Speaking of 2014, lets take a look at the newcomers on the ballot. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent. Another star studded class to go with 2013 holdovers that the BBWA has to decide on. I am not going to debate the merits of these players as we all are pretty familiar with them. On the otherhand, I will give a vote for another first timer for 2014 that will likely get overlooked- Hideo Nomo.
|1995 Topps Stadium Club|
Before Nomo made his debut in 1995, the prevailing thought was that Japanese players were not good enough to play in the Major Leagues. His immediate success and the media coverage that went along with it, reminded many of another Los Angeles Dodger rookie pitcher-Fernando Valenzuela from 1981. Nomo went on to start the All Star game for the National League and won the Rookie of the Year, edging out future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. For the next several years, he was a mainstay in the Dodgers starting rotation before moving onto different clubs. We all knew from Nomo that a Japanese player can play in the majors. In 2000, Kaz Sazaki became the next Japanese player when he suited up for the Seattle Mariners and the following year, Ichiro Suzuki became the first everyday player from Japan. Since, 40+ more players have done the same.
One can make an argument that Nomo's accomplishments was a benefit for Japan much more than for MLB. I have to disagree with. Yes, Nomo's success legitimized the Japanese player and the Nippon Professional Baseball(NPB) league. MLB also reaped the benefits of Nomo. Along with subsequent all star caliber players that followed Nomo, MLB also has grown financially from the Japanese fanbase and now considers Japan as a viable source for revenue.
So if you consider Nomo's trendsetting decision to play in USA to go along with his playing career, I will give Nomo a vote for 2014 Hall of Fame class. Will he get enough of the 75% votes for entry? No, I highly doubt it will happen. Voters will look at his MLB stats only and plus with all the big names on the ballot with him, Nomo will be pushed to the side. It is far more likely, that Nomo will not reach the 5% vote minimum in order to stay on the ballot. If that happens, he will have to wait until he is eligible for the veteran's committee. But that is okay. Time is on his side. With every future Japanese born player in the majors and every win for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, it is a vote for Hideo Nomo down the road.