Look. It's not my fault they aren't letting guys in. I have to vote for 10 people this year because I have no choice.
If I had a Hall of Fame ballot for 2010, I would vote for the following, in the order in which I think they deserve it.
1. Bert Blyleven
Look. Blyleven threw 4970 innings with an ERA+ of 117. His ERA+ is better than Phil Niekro's or Robin Roberts' or Steve Carlton's. Blyleven had 11 seasons with an ERA+ of 120 or better, and in 10 of those seasons he threw over 200 innings. I don't know what to say. This is just bare facts.
2. Barry Larkin
Barry Larkin might be something like the fifth-best shortstop ever. It depends on your estimation of his defense. Like a lot of players, Larkin won three Gold Gloves *after* his best defensive years earned him a good reputation. Unlike a lot of players, Larkin was the epitome of offensive efficiency. Seriously, look:
939 walks, 817 strikeouts
379 steals, 77 caught stealing (83.1% success)
3. Tim Raines
Career OBP: .386. 808 steals, 146 caughts. Not sure what the hiccup is here.
4. Roberto Alomar
Roberto Alomar was insanely consistent, in a way very similar to Derek Jeter except without the consistently bad defense. Alomar was a leadoff type, hanging out among the leaders in OBP and steals for most of his career, while also socking some homers and doubles. Second base was a very weak position in the 1990s, but Alomar would have stood out in any era.
5. Alan Trammell
This may take some work, because I am well aware that a career line of .285/.352/.415 doesn't immediately leap off the page and make you go "amazing!" But look, in 1980 Trammell's .300/.376/.404 with 12 SB and 12 CS (!) was good for FORTY (40) runs above the average shortstop of the time. Miguel Tejada's .308/.354/.508 in 2002 was only good for 30; A-Rod's .300/.392/.623 in Arlington in 2002 was good for 51. So Trammell's 1980, adjusted for era, was the equivalent of something between those two very good seasons by two very good shortstops. Maybe like .304/.376/.560, or something.
That was Trammell's seventh-best hitting season. His numbers are obscured by park and era, and he had the Bill James-identified problem of being good at a lot of things instead of amazing at one or two.
6. Edgar Martinez
So, okay, people. The rules of the game of baseball as played in the American League since 1973 allow teams to have a DH. As a DH, compared to other DHs--guys who are almost by definition good at hitting but not at defense--Edgar Martinez was worth about 30 or 40 more runs per season than your garden variety. When he played third base in '90-'92, Edgar was very bad in his first year (as is common), -7 in his second, and right about average in his third. At third base. You can't sincerely tell me that a guy like that, if moved to first base because he played in the NL or before 1973, would have damaged his career that much with defensive numbers.
And you can't discredit Edgar's offense, even compared to DHs. Hitting .312/.418/.515 for your career is insane (147 OPS+), and being in the top 10 in the AL in OPS from 1995 through 2001 is insane also. Edgar does not wow with HR or RBI totals. But he had the 22nd best OBP of all time, and it wasn't empty.
7. Robin Ventura
I have no idea if Robin Ventura is even going to get enough votes to stay on the ballot for 2011. But look. We know a few things about third base and the Hall. First of all, 3B is considered a good-hitting position because of guys like Mike Schmidt and "Home Run" Baker (it's in his NAME for God's sake!) and Eddie Mathews and George Brett and Wade Boggs. Only Brooks Robinson and Jimmy Collins really gloved their way into the Hall. This means that guys who aren't both good enough at D to compete with Robinson (who was legitimately amazing), and guys who aren't quite good enough hitters to compare to the insanely good people in the Hall at this position, get left out. This list includes famous HoF snub Ron Santo, Stan Hack, and Darrell Evans.
It is soon to include Robin Ventura.
Ventura suffers from a few unfortunate things.
1. He was a great defender who won 6 Gold Gloves, and was indeed identified as a great defensive third baseman by people in the know...but somehow never became synonymous with the position. His somewhat-contemporary Scott Rolen kind of did, but for their career both Rtot and FRAA agree that they were roughly similar in this regard. Ventura was probably one of the top 10 defensive 3B of all time, but does not seem to be particularly well-remembered for this.
2. Ventura was overshadowed for much of his career. When you play for the White Sox, and you are across the infield from -- and down the order from -- Frank Thomas, it is probably easy to see you as a role-player. The 1990s White Sox are remembered not as legendary series-winners or great offensive teams (which they often weren't), as much as the teams with Frank Thomas on them. Ventura doesn't get the murderer's row sort of boost that someone like Tony Lazzeri gets, either; the Sox made one LCS in his time there, and he's just a good player on those halfway-decent teams.
3. Ventura walked a lot. Much like Edgar Martinez above, a large percentage of Ventura's career value lies in OBP; he only hit .267 for his career, after all. What's weird about this is that Ventura's .267 and .362 OBP (which was usually about .375-.380 during his good years) both buck the sort of .250/.330/.480 trend one tends to see with pretty good third basemen: big dudes that whack at it. Ventura *sort of* had slugging tendencies, but not to a normal 3B degree. As a hitter, Ventura has had similar career value to Troy Glaus, but with a higher average and lower SLG (in a slightly less SLG-heavy era).
4. Robin Ventura got beat up by Nolan Ryan when Nolan Ryan was a very old man.
To me, Rolen defense plus Glaus offense is a Hall of Famer. Ventura just isn't recognized as either one.
This year, I am skipping Lee Smith (who is certainly at least close) and Mark McGwire (to let the PED issue continue to mature). I need a benchmark for closer/reliever types, and I just don't know where that should be.