A Few Musings on the Today’s Game Era Ballot

Will Clark
Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

On Monday, the ballot was revealed for the Today’s Game Era, featuring a combination of players, managers and an owner who will receive consideration for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame:

Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, Lee Smith and George Steinbrenner are those receiving consideration for the class of 2019. Baines, Belle, Carter, Clark, Hershiser and Smith are included for their contributions as players, while Johnson, Manuel and Piniella are included for their roles as managers. Steinbrenner, who is the only candidate that is no longer living, is nominated for his role as former Yankees owner.

Voting will be taking place next month, December 9th at the Winter Meetings and it will be interesting to see just how the voting turns out for this.  If anything, there are a few close calls and some absolute no’s littering this list.

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Credit: DUANE BURLESON/AP

Let’s start with the players, as they will be the ones receiving the most scrutiny when the votes are tabulated. The two names that instantly peaked my interest are Will Clark and Orel Hershiser, two stars of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Clark has a pretty good resume: 137 OPS+(97th all-time), slash line of .303/.384/.497 and is 93rd all-time in OPS, 76th in Adjusted Batting Runs and Adjusted Batting Wins.

The biggest argument for Clark is not only the level at which he performed for so long (15 seasons with an OPS+ above 120, including seven consecutive seasons) but how he was able to help his team. Clark ended his career with a WPA of 46 (51st all-time) and a RE24 of 455.42 (59th all-time), numbers that show he consistently helped put his team in a situation to win.

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Credit: Robert Ringer-Getty Images

Hershiser might have an even bigger argument for induction than Clark. While his career ERA+ (112) and ERA (3.48) speak of a ‘good but not great’ pitcher, his place in history tells a different story. Hershiser is 95th all-time in WAR for pitchers and 114th in Win Probability Added while also being one of the top pitchers of his era. If you are someone who believes in a player’s peak being a large part of their place in history, Hershiser was an elite starter for a nice seven year span. In that period, Hershiser finished in the top five in the National League Cy Young voting four times (winning in 1988) and made three All-Star appearances.

From 1985 to 1991, Hershiser posted an ERA+ of 128, an ERA of 2.78, a FIP of 3.03 and a WHIP of 1.163. Throw in that he had a stellar career in the postseason (2.59 ERA, 2.83 WPA over 132 innings) and there is at the least a discussion on whether or not Hershiser is “Hall Worthy”.

Both Clark and Hershiser are members of the Hall of Stats (HallofStats.com), granted just barely. We can’t say the same for the other players on this list: Belle just didn’t play long enough, Baines was regulated to being a DH for most of his career (and wasn’t a dominating hitter like Edgar Martinez or David Ortiz was), and Carter falls well below the standard of a Hall of Famer.

 

It will be interesting to see how Lee Smith manages in this vote, since he was a player who stayed on the Hall of Fame ballot up until 2017, garnering up to 50.6% of the vote back in 2012. Smith had his proponents, those that believed in the longevity and career save total as arguments for his induction.

Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

When it comes to the managers on the list, there doesn’t appear to be a big separation between the three. Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella all have fairly comparable winning percentages and playoff appearances and all three have been at the helm of a world championship team: 

Credit: Fangraphs.com

Jay Jaffe of Fangraphs.com took a look at this list and was curious as to why Jim Leyland was left off:


The inclusion of Piniella, as the top returning vote-getter, I can understand, but retaining Johnson and introducing Manuel, who spent far less time than any of the others in the dugout, while excluding Leyland, who won as many pennants as that pair combined, seems off. And it’s not like Leyland, who last managed in 2013, is a threat to return to a dugout, whereas Baker, who’s just a year removed from his last job, might still answer the phone.

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

This leaves us with George Steinbrenner, the former owner of the New York Yankees. It’s easy to see both sides of the argument for George, and it shouldn’t be surprising that even in death he is a polarizing figure. The argument for is simple: he revitalized a Yankee’s organization that had fallen off in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s and turned them into a juggernaut in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s. During his tenure, the Yankees won seven World Series titles and 11 pennants.

The argument against is simple: his issues with former player Dave Winfield eventually led to Steinbrenner being banned from the game, starting in mid-1990 until 1993. Add in the circus he created in New York (ie. Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Ed Whitson, etc.) and it would appear to be enough to leave George on the outside looking in.   

Credit: Getty Images

If I was to take a guess as to how the voting will go, I would say there is a very good chance that no one will from this group will be making the trek to Cooperstown this upcoming summer, unless they are doing so for a vacation. Personally, it doesn’t feel like there is a candidate worthy or overlooked on this list.

