How a pair of former Blue Jays got into the Hall of Fame with questionable cases

How a pair of former Blue Jays got into the Hall of Fame with questionable cases

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily electronic newsletter. Stay on top of what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

This year’s Baseball Hall of Fame class has a Blue Jays flavor.

Scott Rolen, a skilled third baseman in the field who played for Toronto in 2008 and 2009, was the only candidate to receive the required 75 percent support from baseball writers when the results of his Hall of Famer ballot were announced. fame last night. Only 10 percent of voters considered Rolen worthy of the Hall in 2018, his first year on the ballot. But his support has steadily increased every year since then, and the sixth time was the charm.

Rolen will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 23 alongside Fred McGriff, a slugger first baseman who spent his first five major league seasons with the Blue Jays from 1986 to 1990 and is far more associated with the team than Rolen. The Crime Dog was a favorite of Blue Jays fans, particularly in 1989 when he hit an AL-high 36 home runs and led the AL in on-base plus slugging percentage. He ranked sixth in AL MVP voting that year and helped Toronto win the AL East title alongside the likes of George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Kelly Gruber, Ernie Whitt, Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key and Tom Henke. A year later, McGriff and Fernández were traded to San Diego in the franchise-changing blockbuster that scored Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, stars of the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and ’93.

McGriff remained a remarkably consistent, if unspectacular, hitter after leaving Toronto, becoming the first player to hit at least 30 home runs for five different teams and one of only four to win home run titles in both the American League and the United States. the National. After stops with Atlanta (where he won the World Series in 1995), Tampa Bay, the Cubs and the Dodgers, McGriff retired after the 2004 season with 493 home runs, tied with Lou Gehrig for 29th all-time. Every player ahead of McGriff on the all-time home run list is already in the Hall of Fame, not yet eligible because they’re still active or retired very recently, or are on steroids.

But McGriff’s assertiveness failed to surprise the writers. He never reached even 40 percent in his Hall of Fame ballot before falling off the ballot after the 10-year high. McGriff entered last month through the Era of Contemporary Baseball committee, one of the rotating groups that reconsider candidates from a certain period of time after they have exhausted their eligibility with writers (a job previously handled by the old Committee of Veterans).

These 16-person panels are much more lenient, admitting such questionable candidates as Harold Baines, Jack Morris and Jim Kaat in recent years. One reason for that could be familiarity. The committee that selected McGriff, for example, included former teammates Greg Maddux and Kenny Williams and former Blue Jays executive Paul Beeston. Baseball writers certainly aren’t immune to bias, but it tends to surface when nearly 400 votes are cast.

Rolen got into the Hall of Fame the old-fashioned way, but not without a few raised eyebrows. After being rejected in his first five attempts, the former Phillie, Cardinal, Blue Jay and Red was named on 76.3 percent of writers’ ballots this year, clearing the bar for induction by just six votes. His debut of 10.2 percent in 2018 is by far the lowest first-ballot percentage of any player who is elected later. The previous record was 17 percent, by Dodgers great Duke Snider.

Rolen likely benefited from weak competition this year. The only semi-strong candidate to join the ticket was Carlos Beltrán, a 435-homer man somewhat tainted by his role in the Astros’ cheating scandal. Holdovers Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez certainly have the numbers to get in, and Gary Sheffield and Andy Pettitte probably deserve it, too, but all four are out in the eyes of some voters due to their ties to steroids. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa were left off the ballot last year for the same reason. The top vote-getters behind Rolen this year were Todd Helton, a first baseman with inflated hitting stats at Coors Field; and Billy Wagner, a great closer but still a closer.

Having said all that, Rolen was an excellent player. Much of the skepticism about his Hall of Fame worthiness may stem from the fact that his abilities were more subtle than others. Rolen was a .281 career hitter who hit 30 home runs in a season just three times and topped 34 in 2004, when he ranked fourth in National League MVP voting for St. Louis. Other than that year, Rolen never made the top 13 in MVP voting, although he did win the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year award with Philly.

Baseball fans, however, recognize Rolen as a very good hitter and, above all, an excellent defensive third baseman, perhaps the best of his time. He won eight Gold Gloves, and his rare combination of defensive and offensive ability is reflected in his 70.1 wins above replacement rating, which is better than seven of 15 Hall of Famers who were primarily third basemen. That Rolen’s WAR likely played a large role in his selection speaks to the changing demographics of baseball writers, who as a group become younger and more statistically savvy with each passing year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *