The Hall of Fame announced its 10-person Modern Era Ballot -- nine players and former labor chief Marvin Miller -- with the results to be announced at the start of baseball's winter meetings. Let's get this out of the way: Stop with the comparisons to Harold Baines. For now, Baines is an idiosyncratic choice made by last year's Today's Game Era committee. If everyone who compares favorably to Baines were to be elected to Cooperstown, we would need to block out an entire month for all the speeches.
Just look at the career WAR totals for the players on this ballot, which covers candidates who made their greatest impact from 1970 to 1987:
Lou Whitaker: 75.1
Dwight Evans: 67.1
Tommy John: 62.1
Ted Simmons: 50.3
Dale Murphy: 46.5
Thurman Munson: 46.1
Don Mattingly: 42.4
Dave Parker: 40.1
HAROLD BAINES: 38.7
Steve Garvey: 38.1
Let's put it this way: There are nine players here I would be less surprised to get in than I was when Baines got the nod last offseason. Let's review the candidates:
Highest percent on BBWAA ballot: 2.9
Case for: Quiet, unassuming double-play partner of Alan Trammell throughout the 1980s with the Tigers, Whitaker was a five-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glover and four-time Silver Slugger winner who got on base (.363 career OBP), had good power for a second baseman of his era (244 home runs) and excelled in the field. His career WAR ranks sixth all time among second basemen -- higher than recent inductees Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio. Don't think he compares to those three?
Whitaker: 244 HR, 1,084 RBI, .789 OPS, 117 OPS+
Sandberg: 282 HR, 1,061 RBI, .795 OPS, 114 OPS+
Alomar: 210 HR, 1,134 RBI, .814 OPS, 116 OPS+
Biggio: 291 HR, 1,175 RBI, .796 OPS, 112 OPS+
Case against: While viewed as a potential Hall of Famer while active, he was more "very good" player than "star," even in his best seasons. Whitaker didn't have the peak value of contemporaries like Sandberg, Alomar and Biggio, who were MVP candidates in their best seasons while Whitaker finished in the top 10 just once. He had longevity, but his rate stats were also helped by being platooned his last few seasons. He also lacked the flair and visual excitement that Sandberg, Alomar and Biggio brought at various points in their careers, and Sandberg -- and then Alomar -- was generally considered the best second baseman in the game during Whitaker's run.
Chance of election: Good. This is the committee that elected Trammell and Jack Morris in 2018, and Whitaker finally gets his first shot on it. His skills were subtle -- walks, midrange power, defense - but more voters have learned to understand the value those skills presented than when Whitaker appeared on his only BBWAA ballot in 2001.
Highest percent on BBWAA ballot: 10.4
Case for: A longtime favorite of the analytics crowd, Evans is often compared to his Hall of Fame teammate with the Red Sox, Jim Rice:
Evans: 385 HR, 1,384 RBI, 1470 R, .840 OPS, 127 OPS+, 67.1 WAR
Rice: 382 HR, 1,451 RBI, 1249 R, .854 OPS, 128 OPS+, 47.7 WAR
On top of that, Evans was an eight-time Gold Glove winner compared to zero for Rice, with one of the best right-field arms of any era. Evans lasted longer and got on base more, but Rice trumped him in fame and fear factor as an MVP winner and RBI guy.
In terms of career WAR, Evans fits right in with some other big-name right fielders:
Tony Gwynn: 69.2
Dave Winfield: 64.2
Vladimir Guerrero: 59.4
Case against: Evans was a late bloomer who had his breakout season when he was 29. Similar to Whitaker, he doesn't rate as high in peak value, with just four seasons of 5+ WAR. He was a career .272 hitter who hit .300 just once and topped 30 home runs just twice.
Chance of election: Low. I love that Evans finally gets on the ballot with a chance to have his case discussed. He's criminally underrated and had a remarkable nine-year run from 1981 to '89 when he hit .291/.388/.498, an OPS+ of 139. For the entire decade, he ranks 16th among position players in WAR -- 12 of the 15 ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. Evans is a personal favorite and has a very good case, but the fact that it's taken him this long just to get on the ballot likely suggests his support isn't strong (although the 16-person committee that will vote is different from the overview committee that selects the ballot).
Highest percent on BBWAA ballot: 31.7
Case for: Won 288 games in his career -- including 164 after he had his namesake surgery. Won 20 games three times and twice finished second in Cy Young voting. He's eighth all time in games started, 20th in innings and 26th in wins. One of the great ground ball pitchers in the game's history, he led his league three times in lowest home run rate.
Case against: He's viewed more as a compiler as he pitched 26 seasons in the majors, pitching his final game after he had turned 46. He finished in the top 10 in his league in pitching WAR just four times with a high of 5.6.
Chance of election: Low. He's been on various veterans committee ballots several times, including 2018 when he received fewer than seven votes. The somewhat popular idea that he deserves extra credit for being the first to undergo the elbow ligament transplant surgery has never taken hold for those who vote.
Highest percentage on BBWAA ballot: 3.7
Case for: One of the best-hitting catchers since World War II, Simmons was an eight-time All-Star who hit .285/.348/.437 in his career with 2,472 hits, 248 home runs and 1,389 RBIs. During his 10-year peak from 1971 to '80, he hit .301/.367/.466 and averaged 90 RBIs per season. While he played second fiddle to Johnny Bench, his National League contemporary, he ranks 10th all time in WAR among catchers. Eight of the nine players in front of him are Hall of Famers. (Joe Mauer has yet to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot.)
