Hall of Fame voting season is currently upon us and many Yankees who are deserved to be in Cooperstown aren’t, so let’s take a look at the snubs.
The “Today’s Game Era” Committee has voted to induct Lee Smith and Harold Baines into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith was the one-time leader in career saves and now ranks third after Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman. Baines played for 22 seasons and racked up over 2800 hits. While Smith received over 50% of the vote from the BBWAA when he was eligible, Baines barely cracked 6% and eventually fell off the ballot. With a career .289/.356/.465 slash line, 384 home runs, and 38.7 WAR, Baines’ inductions beg the question: If he’s in, who else should be in?
For the Yankees, there are several players who seemingly have the credentials to be Hall of Famers, but have been snubbed.
Coney is five-time all-star, five-time World Series champ, and won the Cy Young in 1994. He led the league in strikeouts twice, SO/9 three times, FIP once, Innings Pitched once and Wins once. He amassed a career WAR of 62.4 and a JAWS score of 52.9. There are 63 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and David Cone ranks 63rd in WAR for starters.
Cone is ahead of Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Red Faber, Mordecai Brown, Don Sutton, Whitey Ford, and Early Wynn (among others). He’s right there with a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers and his career certainly deserved more than the one year of consideration that the BBWAA gave it. Will Coney one day get in? Perhaps. Smith and Baines ultimately were not inducted by the writers, but are now in.
In Baines’ case, he didn’t get much support when he was on the ballot. Cone probably has as much chance as Baines had.
Tommy John may be the most renowned pitcher in baseball history. Not because of his play, but because of the surgery that bears his name. Before having the historic surgery to replace his UCL, John made one all-star team in 12 seasons and was otherwise unremarkable.
After undergoing the knife, John pitched another 14 seasons, made the all-star team three times, and twice finished second in Cy Young voting. Over 26 seasons, John amassed 62.0 WAR, 288 wins, and over 4700 innings pitched. He led the league in shutouts and home runs allowed per nine three times. Tommy John is remarkably similar to Harold Baines but on the pitching side. He played for a really long time and was consistently very good, but never really amazing.
He didn’t hit the traditional Hall of Fame marker of 300 wins, just like Baines didn’t get 3000 hits. John, however, does have a historic surgery named after him and that should probably count for something. Candy Cummings is in the Hall for inventing the curveball, and we’re not even really sure if he invented the pitch.
Louisiana Lightning led the league in ERA twice, including his historic 1978 season where he finished with a 1.74 ERA and won the Cy Young. Gator also led the league in FIP three times, WHIP twice, Wins twice, and Complete Games and Shutouts once. Guidry’s career WAR doesn’t seem to measure up to those already in the Hall, but he does have more than Baines, so maybe there’s a chance.
Lee Smith and Harold Baines were specialists. Smith a closer and Baines a DH. There are some who believe these specialists are not worthy of Hall consideration, but they’re quickly becoming outnumbered. Dave Righetti was a closer with 252 career saves and finished his career with over 1400 innings pitched (more than Smith, Trevor Hoffman, and Mariano Rivera, to name a few).
At one point, he held the single-season record for saves and had the most career saves for a left-handed pitcher. He also had 21.5 WAR, just a bit behind Smith (29.0) and Hoffman (28.0). If Righetti’s playing career isn’t enough, why not add in his coaching career? He was the Giants pitching coach for World Series winners in 2010, 2012, 2014, and the 2002 team that lost to the Angels.
The slick-fielding Randolph was no slouch at the plate. With a career .373 OBP, Randolph reached base at a better clip than Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Frankie Frisch, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Joe Gordon, Billy Herman … (I could go on). Randolph amassed 65.9 career WAR with a JAWS score of 51.1, both numbers just below the average Hall of Fame second baseman.
Had Willie hung on for a few mediocre/decent seasons at the end of his career, he may have been voted in. As it stands, Randolph’s career is very impressive and merits serious consideration from a future committee.
There are 26 right fielders in the Hall of Fame, and Harold Baines ranks 74th among them in WAR. There are only 19 center fielders in the Hall and Bernie Williams ranks 26th all-time in WAR at the position. Williams slashed .297/.381/.477, won a batting title and was a five-time all-star. His raw numbers don’t quite stack up to Baines, but he did play the field and have better rate stats.
At 15, there are not a ton of catchers in the Hall of Fame. Jorge Posada ranks 17th in career WAR among catchers with 42.8. His .374 OBP ranks better than Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, Gaby Hartnett, Buck Ewing, Roy Campanella, and Ernie Lombardi. Jorge’s .474 slugging percentage ranks 12th all-time for qualified catchers and his 275 home runs rank eighth among catchers. Despite these great numbers, Posada is on the outside looking in. Perhaps one day the Hall will recognize how truly great he was.
With only 14 players inducted, third base is the most under-represented position in the Hall of Fame. Nettles had the reputation of an excellent defender, and his offensive numbers were serviceable, particularly his 390 home runs in an era that lacked power.
He even led the league with 32 home runs in 1976. With 68.0 career WAR, a 42.4 7yr-peak WAR, and a 55.2 JAWS score, Nettles almost completely mirrors the 68.4 career WAR, 43.0 7yr-peak WAR, and 55.7 JAWS average output of a Hall of Fame third baseman. Though he managed to stay on the ballot for four years, Nettles never really received serious Hall consideration.
If you thought Jorge Posada got snubbed, consider the fact that Thurman Munson had more career WAR than Posada with 46.1, despite tragically dying in an airplane crash at the age of 32. The seven-time all-star batted .292 for his career, won rookie of the year, an MVP, and three gold gloves. His JAWS score of 41.5 is just below the 44.0 of the average Hall of Fame catcher despite only playing for 11 seasons. There have been many arguments through the years to posthumously induct Munson. Maybe the Hall will make the move one of these years.
For about 6 seasons in the mid to late 1980s, Don Mattingly might have been the best player in baseball. He won an MVP, a batting title, led the league in hits twice, doubles three times, total bases twice, and RBIs, slugging percentage, and OPS once. He also won nine gold gloves throughout his career. From 1984-1989 Mattingly had more hits than Gwynn, more home runs than Ripken, more doubles than Boggs, and more total bases than anyone.
Unfortunately, Donny Baseball’s career was over at the age of 34. Was Mattingly’s peak enough to get him in? The writers have said no, but perhaps a committee will reward his peak, like they rewarded Baines’ longevity. There are certainly many paths to the Hall of Fame.
Has there ever been a more impactful owner in the history of sports? The Boss truly earned his nickname. He spent to win, and win he did. George Steinbrenner bought the fabled Yankees for a now ridiculous price of $8.7 million and built a team that won 11 pennants and seven World Series titles in the 37 years he manned the helm. George was a larger than life personality who just wanted to win.
He was willing to spend his money to put who he thought were the best players on the field (even if it didn’t always work out). He also hired excellent front office and managerial staff members who developed players and made excellent decisions that put the Yankees back on the path to greatness in an ever more competitive marketplace.
Note: This article did not consider the candidacies of players currently on the ballot or not yet eligible.