The Baseball Bloggers Alliance also held a fake election for the Veterans Committee (VC) ballot. There were nine former players on it. Since the Veterans Committee process is even more of a mess than the Hall’s process for the BBWAA, which is saying a lot, nobody got in.
The Veterans Committee’s ineffectiveness is the result of multiple problems, a few of which it shares with the BBWAA. One of the problems, however, is the complete opposite of the BBWAA voters. There are only 16 members on the committee. That’s way too few. It runs the risk of a strong-willed individual taking control of the group. I’m not saying that such a thing has happened, but it’s a possibility. A group of ~100 people would be preferable. The BBWAA, on the other hand, had 549 ballots cast in the last election. That number will only get higher as more and more writers become eligible. With that many people, it almost doesn’t matter if you have a ballot. That’s why Buster Olney’s abstention was not a terribly fruitful endeavor.
Like the BBWAA, the VC is lacking in subject matter experts. The Golden Era Committee is comprised of Hall of Fame members Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Pat Gillick, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith and Don Sutton; major league executives Dave Dombrowski, Jim Frey, David Glass and Roland Hemond; and veteran media members Steve Hirdt, Dick Kaegel, Phil Pepe and Tracy Ringolsby.
My first reaction to seeing the names in that group is my eyes bugging out of my head at the sight of Joe Morgan’s name on the committee. As I’ve mentioned before on this site, he may be the greatest 2nd baseman of all time, but I think he’s the worst analyst of my generation. Yes, even worse than Tim McCarver. I would not trust Morgan to analyze a Little League game.
Overall, that’s a terrible collection of people to be deciding who gets into the Hall of Fame. Now, I don’t know everybody on that committee well. I support Pat Gillick and Dave Dombrowski because they have excellent track records as GMs. I am especially confident in Dombrowski’s ability to evaluate baseball players. Frey, Glass, and Hemond I do not know well enough to say one way or the other. As for the media members, I support Steve Hirdt, but I don’t know Phil Pepe very well. I do strongly oppose Kaegel and Ringolsby. They are terrible at analyzing baseball. They’ve been covering the game longer than I’ve been alive, yet have never bothered to learn anything about it.
Other than Joe Morgan, I can’t speak for each player individually. However, I do oppose Hall of Fame players being part of the process in general. Another thing I’ve mentioned on this site before is that players tend to be poor analysts. They are experts in playing the game of baseball, not analyzing and evaluating it. Those are two different skills. They are certainly capable of being elite analysts, but for reasons I’ll decline to speculate on, that rarely happens. I will say that Gabe Kapler and Brian Bannister are the rare former players who became great analysts1. Furthermore, Hall of Fame players have an incentive to keep other players out. The more exclusive the Hall of Fame, the better they look. Maybe they are being perfectly objective, but I’d rather not take that chance.
Allen was certainly an interesting character. He was an outspoken, brutally honest guy who had a habit of rubbing the media and his superiors the wrong way. Whether or not that was a major factor in him not getting into the Hall is anybody’s guess, but I would not put it past the BBWAA to be petulant rather than professional.
The media had fabricated narratives about Allen’s supposedly toxic clubhouse presence during his playing days. Again, it was petulant behavior likely fueled by Allen’s treatment of them. His former managers vouched for his positive affects and contributions to his teams, as did Hall of Famers Goose Gossage and Mike Schmidt. The writers even went as far as to say that Allen divided his clubhouses along racial lines, which is a horribly unethical and reprehensible claim to fabricate. Schmidt strongly denied those accusations in his autobiography, Clearing the Bases. African-Americans were not yet widely accepted in the game during Allen’s time, so it’s possible that the smear campaign against him was the result of racism. He certainty suffered racism from the fans.
I don’t know what the truth is and neither does anybody else. What’s more, I don’t even care. All of it goes to show how unreliable a player’s clubhouse presence is. It’s too subjective, it’s unprovable, and it’s impossible to know its effect in terms of wins and losses. That’s why it’s best to just go with that which can be objectively proven and assessed.
