Out of the Frying Pan
by Jessica Polko
In addition to the standard voting carried out yearly by the Baseball Writers Association of America, this year the Veterans Committee can elect players from a 26- man ballot. That ballot was compiled in several steps, which are explained at the Hall of Fame website.
Before I begin, I want to mention that after finalizing our mock ballot yesterday, I went to log our vote in the MLB.com internet fan vote. Imagine my surprise when I attempted to enter the full 10 candidates we found worthy of induction and was told that I was only allowed to vote for 5 players. I realize that many BBWAA voters never fill their entire ballots, and though I recognize that they have that right, I feel this generally denotes a snobbish narrow-mindedness. However a fan poll not giving its voters the option of filling out their ballots inside the same parameters as the real voters completely negates the supposed goal of discovering the outcome of the vote if fans, rather than select members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, cast ballots.
Whoever is responsible for the MLB.com poll should be castigated for imposing their own limited views onto the site's patrons. The MLB network of websites has some useful features and occasional produces a nugget of information not available elsewhere, but in general I find they publish a great deal of fluff and rubbish, many times not bothering to get their facts right.
You once again can access an overview of our voting standards in our 2002 HOF article. Below, in alphabetical order, is commentary on the 26 players on the Veterans Committee ballot, followed by a list of the players for whom we would vote if eligible.
Dick Allen may have many character flaws, but his offensive production is difficult to ignore. The NL Rookie of the Year in 1964, he was a dominant force in his decade while appearing on 7 All-Star teams, winning the MVP in 1972, and finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting in two other years. We believe the Veterans Committee should place him in the Hall of Fame.
Bobby Bonds' fame has grown with that of his son. He still holds the single-season strikeout record because players like Jose Hernandez curtail their playing time rather than surpass the mark. However he's most known for combining power and speed, as few players before him both stole bases and hit home runs. I see a lot to like here, but Bobby Bonds seems a truly borderline Hall of Famer. We'd need to see a new statistical angle that portrays him in a very flattering light to put him in the Hall.
Ken Boyer is a strong candidate with seven All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves, and four top 10 finishes in MVP voting, including an MVP win in 1964. Unfortunately he wasn't quite able to maintain his prime long enough to accumulate full Hall of Fame credentials, so I'm afraid the Boyer family should remain without a representative in Cooperstown.
Rocky Colavito's good looks supposedly helped him win the hearts of Cleveland fans, though he backed up his appearance with a few solid seasons and their outrage was justified when he was traded to Detroit for batting champ Harvey Kuenn. However his production dropped off fairly quickly, and since his handsome face doesn't hold much weight when evaluating his career for the Hall of Fame, we don't believe the Veterans Committee should induct him.
Wes Ferrell shouldn't join his brother in Cooperstown, though I can't say I believe the Veterans Committee made the right call in putting Rick Ferrell in the Hall of Fame in 1984. The two made an interesting story pitching and catching for Boston, but Wes's high winning percentage was more a result of his teammates than of any particular skill displayed in his pitching performance.
Curt Flood's career was cut short by his challenge to the reserve clause. When St. Louis traded him to Philadelphia, precipitating his fight, Flood had compiled a solid career, including a fourth place finish in the 1968 MVP voting and three All-Star appearances. Flood's seven Gold Gloves acknowledge his exceptional fielding skill in the outfield, and his defense is generally considered among the very best in history. He wasn't a power hitter or a speedster, but he consistently hit for average, finishing in the top 10 in BA in five seasons. Ordinarily, I wouldn't consider a player with his numbers a serious Cooperstown candidate. However, the lawsuit he brought triggered massive changes in baseball, as though he didn't win the suit, the reserve clause eventually fell, making way for free agency. In that way, Flood made an immense contribution to the game of baseball that easily deserves to be recognized in the Hall of Fame.
Joe Gordon had a solid career for which he received wide recognition during his playing days, appearing on 9 All-Star teams and finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting five times, while winning the MVP in 1942. However using current means of statistical analysis, his career contribution does not appear to merit Hall of Fame membership.
Gil Hodges is one of the reasons that we believe that the Hall of Fame errs in forcing candidates to enter either as players or as managers, umpires, or executives on the composite ballot. Several people don't merit recognition based on their performance in one category alone, but they deserve acknowledgement when their contributions are lumped together. Hodges had a solid if unspectacular career, but he led the 1969 Mets to their World Series victory as a manager. Even though his managerial record wouldn't earn him induction by itself, we believe he deserves a place in the Hall of Fame but don't expect him to receive it under the current guidelines.
Elston Howard, like most of the players here, had a strong career but fell just short of a Hall of Fame production. Howard broke the color barrier for the Yankees, although he didn't start for the first few years of his career as Yogi Berra filled his primary position of catcher. However his bat was good enough that the Yankees fit it in the lineup around the outfield and at first base to increase his playing time. He appeared on nine All-Star teams and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times, including an MVP win in 1963. Unfortunately, he faded significantly from his peak before retiring after only 14 seasons.
Ted Kluszewski had three strong seasons in the middle of his career (1953-55). He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in those three seasons, and he made the All-Star team in those three years in addition to the following season thanks to the momentum from his recent performance. However, the remainder of his career does not measure up to Hall of Fame standards.
Mickey Lolich supplemented a very solid career with some excellent pitching in the 1968 World Series, making him a somewhat tempting candidate. However, his accomplishments don't add up to Hall of Fame credentials.
