By Father Gabe Costa
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Happy New Year!
This means, of course, that pitchers and catchers are getting together in a little over a month and the Grapefruit League (southeast) and the Cactus League (southwest) will be showcasing exhibition games before we know it.
Meanwhile, the hot stove has certainly kept us entertained with various players going from one club to another, with the possibility of more personnel moves to come.
And then there is the Hall of Fame.
A few weeks ago, the Golden Era Committee announced that there would be no selections for the Hall of Fame class of 2015. Twelve “Yes” votes were needed and no one received the necessary dozen affirmative nominations.
That’s too bad. I believe strong cases could have been made for the following four superstars:
— Richie (Dick) Allen received 11 votes. He played for 15 years, mostly with the Phillies and White Sox. He was one of the most powerful hitters of his era (1963-1977). With less than 6,400 AB, he slugged over 350 HRs and drove in over 1,100 runs. His lifetime OPS was .912. Allen was not the type who would back off from a controversy and I suspect that recollections of this have not helped his cause. What a shame.
— Gil Hodges received three votes. Professor John T. Saccoman, a colleague from Seton Hall University, has researched Hodges’ records for many years. Using many sabermetrical measures, Saccoman has quite convincingly demonstrated that Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame. In addition to his prowess as a player, Hodges was a superb manager and universally respected. The fact that he has not yet been enshrined is incredulous; the Hall of Fame is much the poorer without Gil Hodges.
— Jim Kaat received 10 votes. He played for a quarter-century and was only 17 victories shy of winning 300 games. He was a fine hitter and swatted 16 HRs in his career. He also won 16 Gold Gloves as a pitcher. Kaat also excelled as radio and television baseball commentator and analyst. If anyone has been an ambassador of good will for the national pastime, it is Jim Kaat.
— Tony Oliva received 11 votes. A left-handed hitting outfielder, he spent his entire career with the Twins. Playing with such sluggers as Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Don Mincher, Jimmie Hall and Earl Battey, Oliva won three batting titles. He also led the league in the following categories: SLG (once), TB (once), H (five times), R, (once) and 2B (four times). Like most of his mid-America teammates, Oliva was a quiet man who just went out and did his job day after day. He belongs in Cooperstown.
Next week the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) will soon announce their selections, if any, for the class of 2015 inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
While I do not believe that we will see the names of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa on the “elected” list, I suspect we will see the following four inductees:
— Craig Biggio. He missed by two votes last year. Biggio deserves to get in based on the following numbers which he compiled in 10,876 ABs: 3,060 H, over 1,800 R, nearly 1,200 RBIs, over 400 SB and nearly .800 OPS.
— Randy Johnson. Johnson, known as the Big Unit, was an intimidating southpaw with a 303-166 won-loss record. He had a lifetime WHIP of 1.171 and fanned nearly 4,900 batters. This is his first year of eligibility.
— Pedro Martinez. Pedro was one of the greatest “peak-value” pitchers ever. He sported an incredible 213-100 won-loss record and had a lifetime WHIP of 1.054. His career ERA was 2.93. And he did this during the years 1992-2009, when there was much talk about steroids, HGHs, PEDs and the like. This is his first year of eligibility.
— Mike Piazza. Piazza was possibly the greatest hitting catcher ever and almost certainly the most powerful backstop of all time. He slugged 427 HRs and had over 1,300 RBIs. His lifetime BA is .308 and his career OPS is .922. The fact that this is Piazza’s third year of eligibility is somewhat perplexing; Piazza received only 57.8 percent of the votes two years ago and improved slightly to 62.2 percent last year. Both percentages were well short of the required 75 percent.
Well let’s see what happens next week.
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