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Committee's failure: The case against Harold Baines, Hall of Famer



At least one person predicted that Harold Baines would someday be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Following the selection of Baines's first overall result in the 1977 draft, White Sox told GM's Paul Richards, who was then 18-year-old left-hander, "Heading for the Hall of Fame. He passed the Comiskey Park for only 20 years. "Baines only played for the White Sox for 14 years, but otherwise Richards was right. On Sunday, Baines and Lee Smith were elected to the Hall of Fame by the 16-member Today's Game Era Committee, a successor to the former Veterans Committee.

In particular, Richards envisioned his forecast ] Baines made the majors when it was theoretically possible for Baines to be anything; Apart from budget constraints, no team would put a player first, unless he has Hall of Fame potential. Unlike Paul Konerko could claim that although Baines retired, he did not look at all like a player Cooperstown would call.

For more than a decade, this has not been the case. Baines was admitted to the hall in 2007, and he performed at 5.3 percent of baseball writers' votes, barely achieving the 5 percent minimum required to remain eligible. He held for four more years and never exceeded 6.1 percent of the votes until 2011, he had finally fallen below the threshold. Baines was not material for the authors of the Hall of Fame. (Smith was also not a marginally qualified player who retired as an all-time save leader from the sport, although he came much closer and received 50.6 percent of the BBWAA votes at a time.)

There is none New Drooling Status That Says It The authors erred in referring to Baines, who was a pretty good hitter for a long time, and picked up a career hurdle – .289 / .356 / .465 with 384 homers – about 20 percent better than the league average over 22 years career. He was a slightly underperforming base runner, a little below average right-hander in the first half of his career and a DH the rest (nearly 60 percent of his career). During his career he was never considered one of the best players of baseball. He was only twice (1983 and 1985) in the top 10 of the MVP polls and never higher than ninth.

What he had was longevity: Baines, who made his debut in 1980 and retired in 2001, received an MVP vote for the first time at the age of 23 and most recently became an All-Star at the age of 40. Baines had a Cooperstown caliber: He is one of 38 players in MLB history who make more than 11,000 record appearances. All but the other 37 are Hall of Famers. Of these ten, five were not yet suitable for induction, two were excluded for steroid-related reasons, and one is banned from baseball. There are only two left: Rusty Staub and Omar Vizquel. Baines is this type of player, except for something worse.

JAWS – a system developed by the writer Jay Jaffe that represents the player's career value as an average of his career war and his "peak" war (defined as the sum of his best) seven seasons) – Baines takes its place 74 among the players whose main position was the right field. To convey a feel for the company, Baines remains on the righteous JAWS list, three places ahead of Nick Markakis and two and three, behind Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. Baines' JAWS score is 30.1, compared to an average of 57.8 for all other fielders of the Hall of Famer. In essence, Baines is statistically 52.1 percent as impressive as an average Hall of Famer player in his position.

To get a sense of how far Baines falls under Cooperstown's existing statistical standards, we're creating a hypothetical Hall of Baines, consisting of All players rated at least as good as the Hall of Fame their respective positions on average like Baines. Congratulations: If you reach at least 52.1 percent of the average Hall of Fame score on the Primary position you play, you will be in the Hall of Baines. Ray Durham? Introduced. Chris Hoiles? Come down. Mickey Rivers? Now the second Yankees midfielder named Mickey in Cooperstown.

Total inductances by position, Current Hall of Fame vs. Hall of Baines

Position Current JAWS Avg. Hall of Bains JAWS Avg. Current Count Hall of Baines Count New Bottom Qualification
Position Current JAWS Review Hall of Baines JAWS-Avg. Hall of Baines Count New Lowest Qualifier
C 44 22.9 15 56 Chris Hoiles
2B 57 57 29.7 20 56 Ray Durham
3B 55.7 29 14 64 Billy Nash
LF 53.9 Riggs Stephenson
SS 55 28.6 22 65 Marty Marion
CF 57.9 Mickey Rivers [19659027] RF 57.8 30.1 25 74 Harold Baines
1B 54.7 28.5 76 Joe Adcock 19659027] RP 32.3 16.8 6 78 Joakim Soria
SP 61.8 [19659021] 32.2 63 232 232 19659027] All 56 28.4 226 837

Here's how it looks in graphic form. The blue bars indicate the number of players at each position that are currently anchored. The red bars show how many would be in the hall of Baines.


