Harold Baines and Lee Smith were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a veterans committee on Sunday. This particular group, the “Today’s Game Committee,” was tasked with electing players “who made their marks from 1988 until present day.” Baines and Smith were elected from a group of 10 individuals, including former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and longtime MLB manager Lou Piniella.
Most relevant to our interests: former Detroit Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker was not on the ballot (so put those torches and pitchforks away for another year).
While this news normally would not warrant a mention on a Tigers-centric website, the committee’s baffling decision to elect Baines — and maybe even Smith, for that matter — doesn’t bode well for Whitaker’s eventual chances of induction. Baines, a career .289/.356/.365 hitter in 22 MLB seasons, accumulated just 38.7 career rWAR. He started his career in right field, but spent most of his time as a designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and others.
Worse yet, Baines pales in comparison to those he jumped ahead of on this special Hall of Fame ballot.
Players on the current HOF ballot with more bWAR than Harold Baines (38.7):— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) December 10, 2018
Yes, that’s former Tiger Placido Polanco at the bottom of that list. While we love everything that Polanco managed in a Tigers uniform, he is not a Hall of Famer. Former Tiger Curtis Granderson has Baines beat by nearly 10 WAR, and he isn’t done playing yet.
The newly retired Victor Martinez — who we also love, but is not a Hall of Famer — also compares well with Baines.
Age 25 season - retirement— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) December 10, 2018
Baines: .294/.365/.469, 392 2B, 316 HR, 2329 H, 31.7 bWAR
V-Mart: .295/.360/.458, 418 2B, 244 HR, 2098 H, 31.8 bWAR https://t.co/pnJMYPwDbh
Meanwhile, Whitaker would rank fifth on the above list, just after Curt Schilling. Sweet Lou’s candidacy is hurt by a lack of “black ink,” or gaudy stats that finished at the top of the league during his prime, but his entire body of work is on par with the average Hall of Fame second baseman.
Whitaker’s next chance to make it into the Hall will come within the next few years. The Modern Baseball Committee, which evaluates players from 1970 to 1987. Whitaker was snubbed by this committee the last time around, but saw former teammates Alan Trammell and Jack Morris get the nod to Cooperstown. With Trammell lightly campaigning for his longtime double play partner during his induction speech, maybe this committee will finally get it right and put Whitaker into the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.
Or they will screw it up again and we’ll have to find more creative ways to sneak swear words into our headlines.