White Sox legend Harold Baines has received a lot of criticism recently after his recent election into the Baseball Hall of Fame via Today’s Game Era ballot.
Harold Baines election to the Hall of fame by the Today’s Game Era Ballot was met with mixed responses. Fans of the Chicago White Sox and of Baines were excited. Many who played with Baines praised the move. However, many commentators said he didn’t deserve it and it represented a watering down of the Hall of Fame. I for one, think it is a great thing.
Baines isn’t the greatest player to make the Hall of Fame and he isn’t the worst either. That distinction would belong to someone like Lloyd Waner who only accumulated a 24.1 career WAR. His brother was good though. Baines’ most impressive stat is his 2,866 career hits, which goes along with his 384 home runs, a .289 career batting average, a .820 career OPS, 1,628 RBIs, and a 38.7 career WAR. Baines also appeared in six All-Star games and was maybe the greatest designated hitter of all time until he was passed up by Edgar Martinez (more on him later).
With Baines being elected many have said the Hall of Fame will be watered down. This argument is that the Hall of Fame is for the very best players – Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays – it’s the Hall of Fame, not the “Hall of Very Good”. I generally agree. The problem is there are already not-so-great players in the Hall of Fame. Old voters seem to have a bone to pick with more recent players thinking that “the game was tougher back in my day”, which is of course not true, as the already extremely difficult game of baseball is not getting any easier.
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Today’s players are better than ever and way better than ones from hundreds of years ago, yet many mediocre old-timey players occupy the Hall of Fame. This includes Candy Cummings, who went an uninspiring 21-22 in his two years in the National League but was elected primarily because the veterans committee members thought he invented the curveball, a thing that he did not do despite claiming so. I think Baines is probably better than that guy. Infamously in 2013, not a single player was elected from a list that included Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.
There’s no reason for this other than the voters bias against players that played in the 1990s and after. Hopefully, Baines election will lower the bar for players who played in a recent era and end the stigma against them. To be clear, I don’t think the bar for the Hall of Fame should be lowered in general, I think it should be lowered for players who played recently, who have to surpass ridiculous standards that players from old eras did not even come close to and still made the Hall of Fame.
As for the “Hall of Very Good”, how do we decide which players are truly great and which are only very good? A lot of all-time greats, like Chicago’s Ron Santo had to wait years to get in because “experts” argued that he was only “very good” and not great – when advanced stats show he is one of the greatest third basemen ever. If the Hall of Fame were to lower its currently ridiculously standards for modern era players that could open up a lot of opportunities.
Harold Baines induction could be a gateway to allow greats to get in – such as Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker, who are currently mistaken by some as being only “very good”. Naysayers argue that if Baines is in, then a lot more people have to be in. Well, that’s a good thing, because a lot more people SHOULD be in.
Furthermore, if players of Baines caliber and better get into the hall of fame that really wouldn’t be that bad of a thing. Electing a man who amassed 2,866 hits and made six All-Star teams is not beneath the dignity for the Hall of Fame. If almost everyone who got 2,866 hits or more playing major league baseball makes the Hall of Fame, so be it. Do people have any idea how difficult that is to do? Many have played this game from little league and onward and so few have managed to do that.
The travesty is not that Baines will be inducted in the Hall of Fame, it’s that there are great players who are not in. Like certain players with 4,256 career hits, 600 career home runs, or 61 home runs in a single season. Baines’ career WAR of 38.7 is below that of a typical Hall of Famer. Should everyone around that total be in the Hall of Fame? Of course not, but some should be, like Roger Maris (38.2) for example. Now Maris has a better case.
Harold Baines is the first primary DH to be elected to the Hall of Fame, which ends a stigma and opens the doors for Martinez and David Ortiz. Baines also helps the case for Paul Konerko, just like Jack Morris helps the case for Mark Buehrle. I still wouldn’t expect either player to get in but at least with Baines and Morris in they get to be part of the conversation. And they deserve to be part of the conversation, based at least on Buehrle’s 214 career wins and Konerko’s 439 career home runs.
If Ortiz gets in, then maybe Barry Bonds will, and then perhaps Pete Rose, and then maybe our good old friend Shoeless Joe Jackson can finally be reprieved. The Hall of Fame needs more historically great and exciting players, not fewer.
In the meantime, this is a great thing for Baines and the White Sox, as it seems the organization is finally starting to get the national recognition they are long due for. He is one of the greatest players in White Sox history and Chicago could use more Hall of Famers – Minnie Minoso comes to mind. Congrats and hooray for Baines, and congrats to Lee Smith as well.