Major League Baseball’s 2020 Modern Era Hall of Fame Ballot: Who Should Be In and Out?
The National Baseball Hall of Fame has announced that 10 candidates will be considered as part of the 2020 Modern Era ballot for possible induction. Those under consideration include Tommy John, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Marvin Miller, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker and Thurman Munson. If any of these renowned figures receive at least 75% of votes from a 16-member panel voting on December 8th at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego they will punch their ticket to Cooperstown. Do any of them belong, and if so, who? Let’s take a look.
Tommy John, Pitcher: The lefthander won 288 games and had a 3.34 ERA during the course of his career. However, he accumulated those stats across 26 seasons. Other detractors include never striking out more than 138 batters in any season, only making four All-Star teams and receiving Cy Young Votes (but no awards) in just four different seasons. That’s not to say he wasn’t an excellent player — he was, but on stats alone it is a stretch for the Hall. However, when you add in his being the inaugural recipient of the eponymous Tommy John Surgery, which has helped many baseball players since, he could be on the bubble for getting the requisite votes.
Dwight Evans, Outfielder: Possessing a powerful arm and superior skill with his glove, Evans gradually became a dangerous hitter. Spending all but one season of his 20-year big league career with the Boston Red Sox, he was a career .272 hitter with 385 home runs, 1,384 RBIs and 2,446 hits. The 256 home runs he hit between 1981–1989 were more than any other player in the American League during that time. He flew under the radar for much of his career, but his 67.1 career WAR is significantly higher than long-time teammate Jim Rice’s 47.7, which was good enough to get him into the Hall in 2009. Evans should have a strong case for getting the 12 votes needed.
Steve Garvey, First Baseman: An excellent all-around player, his legacy has dimmed some since he retired, as advanced stats have cast him in a somewhat different light. He was known as a tremendous defender, but his range was limited. He hit .284 with 222 home runs in 19 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, and while he won the 1974 National League MVP, the only major offensive stats he ever led the league in was hits (twice). His 38.1 career WAR is simply beneath the threshold of other first basemen in the Hall. It’s hard to imagine he will get the push needed to get to Cooperstown.
Marvin Miller, Executive: The long-time head of the players’ union passed away in 2012. It’s a n oversight that he was not enshrined prior to his death. Love him or hate him, he was directly responsible for the strengthening of the union, free agency and helping increase annual player salaries to the levels they are at today ($4.36 million in 2019). He was no favorite of owners, but a master strategist for the players. Simply put, few in the history of the game have impacted baseball as much as Miller, whose only obstacles will be the politics that have kept him out thus far.
Dale Murphy, Outfielder: The two-time National League MVP spent most of his 18-year career with the Atlanta Braves. He hit a combined .265 with 398 home runs, 1,266 RBIs and 2,111 base hits. Unfortunately, his last above average season came when he was just 31, he languished on a number of terrible teams and had a relatively short peak as a star (1980–1987). His 46.5 WAR and 121 OPS+ are both excellent in the grand scheme of things, but on the extremely low end for a potential Hall of Famer. Instead, he is more fitting for a charter member of the Hall of Very Good.
Dave Parker, Outfielder: In a very similar class to Murphy, “Cobra” had a 40.1 career WAR and a 121 OPS+ The left-handed hitter won an MVP Award and two batting titles on his way to a career marks of a .290 batting average. 339 home runs, 1,493 RBIs and 2,712 base hits in 19 seasons. He was not a strong fielder, but on the other hand had four top-five MVP finishes in addition to his win in 1978. He also had only one truly star season after he turned 28 (1985, when the then 34-year-old was with the Cincinnati Reds). It’s hard to make an argument that he is a Hall-of-Famer, given the criteria that has been used to induct members to date.
Don Mattingly, First Baseman: “Donnie Baseball” played his entire 14-year career with the New York Yankees. He was probably the best player in baseball from 1984–1987, winning a batting title, and MVP and finishing in the top eight three other times. Known for a sweet left-handed swing and possessing the grace of a ballerina in the field, he was unfortunately beset by back injuries that limited his production in later years and ultimately curtailed his career. He finished with six All Star appearances and nine Gold Gloves, but his overall numbers of a .307 batting average, 222 home runs, 1,099 RBIs, 2,053 base hits and 42.4 WAR are a weak resume for a first baseman.
Ted Simmons, Catcher: Making the mistake of playing simultaneously in the National League during the awesome spectacle that was the career of legendary catcher Johnny Bench, the switch-hitting Simmons continues to be criminally underrated. In 21 seasons, he hit a combined .285 with 248 home runs, 1,389 RBIs and 2,472 base hits. He also walked almost 200 more times than he struck out, was a solid defender and posted a career WAR of 50.3 There is little doubt he belongs in the Hall, but whether or not he gets in is most definitely up in the air.
Lou Whitaker, Second Baseman: One of the most underappreciated players in recent memory, “Sweet Lou” should have been admitted to the Hall years ago. An excellent defender, who also was a threat with the bat when that was not a common trait for second basemen, his 75.2 WAR is good for 78th all time, nestled between Johnny Bench and Luke Appling, both Hall-of-Famers. His career totals in 19 seasons, all with the Detroit Tigers, of .276 with 244 home runs, 1,84 RBIs and 2,369 base hits are excellent numbers for the position. His long-time running mate, shortstop Alan Trammell got into the Hall last year via the Veteran’s committee. Whitaker has better numbers in most categories and it’s a travesty every year he is kept out.
Thurman Munson, Catcher: After parts of 11 strong years with the Yankees, Munson was well on his way to making a no-doubt Hall of Fame case for himself when he tragically died in 1979 at the age of 32 in a plane crash. His career totals of .292 with 113 home runs and 701 RBIs (along with being a strong leader and defender) seems like a weak resume on its face. However, he had already accumulated an impressive 46.2 WAR and it can be pointed to the likes of Kirby Puckett and Addie Joss, who had careers cut short by tragedy but are in Cooperstown, as support for similar consideration for the all-time great Yankees’ receiver.