Monday, December 10, 2018

Smith, Baines and the Hall of Fame

The news Sunday night that Lee Smith and Harold Baines had been selected for the Hall of Fame was a puzzler.

Smith is hardly a huge surprise. His candidacy always had some legs with the writers, although not nearly enough to get him over the 75 percent of the vote hump. Smith's qualifications hinge heavily on the save statistic; for a good while he was the career leader in saves, and while the stat savvy among us know the fallacy of the save, the panel that put Smith in includes a number of ... the non stat savvy. (Hello there, Bert Blyleven.) I won't defend Smith's selection, but I understand the case for it.

The shocker was Baines. A long career, to be certain; a great deal of respect around the game, just as certain. Nothing in his statistical resume, distinguished as it is, suggests he should be in Cooperstown. Baines led the league in just one category, one time -- slugging percentage in 1984. He never finished higher than ninth in an MVP vote. And he spent most of his career as a designated hitter, so you know he wasn't helping his team afield.

If Baines is in, why not, say, Vada Pinson? Everything Baines has, Pinson has -- and more, when you figure in the pitching-dominated era of Pinson's career.

The immediate suspicion is that "Today's Game" panel was rigged in Baines' favor, with a former manager (Tony LaRussa), a former GM (Pat Gillick) and a former owner who so loved Baines that he retired Baines' number before his career ended (Jerry Reinsdorf). Of course, the other 13 members didn't have go along with their nonsense.

Ah, well. Baines won't be the worst player with a plaque in that hallowed hall. But he's a good candidate for that status. The last time the "veterans committee" process mucked up a selection this badly -- Bill Mazeroski in 2001 -- it resulted in a good bit disgruntlement among the already-enshrined and led to a heavy revamping of the selection process. Maybe that will happen again.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.