On January 5, we will find out who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this July in Cooperstown, New York. In order to be inducted, a player needs to receive a minimum of 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
It is widely expected that the inductees for the class of 2011 will be pitcher Bert Blyleven and second baseman Roberto Alomar. Both Blyleven and Alomar were only a few votes short of attaining 75% of the vote last year. While Alomar is only in his second year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Blyleven is in his fourteenth and penultimate year of eligibility. If for some reason Blyleven is not elected to the Hall in 2012 then he will have to wait for the Veterans Committee to consider him for inclusion. Although the Veterans Committee comprises mainly Hall of Fame players, in recent years they have become a tougher crowd to please than the baseball writers.
With this in mind here is a list of a few players who I think deserve consideration for Cooperstown but have been overlooked. This list is by no means exhaustive. Since I was born in 1972, I am leaning towards players I’ve seen during the course of my lifetime. Some of the players listed are currently on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot, some were recently considered by the Veterans Committee, while others are not currently eligible for consideration. Please note that I am not including either Pete Rose or “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. That’s a discussion for another day. So without further adieu let’s play ball.
This tall intimidating right handed flame thrower saved 478 games in his 18-year big league career which included stops with the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels and Montreal Expos. Only Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have recorded more saves.
In recent years, Cooperstown has welcomed several closers to its ranks, including Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Dennis Eckersley, and Bruce Sutter. All have fewer saves than Smith yet Smith remains on the outside looking in. The only knock against Smith is that unlike his aforementioned peers he never pitched in a World Series. It could explain why he has never broke 50% of the vote with the BBWAA.
Yet who can argue with Smith’s consistency? During the 1980s, Smith saved 234 games. Only Jeff Reardon (another overlooked closer) had more saves that decade with 266. In the 1990s, Smith recorded 274 saves. Only Eckersley was better during the '90s with 293 saves. Surely being baseball’s second best reliever for nearly two decades warrants inclusion in Cooperstown.
Alan Trammell & Lou Whitaker
For nearly two decades, Trammell and Whitaker were fixtures up the middle at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Simply put, Trammell at short and Whitaker at second comprised the greatest double play combination in the history of Major League Baseball. That alone should earn them plaques in Cooperstown.
Unfortunately, the BBWAA has not seen fit to recognize this pair of Detroit Tigers. After nine years on the Hall of Fame ballot, Trammell has failed to receive 25% of the vote. Whitaker only received 2.9% of the BBWAA vote in 2001 and dropped off the ballot. Yet Whitaker’s career offensive totals (.276 AVG, 244 HR, 1084 RBI) are in line with current Hall of Fame second basemen Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg and they are also comparable to soon-to-be Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar's numbers. Alas, Whitaker is not eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee until 2015. But good things come to those who wait. Besides I agree with Cal Ripken, Jr. when he says Trammell and Whitaker should be enshrined in Cooperstown together.
This man might be the most underrated catcher in the history of Major League Baseball. Simmons collected 2,472 hits in a 21-year career. Of that total, 1,908 came as a catcher. That’s better than Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra or Gary Carter. Only Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Kendall have more hits in games in which they wore the tools of ignorance.
On six occasions, the switch hitting Simmons hit .300 or better and finished with a respectable .285 lifetime batting average. Simmons, who spent the bulk of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals but who also saw time with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves, appeared in eight All-Star games and knocked in 100 or more runs thrice. Yet Simmons received only 3.7% of the BBWAA vote in 1994. But in 2010 Simmons candidacy was considered by the Veterans Committee. Unfortunately, when they convened at the MLB Winter Meetings in December he received only four of the twelve votes necessary for admission. The Veterans Committee should have been charged with a passed ball.
The Veterans Committee also passed over this great outfielder/first baseman last month. But Al “Scoop” Oliver was overlooked throughout his career. Oliver spent ten of his eighteen big league seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates where his achievements were overshadowed by the likes of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Dave Parker. “Scoop” also spent time with the Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Toronto Blue Jays. Oliver hit .300 or better on eleven occasions winning a NL batting title with the Expos in 1982 and had a lifetime batting average of .303. A respected leader in the clubhouse, Oliver finished his career with 2,743 hits and seven All-Star game appearances. If it were not for collusion on the part of MLB owners in the mid-1980s, Oliver might reached 3,000 hits and attained baseball immortality.
Will any of these players have the chance to deliver a Hall of Fame acceptance speech?