Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First Year Players on the Ballot

Today I will look at several of the first year players on the Hall of Fame ballot and whether or not they have a chance to get in. Some have a chance to get votes. The "maybe" players will get their own post. However, all had good careers. This is a fun exercise for me, as these are many of the players that I got to see play when I first started going to major league (and minor league) games in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The "Yes Men":
Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine

The "Maybes":
Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, Moises Alou

The "We'll Get Votes" Crowd:

Todd Jones: the closer gifted with a great changeup, Jones saved 40 games twice in his career (2000 and 2005). In a 16 year career, Jones made one all star game and finished fifth in the Cy Yong voting in 2000. He is also one great writer.

J.T. Snow: Snow was a six time gold glove winner at first. His best years (1997-2003) saw him as a good source of left handed power and one of the key elements of some very good Giants teams. Snow also won the Willie Mac Award, voted on by team members and coaches for leadership and positive influences on the SF community, twice.

Richie Sexson: Sexson was a tall, thin first baseman with enormous holes in his swing. If he hit the ball, it would go very, very far. Two time all star for the Brewers, then brought to Seattle replace John Olerud. Sexson produced 39 HR, 121 RBI and 167 K's in 2005 but back problems ate him up.

Eric Gagne: In 2004, Eric Gagne was the best closer in baseball. Between 1999 and 2004 he saved 152 games and struck out 604 batters in only 530 innings. His changeup was described as "unfair" and "a pitch that should not exist." After elbow and back surgeries in 2005 and 2006, he was never the same. One of the major players named in the Mitchell Report for use of HGH.

Hideo Nomo: "The Tornado" was a fantastic pitcher when he first got to the Dodgers, featuring a devastating split finger fastball. The thing disappeared, for God's sake. Nomo led the NL in strikeouts as a rookie in 1995 and then led the AL in 2001. He only made one all star game; however his 1996 and 2002 campaigns were of an all star caliber. Nomo won 123 games in the United States, 78 in Japan and threw two no hitters.

Kenny Rogers: few remember (at least I didn't) that Rogers was a relief pitcher for the first four years of his career and led the AL in appearances in 1992. The idea that he led the AL in starts for the Rangers in 2004 is a bit weird. Rogers always seemed to win wherever he went, posting 15 win seasons 5 times in 16 years as a starter with the Rangers, A's and Tigers. He also won a World Series in 1996 with the Yankees.

Ray Durham: A 5'8 second baseman, Durham had good gap power and would toss in 10-15 HR a year for good measure. He was a skilled leadoff man who until he turned 30 scored 100 runs and stole 30 bases a season for the White Sox. Two time all star.

The "We Played" crowd:

Shannon Stewart: Stewart never made an all star team, but he did finish 4th in the MVP voting in 2003 (.307-13-73).

Esteban Loaiza and Jon Lieber: Loaiza won 20 games in 2003 with the White Sox and lead the AL in strikeouts. He played for 8 teams in his career and won 10 games in a season for four of them. He actually tied for the NL lead in games started as a rookie in 1995 for the Pirates. Speaking of that team, the starters were Loaiza, Denny Neagle, Paul Wagner, Steve Parris, John Ericks and Jon Lieber. In 1998, the Pirates traded Lieber straight up for Brant Brown. The result? Over the next four years Lieber won 48 games for the Cubs, including 20 in 2001 and made an all star team. Brant Brown hit 16 HR for the Pirates in 1999...but struck out 114 times in 381 AB and was traded to the Marlins for Bruce Aven.

Geoff Jenkins: Jenkins was an All Star for Milwaukee in 2003 and a solid left fielder who hit 20 HR every year.

Armando Benitez: Benitez was tall and filled out later in his career. He threw a very hard, moving fastball.  Benitez had trouble in the post-season, blowing two saves for the Orioles against the Indians in the 1997 ALCS and then blowing game one of the 2000 World Series. The man did, however, save 289 games. He also won the 2001 Rolaids Relief Man award and made two all star teams.

Jose Vidro: In 2004, Vidro was 29 years old, a three time all star and 2003 silver slugger at second base for the Expos. In his first 8 seasons he hit 101 HR and notched 30 or more doubles five times. In 2005, Vidro suffered injuries to his right knee and was never the same, finishing up as a DH with the Mariners.


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