Reaching the BBWAA Standard, not just the Hall of Fame Standard

Jan 10, 2014 by Adam Darowski

I’ve been thinking about something a lot lately. If you go back and look at old Hall of Fame voting results on Baseball-Reference, you’ll see that while many players missed induction via the BBWAA, they still managed to get in via the Veterans Committee. So, should we really be saying so many players should get in via the BBWAA?

There were 15 to 20 players on the 2014 ballot that exceed the Hall of Fame standards. But do they exceed the BBWAA’s established standards?

Yes—many of them do.

There are now 211 players in the Hall of Fame because of their playing careers. Of those 211, 115 were elected by the BBWAA, a special election (Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente), or via a BBWAA runoff election (Luke Appling, Charlie Gehringer, Red Ruffing).

Which player happens to rank 115th among players eligible for the Hall of Fame? Of course it’s Craig Biggio. That means Biggio and every eligible player above him by Hall Rating exceeds the established standard for induction by the BBWAA. That includes (among candidates returning in 2015):

  1. Barry Bonds
  2. Roger Clemens
  3. Curt Schilling
  4. Jeff Bagwell
  5. Mike Mussina
  6. Larry Walker
  7. Mike Piazza
  8. Alan Trammell
  9. Edgar Martinez
  10. Tim Raines
  11. Craig Biggio

That’s eleven returning candidates. This is why the ten-vote limit is a real problem now.

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (and also Rafael Palmeiro) are below the BBWAA standard. So is Jeff Kent. These guys are certainly above the Veterans Committee standard, but maybe we shouldn’t fight as hard for them now. It’s the group above that really matters.

So why does Alan Trammell’s continued lack of BBWAA support hurt me so much? Can’t he just get in via the Veterans Committee? Well, yes. And I’m guessing he probably will. But that should not be the route he is forced to take for two key reasons:

  1. He was good enough for BBWAA election. Pure and simple, he exceeds the standards. He shouldn’t have to wait.
  2. People are dying before they get elected by the Veterans Committee. Do you know the last time the Veterans Committee elected someone who was still alive? It was Bill Mazeroski. They waited too long for Ron Santo. They waited a billion years too long for Deacon White. They missed on Marvin Miller (before screwing it up even further by failing to elect him posthumously). The Negro League Committee did the same to Buck O’Neil. I’m afraid they Golden Era Committee is going to do it to Minnie Miñoso. If players are deserving—and so many of these guys are—put them in while they’re alive (and gosh, how about maybe their parents too?) so they can actually enjoy it.

Next year, we have three new players on the ballot who exceed the BBWAA standard—Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. Gary Sheffield exceeds the Hall of Fame standard, but not the BBWAA standard. So I’m willing to postpone any campaigning for him in favor of the other players.

It’s not just players on the current ballot who exceed this standard, too. Here are a few more who have been continually passed over that exceed the BBWAA standard:

Others like Graig Nettles and Reggie Smith are essentially tied with Biggio. But others I’ve campaigned hard for (like Dwight Evans, Keith Hernandez, and Ted Simmons) all actually come in under the BBWAA standard. So perhaps they’re right where they should be (assuming they actually get inducted now).

So, if you (like me) were starting to think “maybe it’s okay that these guys slide to the Veterans Committee—that’s how many players have gotten in”… don’t. This ballot is stuffed with players not only worthy of the Hall of Fame, but deserving of BBWAA election.

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