The Veterans Committee portion of the Hall of Fame induction process doesn’t generate the same uproar as the Baseball Writers vote does. But the people it elects are still full-fledged members of Cooperstown, with their little plaques right there next to Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Babe Ruth. Last year, the Veterans Committee elected an owner, an umpire and a player — all of whom had been dead since 1939.
This year, the committee is looking at what it calls the Expansion Era ballot, for candidates whose greatest contributions came in 1973 and later. The last time the VC looked at this era, in 2011, only executive Pat Gillick was elected. This year’s ballot will likely produce more Hall of Famers; sadly, however, none are likely to be players. The 12 finalists who the 16-man committee (and it’s all men, no women) will consider includes six players and six others. You need 12 of 16 votes to get elected. Let’s take a closer look.
The managers: Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Billy Martin, Joe Torre
Even by the historically lax standards of the Veterans Committee, Cox, La Russa and Torre are obvious Hall of Fame managers, and I suspect all three will get in. Cox is fourth on the all-time wins list and made 16 playoff appearances with the Blue Jays and Braves, although he won just one World Series. Cox finished 503 wins above .500 — the only managers with a higher total are John McGraw and Joe McCarthy. You can hold the the only-one-title against Cox, but Whitey Herzog made it in 2010 with just one title, fewer wins and a worse winning percentage. La Russa is third on the all-time wins list and has three World Series titles. Torre had a borderline Hall of Fame career as a player; include his four championships as a manager and he’s the third lock.
Martin is the interesting candidate, but he has no chance to get in with this group also on the ballot. Martin is 35th on the wins list and won just one title. What we do know about him, however, is that he was arguably the best turn-around artist in managerial history. Now, part of that was because nobody could stand to have him as their manager for more than five minutes, so he got a lot of opportunities. But consider:
- Took over the Twins in 1969 and they improved from 79 to 97 wins and won the AL West. (Fired after the season, in part for getting in a fight with one of his pitchers.)
- Took over the Tigers in 1971 and they improved from 79 to 91 wins. In 1972, they won the AL East. (Fired in 1973 after ordering his pitchers to throw spitballs in protest of Gaylord Perry allegedly doing so for Cleveland.)
- Took over Rangers in September of 1973. The club improved from 57-105 to 84-78 in 1974. (Fired in 1975 after a confrontation with owner Brad Corbett.)
- Took over the Yankees late in 1975. Club improved from 83 wins to 97 in ’76 and won its first pennant since 1964. In 1977, the Yankees won the World Series. (Resigned in 1978 after fighting with Reggie Jackson during a game and rumors that George Steinbrenner tried to trade Martin to the White Sox.)
- After managing the Yankees again for part of the 1979 season, he took over the A’s in 1980. They had lost 108 games in 1979. They won 83 and then made the playoffs in the strike season of 1981. (Fired after losing 94 games in 1982.)
Then came all the ridiculousness with the Yankees in the ’80s. Still, it’s an impressive track record, although it came at a cost: Martin overworked his pitchers (most notably with a young staff in Oakland that soon fell apart) and none of the teams he managed sustained any long-term success. In the end; not enough career wins, only one title and his other issues (drinking and brawling) that might have affected his teams. Plus: We have enough managers in already, with three more on the way.
The owner: George Steinbrenner
The Boss was on the last Expansion Era ballot and received fewer than eight votes. He was a bully, banned from baseball for paying a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, and ran the franchise into the ground in the late ’80s and early ’90s (only to see it revived during his banishment). His team also won six World Series titles (and a seventh after he had given up day-to-day operations to his sons), and there’s no denying he was one of the most famous people in the sport during his reign. No Thanks, I’ll pass, but there’s definitely an argument to put him in.
The union guy: Marvin Miller
Miller fell one vote short of election last time around. Since then, he passed away and you almost feel as though the time to honor the man was missed. He’s no doubt one of the most important figures in baseball history; the union leader who helped free the players from the reserve clause and enter the era of free agency. Does that make him a Hall of Famer? Nobody ever paid a penny to watch Marvin Miller in action. But if you can vote in Bowie Kuhn, you should put in Marvin Miller. FYI: There are four executives on the committee (Paul Beeston, Andy MacPhail, Dave Montgomery and Jerry Reinsdorf), so if they all vote against him, the other 12 (which includes six Hall of Fame players) have to vote for him.
The glove: Dave Concepcion
Concepcion received eight votes in 2010, so he is the highest returning player candidate. With a career WAR of 40.0, he doesn’t have a strong statistical argument. There is also another shortstop candidate with obviously better credentials: Alan Trammell, who is still on the BBWAA ballot. Concepcion’s case basically comes down to being part of the Big Red Machine, although he was a nine-time All-Star and won five Gold Gloves. The Reds already have one marginal Hall of Famer in Tony Perez; We don’t need another.
