Dan Quisenberry and the Hall of Fame
By David Hill
The Baseball Hall of Fame, to this day, still seems unsure of how to handle relief pitchers. Although such stalwarts as Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are likely to receive their calls for immortality, the Hall of Fame still has relatively few relief pitchers enshrined. At this point, heading into the 2014 ballot, only five relief pitchers have received the call from Cooperstown, with Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Rich Gossage and Bruce Sutter as the entirety of the relief wing in the Hall.
Back when Dan Quisenberry came up on the ballot in 1996, only Wilhelm and Fingers were in the Hall as relievers, with Fingers as the only full time relief pitcher enshrined. Relievers were essentially thought of in the same way a designated hitter is when it comes time for induction, nice to have to ensure a victory, but not a ‘real’ baseball player. Despite that feeling, Quisenberry still managed to get 3.8% of the vote. Even though that left him short of the amount required to stay on the ballot, it was still a decent showing for a pitcher who played a position that was not quite respected at that point.
Now, Quisenberry is getting another chance at enshrinement, named as one of twelve finalists on the Expansion Era Hall of Fame ballot. Quisenberry joins other hopefuls such as Tony LaRussa, George Steinbrenner and Steve Garvey, among others, as potential hopefuls.
Quiz was selected to three All-Star Games during his twelve year career, finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting five times, and in the top ten in MVP voting on four separate occasions. At the time of his retirement, Quisenberry was fifth all time in saves, and had been one of the more dominant pitchers of his time. During his peak from 1980 through 1985, Quisenberry averaged a 7-6 record with a 2.45 ERA, saving 35 games a year at a time when saves were not nearly close to being as commonplace as they are now. And Quisenberry did all this with a submarine delivery, relying on impeccable control and ground balls instead of blowing hitters away with a blazing fastball.
According to the Baseball Reference Hall of Fame Statistics section, Quisenberry is not a Hall of Famer. Yet, when most people vote on whether or not a player is worthy of induction, a portion of that decision typically comes from how dominant that player was during his time. In that six year period, Quisenberry was not only arguably the top reliever in baseball, but one of the top pitchers in the game at the time.
While his overall accomplishments, especially at a time with more closers routinely getting over thirty saves a season, may not be able to get him in, it is good to see Dan Quisenberry get another look on the ballot. Even if he falls short of induction, it is always worthwhile to see a former great get one more moment in the sun.