2020 MLB Hall of Fame: Modern Era Candidates
Last week the MLB Hall of Fame released the names of the candidates who are eligible to be voted for enshrinement by this year's Modern Era committee. Unlike last year, it's an impressive list made up of nine former players and one executive. A case can be made for all ten of them.
Modern Era Baseball Committee
The Modern Era Baseball Committee is the updated version of the old Veteran's Committee that was previously used to elect players who were overlooked by the BBWAA. Instead of considering anyone who meets the Hall's requirements after being removed from the writer's ballot, four separate groups are formed and rotated annually to judge players from selected time frames.
This year's Modern Era Ballot is made up of people who's greatest impact on baseball fell between 1970-1987. They were selected by a screening committee of eleven BBWAA writers. They did a fine job picking candidates this year.
The Modern Era Committee will be made up of a panel of 16 Hall of Famers, executives and a couple members of the media. Their names are not made public until the voting has been finalized. The members can vote for up to four candidates and 12 votes are required for enshrinement.
The results will be announced on Sunday, December 8th at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
This Year's Ballot
Last year the Today's Game Committee Ballot was pretty uninspiring. I wrote that I would only vote for one player: RP Lee Smith. To my delight Smith was elected. However OF Harold Baines was also elected. Oh boy, that was not a popular pick.
Baines was a good baseball player, sometimes very good. That doesn't equal Hall of Famer, especially for a guy who spent most of his career as a designated hitter. No use getting upset over it, it's done. Baines is in and he isn't the worst player in the Hall.
This year's committee has a much tougher decision to make. I myself could possibly vote for all ten of these guys. One thing for sure is each and every one is more deserving than Harold Baines.
That's quite a list and the electors only get four votes apiece. Personally I think seven are definitely Hall of Famers and the other three are borderline. It's a tough choice to make and I've been mulling it over for more than a week at this point. Yes I take this stuff much too seriously.
My Four Votes
Frankly I do not understand how Simmons hasn't been elected already. I assume it's because his career was eclipsed by the best catcher of all-time in Johnny Bench. Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk also played during the same time frame. All deserving Hall of Famers, I guess Simmons got lost in the shuffle. Yet Ted also deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.
Ted played in 2,456 games, 1,771 behind the dish. He was primarily a catcher so his numbers should be judged against other catchers because of the rigors of playing the position. He had 2,472 hits, second all-time among catchers trailing only Ivan Rodriguez. He hit 483 doubles, also second all-time among catchers trailing only Ivan Rodriguez. He also knocked in 1,389 RBIs, you guessed it second all-time among catchers. This time he trails Yogi Berra. He surpassed Bench, Carter and Fisk in all three categories.
Simmons was a consistent switch-hitter who rarely struck out, 694 Ks in 9,685 plate appearances. The man made contact. He was an eight time All-Star who hit over .300 seven times, six times he finished in the top ten in his league in batting average. His career best was .332 in 1975, finishing second in the batting title race to Bill Madlock's .354. Eight times he knocked in 90 or more RBIs with a career best of 108 RBI in 1983. His 248 home runs ranks 10th all time for catchers. Not a shabby number for a guy who played the majority of his games in cavernous Busch Stadium.
Simmons wasn't known for his defense, but he was average defensively. And he played a lot, three time he led the National League in games caught.
Very solid career stats that rank very high all-time among catchers. To me he is a no-brainer and his election is long over-due.
A ballplayer's character is supposed to be one of the traits electors examine when judging a career, but of course we know that they usually ignore it. If they didn't Dale Murphy would already be in the Hall. He was universally lauded for being the nicest superstar in baseball. 1B John Kruk said one day on the team bus he started busting on Murphy just for kicks. He knew he went too far when Murphy said if he didn't stop Murphy would "bop him". Kruk immediately quit since that was the harshest language he ever heard Murphy use in the three years they spent as teammates.
Of course being a nice guy doesn't make you a Hall of Famer, however being one of the top superstars in all of baseball for an eight year stretch does. In the 1980's Murphy feasted on National League pitching.
He won back-to-back NL MVP awards in 1982-83, leading the league in RBIs each year. In 1984 and 1985 he led the NL in home runs. Twice he led the league in slugging average and in 1985 led the NL in runs scored and walks. Murphy's name is all over the offensive leaderboards in the 1980's. In his career he topped 100 RBIs five times (121 in 1983) and slugged 30 or more homers six times (a career best 44 in 1987). In 1983 he became only the sixth player ever to have a 30/30 season with 36 home runs and 30 stolen bases.
His dominance at the plate resulted in not only the two MVP awards, but also 7 All-Star selections and 4 Silver Slugger awards. He was good with his glove as well, winning 5 Gold Gloves as a center fielder.
So why wasn't he elected already? Bad knees. Murphy started having serious knee problems after the 1987 season and his production at the plate started to drastically drop off. He didn't manage to hit any milestones usually associated with Hall of Fame sluggers, finishing his career with 398 home runs and 1,266 RBIs. He hit for good averages during his peak, topping .300 twice, but his later years dropped his career batting average to .265.
