Jay Jaffe’s got the breakdown of 10 guys who will be eligible to go into the Hall from Baseball’s “Golden Age.” It’s a 16 man committee that makes the choice, 75% of the ballots get you. The players are Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Luis Tiant, Dick Allen, Maury Wills, Jim Kaat, and Billy Pierce, while Bob Howsam is eligible for his work as an executive.
Here are my off the cuff remarks about them.
Ken Boyer — Third basemen are few and far between in the Hall of Fame. I’m not sure Ken Boyer should get in just because of that, though. He was offensively solid his entire career and won several Gold Gloves (although dWAR thinks he’s a touch overrated, perhaps). He’s the 14th best third baseman of all time (if we consider Edgar Martinez a third baseman.) Boyer wouldn’t be a bad choice, but not a good one either. Keep him out.
Minnie Minoso — An above average hitter every season of his career except the first and the last three. Unfortunately, he’s an outfielder who was usually terrible in the field and didn’t hit for a lot of power. In 1954, he was actually the best hitter in major league baseball, but finished fourth to Yogi Berra, Larry Doby, and Bobby Avila. He’s the 22nd best left fielder of all time. There are a handful of HOFers below him, but most of them are well above him. The question is how much you value his contributions to helping to integrate the majors. That would be enough to put him over the top in my opinion. Let him in.
Gil Hodges — He’s a first baseman who hit okay but not great and fielded okay. He’s the 34th best first baseman of all time, between Frank Chance and Carlos Delgado. Keep him out.
Tony Oliva — A big part of his candidacy will be the sympathy vote, given the injuries that ended his career. He’s also seen as a very nice guy, which certainly helps. The dude could hit, no question. The fact he wasn’t MVP in 1965 is an enormous miscarriage of justice (Zoilo Versalles?) He was a terrible fielder, though, and his peak wasn’t nearly peak-y enough. Keep him out.
Luis Tiant — How much does a single year count? Tiant’s 1968 was a masterpiece of pitching awesomeness, good for a WAR over 8. Yaz had a WAR over 10, so Tiant was no real MVP, but very good. There are 51 starters in baseball history better than him, but there’s a slew of HOFers above and below him; to cherry pick a player, he’s ranked higher than John Smoltz. Let him in.
Dick Allen — The case against Dick Allen is his first name: he was a dick. He’s one of the very best right handed hitters to pick up a bat. His OPS+ for his career is tied with Frank Thomas and Willie Mays. Sounds good to me. Let him in.
Maury Wills — He stole lots of bases. He also got caught a lot and sucked at getting on base. And he stole the MVP of 1962 from either Frank Robinson or Willie Mays. He was a decent shortstop, but nothing groundbreaking. Keep him out.
Billy Pierce — I’d never heard of him until I started this post. He’s 97th among all starting pitchers. He’s the second worst pitcher on this ballot. Keep him out.
Jim Kaat — A less good Don Sutton. Much less good. He’s got 283 wins — and 237 losses. I think he’ll get in because of that 283 (although Tommy John got 288 wins and never got a whiff of the Hall). I’d rather see John in the Hall because of his contributions to the game for volunteering for the surgery that bears his name. Let him in (so we can get TJ in).
Bob Howsam — Got baseball to expand from 16 to 20 teams with the Continental Baseball League and was the GM of the Big Red Machine. He also founded the AFL (American Football League, not Arizona Fall League). Just for the chance that he ends up in both Halls, a rarity, let him in.
According to Jaffe, the committee only gets four votes. I’ll take Minoso, Tiant, Allen, and Howsam. (Jaffe, if you care, chose Boyer instead of Tiant.)