I love the Baseball Hall of Fame. The place is incredibly well done, and no matter how many times I go, I still want to stop and look at everything. I’ve been with my family, I’ve been with friends, and I’ve been with people who knew next to nothing about baseball. The experience is always great.
But I don’t get too worked up about who’s in and who’s out. It’s just not my personality, I guess. I tend to think of it as a historical museum first and foremost — a place that documents the history of the game — and in that way, I wouldn’t have a problem with steroid users being enshrined (it’s part of the game’s history, like it or not). At the same time, I recognize it’s one of sport’s highest honors, and in that way, it can’t be treated as nothing more than a history lesson. So, however you want to think of the Hall of Fame is fine by me. I just know that I enjoy it, and I think it serves a powerful purpose as a platform for debate and discussion.
I also like that the annual Hall of Fame ballot includes a lot of players who have no chance of induction, but have done enough to be worth remembering if only for a moment.
Here, then, are the 10 one-time Yankees on this year’s ballot.
Aaron Boone — Fifty-four regular season games with the Yankees, forever remembered for hitting one incredible home run (he’ll also be remembered for the knee injury that came right before the Yankees traded for a replacement third baseman, Alex Rodriguez). Boone was never a Hall of Fame player, but he was an all-star once and he was a perfectly good infielder for quite a while.
Tony Clark — Another guy who spent just one year with the Yankees. He hit 16 home runs for them in 2004, a year the Yankees used Clark, Jason Giambi, John Olerud and four starts from Travis Lee. Clark hit 251 home runs and slugged .485 in his career. Now he’s director of the players association.
Roger Clemens — Won seven Cy Young awards — one of them with the Yankees — but his Hall of Fame chances are slim because of the steroid issue. Clemens got just 35.4 percent of the vote last year. That’s not nearly enough. He was of course a great pitcher, and even at 44 years old gave the Yankees a solid partial season in 2007, his final year in the big leagues.
Tom Gordon — A starting pitcher when he was young, Gordon moved into the bullpen full-time at age 30 and immediately led the league in saves. That was in 1998, and he would continue to pitch through 2009, including a two-year stint with the Yankees — which included an all-star appearance — in 2004-05. He pitched for a long time, and he pitched pretty well.
Randy Johnson -- One of the headliners of this year’s ballot, Johnson was a 10-time all-star and a five-time Cy Young winner. He’s one of the great left-handed pitchers of all-time, but his two-year stint with the Yankees was largely a disappointment including a career-high 5.00 ERA in 2006. Even after those down years in New York, Johnson still holds the record for strikeouts per nine innings with 10.6.
Don Mattingly — Wildly popular among Yankees fans — and honestly, as someone who grew up in middle America, I’d say he was pretty popular among almost anyone who grew up watching baseball in the 80s — Mattingly was one of the game’s best hitters when he was healthy, but his career was fairly short and he’s never come particularly close to Hall of Fame election. This is his final year on the ballot. Really great player, even if he’s not a Hall of Famer.
Mike Mussina – This is Mussina’s second year on the ballot, and he got only 20.3 percent of the votes last year. Might never be elected, but man, he was really good. His best years came with the Orioles, with whom he made five all-star teams and finished top five in five Cy Young races. He finished his career with the Yankees, capping his career with his first 20-win season. Seven Gold Gloves, a 3.42 ERA in the postseason, and 270 career wins. Really, really great career.
Tim Raines — The Hall of Fame seems to have sparked a fresh look and new appreciation for Raines’ career. He got just 46.1 percent of the vote last year, but there does seem to be a push to at least try to get him elected. By the time the Yankees got him in 1996, Raines was a valuable part-timer in his late 30s, and he played a role in two championships. Before that, he was a potent leadoff man and reliable base stealer; one of the great players in the 80s.
Gary Sheffield — An elite player whose career bounced through eight different organizations. The Yankees had Sheffield for three seasons, during which he was a two-time all-star, a two-time Silver Slugger and once finished second in MVP voting. He finished his career with 509 home runs, and he hit better than .300 in eight different seasons. This is his first year on the ballot.
Lee Smith — Except for a few starts and middle-inning appearances early in his career, Smith was a pure closer. He retired as the major-league leader in saves — a mark that’s now held by Mariano Rivera — and he currently ranks third all-time. Smith was top five in Cy Young voting three times. His stint with the Yankees lasted just eight games (with three saves) in 1993.
Associated Press photo