A little less than a month ago, the Hall of Fame announced the first two members of the 2017 Induction Class. These two people were also special as they are the first inductees under the new set of rules for the Veterans Committee, now known as the Era Committees. This year, the panel was to look at a group of players and executives whose main contributions came after 1988 (so called Today’s Game). The ballot consisted of the following people:
- John Schierholtz, GM of the Braves
- Bud Selig, Commissioner of Baseball
- George Steinbrenner, Owner of the Yankees
- Lou Pinella, Manager
- Davey Johnson, Manager
- Harold Baines, DH
- Albert Belle, LF
- Will Clark, 1B
- Orel Hershiser, SP4
- Mark McGwire, 1B
First impressions of the ballot were that the executives and managers are all interesting decisions, but the players are mostly lackluster.
Let’s start with the two guys that got in. John Schierholtz was the architect of the greatest team of the 1990’s, drafting, developing and acquiring several Hall of Fame players and consistantly fielding a team that was in the upper third of the NL every year. Schierholtz gave the Braves players like Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Fred McGriff, David Justice, Gary Sheffield, JD Drew, Tim Hudson, and many others that may not be current or future Hall of Famers, are certainly some of the best of their times. He’s basically the modern day Ed Barrow who founded talents like Fred Clarke and Honus Wagner. In short, Schierholtz absolutely deserved induction.
Bud Selig, on the other hand, was probably not nearly as easy a decision, despite getting all but one vote (Schierholtz got all 16). Selig did a lot to grow the game internationally, made MLB a media mogul both in TV (MLB Network is the best single-sport network out there) and on the Internet. Baseball is an incredibly profitable industry, and a lot of that has to do with what Selig did. He does have enough on his record to deserve induction.
However, many fans were upset with Selig’s induction due to the Steroid Era that occurred under his tenure. While it is true that Selig didn’t really try to stop steroids, it’s also true that none of the owners, players or media did either, so it is impossible to put the blame solely on him. It’s also important to remember that Selig sought some of the toughest penalties on PED’s of any sport, barring the olympics, and did a very good job leading the fight to clean up the game. He certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame more than Bowie Kuhn, whose efforts nearly destroyed the game in the 80’s with labor tensions (which Selig did his best to prevent from happening). So, yes, Selig was a very good pick for induction.
The two managers on the ballot (Pinella and Johnson) were weak picks. Pinella has a decent number of wins, but only 1 World Championship and no other trips to the World Series beyond that. It’s tough to say that Pinella should be inducted when in Seattle he had some of the best assemblies of talent (Ken Griffey, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, heck even guys like Jay Buhner and John Olerud) and only won three division titles and a wild card. There definitely is the case, though, for Sweet Lou as a baseball lifer, being a very good player in his career and a decent enough manager for more than 20 years.
Davey Johnson is in pretty much the same boat, but the advantage he has to Pinella is his winning percentage was much higher. Both he and Pinella have strong cases as lifers, but the Hall of Fame doesn’t recognize that category yet.
The players on the ballot only had two guys that merited much thought. Mark McGwire, despite the PED ties, has the numbers to be a Hall of Famer much in the line of Harmon Killebrew (their careers are nearly identical with the exception of games played). Statistically, if Killebrew is a Hall of Famer, then so is McGwire. The PED’s will probably always keep him out, but if baseball didn’t police it during McGwire’s career it’s hard to use that to justify it as a reason for keeping him from induction.
The other interesting player is Albert Belle. Belle may not have been active enough to get on people’s radar for the Hall of Fame, but in 12 years hit nearly 400 homers, had a .933 OPS and 41 fWAR. A hip injury ended his career early, but there may be enough of a peak in there to be inducted, at least worth a decent look.
Hershiser would have been a Hall of Famer had he not blown his arm out before 1990. He came back in 1991 and was solid, but really wasn’t anything special and by 1994 he was done as a top pitcher. Will Clark was a very underrated player for most of his career, but a first baseman with only 284 homers doesn’t stack up well against guys with twice that total. Harold Baines had a lot of hits, but took an incredibly long time to get them (2800+ hits in over 11000 plate appearances) and did so as a DH, so no bonus points for a position.
Overall this was a fairly soft way of rebooting the Veterans Committee. In future, they need to put better players on the ballot or not even bother.
Starting on Monday, I’ll be looking at each position and going over who, based on the system used here, still deserves induction and who doesn’t.
On deck 12/26/16, first stop is first base.