Sunday, November 26, 2006

2007 Baseball Hall of Fame Predictions

The Major League Baseball 2007 Hall of Fame Ballot has been released. In January 2007, media members from around the country will vote on 31 former ballplayers and decide who will be immortalized in Cooperstown and who will be just a side note in the Baseball Encyclopedia.

Although I don’t have a vote, I have perused the careers of these great ballplayers and found 12 under-the-radar candidates worthy of calling the Baseball Hall of Fame home next summer.
(Obviously, we will not be discussing Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr., both of whom will be inducted and are very much deserving. And since Mark McGwire lives only in the now like a Zen monk and will not talk about the past, we won’t talk about him either.)

Harold Baines – smooth hitting outfielder/ DH 1980-2001.
Good player, good career, but better known for making a mockery of the idea of “retiring” numbers for active players when he had is number “retired” with the White Sox and then came back to play with them twice more, “un-retiring” his number each time.

Lee Smith – closer supreme 1980-1997.
Although being number 2 in all-time saves will get him the votes, his work as the South African pitching coach in the World Baseball Classic made him an international superstar. Who knew?

Dante Bichette – power hitting outfielder 1988-2001.
A true pioneer, Bichette was one of the first Colorado Rockies to discover Denver’s light air made baseballs fly. Rumor has it the Colorado Rockies’ original general manager was going to build the team on bunts and stolen bases before Bichette, Ellis Burks, and Andres Galarragga began using the altitude to their advantage.

Paul O’Neill and Scott Brosius – a.k.a. The Ex-Yankees.
As individuals neither garnered much attention, but together, these two hard-nosed, uber-intense journeymen became super heroes when they rediscovered the Yankee Way and helped the Yankees win a bunch of World Series. Oddly enough neither drank like Mickey Mantle or Billy Martin, or ate like Babe Ruth. I thought that was the Yankee Way.

Albert Belle – power hitting outfielder/DH 1989-2000.
One word: Intimidation. Any guy who ran down kids on Halloween, threw balls at fans, and stalked a former escort would make the perfect Yang to the Yin of likable Hall probables Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. And as an added bonus, the scowl on Belle’s Cooperstown bust will serve to scare future wayward kids from a life of crime.

Bret Saberhagen – starting pitcher 1984-2001.
In 1994, had more wins (14) than walks (13). It was his only good even-numbered season as he was known for having good seasons in odd numbered years. 2007 is an odd number.

Bert Blyleven – starting pitcher 1970-1992.
Statistically known for winning 287 games and striking out a bunch of hitters, Blyleven has made even more headlines for his “off-color” comments as a Twins broadcaster. Anyone who talks about showering with Hall of Famer George Brett has unlimited induction speech upside.

Bobby Bonilla – outfielder 1986-2001.
One word: Thievery. The recent Florida State University buy-out of Jeff Bowden pales in comparison to how Bonilla will be fleecing the Mets until he is in his 70s. According to media reports, Bonilla will make 1.2 million dollars a year from 2011 to 2035 to not play for the Mets.

Jim Rice – power hitting outfielder/DH 1974-1989.
Hit a bunch of homers, drove in a bunch of runs, and did pretty well in the field. With the doors of the Hall open to fellow surly media antagonist Eddie Murray a few years back, the road should be paved for Rice. Can you imagine a more intimidating Hall of Fame class than Albert Belle, Lee Smith, and Jim Rice? Those guys would scare the bejeezus out of ShaftJim Brown, and Dolemite.

Ken Caminiti – steroid-enhanced 3rd baseman 1987-2001.
“This guy here is dead.”
“Cross him off then.”
Yes, dear reader, I am going to hell.

Jose Canseco – steroid-enhanced outfielder/DH 1986-2001.
If staring in the Commodore 64 classic Steve Garvey vs. Jose Canseco: Grand Slam Baseball, having his own 1-800 phone line, once trying to catch a ball with his head, or being the only Hall of Fame candidate ever to appear on VH1’s Surreal Life doesn’t sway the voters, his tell-all book on steroid use in baseball in the 1990s should get Canseco his own wing in the Hall of Fame.