by Jacob Gurvis
Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver, Ted Williams, Cy Young. What do these men have in common? Sure, they are some of the greatest baseball players who ever lived. Another similarity? They’re just some of the greats who were not unanimously voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Since the Hall opened in 1939, 211 players have been inducted. None have been unanimous. With Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez, Diamondbacks rockstar Randy Johnson, and longtime Brave John Smoltz all on this year’s ballot, this issue will again show its ugly head.
Voters are baseball writers who have been covering the sport for at least ten consecutive years, and there are around 570 of them. Voters are allowed no more than ten players on their ballots. In order to be inducted, 75% of votes are needed. According to baseball-almanac.com, Tom Seaver’s 98.84% in 1992 is the highest mark of any player ever. That’s definitely a very high percentage, no doubt. However, is it really possible that there has never been a player that every voter agreed on? Not only is that absolutely insane, but it represents a large flaw in the system.
As Globe columnist (and voter) Dan Shaughnessy put it in his December 16 column, “You cannot get 570 baseball writers to agree that the earth is round.” So no, not even the best of the best were unanimous. Not even Babe Ruth. Some writers are just stubborn and refuse to vote for a player their first year on the ballot. Others want to keep this record alive. Whatever the reason, I think it’s childish.
Johnson was a ten-time All-Star, won the Cy Young five times (including four years in a row), and in his 22-year career, won over 300 games and recorded 4,875 strikeouts, second all-time to Nolan Ryan. Pedro was an eight-time All-Star with three Cy Youngs, over 200 wins and 3,000 strikeouts, and ranks fourth all time with a 1.05 WHIP. His numbers aren’t as flashy, but he was an incredibly dominant pitcher for over a decade and brought Boston its first championship in 86 years. Smoltz was an eight-time All-Star with one Cy Young, and in his 21-year career, he recorded over 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz is the only player to ever achieve that, and he was a very good pitcher for a very long time.
All three are near locks. Maybe Smoltz or Martinez will miss out this year, but they’ll absolutely get in at some point. Wins Above Replacement has quickly become the most accurate statistic to boil a player down to one number, and all three are in the top 25 ever for pitchers. Johnson is 5th, ahead of Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. I could give you more stats, but I think I’ve made my point. Since statistics are really the only way to compare players who did not play in the same century (or even decade), having such prestigious numbers means something. It means Johnson and Martinez are two of the greatest pitchers ever, and Smoltz was very good as well. All three players are Hall of Famers. And they’ll all get in, that’s not what I’m arguing.
What I dislike, is that while it’s indisputable that these three are incredible, they still won’t be unanimously voted in. That means that if they all get 90% of the votes, more than enough to get enshrined, there are still 57 writers who left their names off their ballots. Pedro Martinez was a phenomenal pitcher.. He’ll get more than 75%. I’m not worried about that. It’s just sad that even though everyone may agree that he’s a Hall of Famer, when the vote comes out, he won’t get 100%. Come on writers, grow up.