This could be the year for Dawson, Blyleven
First-timers will likely have to wait for induction
I have this nagging thought about the new Hall of Fame ballot and the 26 candidates for 2010: This could be the first year since 1996 that no one gets the necessary 75 percent of votes needed to be elected.
Or, because there is no overwhelming choice, could Baseball Writers' Association of America voters choose as many as four players?
I believe there's a possible case for either scenario.
Results of the election will be announced on Jan. 6, with induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 25.
There are 11 incumbents on this year's ballot and 15 newcomers.
History tells me that former National League MVP Andre Dawson, one of only six outfielders with 300 homers and 300 stolen bases, should make it. And so should Bert Blyleven, who's fifth on the all-time career strikeout list.
Both came close last year, when Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were chosen, and they'll get my vote on the 2010 ballot.
So will Jack Morris. There should be an investigation about why he hasn't gotten more support for Cooperstown. But that's another story.
I'm wrestling with whether to check Roberto Alomar's box.
Alomar's the most likely of those being considered for the first time to make it, but does he really deserve to be in the select company of the 44 players chosen by the BBWAA in their first year of eligibility?
That's the question I keep asking myself and so far cannot answer.
Alomar was one of the best second basemen during his era. During a 17-year career, he won 10 Gold Gloves, more than any second baseman in history, was a 12-time All-Star and received four Silver Slugger honors.
He was a career .300 hitter with 2,724 hits and 210 homers, and he stole 474 bases. He helped the Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series in 1992 and 1993.
But two factors may keep me from voting for him on the first ballot. First, his production dropped tremendously over his last few playing years. When he moved to the New York Mets in 2002, he struggled, and he received the wrath of the Shea Stadium fans. Second, his reputation was tarnished in 1996 during the spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck after an argument over balls and strikes.
I feel certain he'll be a Hall of Famer some day, but I'm not convinced it should happen from this ballot.
Shortstop Barry Larkin, NL MVP in 1995, is right behind Alomar among first-timers. Larkin spent his entire 19-year career with Cincinnati. He batted .295, with 2,340 hits and 198 homers. He won three Gold Gloves and was on the All-Star team 10 times.
He doesn't get my vote this time around.
There's been talk about Edgar Martinez being elected to the Hall of Fame since 2004, when Paul Molitor became the first designated hitter to be inducted.
Martinez is one of those players who may eventually make it, but I cannot see it happening on the first ballot.
When Molitor was elected, he was considered Cooperstown's first DH because he spent more than 1,000 games in that spot. Martinez, on the other hand, spent the majority of his career (1,412 of 2,055 career games, all with the Mariners) as a DH.
Martinez won batting titles in 1992 and 1995. His career average is .312, and he hit 309 homers.
Those are impressive numbers, but I wonder how many other hitters would accumulate similar stats if they did not have to play defense.
Dawson, who's on the ballot for the ninth time, received 361 votes (67 percent) last year to finish third, behind Henderson and Rice. Blyleven was fourth, with 338 votes (62.7 percent).
This should give Dawson and Blyleven reason to be optimistic: Of the previous BBWAA candidates to receive at least 60 percent of the vote in any given election, only the late Gil Hodges did not make it -- either by the baseball writers or the Veterans Committee.
I felt that once Rice made it, even though it was in his 15th and final year of eligibility, Dawson would not be far behind.
"Now there's no one for me to hurdle," Dawson said in a recent interview. "Everyone's behind me. I think 2010 poses the biggest window for me. I kind of, for a change, look forward to [election]. I can't say that's always been the case in the past, because the writers made sure they don't put more than one or two in a particular year."
Known as the Hawk, Dawson batted .279 with 438 homers, 1,591 RBIs and 314 stolen bases. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1977 and MVP in 1987.
Blyleven won 287 games, 17th on the all-time list, coming close to the coveted 300 plateau. He's the only eligible pitcher with 3,000 or more strikeouts not in the Hall of Fame. He had 3,701, and pitched a no-hitter in 1977.
Skeptics point out that he never won a Cy Young Award, had only one 20-victory season, was only an All-Star twice and had a 3.31 ERA.
Regardless, this should be the year for Dawson and Blyleven.
Alomar, Larkin and Martinez may have to wait.
Then again, it's difficult to predict how the 500-plus voting baseball writers will see it.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.