Saturday, January 3, 2015

Floyd, Dye may not make “Hall of Fame,” but won’t be forgotten locally

Baseball fans will learn Tuesday who, if anyone, will get into the Hall of Fame and there already are many people speculating on who deserves that honor – along with who was such an awful ballplayer that they shouldn’t even be allowed to pay their way into the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Yet I was more intrigued by a pair of nominees who are highly unlikely to ever get elected to the Hall of Fame, and may very well get so little support this year that they won’t be eligible for future consideration for the baseball honor.

FOR ANYONE WHO takes an interest in the Chicago baseball scene isn’t going to forget the names “Cliff Floyd” and “Jermaine Dye.”

They may get next to nobody amongst the sportswriters who receive Hall of Fame ballots to cast votes for them.

But both of them did enough during their careers that they don’t deserve to be completely forgotten.

In the case of Dye, he bounced around many major league clubs in the 1990s and early 2000s and was in danger of being the guy whose career as a professional baseball player was ruined by a foul ball he hit off his knee during the American League playoffs in 2001 while playing for the Oakland Athletics.

THAT BROKEN LEG caused him to play sporadically in coming seasons, and was the reason the Chicago White Sox were able to acquire him prior to the 2005 season – nobody else wanted him, or thought he was capable of playing regularly any longer.

’05, of course, was the season the White Sox led the American League all year, then went on a streak in the playoffs, beating the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels prior to their World Series victory over the Houston Astros (remember the constant televised site of former President George and first lady Barbara Bush sitting in a front row seat, and bussing each other when the “Kiss Cam” focused on them?).

Dye wound up being a significant part of that championship ball club and even became the Most Valuable Player of the World Series – largely because he drove in the only run scored in that 1-0 White Sox victory in Game 4 that clinched the World Series title for the Sout’ Siders.

He then went on to have his best season overall in 2006 – with 44 home runs, 120 runs batted in, a .315 batting average and some votes for American League Most Valuable Player that year.

NOW I’M NOT arguing that Dye is a Hall of Famer. Only that he’d probably get some serious consideration if his time with Oakland, the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves were as good as he was in Chicago.

He gets to be an honorary Chicagoan for the fact that he was a White Sox World Series winner. Unlike Floyd, who is a real-life Chicagoan (born in the city and raised in suburban Markham) although he now lives in Florida and I recently saw him as a baseball commentator on the MLB-TV channel that I spend too much time watching.

Floyd did play one season with the Chicago Cubs, in 2007 when they made it to the National League playoffs, but lost His World Series appearances were in 1997 (with the Florida Marlins who defeated the Cleveland Indians) and the Tampa Bay Rays (who lost to the Philadelphia Phillies).

But he was the local boy made good who went on to play 17 seasons in the major leagues after being discovered by professional scouts while playing ball for Thornwood High School in suburban South Holland.

HE WAS A three-sport star while there, and led Thornwood to an Illinois state championship in high school baseball his senior year. Upon graduating in 1991, he passed on college when the Montreal Expos offered him a chance to play baseball.

Two years later, he was in the major leagues, beginning the trek that saw him play for seven ball clubs and be a part of the National League All-Star team in 2001.

None of that may make him worthy of a bronze plaque in Cooperstown. But it’s certainly much more than many guys, I’m sure, would give their male organ up in order to receive.

And it’s the closest Chicago sports fans will get to having a local tie to this year’s Hall of Fame speculation – unless you want to get worked up once again over arguing whether or not Sammy Sosa should EVER be honored for all those home runs he hit that made Cubs fans over a decade ago wet their pants with glee.


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