The current hall (excluding Smith and Baines) comprises 226 players, about 1.2 percent of the 19,103 players who have played in a major league game since 1876. In Hall of Baines, 837 players would play, about 4.4 percent from these 19.103. Still exclusive company! Just not nearly as exclusive as the hall has been historically. In order to include all players with such strong statistical cases as Baines, the hall would have to be almost four times less critical than before. (You can click here to view the entire hall of Baines.)

Baines is now the most unwanted hall of the Famer in terms of historical statistical standards of his position, after his colleague Tommy McCarthy, Lloyd Waner, and Jesse Haines, High Pockets Kelly, Freddie Lindstrom and Rube Marquard. Lindstrom, the last of these players to be recorded, received his badge in 1976 (or more precisely) before Baines was drafted. Statistically, Baines is probably the worst player to qualify for the hall for 42 years, and his election is shocking in a time of relatively enlightened ratings.

Granted, statistics are not the entirety of a player's Cooperstown candidacy. But the aid, which sometimes supports borderline cases, does not benefit Baines either. He is not even good under the heading "It is the hall of fame not the hall of statistics". He had no dominant season, no signature season. He hit well in the playoffs, but none of his teams ever won a World Series. He holds no notable records, and the only black ink on his crowded baseball reference page in 1984 is a league-leading percentage.

The obvious question, then, is how the damned Baines came in despite the writers, flatly dismissing his case when he initially came into question. The Answer: Baines is the youngest and under-sized player in a long line of below-average players selected by the unit previously known as the Veterans Committee, currently known as the Eras Committee. The various incarnations of these bodies, consisting largely of members of the Hall of Fame, insist on taking into account the cases of players who are no longer allowed on the author network. The Eras committees, in their current composition, consist of four subcommittees (including the Today's Game Committee, which elected Smith and Baines), each of which focuses on candidates from particular eras and votes a small selection of these candidates at designated times ,

Baines and Smith were two of ten former players, managers and executives at this year's Today's Game Election. An eleven-member group of BBWAA veterans nominated these 10 and another 16-member panel – including nine Hall of Famers, four leaders and three media members -. Just last month, public consensus on Baines was reduced to "Good guy, good player, no chance". His name was never inhaled into discussions of Cooperstown snubs, and his JAWS score followed those of three other players who participated in the vote. Will Clark, Orel Hershiser and Albert Belle (not to mention other superior players who could not crack the ballot). Nevertheless, Baines appeared on 12 of the 16 current game committees and achieved the required support of at least 75 percent for the launch. (Smith's selection was unanimous.)

Baines bridged the BBWAA's approval and slipped into the side door, as it was the same combination of cronyism and sentimentality that shaped many of the least-deserved Hall of Famers. Take a look at a list of the 25 "worst" Hall of Fame players compared to the JAWS standard at their positions. Pay special attention to the "Chosen By" column, which indicates which electoral authority each player has been allowed to vote. ("Old Timers" refers to the Old Timers Committee, a precursor to the Veterans Committee.)

The 25 worst hall of the families, relative to JAWS positional standard

Name Position Year elected [ voted by JAWS JAWS Avg. % of
Name Position Year of election JAWS 19659010]% of Avg.
Tommy McCarthy RF 1946 Old Timers 17.56 57.8 30.4 CF CF 19659022] Veterans 22.22 [19659021] 38.4
Jesse Haines SP 1970 Veterans 27.21 44.8 44.0 44.0 1B 1973 Veterans 24.63 54.7 45.0
Freddie Lindstrom 3B 1976 19659022] 49.0
Rube Marq Uard SP 1971 Veterans 30.85 61.8 49.9
Harold Bain RF 2018 30.08909090 52.0 [19659026] Chick Hafey LF 1971 Veterans 28.62 53.5 53.5
John Ward 19649090] 29.52 55 53.7 [19659026] Ross You ngs RF 1972 Veterans 31.25 57.8 54.1 2001 Veterans 31.21 57 54.8 [19659026PieTraynor 3B 1948 BBWAA 30.97 30.97 19659027] Rick Ferrell C 1984 Veterans 24.84 44 56.5
Ray Schalk 1955 25.34 19659022] 44 57.6
George Kell 3B 1983 [1965902] 2] Veterans 32.58 55.7 58.5
Jim Bottomley 1B 1974 Veterans 32.06 54.7 54.7 58.7
19659022] SP 1972 [19659021] Veterans 37.14 61.8 60.1
Catfish Hunter SP 1987 38.11 38.11 ] 61.7
Jack Morris SP [19659021] 2018 [19659021] Veterans 38.3 61.8 62.0
Hugh Duffy [1945 Old Timers 36.97 57.9 63.9
Hack Wilson CF 1979 Veterans 37.33 57.9 64.5 19659022] 2013 Veterans 35.92 55.7 64.5
Red Schoendienst 2B 1989 Veterans 36.99 King Kelly RF [1945 Old Timers 3 7.68 57.8 65.2 [19659026] Herb Pennock SP 1948 BBWAA 40.47 61.8 65.5

