11/30/11 4:34 PM EST
Hall hopefuls get first shot on the ballot
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
Not all memorable Major League players were perennial Most Valuable Player Award candidates, Cy Young Award winners or All-Stars.
But at one point or another during their careers, they were among the game's best, their contributions etched into baseball lore. And while that may not send them straight to Cooperstown, it is reason enough to consider them for baseball's highest individual honor.
This group of Hall of Fame candidates includes several players who enjoyed long, prosperous careers. Some were truly dominant during their peaks, and many were consistently good and durable.
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Second baseman Roberto Alomar (90 percent) and pitcher Bert Blyleven (79.7 percent) earned their ticket to Cooperstown on the 2011 ballot. Former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (62.1 percent) and starting pitcher Jack Morris (53.5 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot.
The following former stars aren't likely to enter the Hall of Fame on their first ballot, but they are also up for consideration:
Jeromy Burnitz: Burnitz bashed 315 homers during his 14-year career, twice eclipsing 35 in a single season, to go along with a career .826 OPS. A first-round pick by the Mets in 1990, the right fielder emerged as a consistent option after being traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee in '96. He drove in 125 runs in '98, started in the 1999 All-Star Game -- the first Brewers player to do so since Paul Molitor in '88 -- and went on to post a career-high .963 OPS that year. He hit a career-high .283 with a .916 OPS and 37 homers for the Rockies in 2004.
Vinny Castilla: Perhaps the greatest position player to come out of Mexico to date, Castilla was a career .276 hitter with 320 homers and 1,105 RBIs in 16 seasons, leading the NL by knocking in 131 runs in 2004. Many of his numbers were racked up in the Mile High City (191 homers, 562 RBIs), but he also played for the Braves, Rays, Astros, Nationals and Padres. Part of the Rockies' inaugural team in 1993, Castilla was part of the second 40-homer trio and third 100-RBI quartet in Major League history, in '96. Castilla, who later served as manager of Mexico's World Baseball Classic team in 2009, was a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, hitting 40 or more homers while going for 110 or more RBIs in three straight seasons from '96-98, including career highs of 46 and 144 in '98.
Brian Jordan: An incredible athlete and two-sport star who enjoyed a brief NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons, Jordan batted .282, hit 184 homers and drove in 821 runs during his 15-year baseball career. A first-round pick in 1988, Jordan finished eighth in the NL MVP Award voting in '96 after driving in 104 runs, hitting 17 homers, stealing 22 bases and posting an .833 OPS for the Cardinals, all while being one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. He was even better in '98, hitting for a .902 OPS.
Javy Lopez: Part of the wave of talent that swept through Atlanta in the 1990s, Lopez finished with 260 career homers, 864 RBIs and a career OPS of .828. The Puerto Rico native took over the starting catching duties for the Braves in 1994 at the age of 23 and helped lead Atlanta to back-to-back World Series appearances in '95 and '96. A three-time All-Star, Lopez had his best season in 2003, when he hit 43 homers with 109 RBIs and boasted a 1.065 OPS, earning him fifth place in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting. Lopez finished out his career with the Orioles and Red Sox.
Bill Mueller: One of the many key contributors during Boston's historic World Series run in 2004 and a respected figure in the clubhouse, Mueller was also an effective player throughout all his 11 Major League seasons. He is best remembered for his walk-off homer against the Yankees on July 24, 2004 -- arguably the turning point of the club's season -- and his RBI single off Mariano Rivera in Game 4 of the ALCS. Adding to his list of accomplishments, Mueller is the only player in Major League history to hit two grand slams in one game from both sides of the plate -- a feat he accomplished in July 2003 against the Rangers. He won the AL batting title that season with a .326 average, a mark also good enough to earn a Silver Slugger Award. For his career, Mueller hit .291/.373/.425 with 493 RBIs.