Case against: There isn't really a strong one. Simmons was well regarded while active -- even if he wasn't Bench, especially on defense - but various factors worked against him. When he hit the BBWAA ballot in 1994, other first-timers included Steve Carlton, Don Sutton and Bruce Sutter. Holdovers included Phil Niekro, Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda (in his final year). Simmons kind of got lost in the shuffle, plus his prime years had come 15 years earlier. The Cardinals in the '70s were stuck in the mud and never made the playoffs that decade, Simmons had some famous contract holdouts and was even criticized for growing his hair long. When Whitey Herzog took over, one of the first things he did was trade away Simmons, criticizing his defense. That was a big blow to Simmons' reputation and maybe still stuck in 1994. He didn't appear on a Veterans Committee ballot until 2011 -- 30 years after his best seasons. Bench was still a legend. Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza had since made their mark. Joe Mauer was at his peak. Simmons had a tough uphill battle.
Chance of election: Excellent. As we get further away from his career, the focus more on the numbers on less on the some of the secondary issues. Simmons fell one vote short in 2018. He gets in this year.
Highest percentage on BBWAA ballot: 23.2
Case for: The two-time NL MVP was one of the best all-around players in the game from 1980 to '87, when he ranked seventh among position players in WAR and averaged .284/.374/.517 with 33 home runs, 100 runs and 96 RBIs per season. He topped 30 home runs in six of those eight seasons, leading the NL in 1984 and 1985 and leading in RBIs in 1982 and 1983, his two MVP seasons. He was also a five-time Gold Glove winner and one of best-liked and beloved players of his generation.
Case against: Murphy's decline at 32 was rapid and he hit just .234 with a 96 OPS+ over his final six seasons. His career WAR is well short of typical Hall of Fame standards for an outfielder.
Chance of election: Fair. My sleeper pick for this election, even though Murphy received fewer than seven votes in 2018. It all depends on the makeup of the committee. But I think Murphy is a player everyone would love to see make it -- a similar sentiment of respect that probably helped Baines get in.
Highest percentage on BBWAA ballot: 15.5
Case for: There were few tougher than Munson, who averaged an impressive 5.0 WAR per season his first eight years with the Yankees (1970 to '77). He was the 1976 AL MVP and backstopped the back-to-back World Series champions of '77 and '78, batting third in the lineup with a career .357 average in 30 postseason games. He was a three-time Gold Glover with a strong arm and hit .292 in his career.
Case against: His tragic death in a plane crash at 32 left him with career counting numbers that are short of Hall standards, even for a catcher: 113 home runs, 701 RBIs, 1,558 hits. He appeared to be in decline at the time of his death with a 95 OPS+ in 1979, and while he hit for average he didn't draw many walks or boast big power (career high of 20 home runs), so his overall offensive profile isn't elite.
Chance of election: Slim. Munson peaked on the BBWAA ballot his first year on it, but the writers never bought it into his case (although he lasted 15 years on the ballot). It's his first appearance on a ballot since 2007, but I'm not sure why his case would be different now.
Highest percentage on BBWAA ballot: 28.2
Case for: A six-time All-Star from 1984 to '89, when he hit .327, averaged 114 RBIs per season, won the 1985 AL MVP Award and finished second in 1986. Despite back problems after that, still finished with a .307 career average, 2,153 hits and nine Gold Gloves.
Case against: Really only had four elite seasons. His career totals of 222 home runs and 1,099 RBIs are low, especially for a first baseman. His career WAR is below Hall of Fame standards and below non-Hall of Fame first basemen like Keith Hernandez, John Olerud, Will Clark, Fred McGriff, Gil Hodges and Carlos Delgado.
Chance of election: Slim. Mattingly's case has been viewed several times and he received fewer than seven votes in 2018. He was a great, popular player for four seasons, but it's probably time to give someone else a chance next time.
Highest percentage on BBWAA ballot: 24.5
Case for: The 1978 NL MVP winner, the peak of a brief period when he was one of the game's best all-around players, including a cannon of an arm from right field (search for 1979 All-Star Game on YouTube). Has some nice career counting stats with 339 home runs, 1,493 RBIs and 2,712 hits and as the committee showed with the Baines election, longevity almost always trumps peak value.
Case against: Look past the RBIs totals and he wasn't really much of a player after turning 29, earning just 7.7 WAR over the final 12 seasons of his career (4.7 of that in 1985, when he had a big rebound season at the plate, led the NL in RBIs and finished second in the MVP voting). Career WAR is well below Hall of Fame standards for an outfielder. Low career OBP (.339) hurts overall offensive value.
Chance of election: Fair. Did we mention 1,493 RBIs and longevity? It worked for Baines.
Highest percentage on BBWAA ballot: 42.6
Case for: Durable, popular player who made 10 All-Star Games and finished in the top six of the MVP voting five times, including first in 1974. Finished with 2,599 career hits, 272 home runs and 1,308 RBIs. Fared better than any other player here on the BBWAA ballots.
Case against: Viewed as a huge star while active, Garvey had a relatively short peak of excellence and modern analysis has chipped away at his value -- he didn't walk much, so his .329 career OBP low is very low for a position player candidate, particularly a first baseman. He reached 30 home runs just once.
Chance of election: Slim. It's definitely time to move on from Garvey, who has appeared on these various veterans committee ballots many times. The old sportswriters on the screening committee -- who began their careers when Garvey was one of the biggest names in the sport -- need to realize that while he had an outstanding career, it wasn't a Hall of Fame career. Let's put Bobby Grich on here next time.