Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cooperstown Said No to the Entire List

Article written by Dave Thomas - Guest poster
With action kicking off in both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, the smell of a new baseball season is in the air. That being said, did anyone pay attention to the news at the start of the year that left some scratching their heads?

For those who may have missed the announcement back in early January, Cooperstown closed its doors to any Hall of Fame candidates this year, leaving the present number enshrined at 300.

While the NFL playoffs kicked off, the National Hockey League was saving its season, and the NBA was rolling along on the hardwood, the announcement by Major League Baseball (MLB) was that no one was qualifying for its hallowed sanctuary in New York State at least in 2013.

With the announcement, it marked the first time in more than 15 years (1996 to be exact) that no former players (37 candidates were on the list) would be immortalized in Cooperstown.

So, was it the right call, or did the eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) strike out?

* Craig Biggio (Astros) - 68.2 percent of the ballots - 39 votes shy of election;
* Jack Morris ( primarily Tigers) - 67.7 percent;
* Jeff Bagwell (Astros) - 59.6 percent;
* Mike Piazza (primarily Dodgers and Mets, number of other teams) - 57.8 percent.

In looking at those four, an argument can be made both for and against them gaining entry into Cooperstown.

As much as both Biggio (3,060 career hits, seven-time All-Star) and Bagwell (449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs) meant to Houston during their careers, both on and off the field, they were unable to deliver a championship for the Astros. Not saying that should prohibit them from making the Hall, but that probably weighed on the minds of some voters.

Meantime, Morris pitched himself to a career mark of 254-186, mostly in the Motor City. His best year in terms of wins was actually during his short stint in Toronto, winning 21 games with the Blue Jays in 1992. Morris, who was on four World Series champion teams, finished with nearly 2,500 strikeouts.

When you look at his overall numbers and being on four championship teams, it is hard to make a case against him, yet some probably viewed him as a very good pitcher, but not the dominant type who could almost guarantee you a win each and every time he took the mound. Playing for some smaller market teams (Twins, Blue Jays, Indians) also probably denied him more exposure across the country. Morris, who has been on the ballot more than a dozen times, has one more crack left at getting to Cooperstown before he loses BBWAA eligibility.

Piazza Homered More Than Any Other Catcher 
In turning to Piazza, many would argue he was the best hitting catcher to come along since the days of Cincinnati Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.

Piazza, who also never won a World Series like Biggio and Bagwell, finished his playing days with a .308 batting average, 427 home runs (tops among all-time catchers with 396), and 12 All-Star appearances. The knock against Piazza was that he was not the best of defensive catchers, especially when it came to throwing out runners.

Among the more interesting names who also failed to gain entry, the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, all of whom have been scarred by the issue of alleged usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

Those three, along with some others who will come up for nomination in the next few years, may have a hard time finding their way to Cooperstown, especially given all the allegations that are out there regarding them and steroids in their playing days.

Cooperstown should be for best of the best who have ever played the game, not the really good, but not great players.

In looking at the class that was eligible this time around, the only one I would say deserved entry was Biggio. And this opinion comes from a sportswriter and Mets fan who cheered Piazza on for a number of years.
If you had been able to elect anyone for 2013, would you have voted differently than the BBWAA did?

With 23 years of experience as a writer, Dave Thomas covers a wide array of topics for various websites, including how to avoid premature gray hair.

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