Tim Raines won’t be elected to the Hall of Fame when the results are announced on Tuesday, and probably won’t even get half the vote.
That’s despite a career in which Raines stole 808 bases, batted .294, had 2,605 hits, reached base 38.5% of his plate appearances and had a 69.1 WAR. He was the second-best leadoff hitter of the last 50 years, and if he wasn’t Rickey Henderson, who was the best, to hear Rickey talk about himself in the third person, neither was Rickey.
You have to wonder who watered down Raines’ basepath to Cooperstown, because it wasn’t PEDs and it wasn’t the 10-player limit on the ballot and it’s not the lack of voters in Montreal. In his first seven at-bats for the Hall, Raines topped 50% once and 40% just three times. He’s staying on the ballot, which is more than can be said for Kenny Lofton, who should have, but Raines isn’t gaining traction.
Three newcomers — Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz — are sure to be elected on Tuesday, all pitchers, all deserving. But only the first two are lengths beyond Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, who combined to get a Raines-like 49% of the vote in their first year on the ballot in 2014.
The Hall of Fame voting can be wacky and as hard to comprehend as Joe West’s strike zone. And it’s not just because the electorate is as divided over the PED issues in a blue state-red state kind of way.
Five-hundred-twenty-five voters approved Tom Glavine (305 wins, 3.54 NL ERA, 118 ERA+, 74.0 WAR); at least 284 disapproved of either Schilling (216 wins, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+, 79.9 WAR) or Mussina (270 wins, 3.68 AL ERA, 123 ERA+, 83.0 WAR), or both. Glavine deserved to go in, but his career is not that much better than Mussina’s or Schilling’s, if at all.
For every voter who studies the advanced metrics, there’s one that won’t vote for Smoltz because he opposed Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series and Morris, who failed to get in for 15 years, won. Said voter made no mention of Lonnie Smith, without whom Morris’ shutout and legacy wouldn’t have been possible.
For every voter who applies park differentials and league variances, there’s one who benches the advanced metrics and relies on memory that can be as deceptive as Clayton Kershaw’s curveball. Voters who can’t remember if they emailed back their ballot are depending on the memory of a game they watched a generation ago with one eye on the poker table.
We can only guess who last year’s Aaron Sele voter will replace him with this year.
The new candidates up for a vote in 2015:
Randy Johnson: Majored in photojournalism for the three years he attended Southern California, which might help explain his adversarial relationship with most sports writers. He’s resumed taking photos since he retired, though it seems he made the right career choice. Might be the greatest left-handed pitcher ever, though that’s an argument for another day. No possible argument on his candidacy. Yes.
Pedro Martinez: Expos traded him after a 17-8, 1.90 ERA, 13-complete game, Cy Young-winning 1997 for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas. For their entire careers (Pavano’s ended in 2012; Armas’ in 2008), the two pitchers traded for Martinez accumulated 25.3 WAR, or 2.3 less than Pedro did in the next three seasons. It might be fun to see Pedro on the podium with Mike Piazza. The two were teammates in the minors and with the Dodgers, and it’s safe to neither was the other’s favorite batterymate. Yes.
John Smoltz: Acquired by the Braves in 1987 from the Tigers for Doyle Alexander, who was 9-0 as Detroit won the AL East. Hope that division title was worth it Tigers. Alexander won 14 games in 1988 and then lost a league-leading 18 in a 6-18, 4.44 ERA ’89. Alexander won 29 games for the Tigers, or 171 less than Smoltz won for the Braves. Smoltz had three top-five Cy Young finishes, his second-best (third) as a reliever. Yes.
Gary Sheffield: Hall of Fame hitter — 509 home runs, .907 OPS, 140 OPS+, 2,689 hits. Hall of Shame fielder — he was a negative, by WAR, for 22 consecutive seasons, at a total of -28.6, despite coming up with the Brewers as a shortstop. There’s also the matter of PEDs. His time in Milwaukee sounded a lot like Dick Allen’s in Philadelphia and Sheffield thought it was racial since the Brewers played Bill Spiers at short. He might have had a point. No.
Brian Giles: Played like a Hall of Famer for some bad Pirates teams. Career .400 on-base percentage, .902 OPS, five .300 seasons (one at .298, one at .299), four 35-plus homer seasons. Led the league in only category — walks with 119 in 2005. Hall of Very Good will take the leftovers. No.
