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).*
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He was a fourth-round pick for the Red Sox in 1989, shipped to the Astros in exchange for Larry Andersen in 1990. Do you think Boston regretted that deal? Jeff Bagwell went on to slug 449 home runs in just 15 years, driving in 1529 and hitting .297. JAWS ranks him as the sixth-best first baseman of all-time; the only non-Hall of Famer ahead of him is the still-active Albert Pujols. Unfounded PED suspicions kept him on the outside looking in until his seventh year on the ballot. Without a failed test or a Canseco-level allegation, I have not problem with Jeff Bagwell in the Hall of Fame.