The busiest week of the baseball offseason begins Sunday in Las Vegas. The winter meetings are here, which means many of baseball’s biggest offseason questions will soon be answered.
The first order of business though will be deciding which Today’s Game Era candidates, if any, will become the first official members of the 2019 Hall of Fame class. The Today’s Game Committee will meet Sunday afternoon and decide the fate of 10 selected candidates. Results of the voting will be announced live on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET Sunday during MLB Tonight.
What is the Today’s Game Committee?
The Today’s Game Committee is one of four eras specific committees tasked with considering the Hall of Fame cases of candidates who have either fallen off the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) or fall under a different category. Those includes players, managers, umpires and executives whose contributions are deemed worthy of consideration. The Today’s Game Committee specifically considers candidates who made their marks from 1988 until present day, and meets twice every five years.
The other committees include Modern Baseball (1970-1987), which also meets twice every five years, Golden Days (1950-1969), which meets every five years, and Early Baseball (prior to 1950), which meets once every decade.
The 16-person committee will meet on Sunday and weigh the cases of the 10 candidates before voting. As is the case with the BBWAA ballot, a candidate will need 75 percent of the vote. In this case, they’ll need a yes from at least 12 committee members.
Former commissioner Bud Selig and longtime executive John Schuerholz were elected by the Today’s Game Committee two years ago. Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella and George Steinbrenner are among the candidates returning from the 2016 ballot.
The general feeling is that the committee won’t push more than one candidate through, and it’s entirely possible they’ll elect no one. Here’s a breakdown of the candidates and their chances of election.
Lee Smith, pitcher
Smith spent the longest amount of time on the BBWAA ballot without being elected. He was on the ballot for the then maximum of 15 years. Perhaps that bodes well for Smith, or maybe it just means there’s not a strong enough feeling about his career either way. Regardless, he’s regarded as the best bet among this group. Smith was a seven-time All-Star and a four-time top 10 finisher in Cy Young. He retired as the all-time saves leader with 478 and now ranks third behind Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.
George Steinbrenner, New York Yankees owner
Steinbrenner is the only posthumous candidate on this ballot. He owned the Yankees from 1973 until his death in 2010. He oversaw a successful run that led to seven World Series title and 11 pennants, but was enough of a polarizing figure that his odds seem long at best.
Lou Piniella, player and manager
This is all about Lou Piniella the manager. He ranks 16th all-time with 1,835 wins, and is one of only four managers to win Manager of the Year in both leagues. He led the 1990 Cincinnati Reds to a World Series title, and the 2001 Seattle Mariners to a regular season record 116 wins. It’s safe to say another World Series title or two would have clinched it for Lou, but he has an uphill battle.
Orel Hershiser, pitcher
If there’s going to be a surprise, it might just be Hershiser. His peak moments were very high and very well timed. He holds the MLB record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched with 59, and that set the stage for his MVP performance in both the 1988 NLCS and 1988 World Series. He added an ALCS MVP in 1995 with the Indians. Overall, Hershiser won 204 games while posting a 3.48 ERA, 2,014 strikeouts and 51.6 WAR over 18 seasons.
Sorry, not happening
Albert Belle, outfielder
Will probably be best remembered for the corked bat incident in 1994. Hit 381 homers. Made five All-Star appearances and finished top 10 five times in the AL MVP balloting. But only lasted two years on the BBWAA ballot.
Harold Baines, designated hitter
Enjoyed great longevity, posting 2,866 hits over parts of 22 seasons. That he was primarily a designated hitter hurts his cause.
Will Clark, first baseman
“The Thrill” is a Hall of Fame nickname, but the sweet-swinging Clark only lasted one year on the BBWAA ballot.
Joe Carter, outfielder
He’ll always have the epic World Series walk-off home run. That will have to suffice.
Davey Johnson, player and manager
Johnson led four different teams to postseason and won the World Series as manager of the 1986 Mets. As a player, he compiled a 27.6 WAR. Better baseball men there are few, but his chances are slim.
Charlie Manuel, manager
The respected former Phillies skipper won exactly 1,000 games and one World Series. Cool to see him considered, but there are other managers more deserving.
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