COMMENTARY | What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, Tim Hudson had accumulated 199 wins over the course of a very nice career. Today, Hudson has 200 wins and is now in need of having his Hall of Fame resume seriously vetted.
I know what some people will say about his chances, "Short answer: No. Long Answer: Nooooo." But deciding Tim Hudson's Hall of Fame fate may not be so cut and dry after all. For one, does anyone have the criteria for a Hall of Fame candidate anymore? Admission to this exclusive club is voted on by Baseball writers, each of whom has their own arbitrary scorecards and checklists for what constitutes a Hall-worthy player in their book, but, as the game evolves, so too are those commonly held milestones for automatic entry into the hallowed halls of baseball immortality.
It used to be 500 home runs or 300 wins would get a player access to the quick "15 Items or Less" checkout line to Cooperstown, but those numbers don't hold true anymore. Thanks to late-inning specialists, pitch counts and managers trying to save their starter's innings, the 300-win mark has become a myth, shrouded in secrecy and passed on only as whispered ghost stories. Like the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot, occasionally a grainy image will surface to give people a brief moment to contemplate whether it is still possible, but no one really expects to see another 300-game winner traipsing out of baseball's wilderness ever again.
Could 200 now become the new 300? There are currently 12 pitchers in the Hall of Fame who never reached the 200-win plateau. Of the active players in baseball, Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay and Tim Hudson are the only pitchers with 200 career wins. After CC Sabaitha notches five more victories, he will also join the ranks of the 200, but after him, we may have to wait a long time to even see another pitcher drop two C-notes worth of W's into the win column.
At 175, the 34-year-old Mark Buehrle has a chance if he can submit a couple more solid seasons. Barry Zito has 163 wins, but the San Francisco Giants' left-hander is already seeing the exit signs for 40 approaching very quickly. Given the ages and relative outputs of each player, we may not see another 200-game winner until Justin Verlander (126) or Felix Hernandez (101) makes the trek up Mount 200. So the question then has to be asked whether or not any of this generation's pitchers will have the requisite number of wins to get on the other side of the current line of Hall of Fame demarcation. Will that line now have to be readjusted to coincide with the game as it is played today? Tim Hudson sure hopes so, but regardless; Hudson already has plenty of checkmarks on the "Pros" side of his Cooperstown's scorecard.
Next year, when Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine become shoo-in first-ballot hall of famers, Hudson will be able to sit back and smile at the fact that his resume still has something on it that neither player can boast. During his 14-year career, Hudson has never had a losing season. Maddux and Glavine each had six different seasons with more L's than W's. If consistency is rewarded, there may have been no more dependable pitcher in baseball over the last decade than Hudson.
It is very hard to compare players from different generations. Maddux recorded 355 wins, but he did so over the course of 5,008 1/3 innings. Hudson has 200 wins in just over 2,700 innings of work. Extrapolating Maddux's numbers backwards to Hudson's innings pitched, "Mad Dog" would only have 191 wins given the same level of work.
Theoretical fudging of the numbers is great. American author Mark Twain once famously said, "There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." Much like "enhanced interrogation," numbers will tell you anything you want if you work them over long enough, but the information they give you may not exactly be reliable.
Hudson has just one 20-win season over his career. He has no Cy Young Awards on his mantle, nor has he ever had the privilege of being blinded by champagne after a World Series victory. But maybe the voters will take into consideration the 2007 season when he hit .263 as a pitcher… but probably not.
To make matters worse, one of Hudson's contemporaries, Curt Shilling, failed to get in on this year's ballot. Shilling received just 38.8 percent of votes, which fell considerably short of the 75 percent needed for induction. In his career, Shilling recorded 216 wins, 3,116 strikeouts and a 3.46 ERA. Not to mention the fact that Shilling has raised three World Series trophies. If he isn't a hall of famer then Hudson has less than no chance. But Shilling will get in to Cooperstown at some point in time. He didn't make it on the first ballot, but few players do. One would have to guess that since his bloody sock was allowed admission, they have to eventually let the foot attached to the man who wore it also walk through their doors.
Alright, so if Hudson isn't Hall-worthy yet, can he still earn his spot in Cooperstown? Hudson is in the final year of his contract with the Braves, but there still appears to be a lot of gas left in his tank. Hudson has recorded 16 or more wins in each of his last three seasons, which have arguably been his best in Atlanta. If Hudson sticks around and gets into the 230-win range, where do his Hall chances go then?
Whether or not Hudson ever earns entry into baseball's most prestigious club will not take away from one truly fantastic career. His 200 wins and career 3.42 ERA puts him in very rarified air, even if that air isn't ultimately in the oxygen-rich skies over Eastern New York. He is a borderline hall of famer in my book, but there is still time for him to push his way over that line. The Braves earning a World Series trophy this year might just be the thing Hudson needs to help punch his ticket to Cooperstown.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter based in "Braves Country." He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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