In my mind that doesn't matter. He was one of the very best players in baseball for an eight year stretch, a rare feared slugger who played center field. Not a lot of those guys back in the day. He was a true five tool player: he could hit, hit with power, run well, had a strong arm and played fine defense. His peak performance years are enough to offset coming up a little short in significant milestones. Plus dammit he was a helluva nice guy.
"The Cobra", as Dave Parker was known for his quick strike ability with the bat, was a fearsome presence at the dish with his 6'5 inch, 200+ pound frame. One of the top hitters in the National League in the second half of the 1970's, Parker suffered a mid-career slump due to cocaine addiction before resurrecting his career with the Reds in the mid 1980's.
The 1978 NL MVP, Parker won two batting titles and twice led the league in slugging percentage. The seven time All-Star also led the league in doubles twice and hits & RBIs one time apiece. Parker was a top RBI man, knocking in 90 or more base-runners 10 times. A .290 career hitter, Parker has 2,712 base hits to go along with his 1,493 RBIs.
A three time Gold Glove winner, Parker had a cannon for a right arm. In 1977 he threw out 26 base-runners. Nobody has had as many outfield assists in one season since. He never approached that number again because the word was out: you don't even think about trying to take an extra base when Dave Parker holds the ball.
Compared to the other players on this year's ballot, Parker has the most hits and the most RBIs. He's tied with Don Mattingly for the highest slugging percentage, but he had a much longer career than Mattingly.
Despite all this, I doubt Parker will be elected. He just doesn't seem to have a lot of support. Of course his candidacy has flaws. His mid-career slump stopped him from achieving major milestones. He didn't walk very much so his on-base average and runs scored are a little low for Cooperstown. Because of his size, people tend to think of Parker as a slugger and his 339 home runs are modest for a slugger.
Well let me say this. Parker wasn't paid to walk, he was paid to drive runners in, which he did consistently. These days the phrase "a walk is as good as a hit" is very popular among the analytics crowd. Except that isn't always the case. With a runner on second base, a hit means a run. It doesn't happen with a walk.
Dave Parker passes the eye-test, he looked like a Hall of Famer. When he played your favorite team you did not want to see him come up with ducks on the pond and you didn't want anybody trying to take an extra base when he held the ball.
I wish the Hall of Fame had a separate committee to consider non-players for election. I wanted to vote for another player here, but fact are facts. It is the baseball Hall of Fame and no person on this ballot has had a bigger impact on MLB than Marvin Miller.
In 1966 the players formed the Major League Baseball Players Association and elected Marvin Miller to be their Executive Director. The game hasn't been the same since.
At that time the minimum salary was $6,000 and the average salary for all players was $19,000. When Miller retired in 1982 the minimum was $33,500 and the average salary was $241,497. Yes the players hired the right man for the job.
Ironically the players didn't necessarily hire Miller to improve their salaries. He was hired to protect and increase their pension benefits. Yet in true Hall of Fame fashion, he went above and beyond to create the most powerful union in the country.
With the backing of his players, Miller was able to take away many of the dictator-type powers from the Commissioner. Disputes would now be settled by impartial arbitrators hired jointly by the owners and the union. Owners no longer held all the leverage in contracts and arbitration eventually led to free-agency. Miller guided the players down this path and took them to a place most of them never dreamed was possible.
I doubt any of the owners would ever admit it, but Miller helped them too. Sure he cost them a lot of money in salaries and benefits. Yet the advent of free-agency also helped create a lot of interest and publicity for the game. Attendance increased, TV ratings increased and franchise values sky-rocketed.
Marvin Miller died seven years ago at the age of 95. He should have been elected when he was still alive.
The Rest of the Ballot
Making my four votes was tough, this is a strong ballot. Last year I only needed one vote. This year I could have used seven. The other three players I would vote for are 2B Lou Whitaker, RF Dwight Evans and C Thurman Munson. All three are very deserving, I just personally think the others are more deserving.
I wouldn't vote for P Tommy John, 1B Steve Garvey or 1B Don Mattingly. Tommy John has the 288 wins, but he was more of a compiler than a dominant pitcher. Steve Garvey's career numbers come up a bit short, but he does have a very strong post-season resume. Don Mattingly had three incredible seasons. Yet back injuries curtailed his career much too early, preventing him from gaining enough counting stats. All three were very good players and I wouldn't complain if any of them get elected because each of their careers has some merit.
Those are my thoughts on this year's Modern Era Hall of Fame Ballot. It is hard to actually predict who will be elected since the electing committee is unknown at this time. If I had to bet I'd say Lou Whitaker, Ted Simmons, Marvin Miller and Dale Murphy have the best odds of being elected.
I expect Lou Whitaker to make it since his double play partner SS Alan Trammel gained election two years ago. Their cases are nearly identical and it doesn't make sense to elect one and not the other.
Ted Simmons has been close to election before and I think he'll finally break through. In my mind he has the strongest case among all the ballplayers. He should have been elected years ago.
Marvin Miller had the greatest impact on baseball, but his election depends on who makes up the committee. The old hardliners still hate him.
I think if the vote was made by the fans Dale Murphy would gather the most votes. His actions on and off the field make him a popular choice.
What are your thoughts? Who should be elected? Am I neglecting somebody else's candidacy? Let me know in the comments and thanks as always for reading.