When Vets Vote: Yes to the Three M’s But No To The Five 'Bad Guys'

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Dale Murphy, owner of two MVP awards, had his No. 3 retired by the Atlanta Braves but has yet to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame.Photo byPeter Bond, Chicago, Share-Alike Attribution 2.0

By Dan Schlossberg

The first vote of the Contemporary Baseball Players Era Committee will be revealed tomorrow night — just in time for live coverage on the MLB Network.

With Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones on the 16-man panel of electors, Dale Murphy and Fred McGriff figure to have a pair of strong, vocal, and well-respected advocates.

Also on the panel are Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, and Frank Thomas, also incumbent Hall of Famers; executives Paul Beeston, Theo Epstein, Arte Moreno, Kim Ng, Dave St. Peter, and Ken Williams; and writer/historians Steve Hirdt, LaVelle Neal, and Susan Slusser. Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark is the non-voting committee chair.

If the panel chooses character over controversy, Murphy, McGriff, and Don Mattingly will have a one-way ticket to the Class of 2023 inductions in Cooperstown next July.

All had clean records to accompany their myriad of achievements on the diamond.

The election is expected to be close, since voters can choose a maximum of three men and candidates need a minimum of 12 votes to reach the 75 per cent required for enshrinement.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro were all suspected of inflating their records with performance-enhancing substances, while Albert Belle often left a trail of destruction with temperamental outbursts that impacted his career negatively.

The same can be said for Curt Schilling, who posted inflammatory rhetoric on social media and eventually told writers not to vote for him.

Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling headlined the writers’ ballot as recently as last January but failed to win election in their 10th and final try. Historically, incumbent Hall of Famers serving on veterans’ committees are not inclined to support them.

That being said, the ballot seems a match of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys.

Murphy, the National League’s answer to Cal Ripken, Jr., did not drink, smoke, or curse. He never failed to accommodate an autograph seeker. Plus he won back-to-back MVP awards, five Gold Gloves, and seven trips to the All-Star Game after moving from catcher to center field. A two-time home run champ who spent most of his career in Atlanta while the team was the Bad-News Braves, he also had a 30/30 year.

If he wasn’t baseball’s best player during the ‘80s, he was thisclose.

Unlike Murphy, McGriff was a vagabond who spread his 493 home runs among six teams. The lanky first baseman was MVP of the 1994 All-Star Game, a two-time home run king, and one of the anchors of the 1995 Braves team that won Atlanta’s first world championship.

Mattingly, also a first baseman, played 14 years, all with the Yankees, and finished with a .307 average, a batting crown, nine Gold Gloves, and an American League MVP trophy. He later managed for 12 years, winning a Manager of the Year award in Miami two years ago.

As for the other five guys on the ballot, Bonds holds records for home runs in a season (73) and career (672) and most MVP awards (7). Clemens won 354 games, one behind Maddux among living pitchers, en route to a record seven Cy Youngs. He also won two World Series rings.

Schilling won World Series MVP trophy and posted an 11-2 mark and 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason appearances. The six-time All-Star won 216 games but the Hall of Fame has plenty of pitchers who won less [see Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax].

With 500 homers and 3,000 hits, Palmeiro should have punched his ticket to the Hall via the voting writers. But they remember his finger-wagging denials to a Congressional committee investigating steroids in sports.

Neither Palmeiro nor Belle won an MVP award, though the latter was a three-time RBI king who finished second or third in the voting from 1994-96. Like Bonds, he was often preceded by his surly reputation.

After the seven-member Class of 2022, next year’s induction group will certainly be smaller. Even if the Contemporary Committee picks the M-boys, the writers may not elect anyone to join them.

Scott Rolen gained the most points last year, followed by Andruw Jones and Todd Helton. The only first-timer on the BBWAA ballot is scandal-tainted Carlos Beltran, whose alleged involvement in the 2017 Houston Astros’ electronic cheating scheme cost him his job as manager of the New York Mets.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is a baseball historian who has been covering the game since 1969. He writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Memories & Dreams. E.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.com.

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