Playing nine innings while hoping Chaim Bloom can find a nice National League home for David Price . . .
1. Here’s to Dewey, and Sweet Lou, too, and maybe one or two other overlooked baseball greats from my youth finally getting their due.
On Sunday, the Modern Baseball Era committee – which includes Dennis Eckersley, Rod Carew, George Brett, and Eddie Murray on its 16-person panel – will vote on Hall of Fame candidates whose primary contributions to baseball came between 1970-87 and were not chosen on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Ten candidates are up for consideration. As many as four can be selected.
I hope it is four: Dwight Evans, Lou Whitaker, Ted Simmons, and Thurman Munson. And I would not be bummed if two-time Most Valuable Player and good-guy baseball ambassador Dale Murphy ended up with one of those spots.
2. The most deserving player is Whitaker, one of the top dozen second basemen of all time who for some inexplicable reason lasted just one year on the ballot, receiving 2.9 percent of the vote in 2001. (Dave Stewart received more support that year than Whitaker, whose top three career comps are Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and Alan Trammell.)
It’s tough to predict whether anyone, let alone four players, will get in – there will be diverse opinions and motives among the committee members, and 12 votes are required. But his longtime double-play partner Trammell was elected on the Modern Era ballot two years ago. For symmetry’s sake, they should have gone in together. For justice’s sake, Whitaker should get his due now.
3. This is purely conjecture, but I’d put Evans’s chances at about 50-50. He has longtime Red Sox teammate and friend Eckersley advocating for him, and peers from his playing days on the committee should be able to vouch first-hand for his excellence, even if it was too often unheralded in his playing days.
Evans belongs in over Dave Parker, who might have been the best player in the game in the late ’70s but wasted much of his prime out of shape and embroiled in scandal. Parker, who is battling Parkinson’s disease, is a sympathetic figure, and I strongly suspect Eck will vouch for his old A’s teammate, too. But Evans, whose peak wasn’t as high but excelled for longer, is more deserving.
4. One request: When we have these fun debates about who belongs in and who doesn’t, let’s not allow the ridiculously misguided decision by the Today’s Game committee last year to elect Harold Baines to become the new parameter for our arguments. Baines can’t become the new standard for a Hall of Famer. He has to be considered the outlier, or otherwise we’ll end up saying, “Well, Baines is in . . . ’’ when it comes to the Hall of Fame, and we’re going to have to reconsider the cases of a couple hundred other players who were better than him and got nowhere near Cooperstown’s doors.
5. A couple hundred isn’t an exaggeration there, either. Baines, a very good hitter and not much more during his 22-year career, was worth 38.7 Wins Above Replacement per baseball-reference. That’s tied with four other players — Juan Gonzalez, Magglio Ordonez, the still-in-his-prime Nolan Arenado, and Ed McKean for 552d all-time. Players ahead of him include: Boog Powell, Rico Petrocelli, J.D. Drew, Carl Crawford, Danny Darwin, Carney Lansford, and a bunch of active players, including six-year veteran Mookie Betts.
6. Worst-case scenario from all of this Hall of Fame stuff? Derek Jeter, Thurman Munson, and Don Mattingly (also a Modern Era candidate) all get in, this year’s ceremony turns into a tribute to Yankee captains, and so many Yankees fans trek to bucolic Cooperstown that it ends up turning into a Joey Buttafuoco lookalike convention for a weekend. Shudder. I’m shuddering.
7. That’s a long shot, fortunately. Mattingly just doesn’t have the longevity as an elite player — his top two career statistical comps are Cecil Cooper and Wally Joyner. Munson? I’m stunned he wasn’t elected in his first year on the writers’ ballot given his excellence, bright-lights prominence as a ’70s Yankee, and tragic demise. The only question about Jeter is whether a lone writer will dare leave him off the ballot.
8. Kind of cool to see Dan Duquette and Manny Ramirez going in together in this year’s Red Sox Hall of Fame class, a group that also includes David Ortiz (he could have been induced in October 2004), Rich Gedman, and Bill Dineen. (Side note: Butch Hobson’s election is way overdue.) Duquette brought Ramirez to Boston in December 2000, signing him away from the Indians on an eight-year, $160 million deal, and for whatever foibles Manny had, it’s one of the best long-term deals in baseball history. Duquette’s original free agent target that winter was Mike Mussina, who instead signed with the Yankees. Manny was a fine consolation prize and then some. Sox history would be much different — and much less interesting — without him.
9. Keep Mookie.