Glen sent me an email with a link to an article about the Hall of Fame. He asked what happened to Keith Hernandez and his chances for the Hall. Legit question. Here’s my take on Hernandez and the Hall.
First, Hernandez played from 1974 through 1990. He was with the Cardinals from ’74 through mid-1983. With them he won a World Series (1982), an MVP (1979–shared with Willie Stargell), won five Golden Gloves, a batting title, a doubles title, and led the National League in runs scored twice. In 1983 he was shipped to New York where he settled in at first for the Mets. He remained through 1989 helping the Mets to a World Series championship in 1986, a couple of playoffs which they lost to the Cards and Dodgers, led the NL in walks once, won another five Golden Gloves and finished as high as second in the MVP race. His last year was 1990 at Cleveland. In part-time duty he hit .200 and was through. Since then he’s done hair treatment commercials which probably shouldn’t be held against him in Hall of Fame voting (although as a pitchman he’s a great first baseman).
Hernandez’s final numbers look like this: a triple slash line of .296/.384/4.36/.821 with an OPS+ of 128. He has 162 home runs, 98 stolen bases, 426 doubles, 1124 runs scored, 1071 RBIs (and 1070 walks). His Baseball Reference.com version of WAR is 60.0. In postseason play he hit .265 with a couple of homers. In fielding he has 11 Gold Gloves and was, by everyone’s estimation one heck of the defensive first baseman.
But he’s never gotten much of a Hall of Fame push. It’s a little hard to know why. He was generally well-liked, but he’s still never gotten much of a push for the Hall (the Hall of Miller and Eric guys have put him in, but not the guys in Cooperstown). I think a couple of things work against him. First, he is considered more a “fielder” than a “hitter” and as a character called “Baseballidiot” who shows up here occasionally once put it “It’s a hitter’s Hall.” Second, the Cardinals were in contention frequently, but only got to the World Series once when Hernandez was there. Some thought, and I remember hearing this from guys I know, that with a “heavier” hitting first baseman (think Mize or Pujols, to stay with the Cardinals) they might have gotten over the top more often. And it doesn’t help that when he leaves St. Louis the Cards go to the World Series in 1985 and 1987 (losing both) while Hernandez only goes to one with the Mets. Now it’s true the Mets won their Series (1986) but the team was seen as something of a disappointment. They were supposed to dominate the NL in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988 and managed to get to all of one World Series. In 1985 and 1987 they lost the NL East title to Hernandez’s old team the Cards (who seemed to be better without him) and in 1988 they finally broke through (as they’d done in 1986) only to lose to a Dodgers team they’d beaten 11 times in the regular season. And it didn’t help that he was seldom seen as the best player on his team (1979 being an obvious exception). With St. Louis the press went to Ozzie Smith and to some extent to Willie McGee. In New York there was Gary Carter, Daryl Strawberry, and Dwight Gooden who got more press. That surely had to hurt him.
So would I vote for him? They answer is a definitive “maybe” (can I cover my backside or what?). My problem is that I think he’s a heck of a player but there are a number of players I’d rather see get in first. On my current hypothetical ballot for this year’s Hall, I had no problem voting for 10 and complained about leaving off four more (that’s without reference to the steroid guys). If Hernandez were on this year’s ballot, he’d join the “four more” that I left off.
Tags: Keith Hernandez