Marty Marion played a part in starting the player's pension plan, which was a significant prelude to unionization. He also had an excellent defensive reputation. Nevertheless, while that might have been sufficient to earn him eight consecutive All-Star appearances and three top 10 finishes in MVP voting, including winning the 1944 MVP, he didn't earn a place in the Hall of Fame.
Roger Maris's absence from the Hall of Fame has been widely noted since the single-season home run record took the spotlight again a few years ago. However, the Hall of Fame does not encourage election of players for a single accomplishment and the remainder of Maris' career was thoroughly unremarkable, so we don't believe the Veterans Committee should vote him into the Hall.
Mike G. Marshall endured extreme workloads during his career, paying for them later when injuries took him away from the game. You would think that someone as interested in sports medicine as Marshall would have known what he was doing to his arm. He was a decent closer, but I don't believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Carl Mays is best known as the pitcher who threw the pitch that hit and fatally wounded Ray Chapman. He retired with a .622 winning percentage after finishing in the Top 10 in Wins seven times in his career and in the Top 10 in ERA six times. However, I don't see a pitcher here who we want in the Hall of Fame, and I certainly think his character in relation to the Chapman accident will detract from his chances of being voted in by the Veterans Committee.
Bob Meusel is an interesting case as he failed to compile huge career numbers due to early retirement. However he was a dominant force in the league during 10 of the 11 seasons he played. Although he was an important member of "Murderers Row", I can't escape the abbreviated nature of his career and endorse his induction into the Hall of Fame, though I'd much rather he belong than Rick Ferrell.
Minnie Minoso holds the distinction of playing Major League Baseball in five decades, and had Commissioner Selig not been unnecessarily obtuse, he would have played in a sixth. However, aside from that stunt orchestrated by Bill Veeck, Minoso also compiled a strong career. His power and speed skills were only moderate, but he consistently hit for average and posted a strong on-base percentage. Minoso should be remembered, but not as a Hall of Famer.
Thurman Munson is first and foremost a warning against flying your own small plane. The tragedy of his death was intensified for the nation by the fact that Munson was a well-known national figure due to his success both when batting and behind the plate. He appeared on seven All-Star teams, won the 1970 AL Rookie of the Year and three Gold Gloves, and finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting three times, including a win in 1976. Unfortunately, his death prevented him from triumphing over advancing age to pull out a Hall of Fame career.
Don Newcombe won the Rookie of the Year in 1949 and afterwards had several strong seasons, including 1956 when he won both the Cy Young and the MVP thanks to winning 27 games. Along with Wes Ferrell, Newcombe is also considered to be one of the better hitting pitchers of all time, though no one's going to touch Babe Ruth on that score. However, Newcombe's career was far too short to warrant real consideration for the Hall of Fame, particularly when it ended early in large part due to his drinking.
Tony Oliva might have had a Hall of Fame career if he hadn't suffered from horrible knee problems. While he reportedly endured extreme pain over his final few seasons, Oliva simply didn't perform at Hall of Fame levels.
Allie Reynolds posted a high winning percentage that was aided by playing for the New York Yankees for the majority of his career. He really was neither a particularly dominant pitcher nor highly adept at controlling the ball. His major distinction lies in his World Series' performance and frequent relief duty sprinkled between starts. While a solid player, he was not a Hall of Famer.
Ron Santo doesn't even need the extra credit of having performed his accomplishments while diabetic to deserve Hall of Fame induction. His stats stand up to those of the other third basemen in the Hall of Fame. He certainly dominated during his era as a member of nine All-Star teams, a five-time Gold Glove winner, and a four-time finisher in the top 10 in MVP voting. I'll dispute anyone who points to a lack of a World Series ring as a reason he's unworthy as that reflects on his surroundings many times more than on his performance. One player can complete a championship club, but they cannot be that club by themselves. If you stubbornly have any doubts after looking at his playing career, I again argue you should also be able to look at his accomplishments in the game since he retired. He's continued to contribute to baseball throughout his career as a broadcaster. Players like Santo are reason for a Veterans Committee to exist.
Joe Torre is an even better example than Gil Hodges for why a person's entire life should be considered when determining whether they are worthy of Cooperstown. While he's secured a place in the Hall as a manager, his playing career gives one serious pause before deciding that it doesn't quite measure up to Hall of Fame standards. Torre belongs in the Hall of Fame for his overall contribution to baseball, and any system that excludes him is seriously flawed.
Ken R. Williams was a real slugger, but he was also no slouch about getting on base and consistently hit for average. Additionally, he offered his team speed on the basepaths, becoming the first player to hit better than .300 with both more than 30 HR and 30 SB. Nevertheless, his career started slow and he failed to accumulate full Hall of Fame credentials.
Maury Wills is remembered as the player who revived the stolen base with his 50 and 100+ stolen base seasons. However, he was a fairly one-dimensional player, usually not hitting for a bad average but also not posting a high OBP. He certainly wasn't concerned with hitting for power. Even if the stolen base is one day revealed to truly be an invaluable tool, Wills won't deserve a place in the Hall of Fame.
While the regular balloting will be announced tomorrow, the results of the Veterans Committee vote, which will take place in January, will not be released until February 26th. However, we will conclude this line of articles tomorrow with a look at the composite ballot of managers, umpires, and executives.
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