Arguing over the BBWAA Hall of Fame voting is an offseason tradition in the part of the Internet that cares about baseball. Many bombs will be lobbed for and against people like Jack Morris and Edgar Martinez. This year, even more explosive arguments will be fought over Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Invective will be hurled and no one's mind will be changed. Let's forget about all of that for a minute.
There are 37 players on the Hall of Fame ballot this time around. You can find them on the BBWAA site. To be elected, a player must be named on at least 75% of the returned ballots. Players not named on at least 5% of the ballots do not carry over to the next year. Voting members can list up to 10 names. Note that once someone has been a BBWAA member for 10 years, they retain a HOF ballot for life, even if they no longer cover baseball, ever.
Of the 37 on the ballot, nine of these played for the Orioles at one time. Most of the names are spoken with a sigh of regret, if not anger. None of them will be going into the Hall wearing Orioles caps, should any of them make it into the Hall at all. Still, it's worth a little walk down memory lane. Somebody might throw some of them a pity or protest vote.
Few names are more synonymous with the early years of the consecutive losing season streak than Conine. He was a decent veteran player on a number of bad teams. In six seasons with the O's - 1999-2003 with an encore in 2006 - he batted .287/.341/.442, which worked out to an OPS+ of 106, or just about league average. For this, he was paid approximately $17 million by the Orioles, and was especially welcomed back to Baltimore by Jim Hunter on Opening Day in 2006. For a few years there, he may have been some kid's favorite Oriole. May those days never return.
Hall of Fame chances: Nonexistent. He did win two World Series titles with the Marlins in 1997 and 2003, though.
One of two players who was involved in the infamous Glenn Davis trade whose Hall of Fame eligibility begins this year. Finley was traded by the Orioles prior to the 1991 season, had productive years up until 2004 and did not retire until 2007 at the age of 42. In his two years with the O's before being traded, he only batted .254/.302/.325, and he was about to turn 26 when traded. Not exactly hotshot prospect stuff, but he went on to have a 19 year career in which he posted a respectable .271/.332/.445 slash line.
Hall of Fame chances: None. He has five Gold Gloves and a World Series championship with the 2001 Diamondbacks to console him.
Mesa came into the Orioles organization as the PTBNL in a trade that sent the late Mike Flanagan to Toronto. In his four years with the Orioles, he tried to be a starting pitcher. This was not his destiny, as he racked up a 5.41 ERA in 49 games. He was traded to Cleveland in 1992 for Kyle Washington and would eventually become a reliever, pitching in over 1000 games across 19 seasons. Mesa was no matchup pitcher: his innings pitched totals as a reliever closely match his games pitched.
Hall of Fame chances: Zero. I mean, come on. Sure, 321 saves sounds nice, but a 4.36 career ERA doesn't. His 1995 season, in which he had a 1.13 ERA while saving 46 games, was impressive enough to get him 2nd place in the Cy Young and 4th place in the MVP voting. He actually placed ahead of the Cy Young winner (Randy Johnson) on the MVP balloting.
Seven years in an Orioles uniform, split between the middle of his career and the end, that will always be remembered for one positive steroid test for stanozolol. He played in exactly one thousand games for the O's, 1994-98 and 2004-05, batting .284/.366/.520. He'll be remembered fondly here for being a part of the 1996 and 1997 playoff teams, now that the sting of that 2005 season is much less fresh. The 223 home runs he hit for the O's still rank 5th all time on the franchise leaderboard. Palmeiro is also tied for 6th on the franchise list for sacrifice flies, with 46 - a number he shares with Conine. Does that mean anything? No. But it's cool anyway.
Hall of Fame chances: There are many who argue that players who never failed a steroid test should be inducted into the HOF. Palmeiro, as the biggest-name player (in terms of a sure-fire HOF candidacy wrecked by a positive test) to fail a test, does not benefit from this. He is in the 3,000+ hit, 500+ home run club, but he'll only be remembered for failing the test after his finger-wagging Congressional testimony. Had he been juicing all along? Did he get desperate to hang on to get 3,000 hits? Did he really get a tainted B-12 shot by accident? We'll never know the truth, but though some writers will vote for him - steroids or no, he was one of the best players of his day -he is unlikely to be elected in the current climate.
