For the most part, I'm a "small hall" guy. I'd love to see about one-fourth of the Veteran's Committee selections booted, and I'm not about to give my vote to anybody I can't make a convincing case for.
This year, there are 32 names on the ballot. We can safely disregard 14 of them: Dante Bichette, Bobby Bonilla, Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Ken Caminiti, Eric Davis, Tony Fernandez, Steve Garvey, Wally Joyner, Dale Murphy, Paul O'Neill, Bret Saberhagen, Devon White, and Bobby Witt. Good players all--it's tough to hang around long enough to make the ballot if you're not. But you'd really have to stretch to make a Hall case for any of them.
Here are my (quick) takes on the rest. The synopsis for those of you who don't want to read further: I'd vote for Ripken, Gwynn, Blyleven, and McGwire. (In that order, as if it mattered.)
Harold Baines: I don't particularly care that he was a DH for so much of his career. What makes me vote no is his utter lack of dominance. He was always quite good, never great. He only cracked the top ten in MVP voting twice and--amazingly enough for a power hitter--never hit 30 home runs in a season.
Albert Belle: You can make the Kiner case for his inclusion--it's always the last resort for guys who don't have the counting stats or the reputation to get them in otherwise. If Albert had been likeable (and, by extension, gotten a couple of MVP trophies) we'd be talking about him a lot more seriously. As it is, he's just a slightly better version of his top comp, Juan Gonzalez. Nice try--wish you had at least pretended you wanted to come back.
Bert Blyleven: If you're reading this blog, you've probably read about a dozen articles in favor of Blyleven's candidacy. (By "a dozen," I mean several hundred.) He ought to be in. In some years, he'd be #1; this year he has to settle for #3 behind Ripken and Gwynn.
Jose Canseco: No Hall of Fame, no Pulitzer Prize, no respect.
Rich Gossage: Bruce Sutter was a mistake. Gossage was better, no question, but I don't think I'll be supporting a reliever for the Hall until Mariano Rivera comes up. No reasonable amount of credit for leverage makes this guy Hall-worthy.
Orel Hershiser: Until 200 wins is officially the new 300 wins, Orel just doesn't have the counting stats. He was a solid pitcher for a long time, but three or four seasons of greatness isn't enough, postseason record or not.
Don Mattingly: Reviewing his stats, he was a better player than I remember. Unfortunately, he only played 110+ games ten times. He wasn't nearly good enough to make up for that.
Mark McGwire: My personal way of dealing with steroids in baseball is ignoring the whole issue. Am I going to get to the truth of the matter? No. Do I care? No. McGwire was a great player, with OPS+s over 200 in three full seasons, plus two more partials. Adjust those home runs for the era--heck, adjust them for steroid usage--and you've still got a Cooperstown-worthy player.
Jack Morris: He was a big-game player who pitched to the score. Except for the 186 times he didn't.
Dave Parker: Like Baines, he was a power hitter who wasn't dominant for very long. Even with extra marks for his legendary throwing arm, a .290/.339/.471 career isn't getting him a plaque.
Jim Rice: Similar player to Parker, only better. On the other hand, two of his top three comps are Andres Galarraga and Ellis Burks. His counting stats come up short because he turned into a pumpkin at age 35. How you feel about his candidacy depends on how you feel about longevity: would you rather he had the talent to be a role player until he was 41? If he had done that, he would've gotten 3,000 hits or close at the expense of 10 or 15 points of career batting average. I might've voted for him then; I'm not behind him now.
Cal Ripken Jr.: Of all the players with unimpeachable reputations, Ripken is the one whose reputation actually does him a disservice. Look behind the consecutive games streak and the wonderful personality and you have one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history.
Lee Smith: I like Lee more than I like Goose, if only because it was so funny to see him visit the mound as South Africa's pitching coach in the World Baseball Classic. Saves record or no, he'll have to get in as a pitching coach.
Alan Trammell: He didn't quite have Ripken's power, but he did have a higher career average and on-base percentage. Of course, he played about 5.5 million fewer games, as well. This is one case in which I really wish we had better historical defensive metrics. If Trammell was a legit gold-glover for much of his career (he only won four, between 1980 and '84), his offensive numbers push him over the top. If not, he falls short.