Hall of Fame Voting, Part I: Larkin and Morris

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

Part 1 of series of blogs on the National Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s inductees, names still on the ballot, the voting process, and what it takes to make it to Cooperstown. 

Barry Larkin was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame last week, his third time on the ballot, with 86.4 percent of the vote. In this round of voting he was the only one to reach the 75 percent mark that brings enshrinement, and will join Ron Santo, who was voted in by the Golden Era Committee, in Cooperstown on July 22 to be inducted among the greatest to ever play the game. 

Santo, who unfortunately passed away in 2010, had spent many years on the outside looking in despite having a fantastic career and being known as one of the best third baseman in baseball history. 

Larkin only had to wait until his third time on the ballot, however that was at least a year too long. Hall of Fame voting comes under scrutiny every year; some arguing too many get in, others arguing too many are left off. Larkin was one of the best shortstops in his era, combining solid hitting, speed and defense that helped him win a World Series and an MVP award. 

He seemed like a sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer to me, although I know that many voters simply do not vote for a player on the first ballot, with the thinking that that is an honor to only a select few, the best of the best, even among the greats that are in the Hall. A similar thing happened to Roberto Alomar, although his umpire spitting incident may have cost him some initial votes as well, as some sort of punishment that writers decided on their own accord was necessary. 

But Larkin and Alomar are in, so it does little good to complain about how long it took them to get there, especially since it was not long compared to many other players. Voting issues, of course, are not only with those that make it in. The two names left off this year that are of most concern to me moving forward are Jack Morris and Tim Raines; and for very different reasons.

Morris, one of the best pitchers of the 1980’s, made a giant jump this year and was named on 66.7 percent of the ballots. He will most likely make it in the Hall next year if historical precedence in terms of voting trends has anything to do with it. And good for him. He has been waiting for a long time, and his induction day will surely be one of the greatest days of his life. It’s just too bad he didn’t have a Hall of Fame career.

If you have done any reading on this topic then you probably are aware of his 3.90 ERA, which would be the highest of any pitcher in the Hall. You probably also know the arguments for him; his classic and dominating postseason games, his willingness and ability to throw many, many innings, and his overall charisma and ‘bulldog’ mentality on the mound. The only problem is that his postseason success really wasn’t all that brilliant (7-4, 3.80 ERA) and the rest of his arguments really have nothing to do with how well he actually pitched.

To really put his career in perspective, take a look at Jonathan Bernhardt’s article at Baseball Prospectus. In essence, Morris was a very good pitcher for his career, and had brief moments of greatness. However, he never had a truly domination season (0 Cy Young awards) and for his career he was slightly above average when compared to his peers (105 ERA+). 

Morris will probably get in the Hall, and all will ultimately be forgotten. But the idea that a player’s career narrative plays a bigger role in getting into the Hall than his actual performance is a shame. Players can be remembered for great moments or seasons without having to be in the Hall (Roger Maris, Dave Roberts, etc.). And there is nothing wrong with having been a very, very, very good Major League Baseball player. 

I also wanted to briefly touch on Tim Raines, who is not as close as Morris to being inducted, but should have been long ago. Raines was 5th in voting this year, finishing with less than 50 percent of the vote. Perhaps the second greatest leadoff hitter in history, behind Ricky Henderson, Raines had a remarkably quiet career, mostly because he spent so much of it in Montreal. His .294 batting average and 170 home runs don’t jump off the page but, his role was to get on base and do what he could to score. His .385 on base percentage is outstanding for a career, as are his 808 steals and 1571 runs scored, not to mention his fine play in the outfield. 

Raines did things quieter than Henderson, with the prime of his career spent in Canada, and without staggering numbers in the categories most voters look to first. But he was great, and should be in the Hall. Maybe once Morris makes it in the voters will be able to find a new champion for their cause, as I’m sure many players from the ‘Steroid Era’ will have a hard time getting support from the old guard of voters.

I just may have a few thoughts on that line of thinking, as well. So stay tuned, and if you get the chance go look up Jeff Bagwell. Like Raines, he has a long way to go, but maybe they will both get the kind of support from the voters that Morris has been getting.

Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

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