The Today’s Game Committee has elected outfielder Harold Baines and reliever Lee Smith to the Hall of Fame, it was announced today. Those two were among the ten individuals who were contributors to baseball in 1988 and later who were under consideration. Also nominated were George Steinbrenner, Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Orel Hershiser, Joe Carter, Albert Belle, and Will Clark.
Smith spent over a decade as a top closer, initially with the Chicago Cubs from 198-87, and then for a number of teams, spending time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, California Angels, Montreal Expos, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. Smith led the league four times in saves, and is 3rd all time in career saves.
Baines is, of course, a former Ranger, acquired along with Fred Manrique for Wilson Alvarez, Sammy Sosa and Scott Fletcher in one of the worst trades in Rangers history. The selection of Baines is quite odd...he had only two seasons with better than a 3.0 bWAR, topping out at 4.3, and only one season with better than a 3.0 fWAR. He led the league only once in any category — in slugging, in 1984. He was a six time All Star who appeared in the MVP balloting just four times, topping out at 9th in the A.L. in 1985.
Historically, Baines is one of the weakest right fielders to get elected. His career bWAR is 38.7, tying him with Juan Gonzalez and Magglio Ordonez, and putting him right behind Paul O’Neill, Giancarlo Stanton and Jesse Barfield, and slightly ahead of Jose Bautista, Mookie Betts, Jason Heyward, Nelson Cruz and Shin-Soo Choo. The JAWS7 method of evaluating Hall of Fame cases has Baines at #75 all time among right fielders, just ahead of Nick Markakis, while trailing Heyward, Betts, Choo, Brian Jordan, Tim Salmon, and Jose Canseco, among others.
Its a truly baffling selection, and one has to assume that it was driven by his accumulating 2866 hits in his career and 384 home runs. I will simply note that, with Baines in, it simply makes the cases of some overlooked players of his era and slightly before, such as Dwight Evans, Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker, that much stronger.