Today this year's baseball Hall of Fame votes will be announced. Jayson Stark over at espn.com has a good article on who he voted for and why. Some of what he writes coincides with the baseball-related thoughts I've been having lately.
I got into baseball in the late 80's. I started collecting baseball cards and became stat obsessed. Bo Jackson and Jose Canseco were huge back then; my card collecting buddy chose Bo as his favorite player, and I chose Canseco. In 1988 he batted over .300, was the first player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in the same season, and had 120+ rbi's. He won the MVP that year, just a couple years after he had won Rookie of the Year. He was the game's current and future star. Sadly, he stopped being the good all around player that I loved and became a home run hitting, .250 batting average getting, injury riddled, defensive liability best known for letting a fly ball bounce off his head and over the fence for a home run. Even more sad was that once his quest for 500 home runs ended because no one would give him a job anymore, he wrote a tell-all book about steroids, naming names and incriminating players all over the game, including himself. In a way it was a fitting end to his career, as he became the face of the steroid era for me, and his book was a big step towards exposing all the secrets.
What this has to do with today's Hall announcement is that Canseco's career ushered in an era of huge offensive numbers. An era that was directly preceded by very low offensive output. Home runs and batting averages were way down when compared to the 90's. When Cecil Fielder hit his 50 and 51st home runs on the last day of the 1990 season, it was the first time since 1977 that a player had reached the milestone. In fact, only one player hit 50 or more home runs between 1965 and 1990. The 80's are the only decade in baseball without a 50 home run hitter. Coincidentally, these are the stars currently up for enshrinement. And they've been waiting a long time.
Jim Rice, Dale Murphy, Andre Dawson, and Tim Raines come on down!
Their numbers don't compete well with the stars of the next decade. None of them reached 500 home runs. None of them broke single season or all-time hitting records. But compare them with their contemporaries, and they shine. All of them were the stars of their era. And all of them belong in the Hall of Fame.