A Quick Refresher on the 2019 Today’s Game Ballot

Barring a blockbuster trade or free agent signing, the first big news out of the Winter Meetings, set to kick off this Sunday in Las Vegas, will be the election results from the Today’s Game Era Committee ballot, which will be announced on MLB Tonight at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Any of the 10 candidates — six players, three managers, one owner — receiving at least 75% of the vote will be inducted next July 21 in Cooperstown, along with any candidates elected by the BBWAA in their own balloting, the results of which won’t be announced until January 22.

Last month, when the slate was announced, I covered the basics of the Era Committee process and profiled each candidate at length. The full slate includes former outfielders Harold Baines, Albert Belle, and Joe Carter; first baseman Will Clark; starter Orel Hershiser; reliever Lee Smith; managers Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, and Lou Piniella; and owner George Steinbrenner. This handy navigational widget contains links to all of those profiles, as well as all of the relevant stats:

As previously noted, the ballot was assembled by an Historical Overview Committee composed of 11 BBWAA veterans, who filtered through dozens of candidates in the process: Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun); Jim Henneman (formerly Baltimore Sun); Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Bill Madden (formerly New York Daily News); Jack O’Connell (BBWAA); Jim Reeves (formerly Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Tracy Ringolsby (Baseball America); Glenn Schwarz (formerly San Francisco Chronicle); Dave van Dyck (Chicago Tribune); and Mark Whicker (Los Angeles News Group).

The ones doing the actual voting — behind closed doors, via secret ballots that can include up to four candidates — are on a separate 16-member committee of media members, executives and Hall of Famers. That group wasn’t announced until this past Monday. It is as follows:

Hall of Famers: Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith, Joe Torre

Executives: Al Avila (Tigers), Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Andy MacPhail (Phillies), Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox)

Media: Hirdt (the only repeater from the HOC), Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Claire Smith (ESPN)

The vast majority of the Hall of Famers are recent honorees; the institution doesn’t wait too long to get those folks involved in the process. Alomar, Blyleven, and Gillick were elected in 2011 (the last of those by the Veterans Committee), Maddux, La Russa and Torre in 2014 (the last two of those via the Expansion Era Committee), Schuerholz in 2017 (via the first Today’s Game Era Committee). Claire Smith was the 2017 recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the Hall’s honor for writers. Morgan, currently the Hall’s vice chairman, was elected in 1990, Ozzie Smith in 2007.

Given the old Veterans Committees’ history of cronyism, most notably from the 1960s through the 1980s, it’s natural to look for the inevitable links between the voters and the candidates. That’s not to say that anything untoward will happen, but it’s worth noting who might have advocates in the room. I can’t swear that this is comprehensive (and I’m skipping the media connections), but these stand out:

  • Baines played under La Russa with the White Sox, and both he and Belle did so during Reinsdorf’s still-ongoing tenure as owner; the former made three separate stints with the team and has had his number retired during that time, while the latter briefly became the game’s highest-paid player during his time there.
  • Baines and Carter both played in Baltimore while Gillick was general manager.
  • Carter played with Blyleven in Cleveland, and with Alomar in Toronto, while both Beeston and Gillick were both executives.
  • Johnson managed Alomar in Baltimore, while Gillick was GM.
  • Manuel and Blyleven were teammates in Minnesota; Alomar played for him in Cleveland, and both Gillick and MacPhail have worked with him in Philadelphia.
  • Piniella managed in Seattle while Gillick was the GM.
  • Smith the reliever played with Smith the shortstop in St. Louis, and with Maddux in Chicago; also, he played for Torre in St. Louis
  • Steinbrenner’s stormy tenure as owner of the Yankees featured just one manager who lasted more than four seasons, namely Torre.

I’m not suggesting you take any of that information to the sports book in Vegas, but given the above connections, it would not surprise me if Manuel were elected, and I suppose the same could be said about Baines. To these eyes, however, Smith and Steinbrenner are the slate’s best candidates, and I believe the former all-time saves leader is the most likely to be elected, given that he received over 50% of the vote at one point during his run on the BBWAA ballot. If elected, he’d be just the third living ex-player honored by the Era Committtees, after Jack Morris and Alan Trammell who were elected via last year’s Modern Baseball ballot.

I’ll have coverage of the results here at FanGraphs on Sunday night.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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3 years ago

Joe Carter is totally going to be inducted FML

CC AFCmember
3 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Could be worse. The regular electorate could elect Schilling and then we’d have to create (expand?) the Cap Anson memorial white supremacist wing of the hall.

3 years ago
Reply to  CC AFC

His political/ideological leanings are likely a lot less important to the writers than his implied approval of violence against members of the media.

3 years ago
Reply to  CC AFC

The only “evidence” for that claim about Schilling is that he once praised someone else who actually IS a white supremacist, which of course proves nothing. I praised Obama once, and that certainly doesn’t make me a Democrat. (And Obama praised Putin once…)

You may not like Schilling’s politics, but politics should have nothing to with whether or not someone gets in the Hall. Schilling was neither a cheater nor a troublemaker and he has both the requisite stats and the requisite fame: he should get in.

CC AFCmember
3 years ago
Reply to  Johnston

If “He only one time promoted the candidacy of a white supremacist” is the best defense that can be mustered, it’s not really good one. And not sure what your definition of “troublemaker” is but promoting white supremacists for public office fits for me

3 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

As someone who continues to enjoy baseball’s evolution to a more objective, analytical, fact-based approach, it’s just delightful to see that a guy who had an entire (dearly departed) website dedicated to his hostility to *all* of these things is one of the core members of this group.

If nothing else, it’s a reminder never to take any Hall of Fame stuff too seriously.

3 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Bill Mazeroski has held the title of Worst Player in The Hall of Fame for too long. It’s time for a new man to wear the crown

3 years ago
Reply to  Dmjn53

Maz may have been a ghastly HoF choice, but it’s silly to call him the worst player on a list that also includes High Pockets Kelley.

Carter’s would also be worse than High Pockets Kelley.

Damon G.
3 years ago
Reply to  Sarachim

I think Tommy McCarthy is clearly the worst HOFer, but I’ll give him a pass since the game was so different in the 19th century. I’ll go with Lloyd Waner instead. If he wasn’t Paul Waner’s brother, I doubt he has a prayer. Maybe Wilton Guerrero should start campaigning for induction.

3 years ago
Reply to  Damon G.

Seconded. Lloyd Waner should never have even gotten near the HOF. What a disgrace.