This week the ten finalists were announced for consideration for Hall of Fame induction via this year’s iteration of what used to be called the veterans committee—the “Modern Era” committee. Its 16 members consider nominees whose primary years in baseball occurred from 1970 to 1987. Seeing as I was 7 in 1970, these are all people I grew up watching.
Now, I confess to being a “big Hall” guy. The HoF is both museum and tourist attraction. I readily admit the various iterations of the vets committee are the main source questionable selections to the HoF. Notably two years ago they selected Jack Morris, arguably the worst starting pitcher in the HoF now. Last year people’s heads exploded when Harold Baines was selected, although he’s not the worst position player in the HoF—that’s been nailed down by some of Frank Frisch’s buddies. Personally, I would not have voted for either, but it bothered me a lot less than when the BBWAA elected nobody a few years ago. Indeed, failing to select worthy players is why there are veterans committees, to make up for the mistakes of omission.
So, below are the nominees, some of their accomplishments, my opinion of why they aren’t in the HoF already, and whether I’d vote for them. (To be elected, a nominee has to get 12 of the 16 votes. There’s neither a maximum or minimum that may be selected.)
1) Marvin Miller. He led the MLBPA from 1966-1982. He orchestrated the demise of the Reserve Clause that chained players to their team in perpetuity. Without him there would be no free agency. He made the MLBPA into the most effective union anywhere. Player incomes as a result increased tenfold under his watch. Players nowadays signing multimillion dollar deals all owe him big. It’s inarguable that his imprint on the game in indelible and far greater than most owners or executives already in the HoF.
Why isn’t he already in? The owners still hate him. The owners employ the commissioner. The commissioner is on the board of the HoF—the HoF is independent of the MLB front office in name only.
Would I vote for him? Absolutely, and every player on the committee should both vote for him and argue loudly until enough others cave that he gets the 12 votes. He should have been in long ago.
2) Thurman Munson. He’s the 12th highest rated catcher all time on Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metrics. The only ones ahead of him not in the HoF are Joe Mauer (not eligible yet) and Ted Simmons…more on him soon. He, of course, died tragically at age 32. Thus he doesn’t have some of the counting stats a lot of voters like. He hit .267/.346/.410, and had a career OPS+ of 116. He was the 1970 AL RoY and 1976 AL MVP. He was an excellent defensive catcher too.
Why isn’t he already in? He played in a golden era of catchers. Being the 5th best catcher of his era (after Bench, Fisk, Carter, and Simmons) looked relatively not impressive to too many BBWAA voters who failed in their mandate to compare him across all baseball history, not just his era.
Would I vote for him? Yes. Catchers are underrepresented in the Hall. By JAWS he’s the 12th best ever at his position; he belongs in. (An aside, no single metric, including JAWS, is the be all/end all. I like the rankings as a snapshot though. What I don’t like is when people talk about meeting a so-called JAWS standard. That “standard” is actually the average score of all current Hall of Famers at the position. By definition, half the players already in the HoF don’t meet that “standard.”)
3) Ted Simmons. He’s got the 10th highest JAWS rating for catchers; every higher rated catcher not named Mauer is already in the Hall. Over 21 years he hit .285/.348/.437, 483 doubles. He had a career OPS+ of 118 and made 8 all star teams.
Why not already in? It’s the same basic reasoning as for Thurman Munson.
Would I vote for him. Absolutely. This was another BBWAA fail.
4) Steve Garvey. He hit .294/.328/.446, career OPS+ 117. He was the 1974 NL MVP, 10 times an all star. I vividly recall announcers referring to him as a future Hall of Famer. He was thought of as an excellent defensive first baseman.
Why not already in? A lot of that future Hall of Famer stuff was part of a carefully crafted all-American golden boy image as well as being a good player. When that image was proven false, his whole candidacy cratered.
