LAS VEGAS—The selection of Harold Baines to the Hall of Fame has been met with criticism from some close observers of the process. Even a number of Oriole fans have expressed surprise.
Baines’ entry has fans wondering about the absence of former players such as Mike Mussina, Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens.
Baines and Lee Smith, another former Oriole, were elected by the Today’s Game Era committee, one of three committees the Hall of Fame has set up to consider players and executives passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Mussina, who won 270 games for the Orioles and Yankees, might be elected next month. If not then, he’s at most a year or two away from Cooperstown. Bonds, who hit 762 home runs, and Clemens, who won 354 games, are another issue, but their fate is still up to the BBWAA.
Baines, who never got more than 6.1 percent of the vote in five elections by the BBWAA, and Smith, who did get more than 50 percent of the vote in 15 elections, were picked by a committee of 16 electors, selected by the Hall of Fame.
In both BBWAA and Veterans committee elections, a candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote. Smith, who played for the Orioles in 1994 and was a superb relief pitcher for the Cubs and Cardinals, was on the ballot of all 16 committee members. Baines, whose career was mostly spent with the White Sox as a designated hitter, was on 12.
Ten-year members of the BBWAA get a vote for the Hall of Fame. The makeup of the Veterans committees is more diverse.
Hall of Fame players Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan and Ozzie Smith were voters. So were Hall of Fame managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre as well as executives, including former Orioles general managers Pat Gillick and Andy MacPhail. Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was also a member.
Elias Sports Bureau executive Steve Hirdt and BBWAA members Tim Kurkjian and Claire Smith are also on the committee.
Baines was presumably helped by the presence of La Russa and Reinsdorf. He played 14 season with the White Sox. Gillick was also the Orioles’ GM for two of the seven seasons Baines was in Baltimore.
Supporters of Baines point out his 2,866 hits, which rank 46th in baseball history, more than Brooks Robinson, Ken Griffey, Tony Perez and Chipper Jones, Hall of Famers all.
He was a member of six postseason teams, and had 384 home runs. Baines played in the steroid era and was never implicated.
Baines was a designated hitter for most of his career, and that didn’t help him in the BBWAA. He didn’t start a game in the field for the last 10 seasons of his career.
His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) was 38.7, far below almost all Hall of Famers.
More relevant than comparing Baines’ case with Mussina, Bonds or Clemens, is looking at his stats against his contemporaries who haven’t been elected, including outfielder Dwight Evans, another former Oriole whose best years were with the Red Sox, and Dale Murphy, who played center field for the Braves.
Evans, who had a WAR of 67.1 and never received more than 10.1 percent of the vote in three BBWAA elections, and Murphy, who won two MVP awards but never cracked a quarter of the BBWAA vote, could be considered a year from now in the Modern Baseball committee election at the Winter Meetings.
Murphy came up short in last year’s Modern Baseball committee election.
While some might question Baines’ Hall of Fame credentials, he will receive a warm welcome from White Sox and Orioles fans who appreciated his bat and professionalism.
His selection is likely to prompt the Hall of Fame to re-examine its Veterans committee election procedures.
Lunch with Givens and Mancini?
Oriole experiences are among the items available for bids during the Winter Meetings Charity Auction, which will run until Thursday at 10 p.m.
Fans can bid on lunch for two with Mychal Givens and Trey Mancini before a home night game at a local restaurant. The winner will also receive two tickets to that night’s game, a parking pass, access to the manager’s pregame press conference and two batting practice field passes.
One fan can join the Orioles’ grounds crew for a night game, assisting head groundskeeper Nicole Sherry. The winner must be at least 16. Four tickets to the game, a parking pass and a grounds crew polo shirt will be provided.
Four fans can bid on a behind-the-scenes experience, which might include watching the manager’s pregame press conference, watching batting practice from the field, visiting the press box, the MASN television booth, the radio booth, the MASN production truck, the Orioles’ scoreboard production room and watching an inning with Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Elias.
For an opportunity to bid, visit mlb.com/wintermeetingsauction.