How Royals Hall Of Famers Fared In Cooperstown Balloting
I originally intended to post this article the day before the BBWAA unleashed their righteous fury on steroid users and everyone who played in the same time zone as one. I think it would have been more relevant and interesting then, but for reasons you don’t care about, I was unable to meet my self-imposed deadline.
As you are undoubtedly aware, George Brett is the only player in the Royals Hall of Fame also enshrined in Cooperstown. I think a case can be made for a couple others but those are hinged on borderline players who probably should have never been elected. I’ll address those later.
The idea here wasn’t just to see how many votes they received, but also, I wanted to compare their total to similar and lesser players on the same ballot. I had no doubts playing for the Royals was viewed as a negative in the writer’s eyes but I wanted to see by how much. It was quite a lot as it turned out.
Otis didn’t receive a single vote despite being a five time All Star and one of the key contributors to the great Royals’ teams of the 1970’s. Were his 39.2 bWAR and 115 OPS+ Hall worthy? Of course not, but neither were the 15.1 bWAR and 74 OPS+ Bucky Dent posted, and Dent somehow received 3 votes. Personally speaking, I find this a far greater crime than Aaron Sele receiving 1 vote this year. Maury Wills (37.5 bWAR, 88 OPS+), in his 13th year on the ballot, received 95 votes.
Busby was ineligible for Cooperstown voting due to playing only parts of eight seasons. He actually only played three full seasons (1973-1975) so a valid argument could be made for his exclusion from the Royals HoF.
Like Otis, Splittorff also failed to receive a vote. The only two players to receive votes with numbers comparable to Splitt’s (20.1 bWAR, 101 ERA+) were Jim Bibby (17.3 bWAR, 99 ERA+) and Mike Torrez (19.7 bWAR, 98 OPS+), and they both received only 1. In other words, nothing to see here.
Rojas didn’t receive any votes either, but as his career numbers (6.7 bWAR, 83 OPS+) attest, he didn’t deserve any. I was actually surprised to learn that he didn’t post the worst stats on the ’83 ballot. That honor fell to Tommy Helms. Despite a 6.5 bWAR and 79 OPS+, Helms received 1 vote. Weird. I guess being the 1966 National League Rookie of the Year carried a lot of weight for one particular voter.
Leonard was Jack Morris before being Jack Morris was cool. From 1976 to 1981 Leonard led the American League in starts, innings and wins. He also finished second to Nolan Ryan in strikeouts. Being the winningest pitcher of the late ‘70’s and early 80’s just doesn’t carry the same amount of weight as being the winningest pitcher of, say, the 1980’s. Leonard received 1 vote in 1992, which honestly sounds about right. I wonder, though, how voters would have treated him if injuries hadn’t derailed his career. I suspect he still would have been one and done but he at least may have reached double digits in votes. No pitcher with a worse career received more votes than Leonard in ’92.
McRae received zero votes despite a 123 OPS+ that was higher than nine other candidates who received votes. Andre Thornton (2), though, was the only player with a lower bWAR (22.0) than McRae (24.7) to receive votes. It’s more than possible that spending the majority of his career as a designated hitter also contributed to his shut out.
Like Busby, Patek never appeared on a ballot. Unlike Busby, Patek should have, because he played 14 years in the major leagues. I could understand if he spent the entirety of his career as utility infielder but he didn’t. He was a 3 time All Star who led the American League in stolen bases from 1971 to 1979 with 336. Patek’s 21.3 bWAR and 79 OPS+ weren’t Hall worthy but neither were the numbers of several contemporaries, who not only appeared on ballots, but actually received votes. Don Kessinger (6.8 bWAR, 73 OPS+) received 2 votes in 1985, Larry Bowa (20.0 bWAR, 71 OPS+) received 11 votes in 1991, and as I mentioned earlier, Bucky Dent (15.1 bWAR, 74 OPS+) received 3 votes in 1990. Dent actually played fewer seasons than Patek but he spent most of them with the Yankees, and that’s likely the only reason he received any voting love. I’m glad the 11 games he played with Royals in 1984 didn’t keep him off the ballot.
