One of the great things about being a baseball writer is there is always something to write about or consider, even when there are no games.
We just finished last week with baseball’s annual BBWAA awards and the setting of rosters for the Rule 5 draft. Free agency is underway, the winter meetings are right around the corner and we’re anticipating a hiring announcement concerning the Orioles’ pitching coach any day now (most likely, Roger McDowell).
And, on Monday, the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot was announced.
It has a whole lot of Orioles’ flavor.
So, come into the Tap Room, grab a seat and a dark, winter beer (porter, maybe) and let’s talk Hall of Fame inclusion while the winds (trade and otherwise) swirl outside this dive.
There are 34 candidates for induction this year – and 10 of them played for the Orioles, at least briefly. Casey Blake, for instance, had 16 plate appearances for the Orioles in 2001. He’s one of 19 new candidates on the ballot this year – and, no, he’s not the headliner.
That distinction probably goes to 14-time All Star Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, who won 13 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger awards and retired as one the best all-around catchers in baseball history.
But there are two other eyebrow-raising, first-year candidates: outfielder Manny Ramirez, who had more than 500 home runs and two performance-enhancing drug suspensions; and outfielder/designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, who completed his splendid, 16-year career with 13 homers and 63 RBIs in his lone season with the Orioles in 2011.
One of the most popular Orioles of the past 15 years also is a first-time candidate on the Hall of Fame ballot: Melvin Mora, who spent 10 of his 13 years in the majors playing in Baltimore. His 1,503 hits and 171 homers won’t get him into Cooperstown, but he did have some great seasons with the Orioles, including 2004, when he set the franchise record with a .340 batting average.
First baseman Derrek Lee and lefty Arthur Rhodes, perhaps two of the better people to play for the Orioles in the last 20 years, are also ballot newcomers with Orioles ties.
Ballot holdovers include former Oriole pitchers Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling and Lee Smith and outfielders Tim Raines Sr., and Sammy Sosa.
I think Mussina and Schilling have a real chance to get in, but I doubt it will be in 2017. So does Raines, who played four games with the Orioles in 2001 (basically, so he could be on the same team as his son).
But this is Raines’ last year of eligibility for induction by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He received 69.8 percent of the vote last year; candidates need to be named on 75 percent of submitted ballots to be enshrined.
A candidate must get at least five percent of the vote to stay on for next year, so players like Mora, Blake and Lee are probably one-and-done. (Rafael Palmeiro dropped off the writers’ ballot in 2014 after getting just 4.4 percent in his fourth year of eligibility).
This is Smith’s last chance on the writers’ ballot before ultimately being sent to the veterans’ committee (this is his 15th year of candidacy; he was grandfathered in when the eligibility terms were changed from 15 to 10 years in 2015).
Full disclosure, or partial anyway: I have a Hall of Fame vote, but won’t be revealing mine until the full results are announced January 18. Besides, I have a lot of research to do between now and the end of the year. I always like to put a fresh eye on the candidates’ numbers before submitting my ballot.
But this is about you, and your Oriole watching.
Let’s get parochial today. Forget about Jeff Bagwell, Trevor Hoffman, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds (wish it were that easy for the barkeep).
Let’s say your ballot only has the 10 ex-Orioles on it. Tell me which of those former Orioles belong in the Hall of Fame (explaining why would be a bonus): Casey Blake, Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Melvin Mora, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Arthur Rhodes, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith and Sammy Sosa.
Tap-In Question: Which eligible former Orioles (or Oriole) would be on your Hall-of-Fame ballot? Why?