- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Baseball Writers Association of America released its 2014 Hall of Fame ballot on Tuesday and it was full of players with Dodgers ties. That’s the good news.
The bad news is some of those players carry the suspicion -- or the admission -- of performance-enhancing drug use. Others, with more robust chances of election, played only slivers of their great careers in a Dodger uniform. And, hurting everybody’s chances is the fact that, with the backlog of great players tainted by PED use, it’s a crowded ballot and voters can only write in 10 names.
So, let’s examine the chances of some former (or current) Dodgers:
Let’s not forget that not every player who used performance-enhancing drugs set records. Gagne set an extraordinary one, nailing down 84 consecutive saves over two seasons and winning the 2003 Cy Young award. Unfortunately for him, he squandered his early years as a mediocre starter and didn’t have great longevity, piling up just 187 career saves. The real nail in his Hall of Fame chances was his admission, in a French-language book last year, that he took PEDs (and the allegation that most of his Dodgers teammates did, too). In this era, that kind of smoking gun is enough to go lights out on your Hall chances.
His All-Star days were behind him when, at 39, he signed as a free agent with the Dodgers in 2007. Still, he played well, batting .278 with a .359 on-base percentage and slugging 15 home runs. His glory years were in Houston and Arizona, of course, where he was the hero of the 2001 World Series. He’s not going to make it on the first ballot and his chances wouldn’t appear great long-term either. He finished 401 hits shy of 3,000 and 46 home runs short of 400, plus never won a Gold Glove.
Many Dodger fans must feel conflicted about Kent’s candidacy. He played for the Dodgers from 2005 to 2008, when he was 40, and played remarkably well for his age, batting .291 and averaging 19 home runs and 78 RBIs. He also had well-publicized spats with some of his younger teammates and, above all, made his greatest mark with the rival San Francisco Giants. If he played anywhere other than the middle of the infield, his chances would be slim, but he is the all-time leader among second basemen in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and doubles. He had limited range, but was a solid second baseman. In other words, he looks like a semi-lock, at least eventually.
If he could have come close to replicating his 2001 season, when he hit .320 with 25 home runs and 90 RBIs, he might have been worth considering. He didn’t. The catcher was a four-time All-Star, but otherwise, has virtually no claim on a legitimate Hall candidacy.
A Rookie of the Year award, 12 All-Star appearances and 583 lifetime home runs seem like pretty shiny credentials, but like Gagne, he doomed his chances by admitting to using PED’s. If voters’ attitudes undergo a radical change, the Dodgers hitting coach might make it one day for his slugging prowess. But it’s not looking good. He’s been on the ballot for seven years and only got 17 percent of the vote last year, so his chances are looking far from robust.
He’s pretty much given up on it at this point, the Dodgers manager said in an interview with ESPNLosAngeles about a year ago. Perhaps if his back had held up and he had played beyond 14 seasons, he would have accumulated the necessary credentials. The best thing that could happen for Dodgers fans is that Mattingly one day follows predecessors Walter Alston, Tommy Lasorda and (eventually) Joe Torre into the Hall as a Dodgers manager, because that would likely mean multiple World Series titles.
He won a Rookie of the Year and pitched two no-hitters. He was a pioneer for the later wave of top-flight Japanese players. If he could have continued the trajectory of those early Dodgers years, he might have had a chance, but a 123-109 record and 4.24 ERA aren’t going to get you to Cooperstown.
Ned Colletti acquired him from the Chicago Cubs in August of 2006 and he completed his career at the age of 42 after signing with the Dodgers in 2008. But something tells me he won’t be wearing a Dodgers cap in Cooperstown. He won four straight Cy Youngs, 18 Gold Glove awards, won 355 games, struck out 3,371 hitters and had a lifetime 3.16 ERA. The only question is whether he will be unanimous in his first season. Shocking if he’s not.
The only real justification for leaving him off a Hall of Fame ballot -- as 44 percent of voters did last season, in his first season of eligibility -- was the shadow of PED use. He may have been the best-hitting catcher of all-time. He won a Rookie of the Year, made 12 All-Star teams, hit 427 lifetime home runs and was a career .308 hitter. He continues to insist he’s innocent, nothing tangible has linked him to drug use, so maybe voters’ cynicism will relent in his second season on the ballot? His status will be a good indicator of voters' attitudes.
6hAnthony Witrado, Special to ESPN.com
8hAnthony Witrado, Special to ESPN.com
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1dAnthony Witrado, Special to ESPN.com
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