Making Hall of Fame guesses: 6 players and 3 projects we’ll see after July 29

Baseball Hall of Fame voters, you have your first decisions to make with the inductions scheduled for July 29. Some must be easy to make, such as voting for Bert Blyleven, who announced earlier this month that he would be retiring after the season. Others, such as Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, are more complicated. The latter has to be a no-brainer, but Hall voters tend to take their own time getting around to voting and not move quickly.

I feel it is important to note, however, that because of ballot numbers not attached to specific players, I am not presuming any of the players below will make the Hall of Fame. The voters are left to decide what the impact of those players’ individual careers had on the game.

I have not attended a Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony since 1997, but this year’s ballot certainly has its merits. What follows are my thoughts about six of this year’s inductees.

Bert Blyleven: I was lucky enough to be in Cooperstown that year to see Edgar Martinez get enshrined. Since then, I have written about about the meaning of Martinez’s career and why he did not get in on his first ballot. At the time, all I could think was that “Mookie Brinkman” was more deserving than Martinez. I did not want to believe it, however, and time has eventually made me come to terms with it. A number of factors are at play, including Blyleven’s career numbers, which when put together look vastly better than Brinkman’s, with his team responsibilities be damned. If a player has a mediocre offensive record, the loss of games in addition to wins is the first consideration, and that was not the case with Brinkman.

Don Mattingly: While Mattingly did not see much time in New York, he was still one of the most accomplished players in the big leagues. He hit .327 with 210 home runs and 1,329 RBIs in 14 big league seasons, starting his career with the Dodgers and finishing with the Yankees. He was also a tremendous base runner with a career OPS of .949, due in large part to his career on-base percentage of .369, ninth among players with a minimum of 500 plate appearances.

Ray Fosse: I feel the sport’s social conscience was much more fully addressed by Fosse. With “Fearless,” he was one of the pioneers of Major League Baseball’s Game of the Week and has been cited by fans and writers for successfully pushing for better drug testing and recognition of the role of the athletic trainers in the game.

Andruw Jones: I was in Cooperstown when Jones got in, and I did not think he was in, having not seen him play enough to truly judge his value as a player. But I think it was the power of his bat that finally brought him into my consciousness. If anything, I probably gave him a bit too little credit.

Mike Mussina: First, he had one of the most dominant pitching careers of all time with 317 wins, 422 saves and a 1.960 career ERA. Second, that was over the course of 18 seasons with the Orioles and Yankees, not counting parts of seasons playing for Toronto and Seattle. In his 11 seasons as a Yankee, however, Mussina should be remembered as perhaps the greatest player to wear the pinstripes. He pitched in 17 World Series and won four.

Roger Clemens: I was very excited to see Clemens get in on his first ballot. I came across his Hall of Fame plaque on the Internet and it looked as good as his stats. Now I really wonder what the state of the Hall of Fame is if Clemens is not at least a borderline candidate going forward.

Mariano Rivera: If there were a plaque for longevity in baseball, Rivera would be in there. At age 42, he is already the eighth-oldest player in history. Last year, after getting on the ballot for the first time, Rivera was listed on 67.3 percent of the ballots. That was 20 percent short of the necessary 75 percent, but he seemed headed for induction this year if he got that close. Rivera will be one of the more difficult Hall of Fame selection decisions we will have in the future.

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