Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Four for the Hall

The Base Ball Writers Association of America -- the BBWAA, whose name is probably the final vestige of the obsolete style of splitting baseball into two words -- elected four stars of the 1990s and 2000s to the Hall of Fame. Four thoughts for four inductees:

* Much is being made of Mariano Rivera's unanimous election, the first in Hall history. The unaminity is unimportant, but I'm glad it finally happened because the BBWAA electorate, or at least part of it, couldn't seem to shut up about how it had never happened.

* The purging of the voting roster a few years back clearly got the desired result. This year's election continues the recent trend of multiple inductees -- and unlike most, it actually cleared out some of the backlog of deserving candidates. Rivera and Roy Halladay were first-time candidates, but Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez have been on the ballot for a few years.

* Halladay's first-ballot election is intriguing because his career was relatively brief -- "only" 16 years and 203 career wins, which are pretty low for Cooperstown. I don't think he was even close to being the best pitcher, or even the best starting pitcher, on the ballot -- I'd take Mussina over Doc, and probably Curt Schilling as well -- but he had a good run in which the consensus had him as one of the best starters in baseball. High quality and enough duration to get in. Johan Santana -- off the ballot -- had the former but not the latter.

* The selection last month by the "Today's Game" committee of two lesser specialists in Lee Smith and Harold Baines probably cleared the way for Martinez's election and Rivera's unaminity. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, a beat writer I follow, had resisted voting for Martinez for years because he was limited to DH; he switched this year in part because of Baines and in part because he recognized that he was very likely to vote for David Ortiz in a few years. Here again, the purging of the "inactive" voters -- member of the BBWAA no longer involved in covering the game -- resulted in a younger electorate more accepting of specialists.

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