season microcosm of the HOF arguments, I tend to try and shrug it off and enjoy the discussion.

For the record, I could vote for up to 10 players for the IBBWA (Internet Baseball Writers of America), and here is who I selected, and why:

Barry Bonds: Yeah, I know the HGH arguments, but he was the most dangerous hitter in baseball for at least five straight years, and if you take away 200 of his home runs because they are considered suspect, he still hit more than just about anyone else. Surly, yes. But Bonds was the dominant hitter of his time, period.

Ken Griffey Jr.: Kind of self-explanatory, but I am happy to report that I witnessed Junior's Major League debut, including a ringing double he hit off Dave Stewart in his first at-bat.

Edgar Martinez: I think Edgar was the best pure hitter of the 90's in the AL (their answer to Tony Gwynn). In other words, the George Brett or Rod Carew of the decade.

Mike Mussina: 270 wins is pretty good these days. In fact, the advantage the pre-70's hurlers had was that bullpens were used so differently in the past. Had Moose pitched in the 50's with those totals, he might even be a first ballot guy.

Alan Trammell: Along with Lou Whitaker, Trammell made up the best middle infield combination of the mid-70's into the mid-80's on a more than dominant team. 

Billy Wagner: 422 saves make him the most dominating left-handed closer ever. Good enough for me.

Note that I voted for Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza in the past and they are in the IHOF. I will likely never vote for Schilling, Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro. As for Roger Clemens, he is part Mussina and part Schilling, so make a case.

Because that is indeed one of the best parts about all this HOF fuss.

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