The 2019 Today’s Player Committee has spoken and there will be at least two new names entering Cooperstown in July’s 2019 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony after relief pitcher Lee Smith and stud designated hitter Harold Baines were both voted into the Hall on Sunday.
The other eight candidates who fell short of induction were Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, and George Steinbrenner. The Today’s Game Committee consisted of 16 voters with players needing 12 votes for induction The voters were Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith, Joe Torre, Al Avila, Paul Beeston, Andy MacPhail, Jerry Reinsdorf and media members Steve Hirdt, Tim Kurkjian, and Claire Smith.
Lee Smith was reportedly a unanimous selection after garnering all 16 votes while Baines narrowly made it with the minimum of 12 votes. Lou Pinella narrowly missed out with 11 while no other candidate received as many as five votes.
Smith and Baines both debuted on opposite Chicago teams during the 1980 season.
Smith began with the Chicago Cubs and went on to record 478 saves which was at the time a Major League record before Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman (602) and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera (642) surpassed that total.
Smith stayed on the Hall of Fame for all 15 possible years while at times gaining over 50% of the vote. Lee was clearly given much more slack by the Player’s Committee and will now join joining Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Hoyt Wilhelm as the only primarily-relief pitchers to get elected to the Hall.
“I’m pretty patient, though, and I think I waited long enough. But it’s sweeter,” Smith said on a conference call. “You look at those things, well, OK, who’s on the ballot this year? Who’s on the ballot next year? But I’d never, never, never give up hope.”
“And then when they started with the second-chance ballot, I thought my chances got a little better. This probably today was probably the [most] nervous I’ve been with this Hall of Fame voting thing,” the former star reliever said.
Baines played for 22 seasons, compiling 2,866 hits, 384 home runs, and 1628 runs batted in and being given All-Star Game nods six times. Baines was a model of consistency throughout his career, posting an OPS+ over 100 every single season between the ages of 22 and 40.
Baines fell off the ballot quickly when he first became eligible for induction after never garnering more than 6.1% of the votes over five years on the ballot before falling off in 2011 after receiving just 4.8% of the votes. The Player’s Committee was clearly kinder to Baines in this go around.
“I wasn’t expecting this day to come,” Baines said
Baines joins Frank Thomas as the only Hall of Famers to spend most of their playing time as a Designated Hitter. It is impossible to ignore the fact that if Baines is in, Edgar Martinez is soon to follow with his far superior career statistics.
“Everything I hear or read is DH is really not part of the game, I guess. But I disagree. But maybe this will open up the doors for some more DHs,” the six-time All-Star said.
Both players were surprise picks this year with Baines especially being a huge shock. There will certainly be controversy surrounding the elections of both of these players but for now, congratulations Harold Baines and Lee Smith on joining baseball immortality.