I've got a five hour drive today, and then I'm done with the danup endless christmas tour of 2009; this means, unequivocally, that the Cardinals will sign Matt Holliday sometime between now and noon, when I am, say, car-singing the harmonica solo in "My Name is Jonas" and thinking about eating a McDonalds breakfast.
I've put the other front-page posters on some ominously colored alert in the interim. But nothing says travel day post like something I have to collate later, and with that in mind I hereby offer you: the official VEB Hall of Fame Ballot. The Hall rules apply—select any number of players, up to ten—and we'll be using their list of players, much to Will Clark's chagrin.
Some interesting players are on this year's list, even though most of them don't have a chance at even hitting the 5% window to return next year. Ray Lankford we discussed already, but there's also...
- Mike Jackson, the prototypical set-up man, the rich club's Dave Weathers. So few relievers are just above average every year—it seems like the only consistent ones are the superstars. But Mike Jackson carried a career ERA of 3.42 over an incredible 1,005 games while having just two gaudy relief seasons. He wasn't as good as Bruce Sutter... but was he that much worse than Bruce Sutter? (As much as I rag on Bruce Sutter, I'm really just concerned about our general lack of a coherent Hall of Fame Reliever idea. Sometimes I wish we could just stop everything some boring February and convene an official meeting of the BBWAA and the BBWAA-haters—everybody in a room until we decide who belongs in the Hall of Fame and who belongs in the Hall of Feared Closers.)
- Kevin Appier, who was unfortunate enough to have what amounts to a Hall of Fame peak in Kansas City, during the start of the Home Run 90s, before he blew his arm out. 239 starts, 1644 innings, a 140 ERA+ between 1990 and 1997... and a record of 103-74, with just three years over 15 wins. The years after his arm injury were at best uninspiring—a few years as the scout's proverbial Number Three Guy, more injury troubles—but his peak, thrown as it was into the teeth of the new live ball era, is as good as any of the second tier of that clutch of great nineties pitchers.
- Pat Hentgen, who went to what is now known as the Pat Hentgen School of Blowing Your Arm Out and Winning a Cy Young. Since 1993 only he and Randy Johnson have pitched 260 innings more than once, and nobody else did it back to back. It's easy to say he was never the same afterward, and it probably shortened his career... but he was never the same before that, either. So go boldly toward the record books now, and worry about being able to comb your own hair later. He earns style points for having the last full season of his career wrenched out of his arm by the expert on the subject, Dave Duncan.