Closely related to these hopes are the what if scenarios that fans of most teams are putting together for 2012. A key component to these scenarios is for fans to highlight all the things that went wrong in 2011 and suggest that if those things go right their team will win a pennant in 2012. These what if scenarios are essential for fans, but most are wrong and do not come to fruition. The reason for this is that too frequently the good luck from the previous season is overlooked. Giants fans, for example, believe, perhaps rightly, that Posey’s injury cost the Giants a playoff spot. While this may be true, it is wrong to extrapolate from that assertion that the Giants suffered from bad fortune in 2011. The team got unexpectedly great years from Pablo Sandoval and Ryan Vogelsong that in terms of impact on the team probably ameliorated much of the loss from the Posey injury.
Last week in a relatively minor move, the New York Yankees resigned veteran outfielder Andruw Jones to a one year contract. This is a good move for the Yankees, who will continue to use Jones as a fourth outfielder and right-handed bat as needed. It is also probably a good move for Jones, who will be slotted into a role for which he is a good fit on a team that has a decent chance of making the playoffs. Jones’ career has had an interesting trajectory. He made his debut as a 19 year old phenom for the the Atlanta Braves in 1996. He capped off that by homering in his first two World Series at bats. By the age of 20, Jones was the starting center fielder on a playoff bound team. For about a decade after that Jones was an elite player, know largely for his outstanding defense in centerfield.
If I had a vote for the Hall of Fame, I would drop Walker from my ballot, but would not add Murphy, so the returning players who would get my vote are Bagwell, Larkin, Martinez, McGriff, Raines and Trammell, as well as first time candidate Bernie Williams.
In all elections, whether for awards, political office or All Star Games, the election system has a big impact. This will continue to be the case for the baseball Hall of Fame and it will add another dimension to an already complex and sometimes irrational process over the next few year
Every few years the Hall of Fame seeks to address some of these issues, usually by adjusting the process for electing people outside of the annual ballot through changes to the veteran’s committee and the like. However, the method for voting on the players in the annual ballot has remained largely unchanged since the early days of the Hall of Fame. The requirement that a player must get 75% of the votes cast to win induction is something of an unusual voting system which differs from the BBWAA voting system for baseball awards, which is done through rank order voting and the fan’s vote for the All Star Game which is based on a simple plurality.
The recent Hall of Fame balloting yielded some interesting results. First, for the first time in several years there were no false positives. The two players elected, Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar, were well deserving of the honor and in no way bring down the overall quality of players in the Hall of Fame. This is different than each of the last two years when the election of borderline candidates like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson troubled many because many clearly superior players, for example Tim Raines, did not get elected while other superior players, like Will Clark, who were contemporaries of these two received little or no support when they were on the ballot.
There are 14 players on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot who are return candidates from 2010: Roberto Alomar, Harold Baines, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell. This exceptionally strong group of returning players, particularly given the relatively weak pool of first time players on the ballot, suggests that at least some of them will be elected in 2011.
As the decade winds down, baseball fans can read about teams of the decade,top 100 players of the decade, all-star teams of the decade, the greatest moments of the decade and other measurements of the decade which just ended. Here are some other awards for the soon to be complete decade which have been overlooked.
Alomar and Larkin were among the very best ever at their positions and, petty biases regarding first time inductees aside, should take their rightful place in Cooperstown. McGriff and Martinez are more complicated candidates, and raise some interesting questions, but also deserve to be elected.