David N. Townsend
Baseball Journal


December 3, 1996
Hall of Fame Watch, 1996.

Okay, once again, with feeling. The Hall of Fame watch, 1996 vintage. This year I decided to take a different approach. Rather than simply identify players with a chance to make the Hall sooner or later, I thought I'd look at the crucial issue of the timing of a candidate's eligibility. Of course, as last year proved, even going up against weak competition doesn't guarantee that anyone will get elected to the Hall of Fame. But certainly facing stronger contemporaries on the same ballot can't help a player's chances, especially for first-ballot selection. Either way, I thought it would be fun to predict the likely retirement years for the current crop of stars, and to see how the Hall of Fame elections over the next decade or so might play out when they become eligible. (I might have a couple of the years wrong for certain players.) As always, reactions and counter opinions are more than welcome.

1992 (eligible in 1997)

Jeff Reardon Doesn't seem as likely as he once did. I don't think he'll make it, even though he should be the only new big name on the ballot.

1993 (eligible in 1998)

Carlton Fisk Shoo-in, first ballot.
Nolan Ryan In a walk (no pun intended).
George Brett Even more votes than Fisk and Ryan.
Robin Yount He'll make it first ballot, too, but by a narrow margin.
Dale Murphy Hurt by retiring along side the above greats, probably will have to wait until '99.
Gary Carter Doesn't compare well enough to Fisk, might get in next year.

1994 (eligible in 1999)

Jack Morris Helped his chances with the World Series shutout, even more by retiring when no one else of note would compete with him. I think he makes it.

1995 (eligible in 2000)

Dave Winfield Easy first ballot selection.
Kirby Puckett Might make the cut due to the Nice Guy/Tough Break vote.
Don Mattingly If Kirby's in, Donnie should be, too. Might come back in '97 with the Cardinals, which could actually hurt his candidacy.
Lou Whitaker Not really likely, based on his numbers.

 1996 (eligible in 2001)

Lee Smith He should have a good shot, but closers are never a sure thing.
Ozzie Smith Two Smiths in one year? Ozzie chose the right time to retire. If he had waited one more season, his chances would be much lower.
Alan Trammell Nope, no better qualified than Whitaker.
Andre Dawson He's well liked and respected, and his numbers look good, but he'll be borderline, I think.

1997 (eligible in 2002)

Paul Molitor His 1996 season made him a shoo-in. No one's ever led the league in hits at age 40, or had over 200 hits in the year he reached 3,000. He just keeps getting better, and I'm not so sure he will retire when his contract's up.
Rickey Henderson Won't get as many votes as Molitor, but will be easily elected.
Eddie Murray You've got to put his 3,000/500 in the Hall, even if he's really not in the class of the above guys
Dennis Eckersley Up against tough competition. Maybe he should retire right now, so he and Lee Smith can go in together.
Harold Baines Not.

1998 (eligible in 2003)

Wade Boggs I think he'll last 2 more years, chasing 3,000 hits. He may not make that, but he'll also "walk" into the Hall.
Ryne Sandberg It shouldn't be a close vote, but it may be for Rhino.
Tim Raines One of several close-but-no-cigars this year.
Joe Carter Some great RBI numbers, super consistency, but not quite Hall of Fame material.
Daryl Strawberry If he could come all the way back to 35 homers for about 4 years, he'd have a shot. But he won't.

1999 (eligible in 2004)

Cal Ripken Who knows how much longer he'll keep it going? Maybe 10 years. I'll say three, and then they create a special wing in the Hall of Fame, just for Cal.
Tony Gwynn I'll finally admit it: he's had a better career than Boggs. If only he could play for a good team before his career's over.
Edgar Martinez As good as he's been the past couple of years, he's not Hall material

2000 (eligible in 2005)

Roger Clemens Final career stats: 250-153, 3.20, 3,220 Ks
Mark McGwire I've changed my mind: he's going to make it. If he averages 43 HR per year for the next 4 years, he'll have 500. He can do it, too.
Jose Canseco Has about the same chance as Strawberry, maybe slightly better, but not realistic

2001 (eligible in 2006)

Tom Glavine Isn't it surprising he's the only other starting pitcher besides Clemens and Maddux with an outside shot at the Hall of Fame? Would need about 100 more wins to have a chance.
Fred McGriff Comparable career stats to McGwire, except for the home run binges. Not likely to make it, but a weak competition year, and he could build some quality career stats by then.

2002 (eligible in 2007)

Greg Maddux Another shoo-in, even if he retired in 1997.
Albert Belle I still don't think that he's going to keep it up long enough, but the way the past couple of years have gone, it's certainly possible.

2003 (eligible in 2008)

Barry Bonds Shoo-in City.
Rafael Palmeiro If he has the will and ability to stick around this long, he might have a chance at the Hall, but he'd have to win a championship, an MVP, some All Star games, etc.

2004 (eligible in 2009)

Matt Williams I think he's very over-rated, but if he lasts this long, he could hit 500 homers.
Juan Gonzalez After this year's MVP, the sky's the limit.  He could even wind up as the best slugger of his era.  I think he'll be a legend.

 2005 (eligible in 2010)

Kenny Lofton He and Vaughn look like immortals today, but so did Jim Rice and Tim Raines at one point. I think Lofton will be a very good player, but not a Hall of Famer.
Mo Vaughn If he keeps up his '95-'96 pace for a while, and he plays another 9 years, he'll be sure to make the Hall. Will he be with the Red Sox his whole career? Will he play for a World Champion? So many questions.

2006 (eligible in 2011)

Ken Griffey, Jr. Might play 10 more years than this, might get bored. Certain Hall of Famer either way.
Frank Thomas Should retire the same year as Griffey, go into the Hall together.
Roberto Alomar Yeah, the Spitting Incident could really work against him.
Jeff Bagwell Will fade from greatness within 3 years.
Mike Piazza Could get injured and not last this long, but if he does, he'll be another Johnny Bench.

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