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Hall of Fame announces Today's Game Era (Veteran's) candidates

While all Indians fans are deeply engrossed in this year’s playoff run (and rightfully so), there may have been a few news stories that got pushed aside. This story is about the changes to the Hall of Fame voting process for players no longer eligible and the announced candidates for this year.

Could Albert Belle make the Hall of Fame?
Could Albert Belle make the Hall of Fame?
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Up until 2010, voting occurred with the Veteran's Committee. Then the election was split into a three-tiered structure covering the Expansion Era (1973 and later) in 2010 and 2013; the Golden Era (1947-1972) in 2011 and 2014; and the Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946) in 2012 and 2015.

Back in July of this year, it was announced that another restructuring was in store starting with this year's voting in December 2016. It was announced that the formerly known Veterans Committee is now named the Eras Committee. And this committee will now vote on four different eras:

  • Early Baseball (1871-€”1949)
  • Golden Days (1950-€”1969)
  • Modern Baseball (1970-€”1987)
  • Today's Game (1988 and later)

The frequency of voting on each era will now change as well. In the most recent Veterans Committee, each of the eras was voted on once every three years. In this current iteration, there will be more emphasis on the recent past, then on the historical eras. Both the Modern Baseball and Today's Game eras will be voted on twice every five years. The Golden Days era will occur once every five years and the Early Baseball era will be voted on once every ten years. So the current schedule is as follows:

  • Today's Game 2016, 2018, 2021, 2023, 2026, 2028
  • Modern Baseball 2017, 2019, 2022, 2024, 2027, 2029
  • Golden Days 2020, 2025, 2030
  • Early Baseball 2020, 2030

So this means that this December during the Winter Meetings, the panel of sixteen members of the Eras Committee will vote on ten new candidates from the Today's Game era. Those candidates were announced on October 3. Of the new candidates, a number of them have Tribe connections. Each player will have their bWAR (Baseball Reference WAR) fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) and JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system; please read here)

The candidates

Albert Belle (39.9 bWAR; 41.0 fWAR; 37.9 JAWS)

Arguably the most terrifying hitter in the mid-90s, Belle is very familiar to Tribe fans. From 1993 until 1999, he slashed 308/391/602, 156 OPS+, 139 wRC+ and averaged 42 doubles, 42 home runs and 127 RBIs with an 11% walk rate and just a 13% K rate. Unfortunately a hip injury in 2000 derailed a likely sure-fire Hall of Fame career. He is still the only player ever to have a 50/50 (2B/HR) season and this occurred in a strike shortened season (1995). He made five All-Star games, had five Silver Sluggers and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting five times, being robbed by Mo Vaughn in 1995.

Unfortunately, Belle was one of the most ornery and unfriendly players in the game, especially to reporters and ultimately BBWAA voters. I liken his career to Kirby Puckett, who also had an injury shortened career. Puckett got bonuses though for being good defensively and was a center fielder. Plus he was known as a good guy, at least until after he was voted in on his initial ballot. Belle barely survived the cut in his first ballot (7.7%) and was removed after two years of voting.

Harold Baines (38.5 bWAR; 38.4 fWAR; 29.9 JAWS)

Baines was another professional hitter who ended up being a very good designated hitter. He was in the majors for 22 seasons, compiling a 289/356/465, 121 OPS+, 119 wRC+ with 384 HR. Baines was a very steady and very good player for a long time. He did make six All-Star games, including one in his only season in Cleveland (1999). But he only made four MVP votes, with only one top ten finish in 1985 (#9). Baines did last five years on the BBWAA ballot, but never got higher than 6.1%.

Will Clark (56.2 bWAR; 52.0 fWAR; 46.0 JAWS)

Will "The Thrill" burst onto the scene in 1986 with the San Francisco Giants, finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. He accumulated six All-Star games in his 15-year career. He finished up with a 303/384/497, 137 OPS+, 136 wRC+ line and 284 HR. He nabbed two Silver Sluggers, one Gold Glove, and had four top-ten MVP finishes. He didn't get past the first year of voting in 2006 with just 4.4%.

Mark McGwire (62.0 bWAR; 66.3 fWAR; 51.9 JAWS)

Much ink has been spilled over McGwire's career. The Rookie of the Year in 1987, burst onto the scene leading the league with 49 HR and 0.618 SLG. McGwire was the classic slugger in as his career numbers reflect: 263/394/588, 163 OPS+, 157 wRC+. He crushed 583 home runs and had respectable 17.2% walk rate and 20.8% K rate. He made twelve All-Star games, nabbed one Gold Glove early in his career (but finished with a -12.8 dWAR). He also got three Silver Sluggers and five top ten MVP finishes. The PED became his albatross, though, and he never amassed more than 25% of the BBWAA in his 10 years on the ballot, but he always got 10%. It will be interesting to see if his peers have a different take on his PED use than the voters as his numbers alone are Hall of Fame worthy.

Orel Hershiser (51.7 bWAR; 48.0 fWAR; 48.6 JAWS)

The Bulldog is the only pitcher on this year's ballot and should also get some serious consideration. He was a dominant workhorse in the last 80s, throwing 200+ innings five straight years and an incredible 25 complete games in 1987-1988 with nine shutouts. Yes, 25! Over his 18 year career, he finished with a 204-150 record, a 3.48 ERA (112 ERA+) and a 3.69 FIP. From 1985-1989, he was the best pitcher in the NL: 87-56, 2.69 ERA in 1259.1 innings, 50 complete games, 19 shutouts, 132 ERA+, 3.05 FIP and 1.152 WHIP.