Allen certainly did not do anything to help himself. He struggled with alcoholism, and that led him to him being late to games or missing them entirely. He also appeared to have had a bit of a gambling problem. That, combined with his injury history, led to a relatively short 15 season career which was even less than that because of all the time he missed. He missed more than four seasons worth of games during his career!
As for his Hall of Fame case, it’s not what it could’ve been, but it merits Hall induction. He was one of the best hitters in baseball during his career. He hit .292/.378/.534 with a 155 wRC+ and 58.7 WAR. That wRC+ is roughly the same as that of Frank Thomas and Willie Mays. He slugged over .600 three times. He truly had 80 power that was likely on par with Giancarlo Stanton’s. He hit tape measure home runs and those who watched him play would comment on the sound the bat made when he made contact.
The fact that Allen had a plus .400 wOBA eight times in his career is impressive enough on its own. When put into the context of the era in which he played, it really becomes incredible. Allen played in what some describe as the second dead-ball era2. Remember, the pitching was so strong back then that MLB had to lower the mound after 1969.
Allen spent most of his time at 1st base, but was at 3rd for his peak years. He meets the offensive bar at either position. Speaking of positions, he was a poor defender at both of them, but his offense was so strong that he still meets the Hall of Fame standard. His career is also a great example on the importance of rate stats over counting stats. Allen’s 1,848 hits and 351 home runs certainly don’t look Hall of Fame worthy. However, to really make that claim in the face of his remarkable rate stats and his short career is ridiculous. An argument I would accept, though not agree with, is that Allen did not play enough games to merit Hall induction. If you’re going to make that argument, keep in mind that Ralph Kiner and Sandy Koufax had short careers and they’re in the Hall of Fame. A strong enough peak can overcome a short career.
Allen’s career is a sad tale on the effects of racism towards minority players. Some rose above it. Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, and, of course, Jackie Robinson rose above it to turn in some truly special careers. Allen sadly, did not. He reminds me of the NBA’s Oscar Robertson. Racism did horrible things to him and his personality. Please don’t think for a second that I’m judging or condemning Allen for not being stronger, or for choosing to go down the path he did. We can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was for minorities to play during that era.
Allen only maxed out at 18.6% of the vote. He fell one vote short on the latest VC ballot. I really thought he’d get in this time around. As a result, he’ll have to wait another three years. It’s a shame. He’s pretty old, too. At 72 years old, they’re running the risk of handing him Ron Santo’s fate.
Boyer was much less controversial than Allen, to say the least, but then again, that can be said by almost anybody who every played. For his career, he hit .287/.349/.462 with a 116 wRC+ and 62.8 WAR. Obviously, those offensive numbers are underwhelming for a 3rd baseman. Boyer’s case lies in his defense. He was outstanding at fielding his position. He might’ve been an 80 defender.
It’s worth noting that the bar for 3rd basemen is low as a result of the shortage of such players in Cooperstown. Boyer has just enough offense to combine with his monster defense to merit him Hall induction. However, as I see it, he just barely makes it in.
He maxed out at 25% on the writer’s ballot. This is one instance when it’s not fair to condemn the BBWAA. The value of defense was not well understood at the time, and even if it was, he’s far from a slam dunk case. Like I just said, he just barely makes it in for me. It’s ok for borderline candidates to go either way. There’s no way that Boyer ever sees the Hall, even though it would be a posthumous induction. He couldn’t even get more than three votes from the Veterans Committee.
Hall of Very Good
These are the players who fell short for me. They had excellent careers, but not quite Hall of Fame worthy.
Miñoso could’ve been a Hall of Famer if not for factors beyond his control. Due to the color barrier, Miñoso didn’t debut until he was 25 years old, so he got a late start to his career. Seeing as how he had a 150 wRC+ in his rookie season, he had probably been major league ready for years. For his career, he hit .298/.389/.459 with a 133 wRC+ and 50.1 WAR. That’s not enough offense, especially in the power department, for a left fielder to get into the Hall of Fame. He provided no defensive value, either.
Jay Jaffe did make an interesting point with regards to Miñoso’s Hall case. He cited Miñoso’s “cultural importance as the game’s first black Cuban star and the first black player on either Chicago team.” It’s not the Hall of Stats, so given the historical significance of Jaffe’s statement, I believe that it would be defensible to put Miñoso in.
