By Father Gabe Costa
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In a little less than a month, we will learn the newest members to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In this installment of By The Numbers, I would like to briefly discuss five candidates. In alphabetical order they are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa.
In terms of pure numbers, two of the five should be no-brainers — Bonds and Clemens. But, as we all know, there have been other factors.
What follows are some ramblings on each player, and whether or not I think he will be elected in 2013 — or in a subsequent year.
BARRY BONDS: The numbers are certainly there, not the least of which is a career total of 762 home runs. Bonds has also set seasonal records for home runs, walks and slugging percentage. He won seven Most Valuable Player awards and ranks second in lifetime Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for position players. But the feeling by many is that the statistics he put up during the last seven or eight years of his career may well have been skewed, impacting the accuracy of these numbers. And baseball, more than any other sport, thrives on numbers, because numbers are essential when comparing one player to another — and one era to another. Bonds was not — and is not — Babe Ruth. But for his first dozen or so years, he ranked right up there with the best of his contemporaries. And this was without controversy. When all is said and done, I believe Bonds will be elected into the Hall of Fame — maybe even in 2013.
ROGER CLEMENS: The Rocket played for 24 years, won 354 games (ninth on the all-time list), posted seven Cy Young Awards and, with regard for WAR for pitchers, he ranks third. In some sense, his “case for election” parallels Bonds’. I’m not very optimistic that Clemens will be voted into Cooperstown next month, but I do believe that he will eventually wind up there.
MARK MCGWIRE: As McGwire started to approach Babe Ruth’s career record for HR frequency (Ruth held the record with 8.5 HR per every 100 at-bats), I started to ask myself, ‘How can someone well into his thirties start to hit home runs at such a clip than he actually raises his home-run percentage?’ In other words, how could he raise his lifetime HR frequency as he approaches the end of his career? That is, in fact, what Big Mac did, bettering Ruth by nearly one HR per 100 at-bats. There is no way that McGwire was a better home run hitter than Ruth. And given the facts that he struck out about 250 more times than he walked, that his lifetime batting average was less than .265 and that his career slugging percentage is less than .600 — and the controversies which have surrounded him — I don’t see McGwire getting more than 30 percent of votes. And that is well short of what is required for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
RAFAEL PALMEIRO: In the past, 3,000 hits and 500 home runs could pretty much guarantee a player access into the Hall of Fame. But, like others, Palmeiro has been connected with the controversies which have sullied the National Pastime for the last half of the 1990s and most of the first decade of this century. My suspicion is that he will not get into the Hall of Fame in the foreseeable future.
SAMMY SOSA: Sosa — like McGwire, Bonds and Palmeiro — has a cumulative HR frequency which increased as he aged, which is extremely counterintuitive. It is true that he is the only player in history to hit 60+ HR in a season three times. But Sosa struck out about 1,400 more times than he walked and had a relatively low career slugging percentage of .534. Given the controversies which have surrounded him, I do not believe that Slammin’ Sammy will be voted into the Hall of Fame this coming January. And maybe not for a long time after that.
Which — if any of these players — would you vote for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…