Cooperstown is getting two long overdue members, as Lee Smith and Harold Baines were voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday by a veterans committee tasked with deciding this year’s “Today’s Game Ballot.”
Smith and Baines were two of 10 individuals on the ballot, a list that included players, managers and one owner from the last 30 years. The rest of the ballot was Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella and George Steinbrenner.
The election threshold was 75 percent of the 16 ballots cast by the committee, which was made up of Hall of Famers, executives and media members. This year, that listed included Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith, Joe Torre and Jerry Reinsdorf.
Smith, 61, spent 15 years on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot but never finished higher than 50.6 percent of the vote. He’s the former all-time MLB saves leader, with 478, before he was passed by Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. He was considered the best ballot on the ballot. Smith said Sunday night that he plans to go in wearing a Chicago Cubs cap.
Baines, 59, is an altogether surprise. He played 22 seasons, but didn’t meet many of the Hall’s traditional benchmarks — he finished with 2,866 hits and 384 homers. New-age metrics don’t do him many favors either, as 38.7 career Wins Above Replacement put him well below the likes of Fred McGriff, Larry Walker and Gary Sheffield, all of whom haven’t been able to crack the writers’ ballot. Baines never received more than 6.1 percent of the writers’ vote and fell off the ballot after not getting above five percent in 2011.
The Today’s Game ballot is one of the rotating second-chance ballots that gets voted on each year. These used to be known as veterans committee ballots, but now there are four of them, each focusing on a different era of baseball. The Today’s Game Era committee considers candidates who made their mark on the game between 1988 and now.
This differs from the more well-known BBWAA vote, which will be announced in January and features the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera.
Last year, the Modern Baseball committee elected Jack Morris and Alan Trammell as Hall of Famers. In 2017, former commissioner Bud Selig and ex-Braves GM John Schuerholz were elected by the Today’s Game committee.
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