The strong jaw: Steve Garvey
He was also on the last ballot and received fewer than eight votes. Career WAR of 37.6, only one season above 5.0. His case is that he was regarded as very valuable while active — he won an MVP Award and finished second another year and sixth three other times. It’s kind of a Jim Rice argument. Won’t get in as Keith Hernandez would be a better candidate to discuss at first base.
The guy they named the surgery after: Tommy John
Three pitching lines:
John: 288-231, 3.34 ERA, 111 ERA+, 62.3 WAR
Bert Blyleven: 287-250, 3.31 ERA, 118 ERA+, 96.5 WAR
Jack Morris: 254-186, 3.90 ERA, 105 ERA+, 43.8 WAR
Three pitchers with similar career win-loss records, but vastly different values by Wins Above Replacement. All three got about 20 percent of the vote their first years on the BBWAA ballot. Blyleven stayed there for a long time until the statistical argument became clear that he deserved Cooperstown; score one for the statheads. Morris has slowly climbed closer to 75 percent and may get in this year; score one for the old schoolers. John never really moved from his initial 22 percent.
By WAR, John is in the gray area; a good candidate but not a strong one. The argument against him is that he pitched forever but was never great. His peak WAR season was 5.6 and he had four years above 5.0. But just four others above 3.0. A lot of 2.4 and 1.5 kinds of seasons. Good No. 3 starter who was durable but rarely an ace. I wouldn’t vote for him, although Blyleven’s election in 2011 may help him.
The Cobra: Dave Parker
Parker is new to the ballot, with Al Oliver, Rusty Staub, Ron Guidry and Vida Blue getting bumped off. Parker has some interesting career numbers: .290 average, 339 home runs, 1,439 RBIs, more than 2,700 hits. He won an MVP Award in 1978 and deserved it. He had a very high peak from 1975 to 1979, but then wasted several years and wasn’t really contributing much after that despite his high RBI totals.
Is Parker the best outfielder not in the Hall of Fame? Clearly not. Even leaving off all the players still on the BBWAA ballot, there’s another right fielder I would have preferred to see on this ballot: the criminally underrated Dwight Evans.
Evans is sort of the opposite of Parker. Parker had his best years in his 20s; Evans in his 30s. Parker never walked; Evans built a lot of value by walking (708 more career walks). Parker got fat; Evans stayed in tremendous shape. Parker ended up wasting a lot of his ability; Evans got the most out of his.
The submariner: Dan Quisenberry
His career wasn’t really so different from Bruce Sutter’s, except Sutter had more facial hair and “invented” a pitch. Consider Quisenberry’s run in Cy Young voting: fifth, no votes (1.73 ERA, though), third, second, second, third. He also finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting in four of those seasons. That said … voters of that era dramatically overrated relief pitchers, even though they were pitching a lot more innings than today. But for a six-year run, he was as good as anybody.
The catcher: Ted Simmons
He’s back after receiving fewer than eight votes. One of the better hitting catchers, with a .285 career average (hit above .300 seven times), 248 home runs and 1,389 RBIs. He played second fiddle to Johnny Bench in the National League in the 1970s but, hey, not everybody can be Johnny Bench.
Two of the people on the committee are Paul Molitor, Simmons’ teammate with the Brewers, and Whitey Herzog, who traded Simmons from the Cardinals to the Brewers after the two feuded and Simmons’ defense had started declining. So one could see Molitor arguing for Simmons and Herzog against Simmons.
Either way, it probably doesn’t matter, as Simmons’ chances of getting in are slim.
The results will be announced at the winter meetings in December.
Well, New Year’s usually signals a few things in the baseball universe. The Hot Stove Season is reaching its stretch run. The thought of Spring Trading begins to warm the soul. And perhaps more controversially, The Hall of Fame announcement is upon us.
Every year, we look to the BBWAA to give us a reason to cheer, p!ss and moan or just grit our teeth and throw up our hands with the whole damn process. After all, the guys you love don’t get their recognition, the guys you hate seem to ‘slide’ in and guys you just couldn’t care about grab some spotlight. But we’re used to it.
