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.”
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.