Thursday, November 8, 2018

The "Today's Game Era" field

The Hall of Fame chronically tinkers with its selection process, specifically with what is commonly referred to as the Veterans Committee. Whatever its offical name and activity, the purpose is to have a backstop to the BBWAA voters, and a way to induct nonplayers -- executives, managers, umpires -- who don't fall into the BBWAA's bucket.

The current approach is to divide the game's history into "eras" and pick 10 candidates from a given period of time each year for the panel to decide upon. More recent periods are up more often than the older ones, which makes sense; nobody alive ever saw Bill Dahlen play shortstop.

This year's field comes from what the Hall has dubbed the "Today's Game Era," and features six players -- Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser and Lee Smith -- three managers -- Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella -- and one owner -- George Steinbrenner.

I can listen on Johnson, but my instincts say none of this bunch clearly deserves to be in Cooperstown. For those who say Steinbrenner is too important a figure in baseball history to leave out, I say: He's not as important as Marvin Miller. Steinbrenner was the owner of a great team, but the best Yankees teams of his tenure got to be great because he was suspended during their construction.

The thing is, there are more deserving candidates from this time frame than the six players listed. The Hall's fundamental screwup here is that it's using the writers' vote as a guideline for selecting the candidates. Smith once topped 50 percent of the vote, which is pretty darn good -- almost everybody to gets more than 50 percent even once eventually gets in -- but he got 15 chances with the BBWAA and was passed over.

Lou Whitaker, Kenny Lofton, Jim Edmonds -- they were all one-and-done. They deserve a second look more than Lee Smith deserves a 16th.

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