Talking to Jim Kaat about his Hall of Fame case

My latest Sporting News article just went live. I’ve been on an interview kick as of late, so I talked to Jim Kaat, winningest pitcher of the 1960s who isn’t in.

A link to my piece is here. As always, feedback is welcome.

I have more big interviews on the horizon. Feel free to suggest someone if you’re interested. It’s not too hard to find numbers for players like Kaat, and I’m fairly resourceful about getting people on the phone.

18 Replies to “Talking to Jim Kaat about his Hall of Fame case”

  1. Its ridiculous Jim Kaat isnt in the Hall of Fame====most winning pitcher in the 60s? Basically a Pitchers decade and hes number one?—16 gold gloves? repeat 16 Gold Gloves? 25 yrs 280 wins?—Is this a joke? Put him in now
    Gil Hodges–for 10 years one of the top 1Bs in Baseball–Maybe #2 in the 50s—Stan Musial was better yes but who else in the 50s? Nobody on my best 1950s team
    Manager? Everybody knows about the 1969 Mets beating a better team–the Orioles
    Both absolutely should be in the Hall Of Fame

  2. Gil Hodges, hmmmm, let’s see; He played the ultimate “offensive” position, so he better have pretty good numbers.

    160 “away” homers, you know, when he wasn’t playing in Ebbets. Mediocre. 370 total homers. Underwhelming for a firstbaseman hall of famer. 1921 total hits. That doesn’t scream “hall of fame” to me. He topped 40 home runs……twice, in a career that included the 1950s AND playing mostly in Ebbets. . .273 career average.

    He led the league in almost nothing. Sac flies, and games played. Oh, and strikeouts, too.

    A darn good player, but a hall of famer?

    But he was a great manager because he led his teams to ONE championship, never getting above .512 in the eight other seasons. Yep, that will get you in the hall of fame EVERY time, right? The career manager won-loss percentage of .467 is just gravy.

    It’s too bad he kicked the bucket at age 47, but, that’s the way it goes.

  3. Enjoyed your piece about Jim Kaat
    He certaintly does belong in the Hall of Fame
    While his stats and golden gloves speak for themselves, you interview showed that he is also very modest
    Let me throw you a player to debate about belonging or not in the Hall of Fame – Frank Howard

  4. Although this has nothing to do with Jim Kaat’s HOF credentials, at least as a player, let me suggest that he’s one of the best color commentators in the business. If you haven’t listened to his insightful contributions during MLB Network game telecasts, you’re missing a real treat. I think our Giants’ announcers are all great but Kaat is absolutely superb in his role.

  5. Kaat was a fine pitcher and competitor. Robin Roberts whenever asked who he thought wasn’t in the HOF and should be, always mentioned first, Jim Kaat. That’s good enough for me.

  6. …and for what it’s worth, in the “alternate universe” where there was always two Cy Young award winners, Jim Kaat was the probable AL winner in 1966 with his 25 wins and 304 IPs. However, for some strange reason, he was seventh in the league in WAR rating among pitchers in 1966 – someday I’ll have to understand that.

  7. The HOF cases of Richie Allen and Tony Oliva have suddenly become hot items as they each missed HOF election by one vote in December 2014. However, if you really want to put the most deserving players in that are before the Veterans Committees you have to select Minnie Minoso and Gil Hodges among the position players/hitters and among the pitchers – Tommy John, Jack Morris and Jim Kaat

  8. Jim Kaat, during all those years as a starter, winning 13 games on average a year, made three all star teams. Interesting.

    He led his league in wins….once. Also, games started twice and complete games and innings once. Oh, he led his league in hits allowed FOUR times. And wild pitches and hit batsmen twice.

    So, was he darn good pitcher who occasionally had a great year, and who, in his old age, managed another 22 wins as a relief pitcher to bring his total somewhat close to 300, or is he a bona fide hall of famer?

    The writers never gave him even 30% of the vote.

    Coincidentally, the 10th most similar pitcher is Red Ruffing. His hall of fame status has been examined quite closely on these very pages, and not very favorably.