However, in the last few years, the landscape has changed. The Steroid Era has shed a new light upon players who for lack of ‘super’ stardom, media attention and just plain ‘average’ consistency were overlooked, passed-up or underappreciated for their efforts. Players such as Ron Santo (finally, but posthumously) have received their Veterans Committee due, while players like Keith Hernandez, Dwight Evans, Alan Trammell and Tim Raines have been on the outside looking in. With PED playboys like Big Mac, Sammy Sosa, Palmero and Jeff Bagwell (rightly or not, the shadow covers him) taking up space on the ballot, it let’s periphery guys like Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Lee Smith and Jack Morris get a little more time in the thought process over all. Unfortunately, Donnie Baseball and Murphy were superstars who produced consistently but for a shorter span of time (unfortunately, the beloved Luis Tiant may fall into this category) . Smith was a journeyman who, though possessing all the qualities of a big, menacing closer, seems to have been hurt by his many stops around the league and having no definitive ‘superstar moment’. Jack Morris… well, he’s a borderline a Hall of Famer. Yes, he won 20 plus games three times and played on World Series winning teams, catching media spotlight fire with the ’91 Twins & ’92 Jays for example, but he wasn’t the cog that ran the gears.
Then there’s Edgar Martinez. Easily one of the better hitters of his era (amidst the Steroid Era) who may have more than one glaring mark against him. First, he played in Seattle (yes, so did Griffey Jr., A-Rod and Randy Johnson… but they left), not a media market or a perennial contender. Second, and most importantly, he played the majority of his career as a Designated Hitter. Oh, my error, the Designated Hitter. A standard set so high, the annual award for best DH in the AL is the Edgar Martinez Award. But, DH doesn’t count, it’s an imaginary position created by the Wizard of Oz (you know, a designated spot in the batting order to allow aging, over-the-hill superstars who couldn’t field a position some twilight time to earn a paycheck and pad the HOF stats) and doesn’t deserve consideration. They’re part timers. A pinch-hitter who gets off the bench four or five times a day. Who cares if he produces HOF numbers, right?
So, let’s take a look at one of the most under-appreciated members of the Boston Red Sox: Dwight Evans. (keep in mind these are his totals during his 19 year tenure with the Scarlett Hose. Dewey finished his career with a one year stint in Baltimore.)
- Games played: 2505 Rank: 2nd (1st: Yaz / 3rd Ted)
- Hits: 2373 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th Boggs)
- Average: .272 Rank: Outside top 10 ( Yaz .285 / Doerr .288)
- RBI: 1346 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th: Doerr)
- HR: 379 Rank: 4th (3rd: Rice / 5th: Ortiz*)
- Runs: 1435 Rank: 3rd (2nd: Ted / 5th: Rice)
- Base on Balls: 1337 Rank: 3rd (2nd: Yaz / 4th: Boggs)
- OPS: .842 Rank: Outside top 10 (Yaz has an .841 / Rice .854)
So, looking at the numbers, we see obvious questions and answers to the argument. He is, for the most part, sandwiched between teammates who are enshrined in Cooperstown (Captain Carl, Jim Ed., Boggs) and legendary HOF’ers like Ted and Bobby Doerr. The second half of his career was statistically more productive than the first and was consistently so until his retirement. During years when players begin winding down, Dewey was in cruise control and producing at a steady clip.
Was he overshadowed? An integral member of the 1975 team, he was a lesser star than Yaz, Tiant, Pudge, Lee and The Goldust Twins. After Lynn and Fisk went West, Tiant let go, Yaz retired and guys like Eck and Lansford come and gone, it was Dewey who came into his own offensively while continuing his defensive excellence. Again, superstars surrounded him. Rice, Hurst, Boggs Buckner and Clemens. Evans simply continued to perform.
During the 1980′s (the latter half of his MLB career which officially began in 1972) in his playing age years of 28 (1980) through age year 37 (1989):
- 3 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Hits.
- 4 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Doubles.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in RBI.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in HR, leading the league in 1981.
- 5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in OPS% , leading the league twice.
- 6 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Runs scored, leading the league in 1984.
- 7 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Bases on Balls, leading the league three times.
Evans appeared on the AL MVP ballot 5 times (all in the 1980’s) with 4 times placing in the top 10. Finished 3rd over-all in 1981 behind winner Rollie Fingers and Ricky Henderson.
8 Gold Gloves. 3 All-Star Games. 2 Silver Sluggers.
His lifetime WAR (wins above replacement) is 61.8 (Mind you, this currently ranks 141st ALL TIME in MLB)
Looking at his basic stats or his Sabermetric stats place him in an above average category. Dwight was included on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in 1997 (5.9%), 1998 (10.4%) and 1999 (3.6%) before dropping off due to insufficient support under the official rules of balloting (under 5% in a given year or reaching 15th year on ballot). His election, like that of Ron Santos’, would be a Veterans committee pick. Currently a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, Dwight’s number 24 (originally 40 as a rookie) is still in circulation.