Gura was shut out but at least he was allowed to appear on a ballot. (Yes, I am bitter. Why do you ask?) No pitcher with lesser numbers received votes on this ballot.
George Brett – 1999
According to Baseball Almanac, Brett’s 98.2% is the fifth highest percentage ever, trailing only Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr., and Ty Cobb. I have nothing to add here.
July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Former Kansas City Royals player George Brett at bat during the 2012 Legends and Celebrity softball game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Compared to the rest of the players above (excluding Brett, of course), White made out pretty well. He received 18 votes but was bounced from the ballot for falling below the 5% cutoff. There are many Royals fans who believe White should be enshrined in Cooperstown. They almost always point to Bill Mazeroski, a second baseman with near identical numbers to White’s.
In ’88 Manny Mota (16.1 bWAR, 112 OPS+) received 18 votes, despite having never come to the plate 500 times even just once in his 20 year career. In his 12th year on the ballot, Harvey Kuenn (22.8 bWAR, 108 OPS+) received 168 votes. Mayberry (21.5 bWAR, 123 OPS+) received zero.
Quiz was on the same ballot as White and received the same amount of votes, 18. Bruce Sutter, appearing on his third ballot, received 137 votes. Sutter eventually got in while Quisenberry was bounced from consideration. Their numbers aren’t as identical as White and Mazeroski’s but they’re close enough to wonder why one got the love and the other a cold shoulder.
While you can’t make a case for White without mentioning Mazeroski, I think you can make a Sutterless case for Quiz. In his prime he was the best relief pitcher in the baseball and one of the best pitchers overall. He led the AL in the six seasons from 1980 to 1985 (min. 700 IP) with a 2.45 ERA and 1.087 WHIP. Dave Stieb finished second in both categories with marks of 3.07 and 1.175. He finished fourth in that same time frame in bWAR with 20.1. Unfortunately for Quiz, his prime is his entire candidacy as the rest of his career was a bit lackluster. Did he do enough during those six seasons to deserve entry? Maybe, maybe not. I honestly waver on whether he belongs. I do believe, though, that he should have been on more than one ballot.
Wilson received 10 votes in his one and only year on the ballot. His 43.5 bWAR was the highest among the players who missed the cut and higher than four position players who got enough support to stick around a while longer. Those players would be Steve Garvey (34.4 BWAR, 160 votes), Dale Murphy (42.6 bWAR, 116 votes), Dave Parker (36.3 bWAR, 104 Votes) and Dave Concepcion (36.5 bWAR, 67 votes). He was also just a tick below eventual Hall of Famer Jim Rice (44.3). I don’t believe Wilson got slighted though. Outside of Concepcion, the players above were much better hitters than he was.
Monty (19.5 bWAR, 135 ERA+) received 2 votes and that’s probably fair. I’m guessing the 13 writers who voted for Jim Abbot (17.5 bWAR, 99 ERA+) did so for non-statistical reasons. I suppose that’s not much different than voting for Bucky Dent because of who he played for, but I liked Abbot, so I’m going to let it slide.
How in the heck does a guy with 2 Cy Young awards, 56.0 bWAR and a 126 ERA+ receive only 7 votes? Oh right, he won only 167 games in his career. That was less than Jack Morris (39.3 bWAR, 105 ERA+, 202 votes) and Orel Hershiser (52.7 bWAR, 112 ERA+, 24 votes). I’m actually more surprised that Hershiser was eliminated from the ballot considering he was a Dodger, had the great season in 1988 and won over 200 career games. As far as Morris goes, Saberhagen was better, and it wasn’t close.
Gubicza never appeared on a ballot either, because Royals. His 132-136 record and 109 ERA+ must not have interested those who crafted the 2003 ballot. Rick Honeycutt (109-143, 104 ERA+) somehow received 2 votes that year. Danny Jackson (112-131, 100 ERA+) didn’t receive any votes but at least he was up for consideration.
Just like Saberhagen three years before, Appier (51.5 bWAR, 121 ERA+) won the statistical battle against Morris (39.3 bWAR, 105 ERA+) but lost the vote battle, badly. In this case, it was 282-1. Pat Hentgen (30.0 bWAR, 108 ERA+) also received 1 vote. Pat Hentgen was no Kevin Appier.