Jim Rice. The eternal guy on the fence.
This might be the year Rice gets enshrined into Cooperstown. With one no-doubt candidate in Rickey Henderson, it leaves Rice as the next-best option in a field of questionable options. I could make a case for Tim Raines or Jack Morris, but this year’s vote seems to come down to Rice and Rice alone.
Rice could potentially blast open the door for other players of his stature – not elite or dominant players, but very, very good steady players – to reach the Hall. Consider that in the next few years, a herd of these players will hit the ballots. Just thinking aloud, I’d lump Larry Walker, Todd Helton, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Kent, and Omar Vizquel into this group. And I’d almost certainly drop Jamie Moyer in here, too.
As Moyer continues his charmed career, he’s inching closer to 300 wins and a track record that most cannot boast: 13 seasons of at least 12 wins; two 20-win seasons; a 22-year career, a World Series ring. While he doesn’t have the ERA or strikeout numbers that match his best peers, you can absolutely make a case for Moyer.
But if Moyer retires after the 2010 season, he’s likely to be faced with ballots featuring Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera and Mike Mussina. And that’s just the pitchers. Remember, everyone is equal on the ballot.
Chances are Moyer won’t sniff a real opportunity until about 2017. By then, the elites will have been enshrined, and the newest crop of players won’t yet be available (read Utley, Chase), so he could be his generation’s Rice, the guy who might have enough, but might not have enough. Was he ever one of the most dominant pitchers in the game? No. Was he consistently great? You could say that. If Rice gets the vote today, it could make Moyer’s case a whole lot more intriguing – suddenly the very, very good now has a real shot.