Editor’s note: Please welcome the latest from Alex Putterman.
Claim to Fame: Brown pitched for six Major League teams in his 19-year career, and while our lasting memory of the righty might be of him floundering in the Bronx, his pre-Yankee days were filled with high innings counts and low ERAs. By the time Brown retired in 2005, he was 53rd all-time with a 127 ERA+ and 34th all-time in pitching WAR with 64.8 wins above replacement on the mound. He was also a six-time all-star and five times finished among the league’s top six in Cy Young voting.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Despite qualifications that should render him at least a borderline Hall candidate, Brown received only 2.1% of votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America in 2011 and, having fallen below the 5% threshold necessary to remain in consideration, is no longer on the ballot. He cannot be considered by the Veterans Committee until he has been retired for 20 years, and if the voting procedure does not change between now and then, Brown will next be eligible for the 2026 Expansion Era ballot.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Brown finished 35th on BPP’s December list of the 50 best players not in the Hall, with 18 of the 83 voters considering him Cooperstown-worthy. I personally voted him deserving of induction and would happily do it again.
Among non-HOF pitchers, only Tony Mullane and Rick Reuschel were worth more WAR in their careers than Brown was in his, and Brown was much more effective in run prevention than many Hall of Famers, with an impressive ERA+ in a fairly lengthy career. Brown does not deserve mention alongside Martinez, Clemens, Maddux and Johnson on the list of elite pitchers of the ’90s and 2000s, but his numbers match up well with those in the next tier: Glavine, Smoltz, Mussina, and Schilling, none of whom are yet eligible for the Hall but all of whom are expected to garner significantly more support than Brown did.
So why didn’t Brown receive backing from the BBWAA? His aforementioned end-of-career struggles perhaps left a negative taste in voters’ mouths, with many remembering his 6.50 ERA in 2005 more than his 1.89 ERA in 1996.
Brown also lacks the round career totals that have gotten many inferior players into the Hall. He retired well short of the 300 win and 3,000 strikeout milestones, which would have likely assured his place in Cooperstown. His candidacy could also have benefited from a Cy Young award or two (for the record, I think he was robbed in ’96 and ’98) or a defining postseason performance. Without any transcendent achievements on his resume, Kevin Brown was largely forgettable.
Joe Posnanski posed another interesting theory about Brown’s poor showing in Hall of Fame voting in a blog post about his “Hall of Not Famous Enough. Joe wrote:
There was a little bit of outrage in select circles about Brown getting knocked off the ballot after one year. Mostly, though, people didn’t care because nobody really liked Kevin Brown. He actually might be in the Hall of Not Likable Enough.
Well Joe, I’m among those “select circles,” because, as Ty Cobb learned, being likeable is no prerequisite for Hall entry.
So, because of some combination of a poor finish, a lack of memorable moments and accomplishments, and an attitude that endeared him to nobody, Kevin Brown is no longer on the Hall of Fame ballot, while Jack Morris– whom Brown leads substantially in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, SO/BB, HR/9, winning percentage, and WAR– continues to receive moderate support. This is immensely frustrating to me, but there’s nothing to do. Life’s not fair; I’ll have to get used to it.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, Albert Pujols, Allie Reynolds, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Bill King, Billy Martin, Bobby Grich, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Curt Flood, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly,Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Gus Greenlee, Harold Baines, Harry Dalton, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker,Manny Ramirez, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning,Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito,Roger Maris, Ron Cey, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey,Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Tony Oliva, Vince Coleman, Will Clark