Taking a closer look at the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee candidates


SAN DIEGO — It may leak before then, but at 2pm Eastern time today, the official announcement of which of the ten nominees before the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee will be inducted goes down. The nominees represent the so-called “Golden Era,” which is a designation worthy of about 5,000 angry words in and of itself, but let us save that for another occasion. For now, let’s look at the nominees and consider their worthiness:

Dick Allen: National League Rookie of the Year in 1964 and the 1972 AL MVP, Allen was a feared slugger who, at his peak, was every bit the equal of any number of Hall of Famers. His prime came at a time, however, where his excellent on-base percentage was not as appreciated as it would be today and, of course, he was a famously prickly personality who made no friends in the media or in baseball’s front offices. On the baseball side, his past Hall of Fame chances fell short due to his case being all peak, really. He played “only” 15 seasons and never amassed the kind of counting stats you tend to see in Hall of Famers, finishing with 351 homers and fewer than 2,000 hits.

Ken Boyer: The 1964 NL MVP and one of the best defensive third basemen of his era. Another guy with a tad of a short career by Hall of Fame standards, he was 24 before making the bigs and was basically done as an everyday player at 35. His 282 home runs sticks in many people’s mind as too light a total for a Hall of Fame third baseman, but then again, there is no position more maligned and underrepresented in the Hall of Fame process than third base.

Gil Hodges: Maybe the most argued over and talked about Hall of Fame case in living memory. If you’re from the New York area and you’re over, say, 50, you tend to have very strong opinions about the awful, awful people who have slighted Hodges over the years and likely believe they should be imprisoned. If not, he’s the ultimate borderline candidate. And his case is a hard one. As a player alone it’s hard to make the case as, yes, he was a notable power-hitting first baseman, but he was also frequently the fourth or fifth player on his own team. His managerial exploits, however, add to his case — he helmed the Miracle Mets of 1969, of course — and his tragic early death at age 47 in 1972 colors his case with no small amount of emotion, and justifiably so. If he’s elected, expect an awful lot of joy among people who remember the Brooklyn Dodgers and the old Mets teams.

Bob Howsam: The executive who built the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati which, man, is more than just about anyone else has done. Really, you build that team today and they’re erecting statues of you all over the place. I was surprised to learn he wasn’t in the Hall of Fame already, frankly. One wonders if him being overlooked in the past has anything to do with his effort, in the late 50s, to build a third major league — the Continental League — which was aimed at exploiting untapped demand for baseball west of the Mississippi and which, eventually, led to the expansion of the early 1960s. Maybe some old dudes held a grudge over that? Old baseball dudes often held grudges about smart guys who were ahead of their time.

Jim Kaat: Maybe the best defensive pitcher of all time. That’s not something people think about too much — pitcher defense — but if you’re the best at something you’re the best. Also: Katt pitched FOREVER. Twenty-five years, in fact, amassing 283 wins. Or, if you will, “compiling” them, which is usually the case made against Kaat. He had a 25-win season in 1966, but even then at his best he was not a dominant pitcher, and that often hurts guys in the Hall of Fame game. However, the word “compiling” should not be an epithet as longevity, health and reliability has real value in baseball, especially among pitchers. It’s just that we have yet to really appreciate that over the course of careers as much as we do during the course of a single season or too.

Minnie Minoso: One of the best players of the 50s and the first notable Cuban player after baseball’s color line fell (there were many light-skinned Cuban and other Latin players who played before then, but they “passed” as white, which is a whole ‘nother conversation). Minoso had a fun power and speed mix, was a a beloved player on some fun White Sox teams and then, later, came out of retirement for some gimmick at bats in 1976 and 1980, making him — technically speaking — the only guy to hit in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, if you care about such things.

Tony Oliva: Dick Allen’s Rookie of the Year counterpart in the AL in 1964 and the winner of three batting titles. While Allen had an excellent but under-appreciated on-base percentage, Oliva’s value came via the perhaps over-appreciated batting average and, as such, has been someone many, many people have considered to be a Hall of Fame oversight for years. Like Allen and Boyer, his career was relatively short. Unlike those two, however, it’s hard to look at him and say that, even for a little while, he was one of the best in the game while he played.

Billy Pierce: A two-time 20-game winner. His best season came a year before the Cy Young Award was elected. If it happened today, it’d be like a Felix Hernandez-level Cy Young argument too, as he had “only” 15 wins but posted a staggering 1.97 ERA which, adjusted for era, was more impressive than Clayton Kershaw’s 2014 ERA (Pierce’s ERA+ was 200, Kershaw’s was 197). He never had the sort of support around him that a lot of other Hall of Fame pitchers had, as he pitched for the White Sox during his best years. But if he was on a lot of other teams he would’ve been in Cooperstown years ago.

Luis Tiant: A four-time 20-game winner, an amazing character. He was also a 20-game loser once, too, a year after winning 20. Which is to say the dude was erratic. At his best, an easy Hall of Famer, but that worse made for an overall career that is borderline.

Maury Wills: There was a time, probably in the late 60s and early 70s, where a lot of people probably thought of Wills as a sure Hall of Famer. He was an amazing bunter and a base stealer when no one stole bases and really helped usher in a new era in the game. But he wasn’t actually a great base-stealer — he was caught stealing a lot — and the rest of his game was not terribly remarkable. Also hurting him was that he didn’t make the bigs until he was 26, and was gone after 14 seasons. His stormy and, frankly, insane stint as the Mariners manager in 1980-81 didn’t help matters.

