Breaking down the “Eras” Hall of Fame ballot

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Monday’s reveal of the “Eras Committee” ballot brought us 10 candidates for the Hall of Fame. Five are players and five are not, which means the committee voters actually have to weigh the merits of Harold Baines versus George Steinbrenner as they make up to four selections.

How silly is that?

Two more managers (Davey Johnson and Lou Piniella) are being considered, three years after three (Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre) were selected. I think managers are pretty well represented at the moment. Heck, if Johnson were elected, that’d make Hall of Famers of one-third of the managers who were active in 1984 (right now, it’s eight of 26). That’s a tad excessive. Those voting on the Hall of Fame should be at least as selective with managers as it is with players, and it keeps getting pickier when it comes to players (of course, those are different electorates, with the BBWAA selecting most of the players).

The other non-players are Steinbrenner, longtime Royals and Braves GM John Schuerholz and former commissioner Bud Selig. Selig is a shoo-in.

I’m more interested in the players. It’s not a bad group, with one exception:

Harold Baines: The exception. Baseball’s Hall of Fame loves longevity. If it’s quantity versus quality, quantity usually wins out. Baines’ staying power was remarkable, and from age 22 to age 40, he never had a truly off season. His worst OPS+ in a 19-year span was 108, which is pretty incredible. Baines, though, was also never especially valuable. He wasn’t a very good outfielder the first part of his career, and 60 percent of his starts came at DH. He finished in the top 10 in his league in OBP and slugging once apiece. He finished in the top 10 in homers once (ninth in 1984). He finished in the top 10 in doubles once (sixth in 1988). He was a good, solid player for a very long time, but his spot on the ballot should have gone to someone who achieved greatness.

Albert Belle: This is more like it; Belle’s is a case that deserves to be revisited. In his 10 full seasons, he averaged 37 homers and 120 RBI to go along with a .298/.374/.571 line. His career OPS+ of 144 puts him in the same range of Jim Thome, Edgar Martinez, Lance Berkman, Mike Piazza, Chipper Jones, Larry Walker and Vladimir Guerrero. Belle, though, had fewer at-bats than all of those guys because of a degenerative hip condition that ended his career at age 33. He also had a bad reputation on and off the field. Still, he had a three-season run as the AL’s scariest hitter and some fine years beyond that. Belle wouldn’t get my vote, particularly since guys I consider superior candidates like Martinez, Walker and Tim Raines aren’t in yet. Still, he’s worthy of thought.

Will Clark: Clark had the look of a Hall of Famer early in his career. By the time he was 25, he already had three top-five finishes in the NL MVP balloting. The power, though, vanished early. He hit 35 homers at age 23 and 29 at ages 24 and 27, but he never topped 16 homers from ages 28-33. He spent those years largely viewed as a disappointment, rather than as a guy who was still a fine regular with his excellent OBPs and quality defense at first base. At age 36, he had his best offensive season in 11 years, hitting .319/.418/.546 in 507 at-bats, only to retire immediately afterwards. When he came eligible for the Hall of Fame, no one gave him a second look. However, the analytics movement shed some new light on his career. I still don’t think he’s over the cut line (I’m more interested in seeing Keith Hernandez in), but he’s not all that far off.

Orel Hershiser: Hershiser debuted on the HOF ballot in 2006 with 11.2% of the vote, a number that suggested he’d stick around for a while. However, when Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn became eligible the next year, Hershiser fell under 5 percent and was removed from the ballot. Hershiser had some greatness, bookending his 1988 NL Cy Young Award with fourth-place finishes in 1987 and 1989. He finished 2nd or 3rd in the NL in ERA every years from 1985-89. However, after suffering a torn labrum in 1990, he was an average starter for the duration of his career, going 105-85 with a 4.17 ERA and a 100 ERA+. I think Hershiser’s case is worth the revisit, but I prefer David Cone, Kevin Brown and Dave Stieb as Hall of Fame candidates. They had greatness, too, and Cone and Brown had it for more than five years.

Mark McGwire: McGwire would still be on the BBWAA ballot if not for the rule change dropping eligibility from 15 to 10 years. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame… the numbers are there, and I’m not sure how you tell the tale of 1990s baseball without him. 15 years after his retirement, McGwire ranks 11th all-time in homers and ninth in OPS. He cheated, but he was far from the only one.

My guess is that the new committee makes it four in a row in failing to elect a player. Not that it’s necessarily such a bad thing, since I have no faith in the ability of this committee to elect the most deserving players. Selig will get in, probably unanimously. I think Schuerholz has the best shot of the other options.

