Tim Raines finally makes the Hall of Fame; other Yankees fall short

18 01 2017

Ex-Yankee Tim Raines was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Wednesday, as I predicted last year. He joined Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez as candidates elected this year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

He was elected primarily on his hitting and base-running prowess with the Montreal Expos and Chicago White Sox, though he was a part-time left fielder and designated hitter for the 1996-98 Yankees.

Other Yankees with strong cases for the Hall of Fame were rejected by the writers, including Jorge Posada, who lasted only a year on the ballot.

Raines should have been a lock for the Hall of Fame. It was ridiculous that he had to wait until his final year on the writers’ ballot to win their support. He was the second-best leadoff hitter and base stealer of his time, behind only Rickey Henderson, and one of the best of all-time. And he was clearly one of the best left fielders of his time as well.

I don’t think anti-Yankee bias played a big role in his long wait for induction. Perhaps his involvement in the cocaine scandals of the 1980s played a bigger role than it should have (he played clean for many years after admitting his drug use).

Thoughts on other ex-Yankees being denied admission to Cooperstown:

Roger Clemens

Clemens got 54 percent of the writers’ votes. Election requires 75 percent (Raines got 86 percent). Clearly Clemens and Barry Bonds (also 54 percent) are being punished by many writers for their alleged involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. It’s interesting, though, that they are still being denied admission while suspected PED abusers such as Bagwell and Rodriguez have been elected. Rodriguez, in fact, was elected in his first year of eligibility, despite having nowhere near the credentials of Bonds, a seven-time MVP, and Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

I wouldn’t predict what it will take for Clemens and Bonds to win election. I can’t justify excluding them from a Hall of Fame that includes Bagwell and Rodriguez.

Mike Mussina

With 52 percent of the vote, Mussina crept 9 percentage points closer to election in his fourth year on the ballot. I expect him to be voted in by the baseball writers someday (you get 10 years, provided you keep getting enough votes to remain on the ballot), though I can think of four ex-Yankee starting pitchers who belong there ahead of him: Tommy John, Ron Guidry, Allie Reynolds and Andy Pettitte.

Lee Smith

Smith got 34 percent of the vote in his last year on the ballot. He perhaps best illustrates the continuing racial bias in Hall of Fame voting. As I’ve noted before, four relief pitchers who were contemporaries of his are in Cooperstown with similar achievements: Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley. Except for Hall of Fame voting, you can’t think of a meaningful way to rank the career achievements of those five pitchers in which he would rank fifth.

I think Smith will be elected many years from now by a Veterans Committee. He was a Yankee only briefly, and Yankee bias appears not to be a factor in his exclusion.

Gary Sheffield

At 13 percent and tainted by PED suspicion, Sheffield appears unlikely to reach Cooperstown. He’ll get at least a fourth year on the writers’ ballot, though.

Jorge Posada

As I noted when Posada retired, he achieved more than most of the catchers already in the Hall of Fame. Still, I thought he’d have a tough time making it into Cooperstown.

Deadspin’s Tom Scocca expressed puzzlement that Posada was a one-year washout, especially given his championship contributions. Actually, the baseball writers have never valued championship contributions or post-season play. If they started doing that, they’d need to wipe away their anti-Yankee bias. And that will never happen.








College student campaigns to get Roger Maris in the Hall of Fame

2 01 2017
Colin McCann in his Roger Maris jersey visiting the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, N.D., in 2015.

Colin McCann in his Roger Maris jersey visiting the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, N.D., in 2015. Photo used with permission.

I’ve known for a while about the Facebook page, Roger Maris Belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the related petition drive campaigning for Maris to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

I guess I expected it was the work of another Baby Boomer who fell in love with Maris as a boy in 1961, as I did. If I mention Maris to college students, only the hard-core baseball fans even know who Maris is. But it turns out the young man leading the campaign is younger than Maris was when he broke Babe Ruth’s record 55 years ago.

My Roger Maris blanket, a gift from his wife, Patricia.

My Roger Maris blanket, a gift from his wife, Patricia.

I connected with Colin McCann after posting a link about my gift from Patricia Maris on the Maris page, figuring fans of the page might be interested in my post. McCann and I exchanged supportive messages and he said something about a class and I thought he was teaching. But then it was clear that he was a student. Slow to catch on, I figured he was what higher education calls a “non-traditional student,” an old guy like me who’s taking classes. But no, Colin McCann is a 21-year-old college student, fighting for a man who earned his baseball fame before McCann was born. He’s a Twins fan seeking recognition for a star whose greatest achievement came the year the Senators moved to Minnesota.

A feature on the youth in Rosemount Town Pages says his interest in Maris stems from a gift his parents gave him in eighth grade, the Billy Crystal move 61*, an excellent movie that illustrates Maris’s fame. McCann was surprised and appalled to learn that Maris wasn’t recognized in Cooperstown, so he started his campaign. In addition to creating the Facebook page, which has more than 3,200 likes, McCann has launched an online petition, which has more than 1,000 signatures.

The passion has driven McCann to visit Maris’s grave and museum in Fargo, N.D., and even the slugger’s off-season home in Raytown, Mo.

My pancreatic cancer has spread to my liver, making it doubtful that I will survive this year. But I’m pleased to see a young fan taking up the cause for Maris, whose next shot at Hall of Fame election will be in 2020.

Colin McCann visiting Roger Maris's grave in 2015. Photo used with permission.

Colin McCann visiting Roger Maris’s grave in 2015. Photo used with permission.