Harold Baines? Really? Harold Baines???

During the day, I teach English. Actually, that is a bit of a misnomer. I am a support facilitator and they put me in English classes for the most part. That is fancy speak for someone that assists special education students in regular classes. At any rate, when we teach students to write persuasive essays we usually focus part of our instruction on counterarguments. A counterargument is when we acknowledge the other side, so that we can tear it down.

Generally speaking, we acknowledge the other side so that we can seem even-handed and rational in our own arguments. To say, “I don’t know how in the hell anyone could have voted for Harold Baines” is not exactly a rational statement. Of course there are reasons to support Harold Baines. They usually start and stop with the counting numbers.

Hits= 2866

HR= 386

Runs= 1299

RBI= 1628

BB= 1062

Slash= .289/.356/.365

If we ignore everything else then those numbers seem good enough to get someone in. In particular, there aren’t too many players with more than 2500 hits and 1500 RBI that are not in the Hall of Fame. Of course, when we make such statements we are ignoring a great deal. Primarily, we are ignoring any context to which those numbers may be attached. For instance, in what era did those numbers come? Additionally, how long did it take the player to accrue these numbers? I could just as easily point out the following:

200 or more hits= 0

30 or more HR= 0

100 or more Runs scored= 0

100 or more RBI= 3

100 or more BB= 0

Immediately we see the problem. While Baines’ career numbers would seem to point to greatness they really don’t. They point to longevity. Is longevity laudable? Sure it is. Very few people have played 20 seasons in the big leagues. The problem is that Baines was never great. How do we know he was never great? The numbers above give us a clue. However, we can also consider how the BBWAA felt about him during his playing career with the MVP voting.

Top 25 finishes= 2

Top 10 finishes= 2 (highest finish 9th)

Top 5 finishes= 0

MVP= 0

MVP Points= 8

This is pretty damning. Very few players with this kind of score wind up in the Hall of Fame. It is particularly dreadful for a corner outfielder. Of course, MVP voters can be mistaken. Sometimes they overlook certain players or if a player plays on a bad team he might not get the support he deserves. This is why we started looking at the reputation index. So, how many times did he finish in the top ten in bWAR? Zero. Zip. Zilch. Goose eggs.

So, he was never a top ten performer in his league. Of course, he had only two seasons with more than three bWAR. So, he was never great. He was occasionally good, but throughout most of his career he could be charitably be called solid. There are different ways to look at this, but none of them are particularly good for Baines. However, ask yourself a series of questions about Baines and see if anything turns up.

Was he ever the best player in baseball at his position?

If he played right field for your team back in the 1980s how much better would your team have been? Would they have been better?

How many right fielders would you have taken in a draft before you got to Baines in the 1980s?

I could move into the index, but why bother at this point? This is why I only compare players out of the Hall of Fame with players that have been selected by the BBWAA. Veterans Committee selections are idiosyncratic like this. Who in the heck knows what they were thinking when they made this selection.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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