First Look at the 2015 Golden Era Hall of Fame Ballot

Mar 28, 2014 by Adam Darowski

Earlier this month, I saw an article talking about Dick Allen and the 2015 Golden Era Hall of Fame election. I’ll take that as my cue that it’s okay to start talking about the ballot!

First, let’s review who was on the ballot last time (for the 2012 election) with their Hall Ratings, if applicable:

The only inductee, of course, was Santo. Judging by Hall Rating, he was the most deserving. In fact, by Hall Rating he was deserving of BBWAA induction. Strictly by Hall Rating, Tiant was also worthy of BBWAA induction while Boyer and perhaps Miñoso were worthy of Veterans Committee induction. The rest of the ballot featured some very solid candidates (with the exception of Reynolds… I have a hard time understanding his inclusion).

Of course, those are only the players who appeared on the ballot. As we learned from the Expansion Era ballot, there’s a large pool of additional candidates. They include:

That’s everyone down to an 80 Hall Rating. Here’s a couple more interesting ones beyond that…

The Golden Era Committee is responsible for players who had their “most significant career impact […] during the 1947-72 time period”. What about those players who straddle the line between the Golden Era and the Expansion Era? I’ve added these players by calculating how much of their Hall Rating came from the years in question:

The most interesting players who ended up being Expansion Era candidates were:

We now have thirty candidates if you include only players with an 80 or better Hall Rating (plus Hodges, Flood, and Maris). A ballot created just by Hall Rating would be:

  1. Luis Tiant (128)
  2. Ken Boyer (116)
  3. Sal Bando (116)
  4. Dick Allen (115)
  5. Jim Wynn (109)
  6. Willie Davis (103)
  7. Wilbur Wood (101)
  8. Billy Pierce (100)
  9. Minnie Miñoso (99)
  10. Bert Campaneris (95)

A ballot created only from my Personal Hall of Fame would include:

  1. Luis Tiant (128)
  2. Ken Boyer (116)
  3. Sal Bando (116)
  4. Dick Allen (115)
  5. Jim Wynn (109)
  6. Wilbur Wood (101)
  7. Minnie Miñoso (99)
  8. Bill Freehan (93)

That would leave room for two more candidates. With those last two spots, I could either go for non-players like Bavasi and Finley or include some players who did more than just perform on the field (like Hodges and Flood… and to a lesser extent Maris). I would probably go with Hodges and Flood.

If I had five votes, I would give them to Miñoso, Allen, Tiant, Boyer, and Bando.

Minnie Miñoso

The last time a Veterans Committee inducted a living ballplayer was Bill Mazeroski in 2001. Since then, we have seen Santo inducted a year too late and obvious chances to honor Buck O’Neil and Marvin Miller go to waste.

A veteran of fifteen BBWAA ballots, Minnie Miñoso peaked at 21% in 1988. Miñoso is now 88 years old. The time is now.

Stuart Miller penned an excellent article on Miñoso’s case for the New York Times in 2011:

[B]asic statistics [yield] a compelling case for Miñoso—in a 10-year span beginning in 1951, he finished in the top 10 in batting average eight times, and in the top 10 in steals nine times (leading the league three of those years and finishing second another three times). But he was no mere singles hitter — he was top 10 in doubles eight times (leading the A.L. once) and top 10 in triples six times (leading three times); he even finished 10th in homers twice. Similarly, while he was top 10 in runs scored nine times, he also landed in the top 10 in R.B.I. five times. And while I believe Gold Gloves are often handed out for the wrong reasons, he did manage to add three to his mantel.

Miñoso had a relatively short career. He wasn’t a Major League starter until his age 25 season (and played his last full season at 35). Because of that, he collected “only” 1,963 hits, 186 home runs, and 205 stolen bases—all solid, but modest totals. The Hall of Fame has traditionally had a hard time assessing players who were skilled in every facet of the game and Miñoso fits that bill. Sabermetrics appreciates them, though. Miller continues:

But the more modern statistics paint an even more vivid picture of Miñoso as an overlooked Hall of Famer. For starters, he had five years with an on-base percentage over .400, he was always at .374 or higher, and only once in the decade was he not in the top 10. His mix of walks and gap power meant he was in the top 10 in O.P.S. (on-base plus slugging) eight times in 10 years. (And Miñoso would do whatever it took to get on base.

Whether it was because of his crouching stance or the color of his skin, Miñoso led the league in hit by pitches ten times in his career, getting plunked 192 times. More from Miller:

Looking at Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement—the statistic that analyzes how many more wins a player brings his team than a replacement-level minor leaguer—buffs Minoso’s credentials and potential Hall plaque to a bright finish. Seven times he was among the top five in the American League for WAR among position players, and twice—in 1954 and 1959—he ranked first.

That was before some adjustments were made to Baseball-Reference’s WAR. Miñoso is still listed as the leader for 1954 but he’s about a win behind Mickey Mantle in 1959.

