By Dan Schlossberg
Nothing generates more controversy in baseball than membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Even experienced attorneys could make solid arguments about who should be in and who should be out.
Two days from now, the half of the Baseball Eras Committee that votes on non-players should give the Class of 2024 a healthy boost.
After only two men — one from the writers and one from the veterans — were picked last year, the panel that votes Sunday could double the number of inductees.
Leading contenders include former managers Jim Leyland, Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson, and Cito Gaston, with long-time executive Hank Peters also a strong candidate.
The Class of 2014 had three managers, all selected unanimously, in Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Tony La Russa. If history repeats, Leyland, Piniella, and Johnson all have better-than-even chances of success, with the underrated Gaston close behind.
So does umpire Joe West, who officiated more games than anyone in baseball history. Fellow ump Ed Montague and former player, broadcaster, and National League president Bill White also merit consideration.
To win election, a candidate must receive 75 per cent of the vote, or 12 votes from the 16-member panel.
More Class of 2024 members will be picked by the Baseball Writers Association of America next month. Top contenders are holdovers Todd Helton, who missed by a handful of votes last year; slugger Gary Sheffield, in his final try despite 509 home runs; 10-time Gold Glove center fielder Andruw Jones; and flame-throwing lefty closer Billy Wagner. Any of them could be joined by Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer, and Chase Utley, all of whom could gain entry on the first ballot.
Not to be overlooked are Carlos Beltrán and Alex Rodriguez, both great players whose careers were tarnished by scandals.
No matter what happens, the Class of 2024 is virtually certain to be double — or maybe triple — the two-man class enshrined earlier this year. For that, Cooperstown hotels, restaurants, and businesses will be thrilled. And so will fans of a larger Hall.
There are currently 342 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame but only two players elected by the writers in the last two years.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is a donor to the Baseball Hall of Fame and a writer for its Memories & Dreams magazine. He has also hosted Inducted Weekend trips for Sports Travel and Tours, official tour operator of the Hall of Fame. E.mail him via firstname.lastname@example.org.