Not until the 12th player on the list. Third Baseman and 1948 as First Traynor, one meets the first player chosen by the writer. In fact, only three of the 25 least statistically-deserved Hall of Famers are the authors' responsibility. Overall, the most confusing members of the hall are disproportionate committee products: the Hall of Famer voted by the Oldtimers / Veterans / Eras Commission has a JAWS score of 46.1 versus 63.3 for the BBWAA's average Hall of Famer. In other words, the 100 Hall of Famers chosen by non-writers are on average statistically about 73 percent as high as the Hall of Famers chosen by 128 writers.

It's no mystery how this happened. As the committees are mainly made up of players and leaders, many of their members are professionally and personally involved with the players they are candidates for. In some cases, the committee's members have actively campaigned for former teammates who do not meet the established standards of Cooperstown Bill James has written a book about it. Frankie Frisch, a veterans committee member from 1967 to 1973, was the most notorious perpetrator who secured the introduction of some of the above players. Frisch performed a museum for his friends.

Today's game committee, which elected Baines, included Tony La Russa, who directed Baines; Jerry Reinsdorf, who signed most of his paychecks; and Pat Gillick, who served as GM's Orioles when Baines was in Baltimore. These three were not obliged to recycle because of their connections. In 2008, Reinsdorf (and his team's professions) blamed Baines, who scored 134 goals under 3,000, adding, "If he does not come in, that would really annoy me." but at least Reinsdorf's conscience is pure.

Granted, the committees were not exclusively a problem of the electoral process of the hall. Occasionally (and even lately) they have fulfilled their stated purpose and corrected it wrongly by choosing forgotten players from the early decades of baseball or more modern players who overtook the writers despite well-earned statistics. Members of the committees include 12 players who fulfill the JAWS standards in their positions: Bobby Wallace (elected in 1953), John Clarkson (1963), Tim Keefe (1964), Pud Galvin (1965), Goose Goslin (1968), Roger Connor (1976), Amos Rusie (1977), Johnny Mize (1981), Arky Vaughan (1985), George Davis (1998), Ron Santo (2012) and Alan Trammell (2018).

The hall is richer and more representatives of the best baseball players in this class with these players than without them, but on balance, the committees have lowered the standards of the hall significantly. Although there are no definitive hall of fame criteria, the museum delegitimizes it when its honors are awarded by voters who favors friends, show prejudice (even if they are unconscious), or suffer from statistical illiteracy.

The former members of the Eras committee format – Bud Selig, John Schuerholz, Trammell and Jack Morris – were not as severely selected as Baines, so it is likely that Baines' choice is a coincidence caused by the composition of a small sample selection of voters. Nevertheless, it is time to withdraw the committees. The early era of baseball was chosen by Cooperstown calibers, and younger players would be better served by a panel of analysts and historians less concerned with their past than people who hired or played with the candidates. You do not have to be baseball to judge the size of the baseball.

Fortunately, voters do not behave as if they had to realize the Hall of Baines. After all, there are several anchored players who are less deserving than Baines, and their presence has not opened the Hall of Fame locks. In all likelihood, future voters will treat Baines' induction as an outlier instead of using his Hall of Fame status as a springboard for other iffy players. If the news about Baines has an impact on other candidates, Edgar Martínez could give one last offense, a much more deserving DH in his final year of qualifying. There is no reason to exclude Martínez from a club that Baines owns, although some voters were asked in their ballots before finding Baines.

It is far more rewarding to make the case for a Cooperstown candidate than the case against. The repercussions of Baines' induction are not due to Baines himself, and it is unfortunate that the fans could not celebrate his happy news without restrictions. Baines is laying the groundwork for a Hall of Fame career, but his introduction does not make the world any worse. The composition of Cooperstown is important only insofar as we are interested in it together. Baines does not fit in the average. But perhaps he is a fitting Hall of Famer for an era in which the referendum often does not decide who wins.

Thanks to Dan Hirsch of baseball reference for research support.

An earlier version of this piece incorrectly wrote the name of former White Sox GM Paul Richards.


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