Thirty-seven years ago today, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Aaron, of course, was the man who broke Babe Ruth’s career record for home runs, breaking the record with his 715th on April 8, 1974 off Al Downing. In a career that spanned 23 years, from 1954 to 1976, he hit a total of 755 homers, second only in baseball history, to Barry Bonds, who had 755. He drove in the most runs 2,297, topping second place Babe Ruth by 83, and had the most total bases, 6,856, a remarkable 722 more than Stan Musial, who had the second highest total.
Robinson, played 21 years, from 1956 to 1976. Hit 586 home runs, drove in 1,812 runs and had a career .294 batting average. He also managed four different teams, the Indians, Giants, Orioles and Nationals, for a total of 16 years, between 1975 and 2006. He was one of the last people to serve as a Player/Manager, holding that post with the Indians in 1975 and 1976.
That year, the Veteran’s Committee also elected Travis Jackson. A short stop and third baseman, who played from 1922 to 1936 for the New York Giants and batted just .291, hit 135 home runs and drove in just 929 runs in his 15 year career. They also elected Happy Chandler, the second Commissioner of Baseball, who never played the game. But was Commissioner from 1945 to 1951, during the crisis with the Mexican League over signing players and who supported and oversaw the Dodgers’ efforts to break the color line with Jackie Robinson.
This year’s Hall of Fame ballots, cast by members of the Baseball Writers of America, were due on December 31, 2018. Those selected will be announced on the MLB Network on January 22nd.
This year’s ballot has 35 eligible candidates including many who are not considered serious candidates for selection but are on the ballot because they left the game five years ago and thus earned a spot on the ballot. A candidate needs to be named on 75 percent of the roughly 400 votes that are cast each year to be elected.
The biggest name on the ballot this year is that of Mariano Rivera. The great Yankee Closer, who saved an all time record 652 games and finished another all time record 952 games in a 19 year career with a 2.21 earned run average. He pitched in 96 post season games, including seven World Series, and compiled a 0.70 ERA, 42 saves and an 8-1 win loss record as a reliever. There are those who feel that Rivera may be a unanimous selection, the first player ever to be named on every one of the ballots cast in his first year on the ballot.
Ken Griffey, Jr., was the player who came closest to a unanimous selection to the Hall, garnering 99.37% of the votes cast in 2016. Unfortunately, there are members of the BBWAA who would probably not vote for Mariano, just to keep his election from being unanimous.
Those are the same people who continue to deny Roger Clemens admission because, even though he was never proven to use any type of performance enhancing substance. They are sure, in their minds, that he did and therefore, arbitrarily withhold their votes despite his record.
The only other player on the ballot who is considered by many as a possible first year winner is Roy Halladay. In his 16-year career with the Blue Jays and Phillies, won 203 and lost 105 and won the Cy Young in 2003 with a 22-7 record and in 2010 with a 21-10 record. While 300 wins used to be the standard for section, the changes in the way in which pitchers are used today has changed that benchmark and Halladay may very well make it on the first ballot.
Oh, by the way, in case you didn’t notice, the Today’s Game Era Committee of the Hall of Fame, the latest version of the Veteran’s Committee that voted in Travis Jackson in 1982, has named Lee Smith and Harold Baines to the Hall. It seems that the Hall of Fame is always coming up with a new committee to elect people who couldn’t make it the traditional way.
Smith had 478 saves in a 16 year career, with 8 teams, but received a high of 50.6% of the vote in 15 years on the ballot and only 34.2% his last year, 2017. Baines one of the really nice, well liked players ever, had a .289 average with 384 homers in 22 years with 5 teams and received a high of 6.1% in his six years on the ballot.
The different versions of the Veterans Committee have elected 165 of the 325 members, over half, of the total Hall of Fame membership. It’s time the Hall of Fame changed this process. Selecting players who don’t come up to Hall of Fame standards is unfair to those with much better credentials and detracts from the members who have earned their way into the Hall by the traditional method.