Hershiser also shined the most in the spotlight. In the postseason, he was 8-3 in 22 games (18 starts), 2.59 ERA, 1.106 WHIP, 4 CG and 1 SHO. He is also another Indian on the ballot from his 1995-1997 run, winning the best Game 5 of the World Series (just because I attended the game!). He only made three All-Star games, but did nab a Cy Young in 1988 and had three other top-five finishes. He also had one Gold Glove and one Silver Slugger to his credit.

Lou Piniella

Piniella also has a Cleveland tie, albeit briefly in 6 games in 1968 as a player. He was a Rookie of the Year in 1969 (for the Kansas City Royals, sigh) and had a solid MLB career. But he eligible here because of his managerial career. He managed for the New York Yankees (1986-87, 1988), the Cincinnati Reds (1990-1992), Seattle Mariners (1993-2002), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2003-2005) and the Chicago Cubs (2007-2010). Over those 23 seasons, he had an 1835-1713 record, won the World Series with the Reds in 1990 and finished first in his division six times. He also received Manager of the Year awards in 1995, 2001 and 2008. He is fourteenth all-time in wins. All but Gene Mauch ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame.

Davey Johnson

Johnson never played for or managed the ICleveland Indians, but he did play and manage against them. Johnson had a good but brief playing career, amassing three Gold Gloves, three All-Star nods and third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1966 as a second baseman. But he is also on this list because of his managerial talents. He managed the New York Mets (1984-1990), the Cincinnati Reds (1993-1995), Baltimore Orioles (1996-1197), the Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2000), and the Washington Nationals (2011-2013). He was named manager of the year in 1997 and 2012. He also has a World Series title with the Mets in 1986 and six division titles. He has a much better record than Piniella, 1372-1071, but is only 31st in wins (behind Terry Francona). That winning percentage of 0.562 nets him 22nd overall.

Bud Selig

Selig was originally a stockholder of the Milwaukee Braves. When they moved to Atlanta in 1965, he sold off his stock. He devoted his efforts to bring another franchise back to Milwaukee. He actually was able to convince the Chicago White Sox to play 20 home games in Milwaukee in 1968 and 1969. The eleven home games in 1969 actually accounted for one third of the total home attendance for the White Sox that year. He actually had an agreement to buy the White Sox but the American League vetoed the sale as they wanted to keep the Sox in Chicago.

In 1969, the AL did expand to Seattle with the Pilots, but they were bankrupt. Selig bought the franchise and moved them to Milwaukee. He was club president and eventually succeeded Fay Vincent in 1992 as Acting Commissioner. He became Commissioner in 1998 and held that position until 2015. In that time span, he oversaw two league expansions, interleague play, changed the outcome of the All-Star Game to home-field advantage, addition of the second wild-card team, and balanced both leagues to 15 teams each.

George Steinbrenner

Steinbrenner was a graduate assistant to Woody Hayes at Ohio State and actually coached football at Northwestern before becoming the Great Lakes shipping magnate. He got his sports start with the Cleveland Pipers in 1960 in the ABL. He did have interest in the Tribe back in the early 1970s, before eventually purchasing the New York Yankees from CBS in 1973.

From there, the Yankee Dynasty took off in the late 1970s. They won two titles in 1977 and 1978 while losing two others. His meddling got the best of him shortly afterward though as he burned through multiple managers and bringing them back quite often. The postseason drought from 1982 ended finally in 1995. From 1995 to 2007, they made the playoffs every year, winning 4 World Series in just five years (1996-2000). He retired in 2006.

John Schuerholz

Schuerholz started with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966. When one of his bosses, Lou Gorman, left to join the expansion Kansas City Royals in 1969, Schuerholz went with him. He was Assistant Farm Director and Director of Scouting/Player Development before being named general manager of the Royals in October 1981. He held that position through 1990. During that timeframe the Royals continued their competitiveness in the AL West, winning it all in 1985.

After a sixth place finish in 1990, he moved over to the Atlanta Braves. Under his lead, they jumped from sixth to first that first year, and made the postseason every year until 2005, with the one championship in 1995. He moved up to President in 2008 and retired in 2014.

In summary

As in years past, there will be 16 members on each committee. [Note: the committee members have not yet been announced.] Each of the 16 members are allowed to vote for as few as zero (0) and as many as four (4) eligible candidates. To gain election, the candidate must receive 75% of the votes (i.e. 12).

This group of 10 is very deep. It will be difficult for any of the players to make it in my opinion. I am very sure Selig will be almost unanimous. Schuerholz is very deserving as well. Steinbrenner likely will get in at some point, but I don't think it will be this go-round. I think one of the two managers get in, with Piniella being the favorite.

That leaves just one spot for one of the players. If I were to rank the five players, I'd probably go like this: McGwire, Hershiser, Belle, Clark, Baines.

And if I had to rank all 10, my list would be:

Selig, Schuerholz, McGwire, Piniella, Hershiser, Belle, Steinbrenner, Johnson, Clark, Baines.

I would love for Belle to get in and I think he has a decent case with the injury, but this field is too strong in my opinion, and I think he might even get shut out from any votes.