Two ex-Montreal Expos and a pair of former Toronto Blue Jays again will be looking from the outside in Cooperstown this summer at the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Larry Walker, Tim Raines, Jack Morris and Fred McGriff failed to garner the required 75 per cent of votes for enshrinement from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Monday.
Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin received 86 per cent of the votes from the BBWAA on Monday and was the lone candidate to gain election. He'll be inducted July 22 along with Chicago Cubs legendary third baseman Ron Santo, who was elected posthumously by the Hall’s Golden Era committee on Dec. 5.
It seems BBWAA members have noticed Walker’s career accomplishments, but maybe a little too much. Some might say the Maple Ridge, B.C. native is being punished for his 10 seasons hitting in the thin air at Coors Field in Colorado, where Walker compiled a .381 batting average and .462 on-base percentage.
On Monday, he gained 13 more votes from last year’s 118 but his support remains shy of 25 per cent at 22.9.
“That to me is the biggest disappointment of the ballot this year,” said CBCSports.ca baseball contributor Kevin Glew.
It’s clear by looking at Walker’s production over 17 seasons that his numbers stack up with anyone in the Hall.
He won three batting titles, seven Gold Gloves, the National League MVP in 1997 and boasted a lifetime on-base-plus slugging percentage of .965, which is higher than 45 of the 64 outfielders currently in the Hall including Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield. His .565 slugging percentage also ranks 13th all-time.
“When you look at a guy like Larry Walker and think of the best all-around players from his era, who’s better? Barry Bonds, maybe,” said Glew. “He hit 49 home runs when he won the NL MVP award [and drove in 130].
“You could look at all sorts of players and their home park and ask them how it benefited their career. That short right porch in [old] Yankee Stadium was built for Babe Ruth.”
Morris, despite a 3.90 earned-run average during his 18-year big-league career, received the most support of the aforementioned group at 66.7 per cent with 382 of a possible 572 votes, up from 53.5 per cent last year.
This was Morris’s 13th time on the ballot and that means only two more years of eligibility for a man who won 254 regular-season games, won the World Series with Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto, and stands out for his 10-inning, 1-0 gem that delivered the 1991 World Series to the Twins. But Morris never won a Cy Young Award or posted a season ERA under 3.00.
“The thing with Morris is, over the next two years, if you look at who’s coming on the ballot, it’s [all-time home run leader] Barry Bonds, [354-game winner] Roger Clemens and [609- homer man] Sammy Sosa next year,” CBCSports.ca baseball contributor Kevin Glew said shortly after Monday’s announcement. “But who knows about those three because of [their link to steroid use].
“Then in 2014 you’ve got Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Frank Thomas. The next two years is going to get a lot tougher, in terms of candidates. I think he’ll get in but it’s no slam-dunk.”
McGriff, in his third year on the ballot, improved his vote total to 137 from 104 but at 23.9 per cent sits well behind the lone 2012 inductee Barry Larkin (86.4 per cent).
One of baseball’s top first basemen from 1988 through ’94, he played for six teams and never spent more than five seasons with any of Toronto, San Diego, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I think he suffers from an identity crisis. People think of him as a journeyman which is unfair when a guy has had ten seasons of 30 or more home runs,” Glew said. “I think a lot of it is he didn’t have that big 50-home run season or even 40.
“How many people would sit there and think Fred McGriff has as many home runs as Lou Gehrig [at 493]? Writers get infatuated with milestones, so if he hit seven more home runs, who knows.”
Raines picked up 48.7 per cent of support in his fifth year on the ballot. The fleet-footed outfielder stole 808 bases (fifth all-time) with the top success rate (84.7 per cent) in major league history.
A seven-time all-star who recorded 2,605 hits, Raines reached base more times in his career than first-ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
“I think with Raines, unfortunately, there’s the drug suspension early in his career that plays somewhat of a role,” Glew said. “And I do think, although people blast me on the Internet every time I say this, playing in Montreal hurt him a little because he had his best seasons in Montreal and I don’t think a lot of people noticed."