  9. I agree with what most people have said here–However I still like Jim Kaat–280 wins couple of 2o win seasons and Look–16 gold Gloves—16 Gold Gloves! Come on now!
    Also Gil Hodges was very deserving–without him I dont think the Dodgers of the late 40s and 50s would have done near as well–From 47 to 59–7 peanants and should have had 9 in 13 years? Also simply a very very good manager—Those 2 for sure–Tommy John–Yes–Tony Oliva–Yes–Jack Morris (the pitcher of the 8os) absolutely–thats 5 that should go in right now and there are others–Wills -Garvey-Minoso-Allen—-All are better than quite a few already in and few would argue that.

  10. “Also Gil Hodges was very deserving–without him I dont think the Dodgers of the late 40s and 50s would have done near as well”

    Wow, since the stats can NOT be disputed, let’s go with the, ahem, intangibles. Yes, that’s the ticket, the Dodgers wouldn’t have been as good without him. Nor Campy, nor Snyder, nor another half dozen players.

    “Also simply a very very good manager”

    Not just a “good” manager, despite the incredibly underwhelming facts, but a “very very good” manager.

    I actually really dislike the “is he a hall of famer or not” debates, as, when the facts just don’t merit inclusion, we start getting these “I really think he deserves it because, well, I’ll think of something” rhetoric.

  11. Guy Hecker, circa 1880-1890’s. One of the best players of his era. Coached the Pittsburgh Pirates towards end of his career. Still holds MLB record for individual runs scored in one game, 7. Possible pitching record also.
    I don’t understand why he is not in the Hall of Fame.

  12. RE: Hecker. Besides not playing the minimum of ten years, it’s very simple why he isn’t in the hall of fame. His peak years, which included only one “monster” season, didn’t last long enough, and he had no longevity.

    But, let’s say he hung around for one more mediocre season, thereby “qualifying” himself for consideration. He had a lot of wins. His top four rankings in wins were 1st, 5th, 5th, and 9th. But, his “top” four rankings in losses were 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 9th.

    His offense adds nothing to his hof credentials.

    He was a good pitcher for 5 or 6 seasons.

    1. With all due respect to GIB, I have to say I find it kind of annoying when people pipe into Hall of Fame discussions with a plug for a personal favorite, fairly random player who is at best tangentially related to whatever I’ve written about. It happens with some regularity on this website.

      1. First of all I did not know this was that type of format. I thought it was an open forum. I am from the home town of Guy Hecker and trying to find an answer to a question form Cooperstown. I also did not know Hall of Fame rules of 10 year playing time.
        I also know that you are a condescending butthead.
        You won’t have to worry anymore about those of us who just asked a simple question.

        1. GIB,

          My apologies, I realize my comment to you was patronizing as I reread it. I don’t want to talk down to anyone. I’m no better or worse than anyone. I also want people to feel free to express whatever they’d like on my website, regardless of how it relates to whatever I’ve written about.

          I hope you’ll excuse my comment yesterday evening as me being tired and frustrated. I’d just come from a three-hour long meeting I’d covered for a local news story in Sacramento when I wrote my comment to you. While that doesn’t justify what I said, I want to make clear that my feelings are different after a night of rest.

          I understand if you don’t read my work anymore. Best wishes.

          Graham Womack

  13. What it comes down to is this; what did the player actually do? As Bill James wrote, the longer a player is retired, the more it comes down to that.

    I was a Jim Kaat fan when he played.

    Jim Kaat was named to THREE all star teams, which is just about the amount of great seasons he had. This was a real eye opener to me. (The all time most all star teams list at baseball reference has eight as its low point. Wynn had 7. Ford, 8. Roberts, 7. Lemon, 7. Drysdale, 8. Wilhelm, 5.

    He led his leagues in almost nothing.

    How about this? How many times was he the best pitcher of his TEAM? Three definite seasons and maybe one other.

    Like I said, I was and am a Jim Kaat fan. As for the hall of fame, though, it comes down to what he actually did between the white lines. Vague fairy tales don’t add much, IMO

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