From now until the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2010 is announced, The Hall is going to be breaking down each candidate. Some write ups will be lengthy...some will be the opposite. Some will be brand new pieces...some will be re-hashes of previous pieces.
Not that many years ago, Hoyt Wilhelm (inducted in 1985) and Rollie Fingers (1992) were the only relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame. Three times in the last six years, Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2009) have been enshrined.
So…why not the designated hitter?
Who would have thought in 1973, when Ron Blomberg of the Yankees became baseball’s first DH, that there would still be no full-time DH in the Hall of Fame?!?
Sure, many of modern era’s best hitters (Paul Molitor, George Brett, even Dave Winfield and Eddie Murray) ENDED their careers as their team’s DH…but there has not been a full-time DH voted in to join them.
A few year back, I would have said that Rafael Palmeiro would be the next notable DH to join the list…but he all but blew his chances by being found guilty of taking steroids. And while some will bring up Edgar Martinez (you can read more about his Hall of Fame case later this month), I think the next big name “full-time” DH is going to be Frank Thomas.
But why wait until then?
Why not embrace the designated hitter and vote in someone whose stats stack up with some of baseball’s elite.
Yes…I’m talking about Harold Baines.
His 1652 games played at DH is more than any other and for his overall career…and only Rusty Staub played in more games overall among Hall eligible players.
Baines’ 2866 career base hits (40th all-time) means that he has the most hits of any player that is not enshrined in Cooperstown. Sure, there are a handful of players (Pete Rose, Craig Biggio, Palmeiro and Barry Bonds) with more hits than Baines, but they are not Hall eligible…yet. Odds are that had Baines not had two work stoppages during his career, he would have eclipsed 3000 hits. Baines also has the most RBI of all Hall eligible players and ranks 29th all-time.
For his career…Baines batted .289. He hit at or above that mark an amazing thirteen times. Eight times, he batted higher than .300.
Combine this with his 384 home runs (Baines is actually third on the all-time list of walk off home runs), a .324 post season batting and you’ve got a player that was arguably one of the most valuable of his time.
Also, as a full-time DH, Baines was selected to appear in six All-Star games.
Statistically, Baines is pretty comparable to (if not better than) both Al Kaline and Tony Perez…both Hall of Famers. Interestingly enough...after Kaline, Baines is the player with the most number of home runs that never hit more than 30 in a season.
It’s time, writers. It’s time to start considering a full-time DH for induction to the Hall of Fame.
Sure you’ll wait for the "Big Hurt"…I understand. But don’t Baines’ numbers warrant at least a look?
Doesn’t he deserve his place in Cooperstown for a reason besides being the owner of the bat that ended baseball’s longest game ever?
I think so.