This year Barry Larkin was the lone inductee to the baseball Hall of Fame receiving 86.4% of the votes, in this his third year on the ballot. He played all 19 years of his MLB career for the Cincinnati Reds, where he was a 12-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner. Larkin played the game right, and played it extremely well, and deserved to be elected into the Hall of Fame.
The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot has a ton of star power. It would be difficult in most years, as we have many returnees with interesting Cooperstown resumes and a voter could easily fill all 10 spots on his ballot. However, very few voters fill their ballots and the 2013 freshmen class has the two poster boys for PED use.
Here’s a list of some of the names that will be on the ballot for the first time:
Many people will refuse to vote for the first two names because of their steroid use. While some feel that both Bonds and Clemens had Hall of Fame careers even before they allegedly began using steroids, it would not be surprising if they refused to vote for them in their first year of eligibility as a form of protest.
So with that, there are two players I look at on this list and think they are locks to make it: 1) Craig Biggio 2) Mike Piazza
With Biggio all you need to say is 3,000. In his 20 career seasons he only had one year with 200 hits, but he still managed to retire with 3,060 base knocks under his belt. The Smithtown native started out as a catcher, but switched to second base where he won four Gold Gloves. Along with that he was a seven-time All-Star and a five-time Silver Slugger. You wouldn’t look at one year and think “unbelievable” (besides maybe 1997 and 1998, depends on your level of believability), but he was consistent and stayed on the field.
Much more interesting for Mets fans is Piazza. Now it is necessary to point out that there are some whispers of PED use surrounding Piazza, perhaps most famously the “bacne” claims made by Murray Chass that the New York Times refused to print but that Chass has mentioned more than once now that he is a blogger. Also, Piazza was mentioned in Jeff Pearlman’s book. However, Piazza was not named by either Canseco or Radomski and he never failed a drug test.
Whispers aside, what can I say about him that we already don’t know? The best hitting catcher to play the game and although he couldn’t throw the ball at all, he did everything else extremely well for a catcher. He played the game hard and played it with class. I only saw him get ejected from a game like twice (and he also almost killed Guillermo Mota in a Spring Training game, which will probably boost his chances of getting in). He played in 14 All-Star games, won 12 Silver Sluggers, won Rookie of the Year in 1993, and finished top 10 in the MVP voting’s seven times.
The only difference with Biggio and Piazza is not whether they’ll get in on the first ballot, but which cap they will be used in their Hall of Fame plaque. Since Biggio only played for one team, he doesn’t have much of a choice; it’s the Houston Astros.
Piazza’s choice is a different story. He played for five teams during his 16 seasons in the majors, but only two teams stand out. He was drafted by and spent seven years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his time there he hit 177 home runs with a line of .331/.394/.572. He was traded along with future Met Todd Zeile to the Florida Marlins for future Met Gary Sheffield, former Met Bobby Bonilla, and 30-second Met Charles Johnson (he came to the Mets in the Todd Hundley deal but was immediately shipped to the Orioles in the Armando Benitez trade), Manuel Barrios, and Jim Eisenreich.
Piazza went on to lead the Mets to the playoffs in 1998, 1999, and to the World Series in 2000. Piazza spent nine seasons with the Mets, and finished with a career line of .296/.373/.542 and 220 home runs. He also hit one of the most dramatic home runs in the history of the game, an eighth inning, game-winning home run against the Atlanta Braves, the first game after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Although Piazza had better numbers during his time with the Dodgers, he played longer as a Met. Also, treatment by the fans when he arrived back in another uniform was much different. When Piazza came to Dodgers Stadium in a Mets uniform, he was booed. When he came back to Shea Stadium in a San Diego Padre uniform, not only did he receive a standing ovation, but he got a curtain call after he hit his first of two home runs that game.
Even in his post-playing career the Mets have treated him better. They’ve invited Piazza back to Shea Stadium/Citi Field on a number of occasions, most notably the last game in Shea Stadium, when they chose Tom Seaver and him to close down the stadium. Piazza received the last pitch ever thrown at Shea from Seaver, and the two of them walked together through the gate in center field, in a ceremony after the last game at Shea. Seaver and Piazza then reunited to throw out the first ever pitch at Citi Field in 2009.
Even Piazza said himself that if he is elected to the Hall of Fame he would like to go as a Met. He recalls that most of his career was with the Mets and everything his city and team went through after 9/11 forged a greater connection with the Mets. “I’ll never forget my Dodger days. But my time with the Mets is what I’ll remember most about my career.”
But in the end it’s not Piazza’s decision. The Hall has the ultimate say on which cap the player will wear, but the player’s preference does play a role. Given Piazza’s connection with the Mets organization, his majority of games played with them, and his absolute stellar play during his nine seasons here, I would be shocked if he wasn’t voted in as a Met.
As far as when he gets in, I believe they’ll vote Piazza, along with Biggio, in on the first ballot, showing that if you play the game the right way, you’re more respected than someone who played it the wrong way but better. That’s just what I expect to happen.
If Bonds and Clemens aren’t in the Hall of Fame it’s a tragedy the level of Pete Rose. These were two amazing players and they need to be in the Hall. And to bring up another point, they played during the Steroid Era. So even though they were using PEDs, almost everyone else was. It was almost to the point that it didn’t matter if you were cheating because everyone else was, so it made an even playing field.
This is how I see it going down:
2013: Piazza and Biggio
2014: Bonds and Clemens
While 2013 would be a great year for New Yorkers with both inductees, I really can’t wait to see the 2014 induction ceremony. Although to see Piazza and Clemens up there at the same time would be very interesting…