During the fall of 2001, my Aunt and I made A Cooperstown pilgrimage to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. Kirby Puckett had just been enshrined the previous summer, we were both on a break from school (she as a teacher, me as a student), so the time seemed right. As an enormous fan of the history of baseball even as an adolescent, I was basically awed by the entire experience. I also somehow found it appropriate to wear a Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt and #11 Daunte Culpepper cap for the occasion (I do miss that hat, though...Pep was my guy):
(Quick story: The morning we are to get up and spend the day at the HOF, the deadbolt of our hotel room door gets stuck and will not retract. Long story short, hotel management literally ends up using a battering ram to break down the door and let us out. One of the most bizarre sequences of events I’ve ever been a part of.)
Each January, I’m always excited to see who the BBWAA deem worthy of HOF inclusion. Recently, it has been even more fun to see guys I vividly remember playing get the bronze plaque treatment (i.e. I’m now old). Here are my thoughts on this year’s class, complete with a Twins-related twist...
On July 2, 2013, my Dad and I got to see Mariano Rivera record a save in his final season. In front of 38,457 onlookers at Target Field, C.C. Sabathia had out-dueled P.J. Walters (not a mismatch AT ALL), Trevor Plouuuuuuufe homered, and Ichiro hit a double (his Dark Empire years) as the Yankees took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. After getting Clete Thomas to ground out to start the final frame, Mo did allow a single to Chris Parmelee—pinch hitting for Pedro Florimon—who was then immediately pinch-run for by Eduardo Escobar. It wouldn’t matter, however, as EE never moved off 1B while Rivera K’d Brian Dozier and got Joe Mauer to lift a lazy pop fly to short to end the game.
I’m glad Rivera was the first unanimous selection, as this graphic really says it all...
Now, on to the non-unanimous selections...
Upon his retirement, I always considered Mike Mussina to be a fringe candidate for the Hall. I don’t mind that he’s in and his numbers are solid, but he probably wouldn’t have gotten my vote. I’m not exactly sure why this is, considering he posted these stats against the Twins over the course of his career: 22-6, 230.1 IP, 3.09 ERA, 1.168 WHIP. Basically, he pitched very much like a legitimate HOF-er against the Twins whether as an Oriole or a Yankee.
When I began intensely following the Twins in the mid-1990s, they were not a playoff team (understatement of the week/year/century). Because I wanted to root for a team in the postseason, for a few years my pick was the Seattle Mariners (I’ll be honest: mainly because Ken Griffey Jr. was my favorite individual player at the time). Tertiarily following the M’s, though, allowed me to realize what a tremendous batsman Edgar Martinez was. Two seasons of 50+ doubles, three seasons over 40, a lifetime .312 batting average and .933 OPS. I know he didn’t play much defense, but those offensive numbers speak for themselves. I’ll argue he was long-overdue for a plaque.
I don’t really have a Twins-related anecdote for Roy Halladay other than to say this: He was my go-to ace starter in fantasy baseball for many seasons, and just one of my overall favorites. From roughly 2002-2011, Doc was easily one of the top five pitchers in his respective league at any time (and probably closer to first than fifth). He topped 200 innings 8 times—usually blasting by it with marks like 220 or 230—and once led all major league staters in complete games for five consecutive years. It’s a shame his death in 2017 prevented him receiving the honor himself. At least his family will be able to honor his baseball legacy this summer.
Up next on the 2020 ballot: Derek Jeter and everyone else.