Could Juan Gonzalez get another Baseball Hall of Fame look?

Who he was: Juan Gonzalez lasted just two rounds on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame, peaking at 5.2 percent of the vote in 2011.For most, his case probably looked open-and-shut. The Texas Rangers slugger was one of baseball’s biggest stars in the 1990s before declining dramatically in his early 30s. Throw in allegations of steroid use from former teammate Jose Canseco, coupled with Gonzalez’s 38.5 WAR, and it’s no surprise he came up short with Hall voters. For a certain type of fan, though, Gonzalez offers appeal. According to’s Play Index tool, Gonzalez had 362 home runs through his age 30 season in 2000, 12th-best in baseball history. He also won two Most Valuable Player awards and averaged more than one RBI per game from 1995 through 1998, 514 RBI in 511 games. Each is a subjective measure of greatness, but many fans and Hall of Fame voters still heed them.As former Houston Astros first baseman and past Golden Era Committee member Bob Watson said in 2014, “The criteria for Hall of Fame in my opinion: lead the league two or three times in either home runs or RBIs, be an MVP three or four times.” MORE: 7 questions for PED offendersGonzalez isn’t a perfect fit by this rationale, but he’s one of a handful of ‘80s and ‘90s players who’ve fallen off the writers’ ballot for Cooperstown and come close according to it. Albert Belle, Mark McGwire, and Dale Murphy are a few more. Sammy Sosa could join their ranks in another few years.Could Gonzalez be getting another look for Cooperstown? The Hall of Fame Board of Directors announced a series of rule changes over its recent induction weekend, changes ostensibly designed to get more recent stars in. While Gonzalez won’t be eligible for consideration until at least 2021 under the new voting cycle, he and his supporters might have new reason for hope.Cooperstown chances: 20 percentWhy: As a retread Hall of Fame candidate, Gonzalez falls into the category of “Most likely no, but crazier things have happened.”Case in point, in 1971 the Veterans Committee received permission to induct six players to clear a backlog of 19th century candidates. The committee honored two such players, Jake Beckley and Joe Kelley before throwing open the door for four of the worst picks in Hall of Fame history: Rube Marquard, Chick Hafey, Harry Hooper, and Dave Bancroft, men who’d each played their entire careers in the 20th century.It’s not the only time, either, that a loosening of Hall of Fame rules has led to some seemingly random selections. The Old Timers Committee that operated between 1939 and 1949 certainly had a few odd picks, most notoriously Tommy McCarthy.The Veterans Committee launched in 1953, initially voting every other year. After complaints from people like Sporting News publisher and Veterans Committee chairman J.G. Taylor Spink th

at not enough 19th and early 20th century players were getting in, the committee went back to voting annually in 1960 and upped its number of inductions. The committee put in several early greats, such as Billy Hamilton, Pud Galvin, and John Clarkson. But it also tapped 1920s and ‘30s players like Red Faber, Eppa Rixey, and Heinie Manush.The recent rule changes for Cooperstown are mostly a good thing and far from drastic. Previously, the Veterans Committee had been split up into three subcommittees spanning different eras: a Pre-Integration Era Committee, spanning 1946 and before; a Golden Era Commitee, spanning 1947-1972; and a Modern Era Committee, spanning 1973-current. Each committee could vote once every three years.Now, an Early Baseball Committee, spanning pre-1950 will vote once every 10 years; a Golden Days Committee, spanning 1950-1969 will vote once every five years; and a Modern Baseball Committee, spanning 1970-1987 and a Today’s Game Committee, spanning 1988-2016 will each vote twice every five years.It’s the kind of conservative, glacial change the Hall of Fame is known for, not the kind of vast revamping that certain critics might want. Remember though: Everything the Hall of Fame does ultimately is seemingly about keeping just enough inductees coming in to prevent years without any living selections, but also not years with 10 or 12 honorees on the dais. It’s a delicate balance.But the recent rule changes still up the odds, however modestly, of a random selection sometime in the next decade, a Dennis Martinez or a Brett Butler or a Joe Carter. With pressure, even slight pressure on to induct more players in years past, Hall of Fame committees have made some arbitrary, occasionally wacky induction decisions. It’s a veritable tradition of the Hall of Fame from throughout its history-- and part of the fun of studying Cooperstown, really. What would the Hall of Fame be if it only had a series of uniform, defensible, algorithmic selections? The occasional Rube Marquard keeps Cooperstown interesting, if imperfect.All of this in turn puts candidates like Gonzalez back on the map for Cooperstown. If the Hall of Fame ever convenes a special Steroid Era committee, which it still might need to do sometime in the next 10-15 years, Gonzalez can maybe even start writing his speech.It’s worth adding that, as an all-hit, no-field candidate who was the best part of some dreck teams and played in a great hitters era, there are others like Gonzalez in Cooperstown. Chuck Klein comes to mind, as does Hack Wilson. That’s not the best reason to put a player in the Hall of Fame, but it hasn’t stopped past committees.##

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