Time to Make the Right Hall of Fame Choices

2009 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

A Blog by Andrew Brown

When people ask me what I want for Christmas this year, there is far more than just the latest season of Game of Thrones on the line. In fact, one thing I would really like for Christmas is for the MLB Hall of Fame voters to make the right choices in voting come January. I have a wild guess as to what you may be thinking right now and before giving me a mouthful of your mind let me explain.

When I say better choices in voting I’m not condemning the voter’s decisions entirely. It would be downright asinine to rain hate on the likes of Barry Larkin’s 12-time All-Star, 3 time Gold Glove, and 9 time Silver Slugger career. Just like decisions in everyday life, there are obvious decisions and not so obvious decisions. It’s obvious to slate three time Cy-Young Award winner Greg Maddox into the Hall of Fame, what I’m looking for are the not-so-obvious picks.

I’ll give a round of applause for the Hall finally electing Tim Raines last year along with the additions of Jack Morris and Alan Trammell this year, but that applause comes after quite a lot of mistakes and missed votes. The mistakes have come in various forms but the most similar thread throughout the years stems from simple appearance.

Oddly enough, while I’m ok with Jack Morris getting into the hall of fame, there is one particular individual who in my estimation had similar performances of Morris but without the physic of Morris that the Hall of Fame typically embodies. The guy I’m talking about is Mickey Lolich, a prime example how physical appearance really can impact Hall of Fame voting. They guy had practically the same career as Morris from a numbers standpoint. For crying out loud, with 3,368 innings, Lolich posted an ERA+ of 104. Meanwhile the newly minted Hall of Famer Jack Morris posted a career ERA+ of 105. Even if you take the twelve best years of each Morris and Lolich, it’s hard to wrap the mind around how Micky Lolich didn’t receive near the attention that Morris did. With Morris’s twelve best years he put up an ERA+ of 109 with a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) number of 3.1. On Micky Lolich’s side, his best 12 year ERA+ total was 104 but he proved to be a slightly better overall player with a 3.6 WAR. Despite such similar numbers and performances, and despite a head to head match up in favor of Micky, the likes of a great pitcher was not and somehow is still not recognized in the manner it should be. Micky Lolich should at least be in the running for a Hall of Fame but because of his….much bigger physic, he will not walk the hallowed Cooperstown halls…appearance kills potential again.

While the Modern Era Committee saved the original writers ballot by allowing the best shortstop in Detroit Tigers history (Alan Trammell) to make the Hall of Fame, it still doesn’t take away the sting of so many PROVEN players that didn’t make it. I know that there are so many individuals year in and year out who are on the ballot but that only takes away a sliver of the blame. Again, I know that there will always be the tough decisions but I’d like to present a few more players that I believe should’ve and still should be given the nod to be amongst the game’s best.

A player that I have come to find as the biggest Hall of Fame snub of all time would be former St. Louis, New York, and Cleveland first baseman Keith Hernandez. He too suffered from not looking like a “prototypical” hall of fame player, especially at the first base position. He may not have been a lumbering monster but in my estimation, Hernandez is one of the truest all-around players than most in the hall already. He is perhaps one of the best fielders that the Hall of Fame has witnessed. Hernandez during the 1979 season blew away the MLB defensively leading the league with first base assists not to a pitcher. What really bothers me is that his defensive excellence has been passed over routinely despite the fact that only one individual had more put outs than Hernandez during his career including current Hall of Famers. What hurt Hernandez offensively was being in an era that didn’t appreciate the likes of OBP (On Base Percentage) which is odd considering Hernandez (.384 OBP) was right in line with the likes of Hall of Famers Tony Gwinn (.385 OBP), Tim Raines (.390 OBP), and Joe Morgan (.399 OBP). In my estimation, it really was Keith Hernandez’s lack of blow away power that had voters scrolling over the fact that he entered into the top ten in National League slugging three times and OPS+ top ten six times. If I haven’t convinced you of this major mistake in voting yet, then take a look at how Hernandez stakes up to current hall of famers over a twelve year span in WAR (Wins Above Replacement): (per Fangraphs)

Keith Hernandez: WAR = 4.9

Frank Thomas: WAR = 4.9

Harmon Killebrew: WAR = 4.6

Eddie Murrary: WAR = 4.6

Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that Keith Hernandez is superior to the likes of Thomas, Killebrew, and Murray. What I’m trying to point out here is at the very least Hernandez was right up there if not equal to those greats who are now enshrined in the Hall of Fame. For all the great work he did, Keith Hernandez should be too, but unfortunately he didn’t fit the misguided physical mold that voters in the past (and apparently present)

There are many more examples of head scratching snubs from the hall of fame from Dwight Evans and his league leading mark of 1,073 wRC (weighted Runs Created) from 1980-1989 to yet another snub for the hall in Luis Tiant. As is the case with most of the players I’ve presented, Luis Tiant is quite comparable to a Hall of Famer and in this case a recent inductee in Jack Morris. Tiant just happened to be fighting for status with Denny McLain who won 31 games during Tiants big 1986 season and with just one vote per Cy-Young ballot, Tiant missed out on what I believe would have vaulted him into the hall. For crying out loud Tiant measured up to Jack Morris in WAR (Tiant = 55.2 / Morris = 55.8) while besting the recent Hall of Famer in ERA+ (Tiant = 114 vs. Morris = 105), Field Independent Pitching (Tiant = 3.47 vs Morris = 3.94), career strikeouts per nine innings (Tiant = 6.24 vs Morris = 3.27), and had more 20-pitcher-win seasons (Tiant = 4 vs Morris = 3). One thing that did favor Morris over Tiant was the World Series Hero tag which was well deserved. The closest Tiant came to that was a shutout in game one of the 1975 World Series.

So by now I hope you have been able to see all the miss-voting that I have over the years. Again, I know it’s a gauntlet of tough decisions each time the ballot comes out, but by now we should be able to see the full spectrum of each player’s performance and disregard whether a player “looked the part”. I wish for Christmas that come ballot time for the 2018 class, the voters take a look at the body of work, not the body of the player.

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