The Baseball Writers Association of America released the ballots for Hall of Fame voters today and to most fans it will look like a pretty underwhelming list. Bernie Williams is the biggest name on the list and even he will likely struggle to gather enough votes to build towards an eventual induction, leaving the way clear for the best existing candidates to try to add to last year’s totals.
Although Williams might combine the best numbers with being that rare beast: a New York Yankee it was acceptable to like, his isn’t the name I’m most pleased to see announced.
Bill Mueller might be the sort of player who elicits an ‘Oh yeah, him. He was a nice player for a while’ type reaction from most fans, I’m delighted to see that my favourite Red Sox gets the chance to be on the Hall of Fame ballot even if I’m under no illusions about his chances to have even one of the BBWAA members vote for him.
I’ve written before about how it was Pedro Martinez that pushed this Englishman into baseball, but while Pedro was certainly the best player I’ve seen in a Boston uniform, Mueller was my man.
In the loosest sense of the term you could probably call Mueller a five tool talent in that he didn’t have any glaring weakness in his game. He had a little bit of power and a little bit of patience. His glove was solid enough at third and his arm was pretty strong. Clearly his hit tool was his strength and it remains one of my favourite quirks of recent years that he won a batting title in 2003 while spending the vast majority of games hitting 8th.
My Mueller fandom isn’t an easy one to explain, the only thing I can offer is that he was just one of those players that caused something to click with me while watching him. The only time he got a sniff of some down-ballot MVP attention was in that batting title winning season and in all honesty there were always a least a couple of third basemen with better numbers than him at the end of every year. But his obvious hard work and application appealed to me and he was a key part of the 25 during that unbelievable 2004 season.
Mueller won’t be making a speech at a Cooperstown induction ceremony, but he had a great career nonetheless. He spent 10 years in the big leagues, won a batting title, a Silver Slugger award, a World Series ring and is the only player in major league history to hit grand slams from both sides of the plate in the same game. Most improbably of all, he inspired Dan Shaughnessy to write a glowing, gracious and downright nice column about him following his departure from Boston in 2005.
I think that’s a pretty outstanding roll of honour even if it’s not Hall of Fame worthy. While none of the new candidates for election can expect to receive the call from Cooperstown. Let’s take this opportunity to appreciate just what good players they were, and what an achievement it is just to have played well enough and long enough in the big leagues to even make the ballot.