Simply Baseball Notebook: Perspectives

HOF Voting

'PERSPECTIVE': February 2003

Logical? Not HOF Voting

There are two things in baseball that will forever be shrouded in mystery: the strike zone and Hall of Fame criteria. This years' Hall of Fame inductees, Eddie Murray and Gary Carter, are solid selections, but history has shown the voters often contradict themselves or just plain fail to make sense.


Player 1:
Position: SS, 19 seasons, .262 career average, 2,460 hits, 402 2B, 69 3B, 28 HR, 793 RBI, 580 SB, .978 fielding percentage, 15 All Star Games, 13 Gold Gloves, top 10 MVP: once, NLCS MVP

Player 2:
Position: SS, 20 seasons, .285 career average, 2,365 hits, 412 2B, 55 3B, 185 HR, 1003 RBI, 236 SB, .976 fielding percentage, 6 All Star Games, 4 Gold Gloves, top 10 MVP: three times, WS MVP

The above players's credentials are very similar, but not in the eyes of Hall voters. Player 1, Ozzie Smith, was easily elected to the Hall in 2002, his first year of eligibility, while Player 2, Allan Trammell, received just 14.1% of the vote (75% is required for induction) in his second year on the ballot.

Smith was voted into the Hall on the strength of his fielding, 13 Gold Gloves, and 15 All Star appearances. While Trammell's range may not have been equal to Smith's, his fielding percentage was and he did take home four Gold Gloves of his own. The All Star Games are overrated, the popular Smith was annually voted as the NL starter, in part because of his charismatic personality and showmanship. The blue collar Trammell, meanwhile, never learned the back flip and was stuck in the AL where Cal Ripken ruled as fan favorite. Offensively speaking, the numbers show Trammell was clearly Smith's superior.

Whether or not you agree Trammell or even Smith belongs in the Hall of Fame, is moot. The point here is the disparity by the voters. How can Smith be a first ballot Hall of Famer while a player like Trammell barely gets enough votes to stay on the ballot?

One thing is clear however, Hall voters do not like relief pitchers. When Rollie Fingers was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992, his second year of eligibility, many thought it would open the door for fellow closers Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Jeff Reardon, and Lee Smith. But, that hasn't been the case.

Sutter saved 300 games in twelve seasons and is credited with inventing the split-finger fast ball. He received 53.6% of the vote this year, his 10th on the ballot. Smith is the game's all time leader in saves with 478, but earned just 42.3% of the vote in his first year of eligibility. Gossage saved 310 games during his 22 year career and was a 10 time All Star. He received 42.1% of the vote in 2003, his 4th time on the ballot. Reardon, who saved 367 games, became Hall eligible in 2000, but did not receive the 10% of the vote that is required to remain on the ballot. It will be interesting to see how Dennis Eckersley, who many regard as the greatest closer ever, will fare when he becomes eligible next year.

While many players like Dale Murphy, Jim Rice, Bert Blyleven, and Ryne Sandberg deserve more consideration from Hall voters, there are two that have been particularly slighted: Jack Morris and Andre Dawson.

The rap against Morris is his 3.90 career ERA, which would be the highest in the Hall, but ESPN's Jayson Stark points out "Jack Morris wasn't defined by the ERA column, friends. He was defined by the Wins column." Morris won "just" 254 games in his career, but the advent of the five man rotation has made the 300 game winner virtually extinct. 250 wins is becoming the standard.

Morris was the game's best pitcher during the 1980s, leading all pitchers with 164 wins and 133 complete games. He was the ace of three World Series winning teams (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, and 1992 Blue Jays) and his 10 inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 Fall Classic ranks as one of the best pitched games ever. Simply put, there hasn't been a better big game pitcher in the last 20 years. Still, Morris has received just 22.8% of the vote in 2003, his 4th time on the ballot.

Andre Dawson was the NL's best all around player during the 1980s. "The Hawk" compiled 2,774 hits, 438 home runs, 1591 RBI, and 314 stolen bases in his 21 year career. One of only four men to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases (Willie Mays and Barry and Bobby Bonds), Dawson won an MVP in 1987, finished second twice (1981 & '83), captured the Rookie of the Year award in 1977, and won eight Gold Gloves.

Had his knees not given out on him, Dawson would have easily reached the 500 home run and 3,000 hit plateaus and been a Hall cinch. Jayson Stark put it best "It's a lot harder to figure out why Andre Dawson shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame than why he should." Dawson received only 50% of the vote this year, his second on the ballot.

Someday we may put a man on Mars, solve world hunger, and end the fighting in the Middle East. Odds are, however, we still won't know what it exactly it takes to be a baseball Hall of Famer.

-David Zingler

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