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Evans, Whitaker among 10 on HoF veterans ballot

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While the official BBWAA Hall of Fame ballots won’t be officially released until next week, there is some Cooperstown news to discuss.

The Veterans Committee process has been overhauled a number of times in recent years, landing on a current format that includes dividing the history of the game into distinct eras and having committees devoted to delving into various candidacies of players who, for whatever reason, missed out during the writers’ balloting process and warrant further attention.

This year is the purview of the Modern Baseball Era Committee, which looks at players and other figures whose greatest contributions to the game occurred during the 1970-1987 timeframe. We’ve got 10 nominees – nine players and one contributor – who are going to get another look at potentially making their way into Cooperstown.

The list consists of: Dwight Evans; Steve Garvey; Tommy John; Don Mattingly; Marvin Miller; Thurman Munson; Dale Murphy; Dave Parker; Ted Simmons; and Lou Whitaker.

The voting for this honor will take place in December during MLB’s annual winter meetings. A 16-person panel, made up of Hall of Famers, executives and media members, will decide; a candidate needs 75% - 12 votes – to be elected.

Let’s have a closer look at a few of the names on this list, men whose Hall of Fame cases never really received the attention that they deserved.

Dwight Evans

As a longtime Red Sox fan, this one is near and dear to my heart. While his traditional numbers might not look quite impressive enough for Cooperstown - .272/.370/.470, 385 homers, 2,446 hits, 1,384 RBI, 1,470 runs scored – they’re still pretty darned good, particularly when you make adjustments for the era in which he played. Plus, you have to take into account that Evans was arguably the best right fielder of his generation; he won eight Gold Gloves over the course of his career. For the more analytically minded, well – he put up over 65 WAR for his career, a number that compares favorably with many of those at his position already in the Hall. He might not make it, but he absolutely should.

Lou Whitaker

The fact that Whitaker isn’t in yet is one of the bigger travesties of Cooperstown; he fell off the ballot after just one year, failing to reach the 5% threshold. By any measure, Whitaker qualifies for the Hall. His slash line of .276/.363/.426 is excellent for a second baseman of his era, as are totals like 2,369 hits, 244 homers, 143 steals, 1,084 RBI and 1,386 runs scored. He was half (alongside recent inductee Alan Trammell) of an iconic double-play combo. He was a three-time Gold Glover, a five-time All-Star and the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year. His all-around game was such that he accumulated 70-75 WAR, depending on your source – a number that places him among the 15 best to ever play the position.

Ted Simmons

Another guy who sort of fell through the cracks, Simmons has a case as one of the best hitting catchers of his generation. Over the course of his 21-year career, he compiled some solid numbers – just shy of 2,500 hits and 250 homers (2,472 and 248), along with 1,389 RBI and 1,074 runs scored. He slashed .285/.348/.437 and walked over 150 times more than he struck out (855 BB, 694 Ks). He was named an All-Star eight times and sits just shy of the standards for the average Hall of Fame catcher, having accumulated over 50 WAR. While the tail end of his career was less than stellar in terms of production, his longevity and overall numbers make him a viable candidate.

Tommy John

The sole pitcher on the list, Tommy John presents one of the more wide-ranging cases for induction. His career could have ended when he was just 31, thanks to an arm injury. Instead, he was the first to undergo the reparative surgery that now colloquially bears his name – after a months-long rehab process, he returned to the mound and proceeded to pitch another 14 years. He had 288 career wins and an ERA of 3.34 in over 4,700 innings over the course of his 26 years pitching in the bigs. His case by the numbers is just shy of borderline – only 61.5 WAR – but as a figure of importance within the history of the game, one could argue for his inclusion.

Dale Murphy

This is another one that I have really strong feelings about. When I was a kid, Dale Murphy was my favorite non-Red Sox player. He was a force throughout the 1980s, right when my love of the game was blossoming. At that decade’s end, he looked like a shoo-in for Cooperstown. Alas, it all came apart – injuries meant that he played just 44 combined games in his final two seasons, retiring in 1993 at age 37. So he’s a bit short on counting stats – 398 homers, 2,111 hits, 1,266 RBI, 1,197 runs. But he’s also a two-time MVP, going back to back in 1982 and 1983 (he was 30/30 in 1983). He won five Gold Gloves and led the league in homers and RBI twice each. His truncated career left him with less than 50 WAR – he just doesn’t have quite enough to get him there, unfortunately.

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All 10 of the names on this list deserve to be discussed in the greater context of baseball history. As to whether that discussion leads to the induction of one or more of them into Cooperstown, well … we’ll just have to wait and see.

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 November 2019 07:55

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