He never got more than 21% of the vote on the writer’s ballot. He did get 8 votes from the Veterans Committee, so getting in via that route is within the realm of possibility. What’s less likely is Miñoso living to see it happen. He’s 89 years old.
Hodges is certainly the most popular candidate on the ballot. He has a strong following of supporters who believe he should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Quite frankly, I don’t get it. Neither did the VC, who did not give him more than three votes.
He hit .273/.359/.487 with a 121 wRC+ and 44.9 WAR. Those are very underwhelming number for a 1st baseman. If we can believe his Total Zone numbers, he was at least a good defender. Best case scenario is that he was a Gold Glove caliber defender, but even then it’s not enough for him to merit Hall induction. The offensive bar at 1st base is just too high. Hodges’ Hall case is actually remarkably similar to Don Mattingly’s.
Kaat certainly has longevity going for him with regards to his Hall of Fame case. He pitched for 25 years! Unfortunately, he was never elite, or really even close to it. For his career, he had a 93 ERA- and 90 FIP-. That’s just slightly better than Jack Morris. He only had three seasons with an ERA- or FIP- below 80. His WAR differs drastically depending on whether you go by Fangraphs or Baseball Reference. I prefer fWAR for pitchers and it has him at 69.5. His bWAR, on the other hand, is just 45.3. Even with the more favorable number, you have to keep in mind that WAR is a cumulative stat that Kaat compiled by playing for 25 seasons. Kaat was also excellent at fielding his position, but that’s still not enough.
I strongly believe that Kaat doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. He just doesn’t have anything resembling a Hall of Fame caliber peak. He did get very close this time around, falling only 2 votes short.
Hey, another Cuban! Unfortunately, he has an even weaker case than his fellow countryman, Miñoso. During his 15-year career, he hit .304/.353/.476 with a 129 wRC+ and 43 WAR. He was a mediocre right fielder and baserunner. All in all, that’s just not enough offense for a right fielder to merit getting into Cooperstown.
It’s sad, because Oliva was certainly on a Hall of Fame track during the first half of his career. Unfortunately, he was derailed by serious knee injuries. It was so bad that he had to be moved to DH. It didn’t help, though, because overall he was a league average hitter during his last five seasons. He was barely above replacement level during that time period.
Given his weak Hall case, it’s surprising that he’s gotten the amount of support he has. I mean it’s really not given the “expertise” of the voters, but you know what I mean. Even by traditional stats, Oliva doesn’t have much of a case. He hit over .300, sure, but he has only 1,917 hits, 220 HR, and 947 RBI3. He peaked at 47.3% on the writers ballot and got at least 30% during his final eleven years. He came within one vote of making it via the Veterans Committee! I just don’t get it.
Three Cubans! This one happens to be a pitcher. I’m not sure I’d recognize him without his cigar, which he was rumored to have even in the shower! As for his Hall of Fame case, he certainly has longevity going for him, having pitched 19 seasons. Unlike Kaat, Tiant was inconsistent. If you were to look at his career numbers, you’d see a lot of variation from year to year.
That’s not the only way in which Tiant was unique. The guy had a crazy delivery. This is from his SABR bio:
“…he was said to have thrown six pitches-fastball, curve, slider, slow curve, palm ball, and knuckleball-from three different release points-over the top, three-quarters, and sidearm. His windup and motion seemed to vary on a whim. Roger Angell, writing in The New Yorker, once tried to put a name to each of his motions, including “Call the Osteopath,” “Out of the Woodshed” and “The Runaway Taxi”. It was said that over the course of the game Luis’ deliveries allowed him to look each patron in the eye at least once.”
I mean, just look at this!
That’s probably why his performance varied so much. That delivery combined with multiple arm slots had to have made it incredibly difficult for him to repeat his delivery.
