During a 19-year career, Mariano Rivera’s regular-season WHIP was 1.00 (1283.2 IP). In 141.0 postseason innings: 0.759.
Please, BBWAA: No mo’ scrubs
November’s best arguments aren’t during Thanksgiving dinner. No, it’s the annual wringing of hands regarding who’s in and who’s out at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown that takes the cake (and smears it on the wall).
In 2019, the first-year eligible players are led by all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera. Also on the list are the likes of Rick Ankiel, Ted Lilly, and Placido Polanco — all good players but not Hall-worthy by any stretch of the imagination.
There also are 15 holdovers from the 2018 ballot, including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez (the current ballot’s poster boys for the Steroid Era), as well as please-just-go-away Curt Schilling, and the often contentious Gary Sheffield (who also is tainted by the ‘roids investigation).
To be considered for enshrinement, candidates must meet these requirements:
- 3(A). A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning 15 years before and ending 5 years prior to election.
- 3(B). Player must have played in each of 10 Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3(A).
- 3(C). Player shall have ceased to be an active player in the Major Leagues at least 5 calendar years preceding the election but may be otherwise connected with baseball.
- 3(D). In case of the death of an active player or a player who has been retired for less than 5 full years, a candidate who is otherwise eligible shall be eligible in the next regular election held at least 6 months after the date of death or after the end of the 5-year period, whichever occurs first.
- 3(E). Any player on Baseball’s ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate.
The butthurt begins
Cut-and-dried as it seems, looks can be deceiving. There’s more to compiling a Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. (Humans have a way of mucking up the process …)
Baseball Reference lists 149 persons “who have been banned by Major League Baseball, other professional leagues or other institutions related to baseball, for violating significant rules.” (Note that 55 have been reinstated.) Yes, the banned list still includes the “Say it ain’t so, Joe” Black Sox and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and Pete Rose.
These 94 are off the table, no questions asked. So what’s the process for putting forth the first-time names that deserve consideration? Well, six people — 6! — make the decision.
The Screening Committee prepares the annual ballot, which consists of eligible candidates who received a vote on a minimum of 5% of the ballots cast in the preceding election or are eligible for the first time and are nominated by any two of the six members of the Screening Committee.
This is where the BBWAA falls into the everybody-gets-a-trophy trap. Not everyone — or 33% of everyone — deserves to be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. The two-of-six bar needs to be elevated. I’d settle for at least four of six.
Vernon Wells is a first-time name on the ballot for 2019. He had a decent 15-year career. In review, using Baseball Reference numbers, he’s not close to being a Hall of Famer:
- Hall of Fame Monitor: Batting — 52, Likely HOFer ≈ 100
- Hall of Fame Standards: Batting — 19, Average HOFer ≈ 50
Jason Bay, his numbers are even worse:
- Hall of Fame Monitor: Batting — 46, Likely HOFer ≈ 100
- Hall of Fame Standards: Batting — 20, Average HOFer ≈ 50
Why water down the field? Whatever the reason, it creates a false sense of value. It’s the Hall of Fame, and that should be underlined from the jump.
An elector can vote for no more than 10 eligible candidates. (Write-in votes are not permitted.) Any candidate receiving votes on 75% of the ballots cast is elected to membership in the Hall.
However, the BBWAA rules for election state that “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” This is where the gatekeepers to national pastime immortality get on their high horse.
Integrity. Character. … Steroids — no-go. Being a pompous alt-right ass — see ya! Pissed off a writer back in the day — take a seat. The writers are human; they have disdain, contempt, disgust (even jealousy) regarding those within the game. These emotions are most real when it comes time to check the box on a ballot.
So, the inductees are announced, and the butthurt begins. There is always one guy who deserved to be elected — but he wasn’t. There are arguments for why he should have been on everyone’s ballot. (These generally are numbers-nerds who crunch stats ad nauseam but could not tell the difference between a protective cup and a doorknob.)
But wait, there’s more!
The BBWAA isn’t the only group that can add players to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Eras Committee (formerly known as Veterans Committee) is a group of HOF members and others charged with the induction of players who were not voted in by the BBWAA, as well as Negro League players and non-playing personnel (including managers, owners, and executives). All candidates receiving votes on at least 75% of ballots cast earn election.
