not immortals. I watched Mac, Sosa, Bonds, and Palmeiro throughout the years, and yes they were top-tier ballplayers. But are they worthy of Hall-status? 100% no. There are too many unanswered questions to allow them to be.
So…for the Class of '07, I am voting for the two obvious choices, Ripken and Gwynn. Ripken (3184 hits, 431 HR's, 1695 RBI's) was coined "Ironman" and was a spokesman for the old fashion American work ethic. Gwynn (3141 hits, .338 lifetime batting average-highest since Ted Williams) was (will be) the last "pure-hitter" Hall'er in at least my generation, if not ever.
My vote also goes for a few other players. Rich Gossage (310 saves, 8th year on ballot) should have been on last year's ballot with Bruce Sutter. Each of them revolutionized the art of relief pitching (from the days where a reliever would toss 120 innings per year.) Game 7, 4-3 lead, bottom of the ninth; if I had Gossage in his prime, I'd start pouring the campaign during his warm-up pitches.
Another vote goes to Andre Dawson (2774 hits, 438 HR's, 1591 RBI's, .279 average, 6th). His best days were spent in Montreal and Chicago, although that encompassed around 15 years. Dawson was a constant Gold Glove winner and stolen base threat until his knees left him (thanks to Astroturf).
Let's get Jim Rice (2452 hits, 382 HR's, 1451 RBI's, .298 average, 13th) in this year. From 1977-86, Rice was one of the most feared sluggers in the game. Also in his 13th year is Tommy John (288 wins, 4710 innings pitched). John's career started during the Kennedy Administration and ended with Bush, Sr's, his numbers are comparable to numerous Hall'er pitchers of his era, and he was the first to return after rotator cuff surgery (aptly named "Tommy John Surgery").
Add Bert Blyleven (287 wins, 4970 innings, 3701 strikeouts, 10th) to the list. Both Blyleven and John's numbers measure up to 1991 inductee Fergie Jenkins. While we're at it, allow me to choose former career saves leader Lee Smith (478 saves, 3.03 lifetime ERA-in nearly 1300 innings pitched, 5th).
I would be literally stunned if all eight claimed enshrinement in one year. I'm crossing my fingers that at least two of the six others (minus Ripken/Gwynn) mentioned would get in.
It will be interesting to see how many votes Jose Canseco receives (1st year eligible) while the steroid controversy swirls. Some voters have noted they would be more likely to cast a vote for Canseco (and even Caminiti) because they were the catalysts in bringing the issue of steroids to the forefront; compared to Mac's "no-comments".
This will be the last year on the ballot for Steve Garvey (2599 hits, 272 HR's, 1308 RBI's, .294 average). Garvey has never received over 42% of the votes (75% needed) and that still baffles me to this day (of course he let Jim Kaat appear 15 times and never voted him in). Harold Baines (2866 hits, 384 HR's, 1628 RBI's, .289 average) will not be a first-time candidate but it will be interesting to see how many votes he receives over the years.
All stats aside, the burning issue has to be the amount of votes Mac will receive. His first year on the ballot will dictate how he will fare in years to come. Move over Pete Rose, you may be having company.