Tiant also appeared to be one of the anomalous pitchers who had some control over his BABIP. He had a .261 BABIP and he would frequently come in below the American League average. A few other pitchers who share this unusual trait are Tom Seaver, Mariano Rivera, and Clayton Kershaw (as well as another pitcher who I’ll write about in my next post). The last two both had high-grade pitches that hitters could not get base hits on when they made contact. For Rivera, it was his cutter. For Kershaw, his curveball. I can only speculate with Tiant, but it’s possible that his wonky delivery played havoc on the hitters’ timing.
As a result of this anomaly, I think it’s more fair to judge him on his RA9-WAR instead of his fWAR, which normalizes BABIP. RA9-WAR uses RA9 to calculate WAR instead of FIP, which fWAR uses and is my usual preference for pitchers4. It helps his case a lot, too, because he goes from 53.9 WAR to 67.4 WAR. That’s impressive, but his 87 ERA- is not for a Hall of Fame pitcher. That, combined with his inconsistencies and lack of a Hall-caliber peak, is why I think he falls short of meriting Hall induction. Since he didn’t even get more than 3 votes from the VC, I doubt it’ll ever happen.
On the bright side, he does have an 80 grade mustache. Oh, and his middle name is Clemente! That’s awesome.
Wills is basically a lesser version of Hall of Famer and Venezuelan legend, Luis Ernesto Aparicio5, who himself was a lesser version of Ozzie Smith. Those three players were all below average offensively, but were outstanding defensive shortstops and baserunners. When you’re this kind of player, you need longevity and a monstrous contribution of defense and baserunning in order to deserve entrance into Cooperstown.
Had Aparicio come at the same time as the Wizard or some time after, I doubt he gets into the Hall of Fame. Smith wasn’t as good a baserunner as Aparicio, but he makes up for it with better offense, more longevity, and the best glove that the position of shortstop has ever seen6. As is, I see Aparicio as a borderline Hall of Famer. I’m not sure I would’ve voted for him. An 83 wRC+ is really hard to overcome, but I don’t have a problem with him being in.
If Aparicio is borderline, you can imagine what I think of Wills. He does have the offensive edge on Aparicio, but Aparicio was far superior defensively. He was also a better baserunner, though how much better is up for debate. Wills stole 583 bases to Aparicio’s 508, but his 74% success rate is worse than Aparicio’s 79%. I believe that the success rate is more important. Where things get fuzzy is when you introduce the advanced baserunning statistics. Fangraphs’ BsR stat has Wills at 41.8 runs above average and Aparicio at 53.1. Baseball Reference’s Rbr has Wills 55 runs above average and Aparicio at a whopping 92. Even if BsR is closer to the “true” value, it’s still not enough for Wills to merit Hall induction.
Like Miñoso, Wills was late arriving to the majors, no thanks to the color barrier. Unlike Miñoso, I don’t believe Wills would’ve been a Hall of Famer had he arrived sooner. He just doesn’t have enough baserunning and defensive value to overcome his below average offense.
I firmly believe that Wills is not a Hall of Famer, but he got pretty close on the last VC ballot. He was just 3 votes shy. At 82 years old, Wills is another candidate that may suffer the Ron Santo treatment.
You may have noticed that I omitted Billy Pierce and Bob Howsman. I wasn’t interested in discussing Howsman because he was an executive. Pierce, on the other hand, I found to be a very interesting case. I decided to give him a separate, short write-up in my next post.
- Kapler was recently hired as the Director of Player Development. Bannister was just hired by the Boston Red Sox to be a scout and analyst. Great hires by both teams! I wish my Mets had snatched them up! ↩
- It can be said that we’re currently in a third dead-ball era. ↩
- I feel so dirty citing that stat. ↩
- What bWAR, also known as rWAR, does is it uses RA9 to calculate WAR and then adjusts for the quality of defense. There’s a perfectly good argument for doing that instead of just using FIP. I may change my mind some day about my WAR preference for pitchers as I learn more, but for now I’m sticking to fWAR. RA9-WAR makes no adjustment for fielding at all. If you want to learn more about the differences between RA9-WAR and bWAR, click here. Just to warn you, it is a math intensive article. ↩
- I first learned about him during my first ever Cooperstown visit, not long after I had turned 18. My dad pointed him out because he happened to have the same first and middle name as me! ↩
- Andrelton Simmons does have the ability to take that crown. ↩