Would I vote for him? No. Advanced metrics indicate his defensive reputation was undeserved—not as undeserved as his personal reputation though. He also played 19 years and accumulated 38.1 bWAR. If you use the adage that an average major leaguer should be worth 2 WAR in a season, then he’s pretty average…not bad, not a Hall of Famer.
5) Dave Parker. He slashed .290/.339/.471, hit 339 homers, 526 doubles, and 1493 RBI. His career OPS+ was 121. He was the 1978 NL MVP and 7 times an all star.
Why not already in? He was a prominent part of the 1980’s cocaine scandal in baseball. He was also all peak—of his 40.1 WAR in his 19 seasons, 37.4 of them came in his 7 year peak.
Would I vote for him? No. He certainly had a HoF peak, but it’s not enough.
6) Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball hit .307/.358/.471. His career OPS+ was 127. He was the AL 1985 MVP. He made 6 all star squads and garnered 9 gold gloves in his 14 years.
Why not already in? Injuries derailed his career—14 years is pretty short for a Hall of Famer unless other worldly good.
Would I vote for him? No. Now if he can either perform a miracle as the Marlins skipper, or (more likely) get a better gig elsewhere, he might yet get there on the Joe Torre career path.
7) Dale Murphy. The two time MVP, 7 time all star hit .265/.346/.469, 398 homers, 350 doubles with an OPS+ of 121.
Why not already in? He hit a wall. Every one of his awards was done by age 31. He had already hit 310 of his 350 homers with a 132 OPS+ and slashed .279/.362/.500.
Would I vote for him? No. Like Parker he had a Hall of Fame peak, but not enough production over the whole of his 18 year career.
8) Dwight Evans. He hit .272/.370/.470, 483 doubles, 385 homers. His career OPS+ was 127. A model of consistency, his final season OPS+ was 119. He has 8 gold gloves. He accumulated 67.1 WAR.
Why not already in? The BBWAA voters’ biggest blind spot is all around excellence. Particularly when he hit the ballot, counting stats and batting average were king. With all the walks he drew, he’s in the top 60 all time in reaching base.
Would I vote for him? Yes. He accumulated 67.1 WAR. He’d get a lot more love if he were on the BBWAA ballot now. Dewey!
9) Lou Whitaker. He’s 13th in JAWS among second baseman all time. The only players 16th or higher on the list who are not in the HoF are Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, and Bobby Grich. Two aren’t eligible yet and Bobby Grich should be in the Hall too. He was the 1978 AL RoY. He accumulated 75.1 WAR. His career OPS+ was 117. He slashed .276/.363/.426. He was an all star 5 times, earned 3 gold gloves and 4 silver sluggers.
Why not already in? Apparently the voters never saw him play. That he fell off the ballot after only one year on it, because fewer than 5% voted for him, has to be the most absurd oversight by the BBWAA ever.
Would I vote for him? Of course. Just pull up the BBR list of all time leaders in WAR for position players and see where he falls.
10) Tommy John. It seems there’s a surgery named after him. That appears to be all some folk know about him. His 288 wins are good for 26th all time. Of course he also has 231 losses. His career ERA is 3.34, ERA+ 111. (Hey, that’s better than Jack Morris!) He struck out 2245 batters.
Why not already in? He’s been described as having been good for a really long time but never great. I think it’s more that he played so long after his peak it affected how people remember him. He played until he was 46. If he retired after 1982, when he was 39, his record was 237-171 with a 3.05 ERA. Advanced metrics weren’t a thing yet—that win/loss record and ERA just might have gotten him elected. His final seven seasons only saw one with an ERA below 4.30—1986, with a 2.93, when he only pitched in 13 games.
Would I vote for him? I waffle but lean yes.
Will any of them get selected? I’ve no idea. This is a better list of nominees than some other recent ones, so I hope some are. None would be a travesty if selected. I’m sure I won’t get all the ones I want in this time, but I hope at least a couple are. Dewey + Simmons + Whitaker would put a big grin on my face though.