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Rice should finally get his due

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - To me, one of the biggest injustices in baseball over the past decade or so has been the fact that Jim Rice is not in the Hall of Fame. With any luck, though, that could all change next week, when Cooperstown's newest class is announced.

With one of the worst first-time eligible lists perhaps ever, this could certainly be the year for Rice as well as reliever Goose Gossage, both of whom fell just 63 and 21 votes short, respectively, from getting elected a year ago.

While Gossage is certainly worthy, it has been the exclusion of Rice that has bothered me the most. I get the fact that he wasn't a great guy, but to keep someone out of the Hall just because he wasn't friendly to the people who vote him in is just ridiculous.

You can't argue his numbers. Rice led the AL in home runs three times (1977, 1978, 1983), in RBI twice (1978, 1983), in slugging percentage twice (1977, 1978), and in total bases four times (1977-1979, 1983). He was an eight-time All-Star and was AL MVP in 1978.

When I was growing up, just really starting to get into baseball, Jim Rice was THE guy. As a fan of the Yankees, he was the last guy I wanted to see at the plate. It is amazing that he is not in yet.

Jim Rice
Jim Rice, shown here in 1986, was an eight-time All-Star.
For his career, Rice, who's by the way the only player in major league history to record over 200 hits and at the same time have 39 or more home runs for three consecutive years, hit .298 while belting 382 homers and knocking in 1,451 runs.

Seventeen players with 300+ home runs and a career average as high as his have been on the HOF ballot. However, all but Rice are in Cooperstown. And we are not talking about your run-of-the-mill players here; we are talking Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, George Brett, Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, Mel Ott and Stan Musial, just to name a few.

Rice, in his 14th year on the ballot, has received over 3,100 total votes during his time on the ballot, which is the second-most ever collected by any player.

Keep in mind that he did this all before the steroid era. You would think this is the type of guy the Hall should recognize, especially now.

Of the first-timers, Tim Raines probably has the best shot. But he is not getting in, despite a legendary Hall of Fame admission. Of course it was Raines who stated that he slid head first at times during his career so he wouldn't break the crack pipe that he had hidden in his back pocket.

Kind of makes you wonder whether Raines' nickname of "Rock" was given to him for his physical stature or for something else altogether.

Other first-timers that will be disappointed on Tuesday include David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, Jose Rijo, Brady Anderson, Todd Stottlemyre, Chuck Finley, Shawon Dunston and Travis Fryman.

CLEMENS' DENIAL TOUR COMES TO 60 MINUTES

What would a baseball column these days be without a little steroid talk? The Roger Clemens denial tour will be in full swing this weekend, as his "60 Minutes" interview with die-hard Yankees fan Mike Wallace is scheduled to air.

Suzyn Waldman must have been busy, so Clemens will have to settle for Wallace, who interviewed the seven-time Cy Young Award winner once before. I am not expecting a grilling here. It won't be as bad as the Alex Rodriguez fluff piece from a few weeks ago, but I suspect it will be close.

Clemens has already denied using steroids, but I want to hear why he chose not to talk to George Mitchell during his investigation. I am pretty sure, though, Wallace isn't going there.

A little snippet of the piece was released on Thursday, as Clemens apparently claimed the injections he received from trainer Brian McNamee were just B-12 shots and the pain killer lidocaine, which was for his achy joints.

Clemens told CBS that McNamee's accusation was "ridiculous" and said he "never" used banned substances.

"Swear?" Wallace asked Clemens.

"Swear," Clemens responded.

I have said it before that they are going to have a hard time proving that Clemens actually took steroids, but I hope McNamee sues him and puts the Rocket on the stand. Let's find out how far Clemens is actually going to take this.

Are there players that have seen Clemens take steroids? Would Andy Pettitte lie under oath to protect his friend? I doubt it.

Clemens is scheduled to hold a news conference on Monday.

A'S CONTINUE TO CLEAN HOUSE

The Oakland Athletics continued to stockpile their farm system on Thursday, as they shipped outfielder Nick Swisher to the Chicago White Sox for three top-of the-line prospects.

Add that trio with the ransom they received from Arizona for Danny Haren, and the A's should be in pretty good shape by the time their new stadium opens up in Fremont in 2011.

Given the fact that they got rid of not only their best pitcher, but their best offensive player from a year ago, the smart money would be on the A's being pretty putrid this coming season. But I am not so sure about that. They always seem to find a way to win.

Someone always comes out of nowhere and performs out there. Remember the name of first baseman Daric Barton. And don't forget they still have Rich Harden, who when healthy is one of the best pitchers in the American League.

The only problem is that there is a better chance of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire enjoying a meal together these days than Harden pitching a full season.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.


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