If the Washington Nationals are going to add a name to the so-called Ring of Honor that wraps around the facade below the second deck in Nationals Park any time soon, it's most likely going to come from the Montreal Expos' past of the D.C. franchise's history. The Ring was created to honor players who've been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame who are, "...associated with the Montreal Expos, Homestead Grays, Washington Senators or Washington Nationals," and have spent, "significant years with those teams," during their playing days. Andre Dawson, the only player elected to the Hall of Fame last year, had his name placed alongside former Expos' catcher Gary Carter's as the only two representatives of the Montreal franchise that became the nation's capital's third major league team.
The two Expos' greats joined former Homestead Grays Cool Papa Bell, Ray Brown, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cumberland Posey, and Jud Wilson and Washington Senators Joe Cronin, Rick Ferrell, Goose Goslin, Clark Griffith, Bucky Harris, Walter Johnson, Harmon Killebrew, Heinie Manush, Sam Rice, and Early Wynn. The three decades plus in which Washington didn't have a baseball team, however, have left the nation's capital with few candidates eligible for election to the Hall of Fame, one of the three criteria players have to meet in order for them to be considered for Nats Park's Ring of Honor.
One-time Expos Tim Raines and Larry Walker are on the ballot for induction into the Hall of Fame this year, but neither is expected to be elected. Tim Raines received just 30.4% of the 75% of the vote necessary for induction into the Hall last year. Larry Walker, who signed as an amateur free agent and debuted with the Expos, is on the ballot for the first time. Walker played 10 of his 16 MLB seasons with the Colorado Rockies where he won his one MVP award and made one postseason appearance in 1995, and the only other postseason play in Walker's career came ten years later in '04 and '05 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Vladi? Eight of Vladimir Guerrero's fifteen MLB seasons were played in Montreal, but his one MVP award and all his postseason appearances took place with the Los Angeles Angels. Former Senators' great Frank Howard failed to receive the requisite 5% of the vote when he appeared on the ballot in 1979, so his election would have to be made by the Veterans Commitee.
Over the course of his career, Raines, in 23 seasons had 2,605 hits, 430 doubles, 113 triples, 170 HR's, 980 RBI's, 808 steals, .a 294/.385/.425 slash line and was a 7-time All-Star, who finished his career and remains 5th on the list of All-Time Career Stolen Base leaders. Larry Walker, in 17 seasons, posted a .313/.400/.565 slash line with 471 doubles, 383 HR's, 1,311 RBI's and 230 stolen bases. Neither are likely to make it in this year.
Are there any other players in D.C. baseball history who deserve to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame? Should the Nats make an exception in their Ring of Honor for Frank "Hondo" Howard? Or is the statue in Nationals Park enough of a monument to his contributions to the history of baseball in the nation's capital?