Nomar Garciaparra: Red Sox had to trade him for Orlando Cabrera to win the World Series, which should be the final word. Hit 178 of his 229 homers for the Red Sox, accumulated 41.1 of his career 44.2 WAR for the Red Sox. Post-Boston career, with the exception of a 20-homer, .303 2006 with the Dodgers, he was Bill Spiers. Only hurt. No.
Carlos Delgado: His .929 career OPS is 37th all-time, but his 138 career OPS+ is tied for 87th with Wally Berger, Darryl Strawberry, Ken Williams and Mike Tiernan. Not a Hall of Famer in that bunch. Delgado had 57 doubles and 1.134 OPS in 2000 (second behind Manny Ramirez’s 1.154) and 145 RBIs and 1.019 OPS in 2003, and nine straight seasons of an OPS of .900 or more. That his WAR was only 44.3 tells us all we need to know about the era he played in. No.
Darin Erstad: Batted .355 in 2000 (second in the AL to Nomar’s .372) but never reached .300 in his other 13 seasons (.295-.299 three times). Had more than a quarter (8.3) of his 32.3 career WAR in 2000 — .355, .951 OPS, 240 hits, 25 homers, 100 RBIs, 64 walks, 28 steals and a Gold Glove — and yet was eighth in the MVP vote. No.
Tom Gordon: Too bad Gordon’s not getting in, because Stephen King might have written the induction speech. Gordon won 138 games and saved 158 and pitched for eight teams, including both in Chicago and both the Yankees and Red Sox. Had a 7.06 postseason ERA, throwing six homers in 21.2 innings. No.
Jason Schmidt: Cautionary tale on free agency: Giants signed Schmidt for five years and $41 million and he was an ace, winning 71 games and finishing second and fourth in the Cy Young. Dodgers signed Schmidt for $47 million and Schmidt was a bust, pitching 10 games in three injury-marred seasons. No.
Cliff Floyd: Cautionary tale on injuries (Bryce Harper, take note): might have been the best prospect in baseball in 1993, when he batted .307, hit 28 homers, stole 33 bases, had 70 walks and slugged .535 at age 20 in AA/AAA. Hit 233 homers and stole 148 bases in a 17-season career, but injuries hurt. He played less than 100 games seven times in his career. No.
Jermaine Dye: Became a free agent after the 2009 season and never returned. Retired in 2011, which is a Molina like pace to announce. He hit 325 home runs and was still hitting them when he stopped playing — Dye hit 187 of his home runs after he turned 30, including 27 in his last season at age 35. Who knows how many home runs he lost to principle. No.
Rich Aurilia: It might be too late for a recount, but in 2001, Aurilia was the Giants shortstop and batted .324, hit 37 homers, 37 doubles, slugged .572, scored 114 runs and knocked in 97. He finished 12th in the MVP vote. What does Barry Bonds’ teammate have to do to get noticed? Aurilia hit 186 career homers and might be the best position player from St. John’s (pitchers John Franco and Frank Viola are 1-2), if not for long. Current Giant Joe Panik is also a Red Storm. No.
Troy Percival: He won’t get as many votes as Lee Smith, but he was a better pitcher if for a shorter time. Percival had a 146 ERA+ to Smith’s 132, a 3.17 ERA to Smith’s 3.03 and a .608 OPS against to Smith’s .647. Percival only pitched 14 seasons but had 358 saves, and saved seven of the Angels’ 11 postseason wins in 2002. No.
Aaron Boone: Will get a vote from a Yankee fan because his Game 7 homer left the yard and won the 2003 ALCS. No.
Tony Clark: Will get a vote from a Red Sox fan because his Game 5 double left the yard and kept the Yankees from winning the 2004 ALCS in the ninth inning of Game 5 (Ruben Sierra, who would have scored, was waved back to third). No.
Eddie Guardado: Saved 187 games, made 908 appearances, and had ERAs of 2.93, 2.89, 2.78 and 2.72 in a four-year stretch (2002-05) when he had 140 of his saves. The Hall is not ready for a lefty relief specialist; when it is, the line forms behind Jesse Orosco. No.
If I had a ballot, I’m filling it with the three newcomers (Pedro, Johnson and Smoltz), Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Raines, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mussina and Schilling. I’m OK with Piazza, who’s going to be close, and Alan Trammell, who’s never received more than 36.8% in his first 13 tries because so much of his value was on defense and because George Bell won the 1987 AL MVP Trammell should have.