BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 28: Fans celebrate as pitcher Mike Mussina of the New York Yankees gets his 20th win this season against the Boston Red Sox on September 28, 2008 during game one of the double header at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 6-2. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
On July 26th, 4 of baseball’s greats were welcomed into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The immortality of Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson was celebrated by millions of people. Johnson is the first former pinstriped player to be inducted since Rickey Henderson in 2009, although neither went in as a Yankee. With that being said, there is a trio of former Yankees who will be on the ballot next year.
The first is Gary Sheffield. This 22-year vet played for 8 teams and was in pinstripes for 3 seasons. While playing in the Bronx, he belted out 76 homers and hit .291. He was super productive for the first two seasons, hitting 36 and 34 homers respectively. Sheffield also drove in over 120 runs in both full seasons for the Yankees. He played only 39 games in 2006 due to a wrist injury and lost his job to the newly acquired Bobby Abreu, and went on to play only 3 more years.
Many people forget how good Sheffield was; he collected over 2,600 hits and 500 homers, which only 14 players have done in MLB history. 500 homers isn’t an automatic “in” to Cooperstown anymore, but his overall hitting statistics should help his candidacy. However, this 9-time All-Star never won an MVP, and was accused of steroid use in the 2007 Mitchell Report. Despite this, I think Sheffield has a more than decent chance of making the Hall at some point, if not next year.
Mike Mussina probably has the best chance of any former Yankee to make it into Cooperstown next year. He pitched 8 of his 18 years with the Yankees and did some of his best work in pinstripes. He’s 12th all-time in wins as a Yankee, and is 11th in franchise history in games started. In his final season, he won 20 games and led the league in games started as the Yankees closed out the old Stadium.
Overall, he narrowly missed both 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts for his career. Mussina also got within 4 outs of a perfect game 3 times in his career and threw 4 1-hitters. His ERA will never stack up to the best ever, but Mussina pitched during the height of the Steroid Era. Contemporaries like Martinez and Johnson are the exceptions to that period. Mussina received 24.6% of the vote this year, and that number figures to increase next year as his candidacy improves in relation to the rest of the ballot.
The most controversial former Yankee on the ballot is Roger Clemens. His 6 seasons as a Yankee were rather pedestrian; a 4.01 ERA and only 1,044 strikeouts, which equates to a very un-Clemens-like 174 per season. However, that’s because he was in the latter stages of his career, as 2 of those 6 seasons were above the age of 40 (his final MLB season clocked in at age 44 with the Yanks).
Clemens’ career as a whole was masterful. He won 354 games, struck out over 4,600 batters, and had a career ERA just over 3.00. He also earned 7 Cy Youngs and an MVP, and was named an All-Star 11 times in his 24 year career. One of the most decorated and feared pitchers of all time should easily make the Hall of Fame, right? Well, he would be if he hadn’t been accused of using PEDs late in his career. Clemens, however, denies the claims and was tried for lying under oath about his PED use. He was acquitted of all charges in 2012.
If he did use PEDs, it was only late in his career, well after most of his incredible stats were accrued. He has been around 35% for all 3 years he has been on the ballot, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if he made it in in a few years, but next year seems far-fetched.
I could have mentioned one-time Yankees such as Chan Ho Park and Mike Lowell, but their contributions to the team were so miniscule that it’s impossible to consider them Yankees players. Besides, with the three players mentioned, there’s a good enough chance that one of them will make it into the Hall of Fame in 2016.