When Miñoso arrived in the majors for good, he showed he had already belonged by hitting .326/.422/.500 while leading the league in triples and stolen bases. It was a 5.5 WAR season. Since he was 25, a case can be made that Miñoso needlessly lost some valuable time from his prime to pad his career totals. This is important because his statistical body of work place him squarely on the Hall of Stats borderline (with a 99 Hall Rating). How much credit does he deserve for missed time? Rob Neyer took a look at that:

So how many "extra" seasons do you want to give him? Sure, 1950. It might not have been the color of his skin, but he should have been in the majors. But 1949, too? That one's a little tougher. And even if you give him two full seasons and another 350 hits, does that make Minoso an obvious Hall-of-Famer?

Probably not.

Deserving? Maybe.

I love Rob, but we don’t always agree on Hall of Fame cases. I think that conservative adjustment for the time lost would put him over the top, if he wasn’t already. Neyer acknowledges that you could make a more aggressive adjustment, too:

Maybe we should give Minoso more than two extra seasons. Maybe, if not for the color line that kept him out of (so-called) Organized Baseball until he was almost 23, he would have three or four more seasons in the majors, and the correlative statistics.

I just can't quite go that far, though. As much as I used to, and would still like to.

Neyer “used to” because Miñoso’s age used to be a mystery, but he has since clarified it.

This I know—at face value he provided borderline Hall of Fame production. He was one of the first dark-skinned stars in the game and gracefully handled the hardships involved with that. He faced not just the color barrier, but a language barrier. He got his start in organized baseball at nearly 23 years old, about five years later than if he was a white kid from Alabama.

"My last dream is to be in Cooperstown-to be with those guys. I want to be there. This is my life's dream.” — Minnie Minoso

Dear Golden Era Committee—I plead with you—do not screw this up.

Dick Allen

Dick Allen: Photo Credit

When reading Bill James’ Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? a few years back, I was struck by this quote:

“[Dick Allen] did more to keep his teams from winning than anyone else who ever played major league baseball. And if that’s a Hall of Famer, I’m a lug nut.”

Well, that’s a pretty damning statement.

There is no question that Allen was a Hall of Fame player. He had a .912 OPS in an offensively-starved era. He posted an OPS+ of 156. He led the league in OPS three times and home runs twice. He accumulated 434 WAR batting runs, appeared in seven all star games (five starts), won an MVP award and a Rookie of the Year award, and had three 7.5+ WAR seasons. It’s hard to do all that without getting into the Hall of Fame.

PED users are actually not the first men to be shunned by Cooperstown because of the Hall of Fame’s character clause. The reason Dick Allen is not in the Hall of Fame is the writers felt that his character legitimately hurt his teams too much to be considered worthy.

Maybe it’s not all that—Allen’s career was on the short side and that led to some relatively modest totals (1,848 hits, 351 home runs). He’s essentially Mark McGwire from a pitcher’s generation, trading the PED admission in for a volatile personality. (But his most similar player, interestingly, is Miguel Cabrera.)

Allen, however, had his avid supporters. Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times writes:

One thing interesting about Allen was that he was genuinely controversial. By that I mean it wasn’t that he did something that everyone hated. No, that would make him merely widely maligned. To be controversial, you need a split of opinion—not only vehement opponents, but also passionate detractors. Throughout Allen’s career, he had plenty of both. Many considered him to be a pure clubhouse cancer while others thought he was a good man, just misunderstood.

In an article at Bill James Online, Dave Fleming digs deeper into this split and why the younger generation may be more open to the thought of Allen as a Hall of Famer:

All that crap [Fleming lists specific incidents detailing Allen’s behavior] is forgotten about. What is attended to, what is given weight in our considerations of Allen’s career, is the abuse he endured in 1963, as a member of the Phillies AAA team in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the similar abuse he endured from the Philadelphia fans and press. This stuff is brought up as a way to explain away Allen’s behavior, and to clarify the contexts of his times.

[I]t does Allen a disservice of sorts: by focusing on the circumstances that surrounded him, we deny the possibility that Allen had choices within those circumstances. He made the choice to be self-destructive. He made the choice to fight with Thomas, to chide Thomas and to rise to Thomas’s race-baiting. Allen had the talent to be an all-time great and he wasn’t. And as much as the world around him was set against him, he bears responsibilities for that failure.

I agree with some of this, but I also have some big problems with it. First of all, Allen may not have been an all-time great, but he was still good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. Second, Allen faced some legitimately awful crap. I can’t say that I would have handled it any better than Allen, so who am I to judge? But that’s just me. I know many baseball writers (not all) really get off on judging the morals of others.

Fleming continues…

But those who did watch Allen, those who fought in a difficult war and endured the decade of social revolution that followed, they placed a greater burden on the actions of the individual. Life is hard, and the best we can do is use those hardships as motivations. Henry Aaron did that. Jackie Robinson did, too. So did Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente and Larry Doby and Curt Flood and countless others. Dick Allen didn’t. Where the others strived for greatness, Dick Allen was content to sow discord and squander his ability. He should have been an all-time great, and he wasn’t. That was his choice.

Allen didn’t choose to not be an all-time great. Allen’s choice probably would have been to left alone, to not be booed, to not be heckled. The fans in Little Rock and Philadelphia took that choice out of his hands. They forced Allen to react. Not everyone can react with the grace of a Jackie Robinson. That’s why he was Jackie freaking Robinson.

