Last call for the Hall

Readers have their say about which players should make it to Cooperstown. Last of three parts.

Published July 26, 2000 7:00PM (EDT)

Over the past two days I've talked about which position players and pitchers ought to make the Hall of Fame. Now it's your turn.

The e-mails have been pouring in, and some major themes have emerged, aside from the usual major theme of questioning my intelligence, parentage and mental state.

One theme is that I've misjudged the criteria for induction into the Hall of Fame, that it's easier than I think, and some of the guys I'm saying won't make it actually will. This is not so much misjudgment as poor writing on my part: I didn't make it clear that I haven't been trying to predict who will make it; I've been talking about who I think should make it. The world according to me.

Another theme is oh please God no not designated hitters! Several readers wrote impassioned e-mails arguing against career DHs -- Edgar Martinez, Frank Thomas and Jose Canseco were the ones mentioned Monday -- ever being allowed to darken the door of Cooperstown.

While I'm no fan of the DH rule, it is a rule, and guys shouldn't be punished for playing a legal position. Besides, I don't buy the "all-around players only" argument. Let's say Frank Thomas goes out and plays an indifferent first base for the next decade instead of being a DH. Would that keep him out of the Hall if he continues to put up monster numbers? No. So if mediocre defense wouldn't keep a guy out, I don't think no defense at all should.

I should take back one thing I wrote on Monday: In trying to make my admittedly eccentric argument that a guy should get in to the Hall for doing "a hell of a thing" -- Roger Maris, Maury Wills -- I mentioned that because of the consecutive-game streak I had no problem with the consistent but not dominant Cal Ripken Jr. getting in. As some of you pointed out, Ripken, a two-time MVP who consistently put up huge numbers for a shortstop, even before the current offensive inflation, was a dominant player in his prime. Streak or no, he's in.

Some of you defended Robin Yount too. Well: I suppose. Will kids ever stare up in awe at Yount's plaque? Maybe so. Not my kids though!

Otherwise, people seemed to more or less agree with my opinions to an alarming degree.

Anyway, here's a list of players whom at least a few readers believe I left out of the last two columns, each with a comment by me. I know I said it's your turn, but I get the last word because I'm the guy doing the typing. Get your own gig.

Craig Biggio: He's a fine all-around player who moved from catcher to second base after four years in the majors, which is impressive. I think he's just that next level down from Hall of Famer, but I wouldn't be offended if he got in.

Will Clark: His first five full years in San Francisco were Cooperstown quality, but since then he has been just another pretty-good-hitting first baseman. Sweetest swing around, but not a Hall of Famer.

David Cone: Not enough really good years. No.

Andres Gallarraga: Lots of mediocre years in Montreal and St. Louis, and inflated stats from playing at Coors Field for five years. He doesn't make it.

Mark Grace: I was surprised at how many people suggested him. Not nearly enough pop for a first baseman to be considered for Cooperstown. His career offensive numbers are distressingly similar to those of longtime utilityman Tony Phillips.

Jeff Kent: He's hitting like second basemen just don't hit, but he didn't really come into his own until he was 29. If the three and a half great years he has had stretch into nine or 10, he'll be an excellent candidate, but he'd have to keep this up till he was pushing 40.

John Smoltz: He had two spectacular seasons (1996 and '98), but otherwise has been the kind of guy who'd typically go 15-12 while playing for the best team in baseball. A good, solid pitcher, but not a Hall of Famer.

Omar Vizquel: A very intriguing suggestion. The Ohioans who are campaigning for this slick-fielding Indians shortstop on the "if Ozzie Smith, why not Omar Vizquel?" ticket are on to something. Like Smith, a likely Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible, Vizquel doesn't do much in the way of offense, but, like Smith, he's the dominant fielder of his era at the toughest position. He needs to shine for a few more years, but if he does, I'd vote for him.

John Wetteland: I had kind of forgotten about him. A tough call, as relievers generally are. He hasn't been very good the past two years, and one wonders whether at 33 that's a permanent trend. On the other hand, before that he was excellent for seven years, which for a relief pitcher is about two lifetimes. I wouldn't mind putting him in.

By Gary Kaufman

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