Harold Baines

So the results are in. The relevant committee of experts  met, and made their collective decision. In addition to whoever makes the grade on the regular ballot, the Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome two new members this summer.

Relief pitcher Lee Smith, and…..

Harold Baines.

No doubt many baseball fans responded to this news with a WHAT??!?!!?

It’s easy to understand. No one, in all honesty, could have ever expected Baines to have made it in to the Hall of Fame without having to pay the admission fee. Yes, he did have a long career, could have reached 3,000 hits if it wasn’t for some strikes and work stoppages, and made several All Star teams. Yes, there are Hall of Famers with poorer credentials. But there are also many players with much better resumes who are going to stay on the outside looking in.

So what happened?

The current “Veterans Committee” system which selected both Smith and Baines is only in its third year of existence. So far, the various committees have chosen Bud Selig, John Schuerholz, Alan Trammell, Jack Morris and now Baines and Smith. Two executives who cannot be judged according to the usual statistical anaylses. Trammel was genuinely overlooked in the regular BBWAA voting. Morris and Smith have both been discussed long and hard during the regular voting, and both have solid cases for inclusion. So Baines’ election was the first “WTF?” under the current system.

Does this mean the current system is garbage and needs a complete overhaul? Well, three years is too small a sample size. Yes, there will probably be a few tweaks coming down the line. But Baines being in the Hall of Fame isn’t the end of the world, or even Baseball As We Know It. In the end, we all have our own personal Halls of Fame, anyway.

By the way, here’s what I think happened:

Three of the people on the committee either managed Baines (Tony LaRussa), or had him on teams that they worked for (Jerry Reinsdorf and Pat Gillick). They are all highly respected people in baseball. During his playing days (at least), Baines was well respected and well-liked by pretty much everyone. I’m thinking that LaRussa, Reinsdorf, and Gillick made a strong enough case for him that when it came time to filling out the secret (they are secret, even among the committee members, right?) ballots, they thought, “OK, I’ve voted for Lee Smith and the few others that I think belong, so, why not toss a vote for Harold Baines just so I can get LaRussa/Reinsdorf/Gillick to shut up about him already? It’s not like everyone else is going to vote for him……..”

So Harold Baines will be at the induction ceremony this upcoming summer. He will get a bronze plaque in the “Hall of Fame” room in the Hall of Fame and Museum. The value of his memorabilia will go up slightly.

And then we need not speak any more of this.

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