John Lepore | December 8th, 2019
The Modern Baseball Game committee will announce their inductees tonight. There are 10 people on the ballot, but unfortunately, the committee members can only vote for four. I am going to run down the four candidates I would vote for if I were on the committee.
Lou Whitaker – The long-time second baseman for the Detroit Tigers should be in already. The travesty is that he fell off the ballot in his first year of eligibility in 2001. That year he garnered 15 votes which was 2.9%. Shortly after that, in 2003, Ryne Sandberg got 244 votes which was 49.2% of the votes that year in his first year of eligibility. Sandberg would move up to 61.1% in 2004 and then finally get voted in with 76.4% in 2005. I am not trying to take away from Sandberg. He was a great second baseman and deserved to be inducted. The thing that baffles me is why the discrepancy between Whitaker and him? They played at pretty much the same time so we will use 1982 through 1994 as a guideline since both players played full seasons in that era.
Sandberg had the accolades. He won the NL MVP in 1984 and finished in the top 4 two other times. He led the league in HRs in 1990 with 40. He also won nine Gold Gloves. Whitaker, on the other hand, didn’t have the same amount of awards. He won AL ROY in 1978 but then aside from five AS appearances and three Gold Gloves, that was about it. His consistency was his calling card. When we look at the overall body of work through those 13 seasons of 1982-1994, we see Whitaker with a 59.5 rWAR, 10.7 dWAR, .359 wOBA, and 123 wRC+ in 7,608 PAs. Compare that to Sandberg’s 64.1 rWAR, 11.3 dWAR, .356 wOBA, and 119 wRC+ and you have two players who are pretty even.
I think Whitaker gets in tonight. He is arguably a top 10 second baseman of All-Time and compared to his contemporaries like Sandberg, he is definitely on par and should have his own plaque in Cooperstown.
Dwight Evans – Evans would fit right in with the type of player that has been valued the past few years. He walked a ton and had power. His career slash line was an impressive .272/.370/.470 and he checks all the boxes for the old school folks with more than 1,300 runs and RBI to go along with nearly 400 HRs and 500 doubles. Evans had a very good arm and was a good defensive right fielder in his prime.
Dwight Evans finished his first year on the ballot with 5.9% of the vote and barely stayed on. His second year was a bit better at 10.4%. Unfortunately, his third year would be his last as he only received 15 votes total. His 67.1 rWAR sits ahead of other Hall of Famers such as Andre Dawson (64.8), Dave Winfield (64.2), and Billy Williams (63.7). Evans, like Whitaker, should be there already. Hopefully, the committee will be calling his name tonight.
Thurman Munson – The Walrus was a mainstay and captain of the New York Yankees until his untimely death on August 2nd, 1979. The Yankees had just come off back to back championships and even at 32 years old Munson was already having another solid year batting .288 with a 1.0 dWAR. He played for 11 seasons for the Yankees and accumulated 46.1 rWAR. His value was incredible when you look at his 4.9/150 rWAR.
He won the AL ROY in 1970 and won the AL MVP in 1976. Munson finished with a career slash of .292/.346/.410. His postseason stats were even better slashing .357/.378/.496 and in the three World Series he played in he was 25-67 (.373). I have a soft spot so to speak for Munson. I was six years old when he died and grew up in NJ around baseball fans. His death was the first I had experienced that actually made an impact on people’s lives that was tangible. It made a mark on me that while sports are still just entertainment, the players we flock to and idolize mean something to our outlook and do have an effect on us even if it’s subconsciously.
I think Thurman Munson should be in and while I don’t know if he will make it, I have a feeling that the 40th anniversary of his death may build some sentimentality and another closer look at his case.
Marvin Miller – While not a player, every single guy that dons a uniform owes their bloated bank accounts to Miller. If you don’t know, Miller was the head of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association from 1966-1982. Players made an average of $19,000 in 1966. When Miller finally left in 1982, they averaged $242,000. The Curt Flood case was the catalyst to change the “reserve clause” which basically kept players as the property of a team that held their contract. Although the Supreme Court decided against Flood, it started the ball rolling.
Miller was also responsible for adding the arbitration process to the CBA in 1972. The influence of the Flood case would show up in 1974 when Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally played without contracts and then were awarded free agency. He was a pioneer and changed the whole economic landscape of baseball. Miller gave players the freedom to do what Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and others are doing now. That is to decide where they want to play and what contract they will accept. The Hot Stove as we know it wouldn’t exist without Marvin Miller, and for that alone, he deserves to be inducted.
If you haven’t yet, check out more in-depth HOF articles at Cooperstowncred.com. Chris does a great job and extensive research on all of the candidates.
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