If I had to choose, I’d put Allen, Boyer, Howsam and Minoso in the Hall. Maybe Pierce too. I have this feeling however that we’ll see Hodges, Oliva and Hoswam make it in.

We’ll know at 2pm.

MLB, WNBA postpone games due to smoke from Canadian wildfires

mlb canadian wildfires
1 Comment

NEW YORK — With the stench of smoke permeating Yankee Stadium and wafting through its walkways, Major League Baseball postponed games in New York and Philadelphia on Wednesday night because of poor air quality caused by Canadian wildfires.

A National Women’s Soccer League game in New Jersey and an indoor WNBA game set for Brooklyn were also called off Wednesday amid hazy conditions that have raised alarms from health authorities.

The New York Yankees’ game against the Chicago White Sox was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader starting at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday, and the Philadelphia Phillies’ game against the Detroit Tigers was reset for 6:05 p.m. on Thursday, originally a day off for both teams.

“These postponements were determined following conversations throughout the day with medical and weather experts and all of the impacted clubs regarding clearly hazardous air quality conditions in both cities,” MLB said in a statement.

The National Weather Service issued an air quality alert for New York City, saying: “the New York State Department of Health recommends that individuals consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity to reduce the risk of adverse health effects.” In Philadelphia, the NWS issued a Code Red.

The Yankees and White Sox played through a lesser haze on Tuesday night. A day later, stadium workers and fans arriving early to the ballpark wore face masks for protection in a scene reminiscent of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was business as usual for me coming in. I got in around 12, 12:30, and didn’t really think too much of it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I actually walked outside about 2 o’clock and was like – like everyone else, like – whoa.”

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol thought MLB made the right decision postponing the game.

“These are health issues, right? So this has got to be it. We’ve been through everything – snow, rain, hail. I don’t think I’ve been through something like this,” he said. “Today at one point, it was pretty bad out there. We walked out of the dugout and it was kind of orange. They did the right thing. They got all the information.

“I’m assuming if Major League Baseball is comfortable setting up a doubleheader tomorrow, they have some type of information that it should be better than what it is today, or at least safe.”

In Philadelphia, the Phillies beat the Tigers 1-0 on Tuesday night in a game played in hazy conditions with the smell of smoke in the air. Afterward, manager Rob Thomson and his Phillies players said the conditions didn’t affect them.

About a half-hour before Wednesday’s postponement, Thomson said he thought the game would be played. But the Philadelphia skyline could not be seen from the ballpark in the afternoon, and the smoky smell remained.

Minor league teams nearby also changed plans. The Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania, and the Mets’ top farm club in Syracuse, New York, postponed their games for the second consecutive night.

The Mets’ High-A affiliate in Brooklyn completed a game Wednesday against Greenville that began at 11 a.m.

The WNBA called off a game between the Minnesota Lynx and New York Liberty, saying the decision was made to “protect the health and safety of our fans, teams and community.” A makeup date wasn’t immediately announced.

Even inside Barclays Center at the morning shootaround, reporters could smell smoke in the arena.

The NWSL postponed Orlando’s match at Gotham in Harrison, New Jersey, from Wednesday night to Aug. 9.

“The match could not be safely conducted based on the projected air quality index,” the NWSL said.

At nearby Belmont Park, the New York Racing Association said training went on as planned Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s Triple Crown horse race. However, NYRA canceled training Thursday morning at Belmont and Saratoga Race Course upstate “due to poor air quality conditions forecast to impact New York State overnight and into Thursday morning.”

NYRA said a decision about Thursday’s live racing program, scheduled to begin at 3:05 p.m., will be made Thursday morning “following a review of the air quality conditions and forecast.”

“NYRA utilizes external weather services and advanced on-site equipment to monitor weather conditions and air quality in and around Belmont Park,” spokesman Patrick McKenna said Wednesday. “Training was conducted normally today, and NYRA will continue to assess the overall environment to ensure the safety of training and racing throughout the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.”

New York’s NFL teams, the Giants and Jets, both had Wednesday off from offseason workouts. The Giants had been planning to practice inside Thursday, and the Jets said they are also likely to work out indoors Thursday.

Youth sports in the area were also affected, with parents quick to voice concern about their children’s safety outdoors.

In a statement Wednesday, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said schools should understand that all schedules were subject to change.

“NJSIAA is closely monitoring air quality data across New Jersey and local/state health advisories. As start times for athletic events draw near, we will make decisions for each venue and sport based on currently available information,” the organization said.

It’s not the first time in recent years that wildfires forced changes to the MLB schedule. A two-game series in Seattle between the Mariners and Giants was moved to San Francisco in September 2020 because of poor air quality caused by West Coast wildfires.

About an hour after Wednesday night’s game at Yankee Stadium was postponed, two fans visiting on vacation from Vancouver, British Columbia, were still lingering outside the ballpark.

“It’s just circumstances. What do I say? It makes me disappointed because this is one of the highlights of the trip,” said Malcolm, who was in town with his daughter and didn’t want to give his last name.

“I have a heart condition. That’s the only reason I’m wearing two masks and whatever. And my personal thought is that, why wasn’t it canceled two days ago? Because we knew about all this two days ago. But having said that, I don’t want the players running around and putting out in this, too. It can’t be good for them.”