Everyone knew Mariano Rivera would get the call today. The question was whether he would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously. No one had ever done it before—not Babe Ruth, not Mickey Mantle, not Ken Griffey. One writer stated earlier in the year that he would not vote for Rivera, then revealed he wouldn’t vote for anyone. However, he declined to submit his ballot, therefore Rivera still had a chance. As of late last night, according to the Ballot Tracker by Ryan Thibodaux, the all-time saves leader was still at 100%. Today, the question was finally answered. Mariano Rivera is the first unanimous selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mike Mussina was one of the most dependable pitchers of his era, though he was never flashy. In 18 seasons, he collected 270 wins and struck out 2813 batters. He had six top-five finishes in Cy Young Award voting, and two additional sixth-place finishes. Is that enough for a Hall of Fame plaque? For five years, more than 25% of the voters have said no, but tonight he can start adding “HOF 2019” to his autograph.
A dominant force on the mound, the Blue Jays and Phillies relied on the late Roy Halladay to eat innings and win games. Halladay was the Cy Young Award winner twice, and finished in the top five for the trophy five other times. Eight times an All-Star, Halladay won 203 games and struck out 2117 batters in his 16-year career. The BBWAA recognized him as a Hall of Famer in his first year on the ballot, and he will be inducted this summer, less than two years after his untimely death.
Finally, the long wait is over for Edgar Martinez. In his tenth and final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot, the standard by which designated hitters are judged gained entrance into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Since the modern era began (1961), only three players have bettered his .418 OBP. After a sluggish start on the ballot, Edgar’s candidacy gained traction three years ago and he received 70.4% of the vote in 2018.
Does Curt Schilling talk too much? Yes. Should that affect his Hall of Fame candidacy? No. He has a 79.6 WAR. He struck out 3116 batters. He finished 2nd in Cy Young Award voting three times. Three World Series rings. Once he was the World Series MVP. And don’t forget THE BLOODY SOCK. This guy’s performance SCREAMS Hall of Famer. But he just can’t keep his mouth shut.
The tracker shows him at 70.5%, needing 156 more votes to reach 75%. Generally, the numbers go down when the final totals are released, so it does not look like 2019 will be Curt’s year.
This is the one I just don’t understand. Clean player, 493 home runs, 1550 RBI. Five-time All-Star. Three Silver Sluggers. If it weren’t for the strike in 1994, Fred McGriff would have certainly hit the magic number 500 home runs. This guy is, in my book, hands-down a Hall of Famer. Yet, in his first nine years on the ballot, he couldn’t garner even 25% support from the BBWAA. He is polling at 38.7% tonight, far short of the necessary 75%. I’m sure the Veterans Committee will set it right in a few years, but it is disappointing that the Crime Dog isn’t getting the support now.
I was not sold on Scott Rolen‘s greatness until just a few years ago. The Hall of Fame voters are notoriously judgy when it comes to third basemen not named Brooks, Mike, George, or Wade. Ron Santo, the seventh-best third baseman of all-time by JAWS rankings, had to wait for the Veterans Committee to give him a plaque. Graig Nettles, Ken Boyer, and Buddy Bell are all on the outside looking in. Maybe that’s where they should be. But not Scott Rolen. Rolen is ranked as the 10th best third baseman, with every other 3B ahead of him already in excpet Adrian Beltre. In his first year on the ballot last year, Rolen only pulled 10.2% support. It’s up a little this year, but not much. Hopefully it will continue going up in years to come until he finally reaches that 75%.
Jeff Kent probably doesn’t care that the BBWAA is overlooking his career. His 55.4 WAR isn’t overly impressive, but he retired as the all-time leader in home runs by a second baseman. He won an MVP award and made three All-Star teams, and his hitting statistics are solid: 2461 hits, 377 homers, 1518 RBI, and .290 average. Not bad at all, but his attitude toward baseball in general will likely keep him out, at least until until a Veterans Committee reviews his case.
Another victim of the anti-Rockies bias? Or simply a borderline candidate? Todd Helton‘s 61.2 WAR is not as impressive as teammate Larry Walker‘s, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. Helton collected 2519 hits, and finished his 17-year career with a .316 average, along with 369 homers and 1406 RBI. JAWS ranks him as the 15th best first baseman, above Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray, and Hank Greenberg. But the voters have been cold to Helton in his first year of eligibility, with only 18.0% support so far. Can he make the climb to Cooperstown in years to come?
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.”