Editor’s note: I’m pleased to present the latest post from regular contributor Alex Putterman. Alex is a high school senior and recently learned he was accepted early-decision to Northwestern. He will study journalism there.
Last week the Veterans Committee announced the Hall of Fame will be enshrining Ron Santo, the sixth best player not in Cooperstown according to this Website’s second annual survey. But while the Santo family can rejoice in 2012, Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and the rest of the “Golden Era” ballot must wait three more years for consideration under the new Veterans Committee format instituted in 2010. An off-shoot of the Committee will next year consider candidates who played their most important years before the beginning of integration in 1947.
The Veterans Committee has considered an all-early century ballot once before, in 2009, under the short-lived former system (That ballot was comprised of anyone who played prior to 1943, whereas the 2012 version will consider those who made “their most important contribution” pre-’47). That election resulted in a plaque for former-Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon and a close call for Allie Reynolds (who was categorized as a Golden Era player under the current system and missed out on election this year.)
Next closest in ’09 was Wes Ferrell, who received six of a possible 12 votes to finish three short of the 75% threshold. Ferrell, whose less-deserving brother Rick is already enshrined in Cooperstown, was a pitcher and pinch-hitter for several teams in the 1930’s. Ferrell was a nice player and a bit of a novelty given his success on the mound and the impressive hitting ability that complemented it. He finished tied for 45th on the list of the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, but only 15 of the 86 voters felt he belonged in the Hall.
Mickey Vernon and Deacon White each received five votes on the ’09 pre-WWII ballot. Vernon was an unspectacular but long-tenured first baseman who played from 1939 to 1960 and is now considered a “Golden Era” player (he was therefore eligible for this year’s ballot but not selected to it). White is one of the best 19th century players yet to make it to Cooperstown and has much support from those who feel baseball’s early days are underrepresented in the Hall.
Given their prior success in Veterans Committee voting, Ferrell and White should get another chance next year, but it’s a pair of players who finished further down the 2009 ballot who deserve a long look from the 2012 Pre-Integration committee. Sherry Magee received only three votes in ’09, but statistics suggest he deserved more support. The outfielder won a batting title, finished among the National League’s top five home run hitters seven times, stole 441 career bases, and finished with an impressive 136 OPS+ and a WAR of 59.1.
Like Magee, Bill Dahlen was named to the 2009 pre-integration ballot and received little support, but the shortstop is viewed by many (including 31 voters in the aforementioned baseballpastandpresent poll) as Hall-worthy. WAR isn’t an end-all measure, but it must mean something that Dahlen ranks behind only Jeff Bagwell in WAR among non-Hall of Famers (yes, ahead of Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose). And a 109 OPS+ and terrific defense is usually more than enough for a shortstop to warrant enshrinement (just ask Ozzie Smith).
If there’s any justice in the world (or at least in the Veterans Committee), Bob Caruthers will find his way onto next year’s ballot for a deserved opportunity to be elected to Cooperstown. The 19th century star finished his 10-year with a better ERA+ than Bob Feller and a better OPS+ than Tony Gwynn. Ferrell nearly reached the Hall three years ago thanks to his uniquely well-rounded skill set, but Caruthers is almost unquestionably the best two-way player of all-time.
Yet, as the still-eligible player with the highest ’09 vote total, Ferrell appears to be the candidate most likely to reach the Hall next summer, although White has had success with the Committee before and could garner support. Or maybe voters will wake up to the credentials of Magee, Dahlen and Caruthers and put one or two of them in Cooperstown. But as there’s no stand-out candidate with a history of Veterans Committee support, it’s likely that any 2012 Hall of Fame inductee will have to come from the baseball writers ballot.