Ten For The Hall

Image credit: Edgar Martinez recorded a .421 on-base percentage in the 1990s and 2000s that ranks second to Albert Pujols (.427)

The Hall of Fame addressed two lingering oversights when its Modern Era Committee elected Tigers greats Jacks Morris and Alan Trammell with the 2018 induction class.

But there’s more.

That’s the nature of a voting process where enshrinement is tied to support from 75 percent of voters.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The exclusivity of the Hall of Fame focuses fans’ debates on players who have been snubbed by Cooperstown.

For now, push aside Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Both have Hall of Fame résumés but were banned from baseball for life, which makes them ineligible.

»Barry Bonds: He might be tainted by the steroid area, but Major League Baseball ignored the issue during Bonds’ peak years, and he was the best player in the game before his suspected performance-enhancing drug use came to light. The game’s all-time leader in home runs (762) and MVP awards (seven), he even won eight Gold Gloves despite a below-average arm.

»Roger Clemens: He dominated on the mound like no other but is grouped with Bonds because of PED speculation. Clemens is overqualified for the HOF with seven Cy Young Awards and 354 wins, and his most comparable pitchers are all Hall of Famers. Like Bonds, Clemens has four years remaining on the writers’ ballot and has shown a steady increase in support each of the last four years.

»Larry Walker: He will appear on the writers’ ballot for the ninth time (out of 10 chances) this fall, yet he has not received more than 34.1 percent support. That doesn’t bode well for Walker, who has been discounted by voters because his biggest seasons came when he played for the Rockies. However, he accrued just 31 percent of his career plate appearances at Coors Field, and advanced metrics such as wins above replacement (WAR) view the well-rounded Walker as more qualified than contemporary right fielders such as Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield and Vladimir Guerrero. 

»Ted Simmons: While he somehow went one-and-done on the writers’ ballot—he received just 3.7 percent of the votes—Simmons came within one vote of being enshrined by the Modern Era Committee last winter. Simmons brought a cerebral aspect to catching, but he also had the numbers, including eight all-star nods, 248 home runs and nearly 2,472 hits.

»Jim Kaat: Seven of Kaat’s top 10 most comparable statistical matches are Hall of Famers, including Robin Roberts and Fergie Jenkins. Kaat’s case seems to be disparaged because he was resourceful and at the age of 40 extended his career by moving to the bullpen for five years. His 283 wins rank 31st all time, and only Tommy John (288) has more among modern-day pitchers not in the Hall of Fame.

»Edgar Martinez: He stands poised to be enshrined in the class of 2019 after receiving support from 70.4 percent of the writers this year. Martinez heads into his 10th and final year on the ballot with support that virtually assures he will receive that final push. The annual award for the best DH is named for Martinez, who hit .312/.418/.515 in an 18-year career.

»Don Mattingly: He was forced to retire because of back problems at age 34, but Mattingly was a six-time all-star, nine-time Gold Glove winner, an MVP and a batting champion. His short-but-sweet career mirrored that of AL contemporary Kirby Puckett, who had his career cut short because of glaucoma. 

»Mike Mussina: He has time on his side. Mussina has made steady improvement in his first five years on the writers’ ballot, earning 63.5 percent of the votes last year. His 270 wins rank 33rd all time, and during his 10-year peak from 1992-2001, Mussina ranked sixth among pitchers in WAR, trailing only Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Kevin Brown.

»Gene Mauch: The 26-year manager has never been given serious consideration because of his .483 career winning percentage, which along with World Series championships are the yardsticks by which managers are evaluated. Managers, however, are victims of what they are given to work with. Mauch still wears the late-season fade of the 1964 Phillies, with his critics ignoring the fact it was a miracle that team was even in the race. He was an innovator and brilliant strategist whose teams consistently overachieved, which included a pair of California Angels playoff teams in 1982 and ’86.

»Bob Howsam: The architect of the Cardinals of the late 1960s and dynastic Reds of the 1970s, Howsam was a disciple of Branch Rickey and, like Rickey, a devotee of analytics. Like Rickey, Howsam didn’t talk up analytics because he was more interested in winning than converting others. His artful dealing of players approaching their mid-30s wasn’t necessarily well-received by fans, but time proved Howsam’s statistical models correct more often than not.

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