Posted by: Larry Smith Jr. | February 17, 2010

The Near Future of the Hall

I’ve gotten halfway through a series on “living legends” or “current Hall of Famers” that I’ve titled “Who’s Your Hall of Famer” during this Winter. I’ve covered the entire American League and will over the course of the next few weeks cover the National League. I’m intrigued by the Hall, Hall debates, and players who are chosen from enshrinement.

Over the last five years, we have had some players that I would consider to be questionable additions to the Hall, and that I think even their supporters would not consider to be “top tier” Hall of Famers. In that time span — From 2006 forward — I think that Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr., and Rickey Henderson were some of the “top tier” guys that were elected and it shows in their >90% vote percentages and elections in the first year of eligibility. Many others have either been more questionable selections or simply not among the “top tier” of Hall members.

For those tired of the mediocrity (by Hall standards) of the last half decade, relief is on the way. Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, and Rafael Palmeiro (who won’t get in due to steroid taint) are eligible in 2011. 2013 brings us Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both players with considerable steroid taint but also both players who in the wild, wild World of steroid conjecture and hysteria have also been branded as “players who were Hall of Famers without it”. How one is to know for sure when a player started it and didn’t is a mystery, but sensibility and rationality never has been a strong suit of the steroid discussions. Bonds is one of the five best (possibly even top three) position players of all-time. Clemens is one of the five best pitchers of all-time. It also brings us Greg Maddux, who may very well be one of the ten best pitchers of all-time. 2013 brings us Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling as well. The latter *should* definitely get into the Hall, but with the clutter of Bonds, Clemens, and Maddux it is possible he may not make it in his first year of eligibility.

On the chance that the voters get spiteful and flatly silly and deny Bonds and Clemens entry to the Hall in 2013 and for many years thereafter, the 2014 class seems like it has the chance to be the best since the vaunted class of ‘99 that put Ryan, Yount, and Brett into the museum. This is a class that could see Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas, and Tom Glavine all enshrined, along with Schilling if he gets pushed off of the 2013 ballot.

In short, after a warm-up run of higher tier candidates in 2011, some of the greatest players of the last 50 years will come up for eligibility in 2013 and 2014 and between those two years (along with 2015 when some of the guys who were frozen out of prior elections will remain eligible) we ought to get some of the best Hall classes in about a decade and a half (by that point). It should make for a joyous occasion for those of us who care about such things.

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