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Sunday, December 22, 2002

Election 2003: The Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot
CNNSI.com has the best interactive Baseball Hall of Fame ballot on the web, providing snapshots of all eligible candidates on one page. Tonight I provide my thoughts on who belongs and who doesn't, based on my own criteria, which is the answer to one simple question: Can you write a book about the history of baseball without devoting some coverage to their careers?

(This is why I think Roger Maris belongs in the Hall of Fame. How can you have a shrine to baseball history and not include the man who held perhaps sports' most revered record for 37 years?)

I Would Vote for These Guys:

Gary Carter, Catcher: The best player at his position for an entire era, and a key cog to some very successful teams. He was the Carlton Fisk of the National League, and even though I think all former Mets (who didn't play for the Yanks) should be banned from baseball indefinitely, Carter is getting jobbed by the voters.

Andre Dawson, Right Field: The biggest knock is that he played on some crummy teams, but he defined the term "weapon" before the modern era of juiced balls and juiced sluggers. The Hawk was a power hitter with speed and had a rifle in right field.

Steve Garvey, First Base: Garvey was a little before my time, but I just can't overlook these stats: 2,599 hits, 1,308 RBIs, 10-time All-Star, five times in the top six NL MVP vote-getters.

Eddie Murray, First Base: Over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Automatic, though I think his career is a bit diluted. A lot of very, very good seasons (top five in MVP voting five times), but you can't remember one year in baseball and think, "Wow, that's when Eddie Murray really kicked the league's ass."

Jim Rice: Left Field: Ask anyone who played in the late-'70s to mid-'80s to name some of the great hitters of their era, and if they don't all mention Jim Rice, I'll mail you $20. That's the definition of the Hall of Famer — players whose careers you remember on your own, with no prodding.

I Would Not Vote for These Guys:

Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Pitchers: All of them are pleasant fellows, and I love Jim Kaat's work an Yankees television announcer (and would be happy if he got in), but I don't think any batter ever got out of bed and thought, "Shit, gotta get it together tonight. I'm facing an all-time great."

Don Mattingly, First Base: If Mattingly ever got elected, I would throw a party at my apartment. I'm dead serious. And I do think he deserves consideration because he was a dominant player for five seasons. But the rest he wasn't. To a generation of Yankees fans, he was the only favorite player we ever had. His No. 23 was retired soon after he did, and I'm satisfied just having him in the Yankees' hall.

Goose Gossage, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Relievers: They may have been pioneers, but I don't know how to qualify their Hall candidacy. To me, it wouldn't feel right to see their plaques alongside those of guys like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Reggie Jackson.

Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, All-Stars: Each had his moments: Morris' '91 World Series, Murphy's back-to-back MVPs, the 1979 All-Star Game rocket thrown by Parker, but each fall short, I think.

Finally:

Pete Rose is a dick. Whatever he bet on notwithstanding, it's very clear he's a dick. I don't care what happens to him. I'm not a big fan of people who hide things, seek media attention, then refuse to answer questions.

Who do you think belongs from this crop of candidates? (Click on the comments link below.)

Also in Sports Today:

Dr. Z's NFL Hall of Fame Ballot — Sports Illustrated's fountain of NFL information shares his thoughts on those eligible for the NFL Hall this year. Another of my all-time faves, Phil Simms, is up, but I think that's a pipe dream, too. Zimmermann makes a strong case for Joe Klecko, one half of the New York Sack Exchange and dynamite bit player in Cannonball Run.

Column: Nobody Else is Jim Brown — ESPN.com Page 2's Ralph Wiley contends that not only was Syracuse University product Jim Brown the greatest football player ever, but that he, more than Muhammad Ali, deserves to be called The Greatest.

Maxim Interviews Miami Dolphins DE Jason Taylor — You know I'd never link you to some boring Q&A. Find out which players Taylor says are pussies, which offensive lineman he says he owns, why Jets fans "settle" and how much cash he carries around.

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