Played for four games in the 2001 season so he could play in the same outfield with his son. Nice story, but yawn.
Hall of Fame chances: In his 5th year on the ballot last year, he was named on 48.7% of ballots. The career slash line of .294/.385/.425 surely helps, as do 808 career stolen bases. He was successful 84.7% of the time. Montreal Expos nostalgia also works in his favor. He could gain steam especially as some voters may try to deliberately snub suspected steroid users.
The second player in the Glenn Davis trade to be eligible for the first time this year. What more can be said about the Davis trade? Two HOF eligible players in 2013, 20 years after Davis last played an MLB game. He had a solid 1990 season for the Orioles as a reliever, with a 2.54 ERA in 35 games. That was his age 23 season, and the starter potential was there, though if it's any comfort, the Astros never benefited from his later success.
Hall of Fame chances: If Schilling is not a Hall of Fame pitcher, what's the point of having a Hall of Fame? 20 years, a 3.46 ERA with remarkable consistency, never posting a season ERA above 4 from 1995-2004 even as offense in the game exploded to absurd levels. 3261 career IP, 3116 strikeouts (15th on the all-time list), three-time Cy Young runner up, three World Series titles - 2001 Diamondbacks, 2004 and 2007 Red Sox - a 2.23 postseason ERA in 19 games, the Bloody Sock game. He is already part of baseball legend; enshrinement is merely a formality.
Did you remember he was the closer for the Orioles in the strike-shortened 1994 season? He had 33 saves in 41 appearances, taking four losses in the process. He may be the all-time leader in baseball history for total time taken walking out from the bullpen. 1,016 relief appearances in his career and I'm not sure he ever once even jogged.
Hall of Fame chances: Last year was Smith's 10th year on the ballot, and he crossed the 50% threshold, getting a mention on 50.6% of ballots. Does a career total of 478 saves impress the voters? Is it the 3.03 ERA or the 1.256 WHIP? 1251 strikeouts in 1289.1 IP? He will likely pick up steam as his eligibility ticks closer to its end, and it will not be one of the great tragedies if he's elected.
One more part of that 2005 horror show was Sosa. Acquired for Jerry Hairston, Mike Fontenot (both of whom have World Series rings) and Dave Crouthers. He couldn't run in the field and couldn't really hit at the plate. He appeared in 102 games, had a .221/.295/.376 slash line and ultimately left the team with some mysterious foot abscess or something. The O's were responsible for some obscene millions of his $17M salary in '05 and it was a disaster, much like that season was a disaster.
Hall of Fame chances: 609 career home runs do not lie, but Sosa was almost surely, er, enhanced for many of them. How enhanced, for how long? And how much did it help him? Nobody knows. But again, the "purity of the game" crowd will not support anyone they can paint with the brush of PEDs, and no one is tarred with that more than the players who testified in that Congressional hearing. He was one of the best players of his day, which is enough for me, but probably not for the writers.
Played one season for the Orioles, for the 1996 wild card team, and he was a steady presence in the rotation, making 34 starts. Of course, he had a 5.14 ERA that year, which sounds horrible now, but was actually good for a barely-below league-average 97 ERA+ at the time. The best O's starter by ERA that year was Mike Mussina, who only had a 4.81 ERA. Truly a different time. 949 runs scored, 903 runs allowed.
With a 6.2 IP, 3 ER effort in Game 2 of the 1996 ALCS, Wells was the only O's pitcher to be credited with a win in the series.
Hall of Fame chances: Two World Series rings (1991 Blue Jays and 1998 Yankees), three All-Star teams, and a lot of eaten innings. His 21 year career saw him throw 3439 IP, with another 125 innings in the postseason. He had a 4.13 ERA in his career, and 3.17 in the playoffs. Good for a long time, but never really great, he is just the sort of pitcher who will be overlooked, especially when considering he shares this year's ballot with so many other worthies, near-worthies and not-worthies-but-they-love-voting-for-guys-like-Morris-anyway.
Hall of Fame voting gets a little bit more interesting for Orioles fans next year, as Mike Mussina will be eligible for the first time. Once he gets his deserving induction, though it may not be in his first year, it will not be so interesting for quite some time.