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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals – SNUBBED” Larry Walker

Walker

The Hall of Fame Class of 2019 will be announced on Tuesday, but thanks to Ryan Thibodaux‘s fantastic ballot tracker, we have a good idea of what the results will be. Tomorrow I will post cards for the new Famers after the announcement, but tonight let’s look at a few that are likely to fall short.

One who has a great deal of support from baseball fans is Larry Walker, who spent the bulk of his career with the Colorado Rockies. Walker’s 72.7 WAR makes him a viable candidate, but the voters have shut him out so far. He received more support last year than any prior, with 34.1% of the vote, and as of this writing, he is polling at 65.4%. He will need 167 more voters to check his name to reach the 75% threshold, and that’s not likely going to happen. Will 2020 be Walker’s year?

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Lee Smith

Lee Smith should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame a long time ago. He was the all-time saves leader when he retired, since passed by Mariano Rivera (who will likely be inducted this year) and Trevor Hoffman (inducted last year). Yet he never received more than 50% from the BBWAA. And that is why we need the Veterans Committee.

I know a lot of people are upset about Harold Baines (I’m not one of them), but the BBWAA is far from perfect and some players deserve a second look from a different body of voters. I’m especially glad Alan Trammell got that second look this past year, and I’m glad Smith is getting the nod in 2019. It will likely be a long time before a relief pitcher gets considerable attention by either the BBWAA or the VC after 2019, and I’m okay with that as I think the position—particularly how it is utilized today—is overrated by many.

While I was digging around for a photo to use, I came across this awesome custom 1980 Topps Lee Smith card at “Cards That Never Were.”

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Harold Baines

Baines

To say I was shocked when I clicked on the White Sox Cards blog this morning would be an understatement. It took a moment to register that Steve was talking about the actual National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum located in Cooperstown, and not a team Hall of Fame or perhaps the St. Michael’s High School Hall of Fame. While I have said in the past that I would not be upset by Harold Baines‘ induction, I never expected it to actually happen.

I’m still not mad.

Baines was a solid player for twenty-two seasons. He collected 2866 hits, good for #46 all-time and just 134 short of the “magic number.” As his former manager Tony La Russa said, “If it wasn’t for the strikes, he would have had 3000 hits.” The same argument is made by Fred McGriff apologists, so why shouldn’t it apply to Baines?

Every player ahead of Baines on the all-time hits list is in the Hall of Fame, save the permanently ineligible (Pete Rose), still active or recently retired (Adrian Beltre, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols), or steroid-implicated players (whose names I would rather not mention).*

I’m not mad that Baines will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019, and I hope that his induction may pave the way for other borderline cases such as Dale Murphy and Dave Parker.

* Update: Omar Vizquel actually has 11 more hits than Harold, and I had overlooked him initially. Vizquel received 37% from BBWAA voters last year, and is eligible for nine more ballots as long as he does not drop below 5% support.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Trevor Hoffman

Hoffman

One of the biggest questions of the 2018 Hall of Fame class was Trevor Hoffman. The debate rages on the value of relief pitchers, but Hoffman proved himself over a long 18-year career that he was worthy of serious Cooperstown consideration and the BBWAA deemed him worthy of the honor in 2018. His 601 saves rank him second to Mariano Rivera on the all-time list. However, the JAWS system ranks him the 21st best reliever in history, behind a bunch of guys I’ve never even heard of.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Jim Thome

Thome

How times have changed. When Harmon Killebrew retired in 1975, he was fourth on the all-time home runs list behind Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays. Yet, it took the BBWAA four years to decide he was worthy of Cooperstown. Jim Thome‘s 612 home runs put him eighth on the all-time list, but he flew right into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe Thome is a Hall of Famer…I just question the sanity of the voters in the 1980s who kept Killebrew waiting so long.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Vladimir Guerrero

Vladimir

In his first year on the ballot, Vladimir Guerrero received 71.7% of the vote, missing induction by 15 votes. This year, there was no doubt that the Dominican-born great would be inducted. A nine-time All-Star, Guerrero became a star in Montreal, and a superstar in Anaheim, winning the 2004 AL MVP as he helped the Angels to the playoffs. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting five other times.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Chipper Jones

Chipper

Chipper Jones was the offensive anchor for the Braves during the 1990s and 2000s, playing third base and left field for the most dominant National League team of the era. The 1999 NL MVP was selected to eight All-Star teams in his career, and is ranked sixth among all third basemen by the JAWS system. Jones is only the second #1 draft pick to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, following Ken Griffey in 2016.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Jack Morris

Morris

Joining his Tigers teammate on the stage in Cooperstown this year will be pitcher Jack Morris, one of the best pitchers of the 1980s. While some believe his election lowers the bar for pitchers, I believe you have to judge them among their contemporaries. There were few starters sharper than Morris in the 1980s, and he was always considered to be a future Hall of Famer by those who saw him play. The Veterans Committee agreed, and Morris and Trammell are the first living inductees by the Veterans Committee since Bill Mazeroski in 2001.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Alan Trammell

Trammell

Alan Trammell was the slick-fielding shortstop for the World Champion Detroit Tigers in 1984, and almost won the AL MVP in 1987. Overshadowed throughout much of his career by Baltimore’s Cal Ripken, Trammell still managed to win four Gold Glove Awards and was selected to six All-Star Games. He is one of two Veterans Committee selections for the Hall of Fame class of 2018.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Tim Raines

Raines

Time was running out for Tim Raines. In his tenth and final year on the BBWAA ballot, the National League’s answer to Rickey Henderson in the 1980s was finally given a place in Cooperstown. It has shocked me how little support the stars of the 1980s received. Some had to wait several years to get in (such as Raines’ teammate Andre Dawson), while others were never given their due by the BBWAA (like Lou Whitaker, who fell off the ballot after just one year). Some had to wait for the Veterans Committee to set things right. The 1980s have been disrespected, and that’s totally not tubular.

The announcement for the 2018 class comes tomorrow…who will join Veterans Committee selections Alan Trammell and Jack Morris on the Hall of Fame stage this year?

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