Later this week, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) will announce the results of its balloting for Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2014. Last year, the BBWAA did not give any player a requisite 75 percent of the vote necessary to gain admission into Cooperstown. This was widely believed to be a protest vote against Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and other players associated with the so-called Steroids Era.
There will be no such protest vote this year with several players on the ballot for the first time. Pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are expected to receive a near unanimous vote while Frank Thomas has a chance to be the first DH to have a bronze plaque in Cooperstown. Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina are also on the ballot for the first time. Other players on the ballot include Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, and Lee Smith.
After getting 68.2% of the vote in his first year on the ballot last year, Craig Biggio has a strong chance to exceed 75% this year. The Houston Astros legend was never tied to steroids and many believed he was unfairly penalized by last year’s protest vote.
It will be interesting to see if the BBWAA votes in Jack Morris. It is the mustachioed right-hander 15th and final year on the ballot. If he fails to attain 75% of the vote, Morris falls off the ballot. The only chance Morris would have to get into Cooperstown would be through the Veterans Committee. If anything, the Veterans Committee is a tougher nut to crack than the BBWAA.
But at least Morris has a chance to make an induction speech this summer. Here are three players whose only way into the Hall is through the Veterans Committee. I believe they are worthy of greater consideration for Cooperstown.
The Michigan born catcher spent his entire 15-year career with the Detroit Tigers. (2) During that 15-year career, Freehan led the AL in putouts among catchers six times in seven seasons, won five Gold Gloves and was named to 11 American League All-Star teams. From the early 1960s to the early 1970s, Freehan was the best catcher in the American League and arguably the best catcher in all of MLB until Johnny Bench came along.
Freehan finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .262 (identical to that of Hall of Famer Gary Carter) with 200 HR and 758 RBI. These numbers might look modest, but it must be remembered that Freehan played in an era where pitchers reigned supreme. Indeed, it was Freehan who caught Denny McLain when he won 31 games in 1968. McLain won both the AL Cy Young and MVP Awards. That year the Tigers would win their first World Series since 1945 and Freehan would finish runner up to McLain in AL MVP balloting. The previous year Freehan finished third in AL MVP balloting behind Harmon Killebrew and Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski. However, he received only 0.5% of the vote from the BBWAA in 1982 and dropped off the ballot. There are only 16 catchers in Cooperstown. Bill Freehan deserves to be the 17th.
If you mention the Kansas City Royals, the first player that comes to mind is George Brett. The second player would have to be Frank White. Both men made their big league debuts with K.C. in 1973 and would represent the core of their infield for more than 15 seasons. Between 1976 and 1985, the Royals won the AL West seven times, won two AL pennants and a World Series title in 1985.
In White’s 18-year career, he won eight Gold Gloves at second base and was named to five AL All-Star teams. As for his offense, White collected 2,006 hits, posted a lifetime batting average of .255 with 160 HR and 886 RBI. Those offensive numbers might be modest, but they are comparable to those of Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski (2,016 career hits, .260, 138 HR and 853 RBI). Like White, the Pittsburgh Pirates legend also won eight Gold Gloves at second base. However, White would only garner 3.8% of the vote by the BBWAA in 1996 and would drop off the ballot. If Maz has a plaque at Cooperstown then so should Frank White.
As a Red Sox fan, the Yankee I feared the most was Bernie Williams. In 16 seasons, Williams collected 2,336 hits, had a lifetime batting average of .298 with 287 HR and 1257 RBI. He hit .300 or better every year between 1995 and 2002 earning an AL batting title in 1998 with a .339 average. Williams was named to five AL All-Star teams and earned four Gold Gloves in centerfield.
Williams shone brightest in the post-season earning four World Series rings. In 121post-season games, Williams hit .275 with 22 HR and 80 RBI. Those 80 RBI are the most in MLB history.
Yet Williams only received 9.6% of the vote from the BBWAA in his first year on the ballot in 2012 and then dropped off the ballot last year after only receiving 3.3 % of the vote.
Of course, if you’re playing centerfield for the Yankees you are being measured against Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Williams isn’t in the class of Joltin’ Joe and The Mick, but I think the case could be made that Williams was the best all around player on those Yankee teams managed by Joe Torre in the late 1990s and early 2000s. From those teams, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera will be first ballot Hall of Famers. If Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte are subsequently inducted then I believe the Veterans Committee ought to give Bernie Williams a second look.
Bill Freehan, Frank White, and Bernie Williams played their entire careers with one team, were exceptional on the field and would fit in Cooperstown like a glove.