Saturday, December 20, 2014

The players 10-year-old me thought would be Hall of Famers

I'm not sure how old I was when I first knew about the Baseball Hall of Fame. I do recall receiving a set of baseball cards when I was young, all of which had black-and-white photos on the front, most showing players I'd never heard of. Babe Ruth was there though, and Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig. I know who they were, and grasped that the others must have been great too. I certainly knew about the Hall by 1990, the year I turned ten. That's when Jim Palmer and Joe Morgan were inducted. It's been just shy of a quarter century since those two were elected, and I find myself thinking back on which of the players from that time I expected to someday enter Cooperstown.

Some of them, such as George Brett, Nolan Ryan, and Ozzie Smith, have been inducted, but most of them have not, and many never will. Among those not in the Hall of Fame are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who certainly would be in the Hall if not for their connections to performance-enhancing drugs. I wouldn't say I missed on them I just couldn't anticipate such a complicated future.

What I want to look at today is the guys I did miss on, the guys who either weren't as good as I thought, or couldn't stay good enough long enough, or maybe should be in the Hall of Fame, but didn't do quite enough to convince enough of the voters.

The top 10 players ten-year-old me would be surprised to find out didn't make it:

10) Tim Wallach - I don't really know how to explain this one, but when I was a kid, I thought Wallach was awesome. (He was good, but HOF-good he was not.)  I can only imagine it had to do with his being a part of the 1988 Topps All-Star set, which was a formative experience for me.

09) Orel Hershiser - His 1988 amazed me. (Still does.)

08) Alan Trammell - I'm happy to report I was early to the Trammell bandwagon. He's probably the player on this list most deserving of being a Hall of Famer. Don't worry, I wasn't some sort of prodigy of baseball wisdom: when I was ten I thought Vince Coleman vs. Tim Raines was a solid debate.

7) Will Clark - "The Thrill" was way up on my list of top players back then, perhaps due in part to his having been the favorite player of my best friend Chris Malec. Clark not winning the 1989 NL MVP was the first time I remember thinking someone had been robbed.

6) Bret Saberhagen - This was an entirely sensible thing to think, because Saberhagen was absolutely on a HOF pace through this point in his career. (His early years weren't that far off from those of Clayton Kershaw, who just about everyone expects to reach the HOF eventually.)

5) Doc Gooden - His peak came before I was paying attention, but I knew about it, and he'd continued to be very good, plenty good enough for me to think he was Cooperstown bound.

4) Don Mattingly - I suspect if you took a poll of all ten-year-olds in 1990, he'd place even higher than this, maybe even at the very top.

3) Eric Davis - Power and speed, two things a ten-year-old can easily appreciate, and two things Eric Davis did very well.

2) Jose Canseco - Speaking of power and speed, after Canseco's 40/40 season in 1988 I figured he was on his way to another decade of that sort of thing.

1) Darryl Strawberry - Obviously he was very good in those years, but I know there also had to me more to it than that. His playing for the Mets when they were the marquee team... his being in advertisements... even his name made him seem like a superstar. He had it. He wasn't my favorite player, but if you'd asked me at any time during the first five years I paid attention to baseball who the best player was, Darryl Strawberry would have been my answer.

Ah, to be ten again...

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