Allen’s disability to gracefully defend himself from racially-charged incidents shouldn’t keep him out of the Hall of Fame. It was an ugly situation, but that wasn’t all Allen’s fault. He had Hall of Fame talent. He provided Hall of Fame-level production. He should be in the Hall of Fame.

Luis Tiant

In 1988, Luis Tiant appeared on his first Hall of Fame ballot and received over 30% of the vote. He remained on the ballot for the full fifteen years, but never again reached even 20%. He wasn’t a perfect pitcher, but so few pitchers are. Bob Gibson is often associated with his magnificent performance in 1968 (when he posted an ERA of 1.12. Tiant was the American League’s Gibson that year.

Tiant won ERA titles (with ERAs of 1.60 and 1.91) in 1968 and 1972, but was merely an average pitcher (98 ERA+, 17–30 record, league-leading 20 losses in 1969) in the three years between. That dip in his productionis what takes his career from elite to borderline Hall-worthy.

While Tiant does have the best Hall Rating of those eligible for Golden Era induction, he barely clears the BBWAA standard, making his delayed induction acceptable. That said, that delayed induction deserves to happen.

Ken Boyer

For some reason, the BBWAA was not kind to Golden Era third basemen. Santo’s omission was egregious and Ken Boyer and Sal Bando deserved more consideration than they received. At least Boyer lasted on the ballot for fifteen years (Bando received just three votes on his only ballot).

It surprises me that Boyer is not in the Hall of Fame. His traditional case seems a bit better than his sabermetric case (which sees him as deserving, but not quite up to the BBWAA standard). He hit .287. While it’s not the magical .300, he was an infielder with sparkling defense. The defense doesn’t just show up in advanced numbers, either. He was given five Gold Glove Awards to go with his 11 All Star appearances (six starts). He even won an MVP award in 1964 by hitting .295 and leading the league with 119 runs batted in. He also homered twice in the 1964 World Series.

Sal Bando

It’s easier to see why Sal Bando wasn’t inducted—he hit .254. His 242 home run were not enough to make up for that. But he walked over 1,000 times, which boosts his OPS+ to 119 (Boyer’s was 116). While he didn’t rate as well defensively as Boyer, he still held his own. He never won an MVP, but he finished second in 1971, third in 1974, and fourth in 1973. He ends up rating as very similar to Boyer sabermetrically. Both even have Hall Ratings of 116.

Another thing that might hurt Bando is that he doesn’t really belong exclusively to the Golden Era or the Expansion Era. He played more in the Expansion Era, but provided more value in the Golden Era.

Hall of Consensus

I created a visual called the Hall of Consensus where I display players’ Hall of Fame support from multiple sources in one grid. The visual includes the Hall of Fame, Hall of Stats, Hall of Merit, my personal Hall of Fame, and the personal Halls of four friends of the blog (Ross Carey, Bryan O’Connor, Dalton Mack, and Dan McCloskey).

Here’s what these five players look like:

Name (Hall Rating) HOF HOS HOM AD RC BO DMa DMc Total
Luis Tiant (128) false true false true true true true true 6
Ken Boyer (116) false true true true true false true true 6
Sal Bando (116) false true false true true false true true 5
Dick Allen (115) false true true true true true true true 7
Minnie Miñoso (99) false false true true true true true true 6

The Hall of Stats agrees on all but Miñoso, but he has a 99 and obviously contributed more than just numbers. The Hall of Merit has denied Tiant and Bando, but accepted the others. The only players outside the Hall of Merit with a higher Hall Rating than Tiant are Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Kenny Lofton (all very recent candidates).

As for the personal Halls, Bryan is the most strict and has not opened his arms to Boyer and Bando.

Worth noting is that the Golden Era has been picked over pretty well, relatively speaking. I’m bullish on Miñoso and Allen, but not terribly frustrated by the omissions of Tiant, Boyer, and Bando. In fact, I’m starting to believe that Graig Nettles and Buddy Bell might (two Expansion Era candidates) deserve more campaigning than Boyer and Bando. It’s also hard to get excited about Tiant when Mussina, Schilling, Kevin Brown, and others are not in.

As for Allen and Miñoso… you know how I feel about them.

What can we expect? Last time, Kaat finished two votes shy, Hodges and Miñoso were three votes shy, and Oliva was four votes shy (at 50%). Nobody else received 50% of the vote.

How much has changed in the last three years? Well, the steroid shit hit the fan in the BBWAA elections over that time. I’m not sure how much of an effect that has in these candidates, though. The only player who seems to have a raised presence is Allen, and much of that is thanks to his website, Twitter account, and his son’s campaigning.

I’d guess Allen gets back on the ballot this time, but again falls short. Miñoso will likely come painfully close again. Perhaps Kaat will get in (which wouldn’t be so bad—and would likely open the door for Tommy John, who I support). Honestly, I’m not sure anyone will get in. Maybe an executive, but I couldn’t care less about that.

What do you think will happen? What can we do to raise Miñoso’s profile?

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