Here’s who I would vote for if I had a Hall of Fame ballot, in order of how much I think they deserve to be in:
1. Cal Ripken Jr. – Even if he hadn’t set the ironman record, he would still be a shoo-in for the the Hall because of how he revolutionized the way we think of what a shortstop should contribute on offense. At a time when shortstop was still seen as a position where you could sacrifice offense for defense, Ripken hit 438 homeruns at the position. Oh yeah, he also won 2 MVPs, 2 gold gloves, and the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year. Far and away the best shortstop of his era.
2. Tony Gwynn – the best pure hitter of his day, Gwynn was an 8-time batting champion and was also a good defender who won 5 gold gloves. His .338 career batting average ranks 14th all time in the modern era, and the best of all who played since Ted Williams retired in 1960.
3. Goose Gossage – One of the most feared and dominant relievers of all time, Gossage was better than hall of famer Bruce Sutter by many measures and had a career almost twice as long. He was named to 9 All-Star teams in 11 years from 1975 to 1985, and had an ERA of 2.90 or better in his first 10 years as a relief ace. The only way Gossage doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame is if you believe that no reliever should ever be allowed in.
4. Jack Morris – Morris’s career ERA is high for a hall of famer, but that’s about the only reason I could see to keep him out. The man was the ace of every team he ever pitched on, including four World Series squads, and outdueled John Smoltz in the greatest game in World Series history. If the Hall of Fame is all about stats (which it is clearly not), then he could be kept out, but if it is about fame and glory, there has to be a place for Jack Morris, who was the greatest starting pitcher of the 80s.
5. Andre Dawson – The first 16 years of Andre Dawson’s career are virtually identical to the entire 16 years of Jim Rice’s, except that Dawson stole 318 bases to Rice’s 58, won 8 gold gloves to Rice’s zero, and hung around a few more years to hit 56 more home runs than Rice. Dawson was a complete player, whereas Rice was a one-dimensional slugger.
Close but not quite: Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, Burt Blyleven, Tommy John, Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire
Strictly for people who think the “save” stat actually means anything: Lee Smith