There wasn’t a whole lot of excitement in Cleveland surrounding the 2012 Hall of Fame voting results.
Barry Larkin, who will be inducted into Cooperstown in July, spent his entire career with the Reds. Jeff Bagwell, who for reasons beyond my comprehension was not elected, was a lifelong Astro. Seattle had franchise icon Edgar Martinez in the running. Detroit had Alan Trammell, New York had Bernie Williams—heck, even Minnesota had Brad Radke. There wasn’t anyone on the ballot for Indians fans to rally around.
But even if there wasn’t a Cleveland icon like Roberto Alomar on this year’s ballot, there were a handful of former Indians players who were candidates for Cooperstown.
First and foremost in the minds of Tribe fans is Juan Gonzalez, who was making his second appearance on the ballot. As you may recall, Juan Gone was brought in in 2001 to fill the Manny Ramirez-shaped hole in right field. It was one of the best seasons of his career: he hit .325 with 35 homers, 140 RBI, and a .960 OPS en route to an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger, and a top-five MVP finish. He then returned in 2005 and got one at-bat—a groundout—that ended up to be the last of his career.
Gonzalez got 30 votes last year (5.2 percent)—just enough to clear the five percent threshold necessary to remain on the ballot. This year, he dropped to 23 votes (4.0 percent), thus eliminating him from future consideration by the normal voters.
But Gonzalez wasn’t alone in representing Cleveland: first-time candidate Terry Mulholland also spent some time in an Indians uniform during his 20-year career. He made 61 appearances for the Indians in 2002 and 2003 (six of them starts) and went 6-6 with a 4.81 ERA. He struck out only 63 batters in 146 innings with the Tribe…which probably didn’t help his candidacy.
He wasn’t the only new candidate to have spent some time with the Tribe. There was also Jeromy Burnitz. Burnitz hit .296/.414/.533 in parts of two seasons with the Indians after they acquired him from the Mets. He was traded to the Brewers right before he reached his peak—he was dealt in 1996, then amassed over 13 WAR from 1997-9—but his 139 OPS+ in Cleveland was better than what he did for any other team.
Neither Mullholland nor Burnitz received a single vote from the 573 participating BBWAA writers, so they will not appear on future ballots. They weren’t anywhere close to worthy of Cooperstown, but it’s always sad when players don’t get any support at all.
Luckily for Indians fans who may care, there is one former Cleveland player who got a significant amount of support: Jack Morris. Morris is most famous for his days with the Tigers, but he spent the last season of career with the Tribe. He somehow had a winning 10-6 record despite posting a 5.60 ERA, a 1.63 WHIP, and a K/BB ratio below 1.5. Amazingly for a player who is considered a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame, these were not the worst numbers of his career.
Morris got exactly two-thirds of the vote, getting named on 382 of 573 ballots. Given that he has two years left on the ballot and no player who ever reached his level of support has ever not made it to Cooperstown, it seems like a pretty safe bet that he’ll be in eventually. As an Indians fan I guess that’s a good thing, but I don’t think he’s a deserving candidate.