The only questions about this years inductees are: In Rickey Henderson's case, what were the remaining 5.2 percent of the voters thinking? Rickey Henderson is indisputably the greatest lead-off hitter of all-times. He's the all-time leader in stolen bases (1406), the all-time leader in runs scored (2295), the all-time leader in lead-off home runs (81) and second all-time in walks (2190). A member of the 3000-hit club, Henderson was the most electrifying player of his generation.
In Jim Rice's case, the only questions are: What took so long? Why did a player of Jim Rice's caliber have to wait until is 15th and final year of eligibility to get inducted? During his distinguished career, Rice was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He was the 1978 American League MVP, putting together one of the greatest offensive seasons in Major League history. He was an 8 time All-Star and on 6 occasions finished in the top 5 in the MVP voting. Not too mention, he's one of those rare players who played his entire career with one team (Boston Red Sox).
Over the last 20 years, I've noticed a few deserving players who keep "slipping thru the cracks." I won't mention, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson or Lee Smith because they still have years of eligibility and I think they'll eventually get in. In fact, I predict Blyleven and/or Dawson will get enshrined in 2010. The two players, who's eligibility has expired, that puzzle me the most are Steve Garvey and Al Oliver.
During his illustrious career, Steve Garvey was one of the most popular players in baseball. He was a 10 time All-Star, twice winning the All-Star Game MVP (1974, 1978). He was the National League MVP in 1974 and a World Series champion in 1981. Twice he was named NLCS MVP (1978, 1984). He is one of only 13 players in history with at least 6 200-hit seasons, all of whom, with the exception of Pete Rose, the all-time leader (10), are in the Hall of Fame. Garvey won 4 Gold Gloves during his career and is still the "Ironman " of the National League, playing in an NL record, 1207 consecutive games.
Al Oliver during his 18 year career put up numbers that have gotten many other players enshrined in the Hall Of Fame. He is a career .300 hitter (.303), winning a batting title in 1982 (.331) with the Montreal Expos. A 7 time All-Star selection, Oliver was a World Series champion in 1971 and a 3- time Silver Slugger Award winner. He batted .300 or better 11 times and retired with 2,743 hits, one of the highest totals ever for a non-Hall of Famer.
I compared Garvey's and Oliver's career numbers (chart below) with two current Hall of Famers, Bill Mazeroski and Enos Slaughter and the numbers are strikingly similar. In fact, I'll go as far and say, Garvey and Oliver had better career numbers than these two respected Hall of Famers. I'm not saying Mazeroski and Slaughter shouldn't be in, but if they got in, I can't see how the Veteran's Committee can overlook Garvey and Oliver. Since their years of eligibility have expired, the only way Garvey and Oliver can get in is if the special Veteran's Committee votes them in. A quick note, Mazeroski and Slaughter were voted in by the Veteran's Committee, not the Baseball Writer's Association of America.
How the Baseball Writer's Association of America overlooked Steve Garvey and Al Oliver for 15 years is beyond me.