Giolito spins 4-hit gem, White Sox shut out Astros

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HOUSTON (AP) Lucas Giolito was forced to speed up his pace near the end of his last start for the Chicago White Sox because of rain. The results were so good he decided to try it again Thursday night against the Houston Astros, even though there was no need to rush in the climate-controlled confines of Minute Maid Park.

The tactic certainly paid off.

Giolito pitched a four-hitter for his first major league shutout, rookie Eloy Jimenez hit his third homer in two games and the White Sox beat the Astros 4-0.

“In the last game in the fifth inning, I really picked up the tempo because it started raining,” he said. “I was like, why not just try and do that every time? So I was just getting in attack mode early, filling up the zone, and luckily I had my good stuff and we were able to mix sequences really well. It was a good one.”

Chicago manager Rick Renteria was asked what superlative he would use to describe Giolito’s performance.

“Every one that’s in your book that you can put on a page,” he said. “If there was 1,000 of them, use all 1,000.”

Yoan Moncada had an RBI double and Tim Anderson added a run-scoring single for the White Sox, who earned a four-game series split by handing Houston its first set of consecutive losses since May 1-2.

Giolito (6-1) struck out a season-best nine and walked one in winning his fourth start in a row and fifth straight decision.

“He was doing really anything he wanted to,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. “He was really good, so hats off to him for coming in and throwing all of his pitches for strikes. He’s changed his delivery, his arm action a little bit. He came in and really commanded the game from the very beginning.”

It was the first nine-inning complete game by a White Sox pitcher since Chris Sale beat Kansas City 7-4 in September 2016, and their first complete-game shutout since Sale threw a two-hitter in a 1-0 win at Tampa Bay on April 15, 2016.

In his previous outing last Saturday, Giolito was credited with his first career complete game when he beat Toronto 4-1 in a game called after 4 1/2 innings because of rain. After that one, the 24-year-old right-hander said he didn’t consider it a complete game until he went nine innings.

Didn’t take him long to check that box, too.

Giolito threw 82 of his season-high 107 pitches for strikes against a first-place team that began the day leading the majors with an .860 OPS and had homered in 19 consecutive games.

All the hits Giolito allowed were singles. Previously, his longest start was 7 1/3 innings.

“The Astros are a team I always look forward to facing,” Giolito said. “A lot of good hitters in that lineup. It’s always a fun challenge. They won a World Series a couple of years ago so when you do well against them, it makes you feel pretty good about yourself.”

Jimenez, who was 0 for 7 in the first two games of the series before hitting two homers in a win Wednesday night, connected off fellow rookie Corbin Martin (1-1) for a solo shot in the fourth inning that made it 4-0.

Martin gave up six hits and four runs over 3 1/3 innings in his third career start.

Yolmer Sanchez, who had three hits, doubled to start the third before Martin walked Charlie Tilson. Moncada followed with an RBI double to put Chicago up 1-0. A single by Anderson came next to score Tilson. Moncada scored on an error by Martin when his pickoff attempt to first was high.

Missing injured sluggers Jose Altuve and George Springer, the Astros couldn’t get anything going on offense. Their streak of 19 straight games with at least one home run was tied for the longest stretch in franchise history.

Michael Brantley hit his second single for Houston with two outs in the sixth. Giolito retired Carlos Correa to end that inning and pitched a perfect seventh before Max Stassi singled to start the eighth. Giolito struck out Jake Marisnick and Josh Reddick before Alex Bregman lined out to end the inning.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Springer, who has missed the last four games with stiffness in his lower back, took batting practice on the field and will likely return Friday night, Hinch said. … Altuve (hamstring) continues to make improvement but there still isn’t a target date for his return.

TOUGH ON RIGHT-HANDERS

Anderson had two hits and a walk and is batting .344 against right-handers, which leads the AL.

THEY SAID IT

Jimenez on hitting three home runs in two games: “It’s been good. It means a lot. It’s more fun coming (to the park). It’s just the beginning of something good.”

UP NEXT

White Sox: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (3-4, 5.14 ERA) starts Friday when Chicago opens a three-game series against the AL Central-leading Twins. Lopez has been strong in his last three starts, posting a 2.29 ERA.

Astros: LHP Wade Miley (4-2, 3.51) is scheduled to start Friday in the opener of a three-game series with Boston. He didn’t factor in the decision last time out when he allowed seven hits and three runs – two earned – in five innings of a 4-3 loss to the Red Sox.

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