Why does the Baseball Hall of Fame feel somehow lessened right now? I know that there are the “small hall” people, those who think that induction should be reserved for the best of the best, and I understand where they are coming from. Then there is the “big hall” crowd, those who think that more is better and that there are already people in the HoF that would never meet the criteria of the “small hall” folks if they came up for induction today, so why deny people who had very good — even excellent — careers but were never the best of the best. I tend to lean “large-ish hall” for this reason.
And then there are the people on the so-called Eras Committees, a very small group of not completely unbiased baseball people whose job it is to have a second look at those who may have been overlooked during the regular induction process for whatever reason.
Initially formed as the Veterans Committee in 1939, this Eras Committee has morphed into four — Early Baseball (1871-1949), Golden Days (1950-1969), Modern Baseball (1970-1987) and Today’s Game (1988 and later) — which reconsider those from each time period who may have missed out on the BBWAA vote.
Here’s the thing, though. The “normal” method of HoF induction is to get voted in by the BBWAA, a group of roughly 412-ish members who vote every year for players they think deserve induction. Each writer can select up to 10 candidates and a candidate has to get over 75 percent of the vote — roughly 309 or so votes — to be inducted.
The Eras Committees each consist of 16 members and use the same 75% threshold, meaning only 12 people need to give the nod for a player to be inducted. This can be good and bad, as we saw last year, when the Modern Baseball committee inducted Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. To be honest, Trammell should have been in years ago, so I see it as righting a wrong. Morris, however, would likely never have been considered except for one 10-inning pitching performance — game 7 of the 1991 WS — that somehow became a symbol for his whole career.
Over the past weekend, the 16-member Today’s Game committee inducted closer Lee Smith unanimously — Smith never topped 50.6% in 15 years on the BBWAA ballot — and Harold Baines by the minimum 75% threshold. Baines played 22 seasons and accrued an extremely pedestrian 38.7 bWAR, played in 6 All-Star games and led his league in one category — SLG% — in one season, over his career. Baines spent a mere 5 years on the BBWAA ballot before dropping off after 2011. His highest vote total was 6.1% in 2010.
This seems like a slap in the face for small hall people, big hall people and any hall people, frankly. If only 6% of the BBWAA even considered Baines to be HoF-worthy, over 5 years of voting, how does the Today’s Game committee think he is?
Food for thought: The average bWAR for the 25 right fielders in the HoF is 72.7 — incidentally the same as Larry Walker, who is currently in his 10th year on the ballot and struggling to get over the 75% threshold. The average 7-year peak bWAR of this same group is 42.9 (Walker’s is 44.7). Baines’ career bWAR is 38.7 and his 10-year peak is 21.4. This is less than Juan Gonzalez, Magglio Ordonez, Paul O’Neill, David Justice, Tim Salmon, Darryl Strawberry, J.D Drew and Brian Giles, to name but a few.
Welcome to the Baseball Hall of Meh!