Terry Mulholland: Mulholland accomplished the rare feat of beating every Major League team during his 20-year career on the mound. The lefty picked up many more accolades along the way, starting the 1993 All-Star Game for the NL, tossing a no-hitter in '90 while facing the minimum 27 batters, throwing 12 complete games in '92 and helping the Cubs reach the playoffs in '98. In 2004, the 41-year-old Mulholland teamed up with Pat Borders to form the oldest battery in Major League history. He ended his career, which spanned three decades and 11 different teams, with a 124-142 record, 4.41 ERA, 2,575 2/3 innings and 46 complete games.
Phil Nevin: The first overall Draft pick in 1992 after an outstanding college career with Cal State Fullerton, Nevin hit .270 with 208 homers and 743 RBIs during his 12-year career. His best two seasons came with the Padres in 2000-01. In 2000, he hit .303 with a .916 OPS, 31 homers and 107 RBIs. A year later, he earned a spot on the All-Star team, hitting .306 with a .976 OPS, 41 homers and 126 RBIs -- all career highs.
Brad Radke: A rare breed in the sense that he spent his entire career with one team, the Twins' Radke was also a gifted finesse pitcher throughout his 12 seasons. The righty allowed just 1.6 walks per nine innings, though his tendency to give up homers in bunches inflates his career ERA to 4.22. Radke's 3.30 career strikeout-to-walk ratio is the 26th best in Major League history. Aside from 2002, he pitched more than 200 innings every year from 1996-2005, and he allowed just 26 walks in 226 innings in 2001 -- an MLB-best one walk per nine innings. Already a member of the Twins Hall of Fame with 148 wins, Radke finished third in the 1997 AL Cy Young voting behind Clemens and Randy Johnson.
Tim Salmon: Salmon began his career as the American League Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1993. By the end of his career, Salmon was the homegrown veteran on a World Series champion, all of it with the Angels. Salmon won the 1993 rookie honor by a unanimous vote, hitting 31 homers with 95 RBIs four years after the Angels drafted him in the third round. The face of the franchise for more than a decade but never an All-Star, Salmon had his greatest moment under the halo in the 2002 World Series, when he hit .346 with two homers and five RBIs as the Angels beat the Giants in seven games.
Ruben Sierra: A four-time All-Star, Sierra put up some impressive numbers during his 20-year career. Consider his 2,152 hits, 428 doubles, 306 home runs, 1,084 runs and 1,322 RBIs. Or his incredible 1989 season, when he finished second in the AL MVP Award voting and won a Silver Slugger Award while batting .306 with a .543 slugging percentage, 14 triples, 29 homers and 119 RBIs in 162 games -- good for 344 total bases. He helped the Yankees reach the playoffs for the first time in 14 years in 1995, driving in 44 runs in 56 games after a midseason trade. He was later named the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2001, batting .291 with 23 homers for the Rangers. Sierra played for nine teams but spent the most time with Texas, eventually getting inducted into the club's Hall of Fame.
Tony Womack: Perhaps known best for his ninth-inning heroics in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, Womack burst into the Majors as an All-Star his first full year with the Pirates in 1997. That was the first of his three years leading the NL in steals, topped by 72 in 1999, his initial season with Arizona. Womack delivered the game-tying double against Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 Fall Classic to set up Luis Gonzalez's walk-off World Series winner. Womack returned to the World Series with the Cardinals in '04 and also played with the Rockies, Cubs, Reds and Yankees.
Eric Young: Now the first-base coach for the D-backs, Young led the NL in stolen bases in 1996 with 53 -- including six in one game -- and is tied for 44th all-time with 465 over his 15-year career. Young was also named to the NL All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger Award in '96 after batting a career-best .324. By the time his playing days came to an end, Young had posted a .283 average, hit 327 doubles and 79 homers, driven in 543 runs and scored 996 more to go along with his gaudy stolen-bases total. Young hit the first homer in Rockies history in '93 and batted leadoff when they made the playoffs for the first time in '95.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.