But What Do I Know? … John Olerud, Jesse Crain, Lance Berkman

My weekly opinions, observations and rants about some Canadian baseball stories:

 In a perfect world, nice guy John Olerud would be the first player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame with a Toronto Blue Jays cap on his plaque. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world and despite a .295 career batting average, .398 on-base percentage and 2,239 hits, Olerud is unlikely to garner enough support (needs to be named on five per cent of baseball writers’ ballots) to stay on the ballot past this year.

 Is ex-Jay Roberto Alomar a Hall of Famer? Yes. Do I feel good about him being elected after everything that has come out about him in 2010? No. Will he be elected this year? Probably.

 It has been well documented that this is Maple Ridge, B.C. native Larry Walker’s first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Unlike Olerud, Walker is likely to land more than five per cent of the vote and return to the ballot next year, but he will fall far short of the 75 per cent required for enshrinement. Will he ever receive enough votes to be elected? That’s a good question, but in my opinion, if Andre Dawson, Jim Rice and Tony Perez are Hall of Famers, so is Larry Walker.

 MLB.com reported that the Toronto Blue Jays have expressed an interest in 1B/DH Lance Berkman. Hopefully, Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t think of Berkman as his club’s starting first baseman in 2011. Berkman is below average defensively and has patented a slow, lumbering swing that’s only going to get slower with age.

 The good news is that the Jays have expressed an interest in Toronto-born reliever Jesse Crain. The bad news is – according to Peter Gammons – eight other teams are interested as well. Crain might be the most sought-after reliever on the free agent market, which means that a team will likely have to overpay for his services. Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is unlikely to do this.

 My fingers are crossed for Toronto Sun baseball writer Bob Elliott who’s a finalist for the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. The National Baseball Hall of Fame hands out this award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. Nobody does more for baseball in Canada than Elliott. I consider his book – The Northern Game – the bible of Canadian baseball literature. He’s also a good man who has generously supported me in my career. The winner will be announced December 6.

 I was sad to hear that former Blue Jays pitcher Tom Underwood passed away from pancreatic cancer on November 22 at age 56. The versatile left-hander was 9-16 with a tidy 3.69 era for an abysmal Jays club in 1979. He also toed the rubber for the Jays in 1978.

6 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? … John Olerud, Jesse Crain, Lance Berkman

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  1. Walker is just short of many of the traditional unwritten milestones that tend to define Hall-of-Famers, but two things need to be noted: (1) Walker played hurt as much as anybody, but still spent considerable time on the DL. His numbers, if pro-rated to being even “average healthy” easily take him over 400 HRs and 3,000 hits; (2) Walker did it cleanly. I have absolute knowledge of this fact. His numbers were achieved during the steroid era, and it is unfair to compare him to some of the players with bigger numbers who, shall we say, cut some corners. I know being a great teammate doesn’t really tip the scales in this vote, but if there was a Hall of Fame for nice guys, Walker would be a unanimous selection. First ballot for Larry all the way!

  2. I agree with Tom, but I don’t think enough of the voters look that way. They look at numbers and that should change as the guys like McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Palmerio, Gonzalez all put up better numbers but were aided with performance enhancers. Hopefully this will help Larry and others such as Fred McGriff! If McGriff had hit 7 more HR’s for 500 in his career people would call him a HOF’er, but he hit 493 clean HR’s!
    I think Walker will get in, but if they keep looking at numbers and numbers only it will take 10-15yrs!

    Guys like Olerud, Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez might not be HOF’ers, but sure do deserve to get more than 5% of the vote to stay on the ballot!

    Berkman would be a great clubhouse leader, pinchhitter, parttime DH and cheap!
    Sorry to hear about Tom Underwood.

  3. Alomar is definitely a Hall of Fame player. He played for quite a few teams, but I think his best years were with Cleveland. Kevin, are you worried he might go in as a Blue Jay? He had a few bizarre incidents during his career, but his retirement has been even stranger.

    Excellent research, and a nice balance of information, as usual.

    1. Thanks for the comment. If Alomar gets inducted, it’s almost certain that he will have a Jays cap on his plaque. He won two World Series with them. In light of what has come out in the past year about Alomar, I don’t feel particularly good about him as a person, but strictly statistically, he is definitely a Hall of Famer.

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