John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In the interest of equal time, if you will, I thought it only fair to bring the Mets into this week's Hall of Fame discussion, if not the actual proceedings.
Because, let's face it, in a feel-good week for the Yankees, the only good news to come out of the voting for Mets' fans was the lack of a significant increase for Roger Clemens. The Rocket may be paying the big price for his steroids taint but in Queens he remains forever branded as a villain for once famously throwing that broken bat in Mike Piazza's direction.
Or as my buddy, Sal Licata, said on SNY's "Baseball Night in New York" when I asked him why he said he'd vote for Barry Bonds but not Clemens:
"Because I hate him. I'll always hate him."
Sal is rather invested emotionally in the Mets, in case you hadn't noticed.
Anyway, Clemens aside, the closest any former Met came to election was Jeff Kent at only 18.1 percent of the needed 75 percent, and Billy Wagner at 16.7 percent. If you want to count Gary Sheffield's one year at Citi Field, he only received 13.6 percent of the vote, and no doubt you were shocked to see that Jason Bay didn't receive a single vote.
Personally, I don't understand why Kent, one of the top-slugging second basemen in baseball history, and Wagner, who has more dominant numbers than Trevor Hoffman in virtually every category but saves, don't receive more support, but it's clear neither is getting voted into Cooperstown.
So who is on the horizon on the Mets' side? Well, just for fun I decided to rank the future candidates and put odds on their chances of one day being inducted into the Hall. I didn't include David Wright because, unfortunately, injuries derailed a career that was once on track for the Hall of Fame.
Otherwise, the problem you'll recognize immediately is that the strongest candidates probably aren't -- or won't be -- the nearest and dearest to Mets' fans hearts.
In any case, here's my list, complete with a slam-dunk candidate who has never won or lost a single game.
ROBINSON CANO: 3-1
He's probably already cleared the HOF bar as one of the very best second basemen in baseball for more than a decade, with five MVP finishes of sixth or better. His PED suspension last year will make it more difficult for Cano, but the way voters' attitudes are softening on the issue, I have to believe he'll overcome it 10-20 years from during his period of eligibility.
In any case, his nine seasons in the Bronx all but ensure he would go in as a Yankee, but Cano has a chance to create a feel-good legacy with the Mets if he can lead his new team to a championship or at least some deep playoff runs in the remaining five years on his contract.
CARLOS BELTRAN: 3-1
His elite center field defense and base-running, combined with borderline HOF offensive numbers, make him a strong candidate in four years. But his Mets' legacy is complicated, to say the least, between his infamous Game 7 strikeout in 2006 against the Cardinals that many fans couldn't seem to forget, as well as his bitterness toward the organization, which he has copped to publicly, for what he believed was unfair criticism, once particularly from owner Fred Wilpon.
He played more games for the Mets than any of his other six teams, but won his only championship with the Astros, and has been hired to join the Yankees' front office, so don't count on him having a Mets' hat on his plaque.
JACOB DEGROM: 15-1
The odds would be better if he wasn't already 30 years old, due in part to Tommy John surgery as a minor leaguer, but certainly deGrom has a chance. He only has 55 wins, but just as in the case of his Cy Young Award, wins will count less and less in judging pitchers' careers in the years ahead.
More significant is his 2.67 ERA in 139 career starts. And though it's hard to imagine deGrom replicating his 2018 season, his brilliance last season offers reason to believe he could deliver five or so more years of dominance, which might be enough of a peak to someday persuade voters.
NOAH SYNDERGAARD: 18-1
At age 26, Syndergaard has youth on his side, as well as a 2.96 career ERA built on 86 starts. But after two injury-plagued years that featured only flashes of the electric stuff with which he once routinely overmatched hitters, he has to prove he can get back to pitching on an elite level with consistency.
KEITH HERNANDEZ: 20-1
Hey, after that veterans committee elected Harold Baines, as well as Lee Smith, in December, the door would seem to be wide open for several former stars via that same route. As I wrote at the time, Hernandez lines up as a stronger candidate now than he did when he was on the writers' ballot, largely because more value is given to on-base percentage and defense.
EDWIN DIAZ: 30-1
With only one truly elite season under his belt, Diaz has miles to go, obviously. But the newcomer's stuff is so electric, and his results were so spectacular in racking up those 57 saves in 2018 for the Mariners, that you have to give him a shot at it. Especially since he's only 24.
JOHAN SANTANA: 35-1
A victim of a crowded ballot, Santana was bounced quickly last year for not receiving the required five percent of votes. But he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball for a period of three or four years with the Twins, and he pitched well for three of his four seasons with the Mets before injuries ended his career, all of which will earn him a much-deserved second look by a veterans committee in the years to come.
DAVEY JOHNSON: 35-1
He deserves better odds, based on a managerial career that saw him take four different teams to the post-season, most notably the 1986 champion Mets. Combine that with a distinguished playing career, and Johnson is a worthy candidate who was passed over by that latest veterans committee, but should get another look at some point.
MICHAEL CONFORTO: 40-1
The inconsistency is troubling, obviously, but the peaks of offensive production have been so impressive that anything still seems possible for Conforto, who turns 26 in March.
Indeed, consider that before his freakish shoulder injury in 2017, he was rolling along with a .949 OPS, and then in the second half last season, after perhaps needing time to fully recover from surgery, he posted an .895 OPS. There's still plenty of time for that sweet swing to put up a decade's worth of big numbers.
DAVID CONE: 40-1
Now that Mike Mussina is in, Cone's candidacy deserves another look by a veterans committee at some point. He had five top-five finishes in Cy Young Award voting, winning it in 1994 with the Royals, and his overall numbers stack up pretty well alongside those of Mussina.
GARY COHEN: 2-1
Ah, yes, let's not forget the play-by-play voice of the Mets. Widely considered one of the best in baseball, Cohen has been calling games since 1989 on radio and then TV for the team he rooted for as a kid, and looms as a sure bet to one day take his place in the broadcasting wing of Cooperstown as a Ford Frick Award winner.