The Baseball Hall of Meh!

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.

doublefacepalm

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!

9 thoughts on “The Baseball Hall of Meh!

  1. Baseball is not only a game of statistics but of heart. As we’ve moved more deeply into the land of sabremetrics and orgies of rebuilds, attendance has been falling off and interest beginning to wane. Fans have become accustomed to count for little if anything except totals on the team accountants’ lined pads.
    In this context, I stopped giving a rat’s patootie about the Hall, in or for any era of the game, when the old timers’ committee failed to induct Buck O’Neil during his lifetime.
    Baines was a big fan favorite, and his election, questionable as it may be in statistical terms, was an emotional corrective to this sterile obsession with numbers. I’m OK with it.

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    • To be a little more cynical, the HOF is just a PR and cash flow tool for MLB. So of course you throw in some guys who go more on popularity than actual performance.

      But like you, I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world.

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    • I found an article done a few years back by The Sporting News that listed the top “fan favourite” player for each team. Not surprising that many are in the HoF already, as “favourite” is usually interchangeable with “best”. With that in mind, let’s get Luis Gonzalez, Tim Salmon, Jeff Conine, Todd Helton and Evan Longoria into the Hall, stat!

      Fun fact: With the exception of Conine, each of the above have a higher career bWAR than Baines.

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  2. Thank you for elucidating what I have felt for a while now about HoF voting. To repost what I said on HBT: “This has forever been the problem with the Veterans’ Committee votes: a small bunch of insiders get to re-vote on what a large bunch of generally more objective voters already decided on. It’s a lot easier to get 16 people to agree in a closed room than it is to get 400 to agree who barely ever see each other. That said, I am not perturbed by this vote, I think there is a place in the HoF for a stat compiler with a special niche or two, and that’s Harold Baines.” (Just call me “Big Hall!”)

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  3. I find the “fan favorite” info interesting, but it seems that he was a “good teammate” too. The committee that brought Baines in includes lots of players. I think that ex players are likely “big hall” types; also unlikely to be stat heads of the sabermetric type; and influenced by clubhouse reputation. I think players often hang on for the 500th HR or the 3000th hit, due to a simplistic Jew of stats. Pujols here in LA of Anaheim, who is a shell of the player he was, keeps showing up for the enormous paycheck even though his only remaining skill is the home run. There are many similar examples (Ichiro) in recent times.

    I think Baines was probably a good teammate and that reached to the hearts of the committee members who perhaps took a look at the totality of stats and overlooked that it took a LONG LONG time to accrue the numbers he did.

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    • Chris Russo had Tony LaRussa on his “High Heat” program to debate Baines’ induction, as Tony was one of the committee voters that voted for Baines’ induction, so Russo had him defend his vote. LaRussa defended himself by insisting that Baines’ “high total of game-winning RBIs and career hits were more than enough to support his case”.

      Baines had 2866 hits over 22 seasons for an average of 130 a year, which isn’t earthshaking but also isn’t shabby. Game-winning RBI was only a tracked stat for the first 8 years of Baines’ 22-year career, so I’m not sure from which orifice TLR pulled that rationalization. To me, this just cements TLR’s status as a baseball dinosaur.

      The GWRBI was introduced by Elias in 1980 and was defined in Rule 1004-a as “the RBI that gives a club the lead it never relinquishes.” This led to a thousand different articles complaining how this definition made a travesty of the “stat”. As one 1989 article put it, “the GWRBI went to the player who drove in the run that put his team ahead for good. That might be a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 10-9 victory or a weak grounder in the top of the first in a 13-0 blowout.”

      As far as regular RBI, Harold only had 3 years out of his 22 where he exceeded 100 RBI, and one year at 99. He averaged 74.

      But hey… Baines is a HoFer because he was a fan fave with lots of GWRBI.

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  4. Sorry I am just now seeing this – first of all, thanks for posting, Jays! This is great!

    I am a Big Hall person, but to see Harold Baines in, and Dale Murphy on the outside looking in… well, I’m sick about it. That’s all I have to say about that.

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