Previously I’ve given my thoughts on the everyday players who are listed on this year’s Veteran’s Committee ballot for the Hall of Fame. Now it’s time to look at the pitchers. There are three on the Ballot: Jim Kaat, Allie Reynolds, and Luis Tiant. As with the everyday players, each pitcher has significant issues that have kept him from the Hall.
With 283 wins, Kaat has the most of this year’s trio. In fact of players not in the Hall of Fame and eligible Kaat has the fourth most wins. He’s behind Tommy John and two 19th Century pitchers Bobby Matthews and Tony Mullane (and Matthews pitched for far back he never stood on a mound). Kaat also has three 20 wins seasons (only one of which led the American League). But that’s the only time he led his league in any major category. He was only occasionally his team’s ace and by this point is probably most famous as the losing pitcher in the seventh game of the 1965 World Series, losing to Sandy Koufax who threw a shutout on two day’s rest (that happens). Further, Kaat pitched much of the end of his career in relief, becoming, in 1982, the oldest man to ever play in a World Series game (I’m not sure if that’s still true). And it’s this longevity that is much of Kaat’s problem. His numbers look pretty good, but they are longevity numbers and many Hall of Fame voters like gaudy peak numbers that Kaat just doesn’t have.
Luis Tiant was always a personal favorite of mine. As mentioned in the paragraph on Minnie Minoso, Tiant’s dad pitched in the 1947 Negro League World Series, so his son had quite a pedigree. For his career the younger Tiant had 229 wins, putting up 20 or more four times. He never led the AL in wins, but did lead in losses in 1969. He picked up ERA and shutout titles in 1968 (the year before leading the AL in losses). He got to a World Series with Boston in 1975 and won two games for a losing team. In many ways his problem is that he has too much of an up-and-down career. He wins 20, follows it with losing 20. He has the big drop off at the end of his career that a lot of people have, but in the middle there are three seasons with less than 10 wins.
Allie Reynolds played back in the 1940s and 1950s, first for Cleveland, then for Casey Stengel’s Yankees. He was, according to a Stengel biography, Casey’s favorite pitcher because he could both start and relieve. Reynolds put up 182 wins with a .620 winning percentage. He won 20 games once, led the AL in ERA and walks once, led in strikeouts and shutouts twice, and went 7-2 with four saves in the World Series. Reynolds has three problems among Hall of Fame voters. One is the paucity of wins for a team that went to the World Series year after year while he pitched. Secondly, in many ways his replacement was better; a guy named Whitey Ford. You can of course argue that Ford replaced any one of the three early 1950s stalwarts of the Yankees staff (Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, and Vic Raschi), but Ford was better than any of them and I think that hurts Reynolds Hall of Fame chances. Finally, the 1950s Yankees teams are the teams of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra, not the pitchers (with the exception of Ford). It’s not a team remembered because of Reynolds, and that, too, hurts his chances.
There’s the list, three solid pitchers with good numbers and flaws. Would I vote for any or all of them? Not this time I wouldn’t. We’re left now with the two executives (neither of which has an old ball card to feature at the top of the article). I’ll take a look at them with a few comments next time.
Tags: Allie Reynolds, Bobby Mathews, Casey Stengel, Eddie Lopat, Jim Kaat, Joe DiMaggio, Luis Tiant, Mickey Mantle, Minnie Minoso, Sandy Koufax, Tommy John, Tony Mullane, Vic Raschi, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra