This offseason—like every offseason—there will be a lot of focus on the Hall of Fame election. Most of that attention, however, will be on the BBWAA ballot, PEDs, and politics.
Don’t forget about the Expansion Era committee. Last year, the Pre-Integration Era committee gave us our only inductees (in Deacon White, Hank O'Day, and Jacob Ruppert). While we’re likely to get some new BBWAA inductees this year, there are also several worthy candidates in the Expansion Era pool.
A Recap of 2011
The Expansion Era committee last met in 2010. That gathering resulted in Pat Gillick’s Hall of Fame induction in 2011. Marvin Miller came painfully close (with 68.8%) while Dave Concepcion received 50% of the vote.
The following players rounded out the ballot and received little to no support:
- Vida Blue (85 Hall Rating)
- Steve Garvey (61)
- Ron Guidry (93)
- Tommy John (106)
- Al Oliver (71)
- Ted Simmons (113)
- Rusty Staub (74)
- Billy Martin (6, Manager)
- George Steinbrenner (Owner)
Concepcion, who finished first among players, owns a Hall Rating of only 71. I would have voted for Ted Simmons and Tommy John (and perhaps Gillick and Steinbrenner).
Everyone listed above (save for Gillick, of course) will be eligible again this time around. But with only twelve spots available on the ballot, I’m not sure anyone is a lock to be nominated.
Eligible for first time
To complicate things, we have several more solid candidates entering the pool for the first time. Here are the newcomers with a Hall Rating of 90 or better:
- Jack Clark (95)
- Brian Downing (93)
- Dwight Evans (123)
- Keith Hernandez (115)
- Chet Lemon (109)
- Fred Lynn (94)
- Willie Randolph (124)
- Rick Reuschel (136)
This is an impressive group. Five of these candidates are already in the Hall of Stats. I have four (Reuschel, Evans, Hernandez, and Randolph) in my Personal Hall.
Previously eligible, but overlooked
In addition to the holdovers and newcomers, we have several more players who were eligible to appear on the last ballot but were overlooked for whatever reason. With three more years for advanced metrics to penetrate the game, perhaps some of these players won’t be shunned this time around.
Again, with a 90+ Hall Rating:
- Buddy Bell (124)
- Bobby Bonds (111)
- Bert Campaneris (96)
- César Cedeño (102)
- Ron Cey (99)
- Jose Cruz (98)
- Darrell Evans (106)
- Bobby Grich (141)
- Toby Harrah (91)
- Jerry Koosman (99.7)
- Thurman Munson (101)
- Graig Nettles (126)
- Reggie Smith (125)
- Gene Tenace (104)
- Luis Tiant (130)
- Wilbur Wood (102)
To me, this list is more impressive than the returning candidates or the newly eligible. Eleven of them are already in the Hall of Stats (nine in my Personal Hall)—and they couldn’t crack the last ballot.
A couple other newcomers who didn't crack a 90 Hall Rating are also compelling. The late Dan Quisenberry owns a 58 Hall Rating, which puts him behind Hoyt Wilhelm and Rich Gossage but ahead of Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers. Dave Parker, owner of a 78 Hall Rating and fifteen years on the ballot (maxing out at 24.5%) will also be eligible.
As if we didn’t have more than enough candidates, these managers will be hitting the pool, too.
I’m a fan of rewarding players over managers, but this is one ridiculously qualified quartet. Torre should be a Hall of Fame player, but that won’t happen now. He’s probably more qualified as a manager than as a player, but I think if you can make it as a player, you should. That’s the more prestigious route.
This short list has three managers in the top five all time in victories. LaRussa is third, Cox fourth, and Torre fifth. Piniella isn’t far behind at 14th. Torre won four championships to LaRussa’s three and one apiece for Cox and Piniella.
Others not eligible
The Expansion Era eligibility criteria explicitly states that candidates are players, managers, umpires, or executives. That actually eliminates some additional compelling candidates.
The Hall of Fame honored Dr. Frank Jobe, the pioneer of Tommy John surgery. But Jobe is not a Hall of Famer. He absolutely should be.
We also need to start considering Bill James, John Thorn, Sean Forman, and other researchers for the Hall of Fame. Luckily, SABR has the Henry Chadwick Award, but some of these contributors need their work honored in Cooperstown.
And let's at least make Leo Mazzone eligible so we can have the conversation about whether or not a coach (or scout, for that matter) can be Hall-worthy.
There are fifteen players listed above who are in my personal Hall. That’s already three more than the ballot allows. That said, I don’t see any way I could leave Miller, Torre, Cox, or LaRussa off my ballot. Already I’m down to eight spots for players. Normally, I’d err on the side of more players. But we happen to have three of the best managers in history hitting the ballot at once.
As for players, there happen to be eight with a Hall Rating of 120 or better—Grich, Reuschel, Tiant, Nettles, Smith, Randolph, Bell, and Dwight Evans. That’s really close to the eight I’d pick. I’m new to the Randolph bandwagon, so I’d actually replace him with Simmons. Simmons’ numbers for a catcher can’t be left out any longer.
So, my ballot:
- Joe Torre
- Bobby Cox
- Tony La Russa
- Marvin Miller
- Bobby Grich
- Rick Reuschel
- Luis Tiant
- Graig Nettles
- Reggie Smith
- Buddy Bell
- Dwight Evans
- Ted Simmons
Who would I elect from that group? All of them. The rules, however, limit committee members to five votes. That makes this really hard. Honestly, in that case, the only player I might take is Grich. It comes down to Reuschel and Tiant vs. Cox and LaRussa. I’d put Torre in no matter what because of his playing career.
My top two on this ballot are Torre and Grich. Torre was an MVP-caliber player who rates as Hall-worthy and spent considerable time at an underpopulated position (catcher). Grich was incredibly underrated and continues to be, though you hear his name more now than ever. He was similar to Lou Whitaker—good at everything. He was an elite defender. He had patience. He had power at a position not expected to provide it. His weakest skill was his relatively low batting average. But the hits went far and many non-hits were replaced by walks. I have him a full 40% above Hall of Fame-level. He's thoroughly qualified and would raise the level of quality in Cooperstown.
What will actually happen
Bare minimum, we’ll have three new Hall of Famers in Greg Maddux, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox. Craig Biggio, Frank Thomas, and Tom Glavine should also make it via the BBWAA. There are many other deserving BBWAA candidates, but none have a chance. I think even Jack Morris will fall short in his final attempt.
The only other possible Expansion Era inductees are Marvin Miller (which would continue the trend of inducting people too late) and Tony La Russa. LaRussa should cruise in, but he might have trouble because of some of his recent off-field issues and the fact that Torre and Cox are also on the ballot. By the crude managerial statistics we have, he absolutely ranks with those two. But because of a crowded ballot, he may have to wait a bit.
Dave Concepcion led all players last year, and three years of advanced metrics can only hurt his case. I doubt any players on the Expansion Era ballot stand much of a chance. Most of the best candidates were left off the ballot last time and the newcomers are similarly underrated. Dark horse candidates might be Dwight Evans or Keith Hernandez. I think Bobby Grich stands no chance.
My predication: Torre, Cox, and Miller.