I may be ecstatic over Ryne Sandberg getting into the Hall of Fame, but the rest of the process for this year is a complete joke. Sandberg and Wade Boggs were the only men to be voted in, and while both deserve it, they should not have been the only two. Someone please explain to me how these men did not make it:
Bruce Sutter- Forget his stats (which are good enough to be in), he deserves to be in solely because he was the first to throw the split-finger fastball. That pitch has changed the way people pitch in the last twenty five years. He had an excellent run as a closer for several years, won a World Series with St. Louis, and was as reliable on the mound as anyone during his prime.
Rich Gossage- He was one of those pitchers that could blow you away. He could tell you that he was going to throw a fastball right down the middle and dare you to hit it, and you would still miss it. He was durable, reliable, and a winner. Plus, he had a really cool mustache.
Lee Smith- Anyone with 478 career saves deserves to be in the HOF. Smith got a majority of these before the era of the easy save that started in the 90's, when closers would come in to a game at the beginning of an inning with a two or three run lead. He, like Gossage, could blow you away with his fastball, but he also had a slider that crossed degrees of longitude when it was working.
(Side note here, all three of the closers played for the Cubs. Since it is common knowledge that I live and die for the Cubs, I'd like to publicly disaparage any thought that I am simply looking out for members of the fraternity. Sutter and Smith started the careers with the Cubs, but were just as effective elsewhere, while Gossage was well past his prime when he took up residence on the north side. All three of these closers are among the best in history. Active closers like Smoltz, Rivera and Gagne will one day be in the Hall, but if they get there via the benefit of "easier" saves than these guys (and Dennis Eckersley already has), then there is something wrong with the way the game regards its pitching pioneers.)
Bert Blyleven and Tommy John- I group these two together because their numbers are so similar. Bly won 287 games, John 284. Doesn't longevity count for anything? Blyleven threw the greatest curveball I've ever seen (if he threw it in Montreal, it would wind up in Pittsburgh) and John, who had a surgery named after him, for God's sake, had to rely on mastering breaking and off speed pitches to succeed. It's ridiculous that these two don't even come close to getting in. Next century, when pitchers who win 200 games in their career are considered great, the game will be embarrassed that it took so long to recognize these two. Jim Kaat belongs under this reasoning as well. Jack Morris too.
Andre Dawson- Yes, another ex-Cub, but let me ask you something: only three players in history have at least 2700 hits, 400 home runs, and 300 stolen bases. Two are Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and I'd be willing to wager that 99% of the population knows who they are. Who do ou thinl is the third? Dawson. He was dominant in the mid-80's, when he played in the baseball obscurity that was Montreal, before coming to Wrigley Field in 1987. He won the NL MVP his first year there. People bemoan the fact that he performed poorly in the two playoff series he played in. Big deal. He was constantly part of the "who is the best player in the game" debate in the late 80's and early 90's. If nothing else, baseball ought to spring for free knee replacements for the rest of his days since he toiled on the asphalt fields of Montreal for so many years. If his knees had not broken down, he would have reached 500 home runs, 3000 hits, and would have been a first ballot choice. His not being close to inclusion is perhaps the biggest transgression.
Oh well. I don't have a vote, and even if I did, one more vote for these players would not be enough to change anything. Baseball writers are a strange bunch. Unless you have Ruthian stats, they expect you to patiently wait a few years until you are deemed acceptable to belong, unless health robs you of your skills, as was the case of Kirby Puckett having to retire early due to glaucoma. Good thing Kirby didn't have knee problems instead.
I've been to the Hall of Fame, and it's a special building. Baseball may have lost its innocence in my eyes a while ago, but the Hall of Fame is different. It allows me to see the people that I grew up reading about, guys who were long dead by the time I knew who they were. It's as historic a place as I have ever seen, and if I could, I would remind those responsible that there is still plenty of space where they display theplaques of those enshrined for new members.
The veterans committee votes in March (if you are not voted in by the media in the first fifteen years of eligibility, only the members of the Hall can vote you in). If Ron Santo (ex-Cub warning, yes, but COME ON!) is not voted in, I may never give credence to the process again.