It ain’t over till it’s over. That’s the way things roll these days in Cooperstown, N.Y., where in advance of the annual Hall of Fame voting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America there are now various committees evaluating the candidacy of overlooked and rejected players from previous eras.
Of particular interest hereabouts is what’s taking place on the ballot for the Modern Baseball Era (1970-87), because one of the 10 candidates is your friend and mine, El Tiante, the great Luis Tiant.
A 16-member committee does the voting, and 12 votes are necessary to secure election. A voter can vote for a maximum of four people.
Let’s take a look at the candidates for 2018, in alphabetical order.
1. Steve Garvey (1969-87)
Had a seven-year run of an OPS of .800 or better . . . Drove in 100 runs five times . . . 1974 MVP . . . 2,599 career hits . . . Durable: led league in games played six times . . . 10 All-Star Games . . . Bonus: postseason OPS of .910 in 55 games for the Dodgers and Padres . . . Hall of Famers among Garvey’s top 10 Similarity Scores on baseball-reference.com: Orlando Cepeda (8).
2. Tommy John (1963-89)
Yup, 26 years! 288-231 . . . 20-game winner three times . . . Led in shutouts three times . . . Last nine years were a pedestrian 74-80 . . . Highly symbolic: People talk about “Tommy John-style” pitch-to-contact guys . . . And, of course, has loaned his name to a well-known surgical procedure . . . Bonus: 6-3, 2.65 lifetime in the postseason . . . Best argument: Hall of Fame Similarity Scores rock. Robin Roberts (2), Bert Blyleven (3) Fergie Jenkins (4), Early Wynn (5), Tom Glavine (6), Burleigh Grimes (7), Don Sutton (9), Eppa Rixey (10).
3. Jack Morris (1977-94)
The touchstone player when the arguments begin between old-timer thinkers and modern analytics guys. Simply put, the old guys favor him and the new guys think his candidacy is fraudulent. So either you value his 254 wins or you don’t. Either you explain what would be the highest ERA of any Hall of Fame pitcher (3.90) by claiming he often “pitched to the score” or you think that’s a bunch of cow dung. Either you think 14 Opening Day starts means something or you don’t . . . Renowned for his complete game, 1-0 Game 7 win for the Twins over the Braves in 1991 . . . Hall of Famers among Morris’s top 10 Similarity Scores: Bob Gibson (4), Red Ruffing (7), Amos Rusie (8), Burleigh Grimes (10).
4. Don Mattingly (1982-95)
If you believe in the primacy of “peak value,” he should be in. Career divided between pre-back woes and post-back woes . . . Had four-year run of MVP placements as follows: 5-1-2-7 . . . Career OPS of .830 . . . Nine Gold Gloves at 1B . . . 1985 MVP . . . Shining light of mediocre Yankee teams . . . Waited 13 years for a postseason chance and then had an ALDS OPS of 1.148 . . . Hall of Famers among Mattingly’s top 10 Similarity Scores: Kirby Puckett (4).
5. Marvin Miller
The great labor leader had more off-the-field effect on the game than anyone in history . . . Passed over numerous times, he sent a letter to the Hall saying he did not wish to be on the ballot any longer . . . If elected, his son says he will ignore it.
6. Dale Murphy (1976-93)
Part of the trivia question to name all those with back-to-back MVPs by position. He’s in center (1982 and 1983). Career OPS .815 . . . Led NL over the years in a dozen offensive categories, ranging from games played to RBIs to intentional walks to both strikeouts and walks . . . Hall of Famers among Murphy’s top 10 Similarity Scores: Duke Snider (3), Ron Santo (7).
7. Dave Parker (1973-91)
Led league in batting average (twice), slugging (twice), and total bases (three times) . . . Monster MVP year in 1978 . . . Three Gold Gloves in RF . . . Two still-remembered awesome throws in 1979 All-Star Game . . . Modest postseason stats (.647 OPS in 30 games) . . . Hall of Famers among Parker’s top 10 Similarity Scores: Tony Perez (3), Billy Williams (4), Andre Dawson (7).
8. Ted Simmons (1968-88)
Switch-hitting catcher . . . Consistent hitting threat with 2,472 hits and career OPS of .785 . . . Only league-leading categories were for GIDP (once) and intentional walks (twice) . . . Hall of Famers among Simmons’s top 10 Similarity Scores: Carlton Fisk (4), Gary Carter (5), Barry Larkin (7), Joe Cronin (8), Yogi Berra (9).
9. Luis Tiant (1964-82)
We love him, but it was Cleveland that had his 21 wins and 1.60 ERA in ’68 . . . Four-time 20-game winner . . . Noted “Big Game” pitcher . . . A showman par excellence (Yes, even more than Pedro) . . . Might merit inclusion for his 161-pitch CG in 1975 Game 4 alone . . . Led AL in shutouts three times . . . Hall of Famers among Tiant’s top 10 Similarity Scores: Catfish Hunter (1), Jim Bunning (2), Don Drysdale (6).
10. Alan Trammell (1977-96)
Solid, solid, solid SS . . . Six All-Star Games . . . 2,365 hits and maybe two bad throws . . . No flashy stats, but no one was more reliable . . . Hall of Famers among Trammell’s top 10 Similarity Scores: Barry Larkin (2), Ryne Sandberg (9), Pee Wee Reese (10).
My four votes are:
Jack Morris. I want him on the mound if it’s win or go home tonight.
Don Mattingly. He walks into the Hall if his back holds up for two more years to pad those stats.
Dave Parker. A two-way energy force.
Looie, Looie. You have to ask?