Contemporary Era HOF Ballot: No. 7, Rafael Palmeiro
We’re counting down from 8 to 1 on the Contemporary Hall of Fame ballot this week — this countdown is based not on my opinion of the players’ greatness but instead on that players’ chances of getting elected on Sunday. For example, I might think that Barry Bonds is the best player on this ballot — in fact, I do think that.
But do I think Barry Bonds has any chance at all of getting elected this year?
Well, we’ll find out as the week goes on.
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Key achievements: He’s one of only seven players to finish a career with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. The other six are either in the Hall of Fame (Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Eddie Murray), will be in the Hall of Fame soon (Albert Pujols and Miggy Cabrera) or are named Alex Rodriguez.
Where he ranks on my eligible Hall of Fame list: No. 32.
Who are the players around him on the list: Graig Nettles, Reggie Smith, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Brown.
WAR (Hall of Fame Conversation usually begins around 60 WAR, though there are players in the Hall of Fame with less than 50 WAR):
Baseball-Reference — 71.9
FanGraphs — 70.0
Hall of Fame history: Appeared on four BBWAA ballots, topping out at 12.6%. This is his first appearance on a veterans ballot.
Chances he will be elected this time around: <1%
There is one part of the steroid screaming that I totally get: Stuff like 500 homers and 3,000 hits used to be really cool. Both used to be mean automatic entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The modern Hall of Fame voting began in 1966; that was the start of the annual BBWAA balloting.
Between 1966 and 2010, 18 players with 3,000 hits became eligible for the Hall of Fame. All of them except one was voted in first-ballot. The other one, as you no doubt know, was Pete Rose, who, like David S. Pumpkins, is his own thing.
Five hundred home runs did not have QUITE the same cache, but if you hit 500 homers you were probably going to the Hall of Fame sooner or later. Between 1966 and 2010, 12 players came on the ballot with 500 homers. Eleven made the Hall of Fame, with the exception being Mark McGwire. It is true, though, that Harmon Killebrew had to wait until his fourth ballot, Eddie Mathews had to wait until his fifth.
But the point was still the point: If you got 3,000 hits, if you hit 500 homers, you were a Hall of Famer.
And now — well, Palmeiro has both, and he’s not even close to the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez have SIX HUNDRED home runs, and they’re not close to the Hall of Fame. A-Rod also, as mentioned, has 3,000 hits. Manny Ramirez has 500 homers. Gary Sheffield has 500 homers.
I can understand why people would be ticked off at the players — and the game — for taking away one of the simple pleasures of being a baseball fan: Counting homers and counting hits and thinking about the Hall of Fame.
Rafael Palmeiro has become a symbol of that anger. I don’t know if that’s fair or not; Palmeiro has repeatedly denied taking PEDs But