That being said, I also wouldn’t be shocked to see any of the managers get the nod or even Lee Smith. Smith received the most support out of this group during his initial cycle on the BBWAA ballot and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him receive the same support moving forward. As much as I loved Will Clark and Orel Hershiser when I was a kid, they still feel like borderline Hall of Famers in my book and will probably fall short yet again.

The good news is that at the very least ‘the Hall’ is doing the right thing by giving some of these guys a second chance. A number of players fell through the crack here and while I wasn’t shocked to not see a Mark McGwire or David Cone on the list, those players feel like stronger candidates than the ones currently receiving support. We will know the fate of the hopeful soon enough, as the Winter Meetings are just a few weeks away.   

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A Letter to Toronto Blue Jays Fans

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Greetings Blue Jays Fans!

First off, I want to say that I have no ill will toward your team nor you, the fans. I’ve always loved our neighbors to the North and love that baseball has at least survived in Toronto. You’ve also given me a great joy, seeing former Wichita State Shocker Joe Carter hit a walk-off home run to win the World Series back in 1993. So what I am about to tell you is not a threat as much as a warning.

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You see, as a Kansas City Royals fan I feel I need to warn you about what your team has gone and done. I’m sure you think it is no big deal, and maybe you are right. You might not even have to deal with this, as this could be a bigger issue for your AAA team in Buffalo. But I feel you need to be warned. I feel you need to know about the frustration just around the corner. I feel you need to know just what you have now that the Blue Jays have signed Chris Getz.

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You might be chuckling right now, thinking to yourself “oh, this can’t be that bad.” Royals fans thought the same thing when Getz was acquired from the White Sox before the 2010 season. What has happened over the last four years has scared us to the bone. We didn’t realize we got a player who would be overvalued by management. We didn’t realize that they would think he was ‘#mistakefree’ despite us not being blind. We didn’t think there would be so much bunting….oh, good lord, the bunting. Seriously, there was soooo much bunting. You should go ahead now and just make it against the rules to bunt in Canada. I’m telling you, it will save you so many angry moments.

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I know the Rogers Centre is known to be an offensive ballpark and has quite the home run rate. That might be true, but don’t expect any long bombs from Getzie. I’m not even sure we could say he has “Warning Track Power”. It’s more like “Shallow Right Field Power”. Every now and then he might get lucky; he hit a few homers during his time in Chicago and hit one this past year in Atlanta. But by no means should you expect any extra bases from Getz. He singles, he bunts and sometimes has the occasionally liner down the line. Expect a true ‘Punch & Judy’ type hitter from this average second baseman. Yes, he would be like a Muppet(look up Punch & Judy, folks)! I love the Muppets and Chris Getz is no Muppet. Maybe Scooter. No one really likes Scooter. So maybe that Muppet, but that would be it. Statler and Waldorf laugh at you, sir.

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Defensively, you are getting an average second baseman at best. Sure, you might get told he is  above average defensively, but they are lying to you. Getz is serviceable at second, but he is nothing special. He’s a step slower than he should be, and makes the routine play easily enough. But that is it. Once again, we were told over and over what a great defensive player he is. Royals management forgot that a lot of us saw Frank White play. That is a superior defensive player. Getzie is no Frank White.

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At this point you might be thinking “but what are the chances he actually makes the big league club”? Under normal circumstances I would tell you a slim chance, but logically he shouldn’t have been the Royals primary second baseman for almost four years. Logic doesn’t always win out in the end. Add in that Toronto’s manager is John Gibbons(former Royals bench coach) and their new hitting coach is Kevin Seitzer(former Royals hitting coach) and you can see where Getz might have just jumped to the front of the line for the Blue Jays second base job. I mean, it’s not like Ryan Goins tore up the majors last year during his stint with the Jays. I hope for you, the fans, sake that logic wins out.

Chris Getz of the Kansas City Royals turns a double play against Atlanta's Juan Francisco

So Blue Jays fans, I hope I have warned you to what you might have in store this year. Getz will bring back warm feelings about Damaso Garcia or Danny Ainge. Hell, he will make you yearn for the days of Garth Iorg or Homer Bush. If you like an average player who does nothing spectacular but a few things okay, then you’ll be happy. If you prefer your players to use ‘bunting’ as a big part of their offense, you are going to want to make Chris Getz an official Canadian citizen. If not, you are in for a year where you start looking around to see who Toronto could acquire to play second base. You’ll hope and pray that the team wakes up and realizes their mistake. You’ll wish it was all a dream and that you’ll find Patrick Duffy in the shower. I hope you don’t understand this frustration, Blue Jays fans. But if you do, trust me when I say that us Royals fans will feel your pain. He might be your problem now, but we still have the scars from the four years of Getz.

Sincerely,

Sean Thornton

P.S.~Should I warn Cleveland fans about Francoeur? Eh, they’ll figure it out…   

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