On Monday, December 9, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which covers the years 1988-2018 — will vote on candidates for the 2019 induction class. Between now and then we will take a look at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness.
Next up: Joe Carter
The case for his induction:
We are men of action. Lies do not become us. I am not going to sit here and try to make a compelling case for Joe Carter making the Hall of Fame when, in reality, I think he’s the weakest of the ten candidates on the Today’s Game ballot this year. But I will say what good happened in his career.
It starts, obviously, with one of the most famous home runs in baseball history. The 1993 World Series-winning walkoff homer. It was a fantastic baseball moment that will ensure that Carter is never forgotten. You likely already know all about it, but it’s always worth reading about some more. Go do that here, among any other places. Or just watch it:
Beyond his greatest moment on the field — TOUCH ‘EM ALL, JOE! — Carter hit 396 homers, drove in at least 100 runs 10 times and made five All-Star teams. He finished in the top five in the MVP race twice (1991 and 1992). He was as durable as all get-out, playing in 162 games for three straight seasons and playing in 140 games or more in nine straight seasons. He was a pretty good player.
The case against his induction:
While Jack Morris proved that one big World Series game can get a guy into the Hall of Fame, it’s no guarantee. Beyond that, being merely good does not get you into the Hall of Fame most of the time.
Despite his durability and despite some homers and some triple-digit RBI totals, Carter had almost no on-base skills (.306 career OBP, .259 career batting average) and was a serious, serious drag on defense, ending his career with an eye-popping -86 fielding runs below average. He shines under no other defensive metrics either, and was universally hailed as a bad fielder.
Carter could hit a home run, but there was not much else there and, due to his one-dimensional offensive game and terrible defense, he was a below average player even in some of his best seasons. He was sub-replacement level in several years in which he hit 20 homers or more and, for his career, he finished with 19.6 WAR. That ties him for 925th on the all-time list with Royce Clayton, Greg Jeffries, Carlos Baerga and five or six guys you probably haven’t heard of. Colby Rasmus and Kurt Suzuki are above him on the list. You can quibble with WAR and what it means, but I don’t think anyone being honest could find any sort of statistical measure that would make Joe Carter a Hall of Famer.
Would I vote for him?
Oh god no.
Will the Committee vote for him?
There’s this notion floating out there that Carter was way more respected during his career and that he only looks bad now due to some tyranny of advanced analytics. This is hogwash. Carter’s career ended after the 1998 season and he hit the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in December 2003. BBWAA voters — who had not by any stretch of the imagination embraced advanced analytics by then and judged players by far more traditional means — gave Carter just 3.8% of the vote. Then, as now, Carter was not seen as a Hall of Famer and, if anything, advances in baseball knowledge in the past 15 years make him appear to be even less of one.
While it is true that the Veterans Committee is no bastion of sabermetrics, it’s hard to see what they or anyone else could latch onto in making a case for Carter. If they did do so and he got inducted, it would be a massive, massive shock.
But we still have 1993, right?