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Where is the support?

Yesterday I wrote about Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, and Dave Concepcion’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame. There are a number of other players on the ballot who are considered borderline candidates for the Hall. Some of them have been gaining support over the years, while others have not.

Andre Dawson, on the ballot since 2002, has risen from 45.3% to 65.9% this year. The Hawk became nationally known while playing for the Cubs in the late 1980s after spending the first part of his career in Montreal. He had a monster year in 1987, hitting 49 home runs and winning the MVP while playing for the last-place Cubs. He finished his 21-year career with 438 round-trippers, a more than respectable number for the pre-steroid era. (I’m really starting to hate that phrase.)

Bert Blyleven first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1998, receiving a paltry 17.5% of the vote. Blyleven has gained a great deal of support, finishing with 61.9% in 2008. The case for Blyleven is two-fold: he won a lot of games and struck out a lot of batters. In the modern era, the only eligible player for the Hall with more wins is Tommy John. Blyleven is also fifth on the all-time strikeouts list, with more K’s than Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Fergie Jenkins, and Bob Gibson (all HOFers). The case against him is his poor winning percentage. While he won 287 games, he lost 250.

Lately, relief pitchers have been getting a serious look by the voters. Goose Gossage was elected this year, Dennis Eckersley was inducted in 2004, and Rollie Fingers in 1992. Lee Smith is still trying to get his due. Despite being the all-time saves leader for retired relievers (Trevor Hoffman passed him in 2006 to become the record holder), Smith has gained very little support among Hall voters. In 2003, his first year on the ballot, Smith received 42.3% of the vote. This year, 43.3% voted for him. Evidently there are some who thought he was Hall-worthy five years ago, but they have been unable to convince their peers of that opinion.

Next on the list is Jack Morris, the most dominant pitcher of the 1980s. The former Tiger ace’s support has increased over the years, from 22.2% in 2000 (his first year of eligibility) to 42.9% on the most recent tally. Morris was a five-time All-Star, starting the game three times for the American League. Five times he finished in the top five voting for the Cy Young Award.

What about Tommy John? On the ballot since 1995, he has never received more than 30% of the vote, but has only once received less than 20%. He has one more win than Blyleven, but his strikeout totals are far less (47th on the all-time list). He received serious consideration for the Cy Young award in 1977 and 1978 with the Dodgers, and 1979 and 1980 with the Yankees.

One to watch in future elections is Tim Raines. He received 24.3% this year, his first year on the ballot. Raines spent the first decade of his career in Montreal, making it that much more amazing that he was as popular as he was. He was an All-Star every year from 1981 through 1987, starting in left field in 1982 and 1983. He was known for his speed on the basepaths, leading the National League in stolen bases from 1981 to 1984 and five times finishing in the top four. Raines is fifth on the all-time stolen bases list behind future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and current HOFers Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton, and Ty Cobb.

Harold Baines, never considered a viable candidate for the Hall, barely received enough votes to stay on the ballot another year. Ten other players will not appear on the ballot next year, failing to garner 5% of the vote: Rod Beck (1994 NL Rolaids Reliever of the Year), Travis Fryman (five-time All-Star), Robb Nen (15th on all-time saves list), Shawon Dunston (#1 overall pick in the 1982 draft, one of my personal favorites, and a great autograph signer through the mail), Chuck Finley (23rd on all-time strikeouts list), David Justice (1990 NL Rookie of the Year), Chuck Knoblauch (1991 AL Rookie of the Year), Todd Stottlemyre (2000 Branch Rickey and Lou Gehrig Memorial Awards winner), Brady Anderson (smacked 50 homers in 1996, but never got 25 in any other season), and Jose Rijo (1990 World Series MVP; never won more than 15 games in a season). Only Anderson and Rijo failed to get any votes at all.

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