The Eras Committee is comprised of four sub-committees:
- The Today’s Game Committee — considers candidates from 1988 to the present.
- The Modern Baseball Committee — covers candidates from 1970-1987.
- The Golden Days Committee — considers candidates from 1950-1969.
- Early Baseball Committee — considers candidates from 1871-1949.
Each of the committees has 16 members, appointed by the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, comprised of Hall of Famers, executives, and veteran media members.
As Crash Davis noted: We’re dealing with a lot of shit. (And still, Dave Concepcion remains on the outside looking in …)
Unfortunately, as time ticks away, the Moneyball sect will have a greater influence on those making the case for the pre-1970s players. (And ultimately, 1980s … and then 1990s.) Passing the “eyeball” test will not be an option. We’ll be left with comparing hard stats from wildly different eras.
If I had a ballot …
There is only one among the 19 first-time eligible players who should be elected in 2019: Mariano Rivera. I believe there are four holdovers who should be elected this year: Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, and Omar Vizquel. (Don’t hold your breath on any of those four getting the Hall call.)
Rivera — the numbers are ridiculous: 82-60 with a 2.21 ERA and 652 career saves; 8-1 with a 0.70 ERA and 42 saves in 96 postseason games (141.0 innings). Enter Sandman. Game over.
- Hall of Fame Monitor: Pitching — 214, Likely HOFer ≈ 100
- Hall of Fame Standards: Pitching — 30, Average HOFer ≈ 50
(For perspective, 2018 HOF inductee Trevor Hoffman’s numbers are 159 and 19.)
Kent — a five-time All-Star, at least 20 home runs in 12 of 17 seasons and finished with 377 home runs (a record 351 of them coming as a second baseman), 1,518 RBI (second to Rogers Hornsby among 2Bs), a career slash line of .290/.356/.500 with an OPS+ of 123.
- Hall of Fame Monitor: Batting — 122, Likely HOFer ≈ 100
- Hall of Fame Standards: Batting — 51, Average HOFer ≈ 50
Martinez — here’s the rub: He started 1,396 of his 2,055 career games at DH. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an MLB position; he did his job — a seven-time All-Star, two batting titles with a lifetime batting average of .312, 309 home runs, 1,261 RBI, an OPS of .933.
- Hall of Fame Monitor: Batting — 132, Likely HOFer ≈ 100
- Hall of Fame Standards: Batting — 50, Average HOFer ≈ 50
McGriff — a five-time All-Star, slugged 493 home runs, drove in 1,550 runs, from 1988-94 had a slash line of .288/.390/.545 and averaged 35 HR and 95 RBI. Maybe his vagabond career is a mental hurdle for some: He never spent more than five seasons with any one team.
- Hall of Fame Monitor: Batting — 100, Likely HOFer ≈ 100
- Hall of Fame Standards: Batting — 48, Average HOFer ≈ 50
Vizquel — 11 Gold Gloves, 2,877 hits, a career slash line of .272/.336/.352, top 10 in AL steals six times. He was not supposed to be an offensive cog for the Indians (Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome … ring a bell?) Thirteen times he finished top-three in fielding and his .985 fielding average ranks No. 2. Vizquel simply did his job — and quite well.
- Hall of Fame Monitor: Batting — 120, Likely HOFer ≈ 100
- Hall of Fame Standards: Batting — 42, Average HOFer ≈ 50
That’s five players. I can make the case for four others: Roy Halladay (if you twist my arm hard enough), Andruw Jones (stuck around long enough to accumulate stats), Mike Mussina (Hall of Very Damn Good), Larry Walker (also HVDG).
The other superstar players do not get a Hall pass from me: Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, Ramirez, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada … there’s too much smoke with the fire.
And Schilling — he was a 20-game winner three times in a four-year stretch, which accounts for 30% of his victories in a 20-year career. Sorry, 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA is not the stuff of a HOF resume. (And yes, he had two outstanding postseasons; still, not enough.)
Like many others, close but no cigar — if the BBWAA voters don’t muck it up.
I do not have a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame; I am not a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). My opinion matters as much as yours, which ain’t a lot when it comes to who gets a lifetime pass to Cooperstown.