Indians Quietly Represented on Hall of Fame Ballot
Bob Toth | On 05, Jan 2014
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America will announce the results for the 2014 Hall of Fame class on Wednesday, January 8th, and several former Cleveland Indians are among the players eligible for induction.
Despite several former Tribe players on the ballot this year, the odds are slim that the Indians add new Hall of Famers to their current list of 31 former players and seven managers who donned a Cleveland uniform prior to their enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Last season, the Indians were represented on the ballot by several first time nominees: outfielder Kenny Lofton, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., infielder Julio Franco, and relievers Jose Mesa and Roberto Hernandez. Starting pitcher Jack Morris returned from the previous year’s ballot.
Lofton appeared to have the best chance of the collection of first time players to survive the selection process and continue on to future ballots, especially with his statistical comparisons to another player on the ballot for the sixth time, outfielder Tim Raines.
Raines, with his 69.1 career WAR, .294 batting average, .385 on-base percentage, and 808 career stolen bases over 23 seasons, was recognized on 297 ballots, earning 52.2% of the votes and granting him a seventh year of eligibility.
Lofton and his 68.1 career WAR, .299 batting average, .372 on-base percentage, and 622 steals in 17 seasons received just 18 votes, good for 3.2% of the vote and his removal from further ballots.
Morris is the only former Indians player to return from last year’s ballot and may stand the best chance of the four former Indians on the ballot this season.
A five-time All-Star and 1991 World Series MVP with the Minnesota Twins, Morris is on the ballot for the 15th and final time. After earning 22.2% of the votes on his first ballot in 2000, his inclusion has trended upwards on the 13 ballots since, reaching a high of 67.7% last year when no players were voted in.
Morris played his final Major League season with Cleveland in the strike-shortened 1994 year. He spent his first 14 seasons in Detroit, winning a World Series in 1984 with two complete game wins over the San Diego Padres. In 1991, he signed with the Minnesota Twins and helped the club defeat the Atlanta Braves for the title with a 2-0 record and 1.17 ERA in three starts. His ten-inning complete game seven-hitter over John Smoltz won the series-clinching game. He moved on to Toronto in 1992, where he won another title over the Braves despite losing both World Series starts with an 8.44 ERA.
He joined the Indians three months after his release by Toronto at the end of the 1993 season and finished the year 10-6 with one complete game, despite a 5.60 ERA in 23 starts. He led the American League with 13 wild pitches when the season ended.
Kent came to the Majors in 1992 with the Toronto Blue Jays, who dealt the infielder midseason to the New York Mets for starter David Cone. After three full seasons in the Big Apple, he was part of the deadline deal in 1996 that also sent Jose Vizcaino to Cleveland for infielders Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza.
Kent appeared in 39 games for the Indians, batting .265 with three home runs and 16 runs batted in while playing first, second, and third base for Cleveland. He batted .125 with one hit in the Indians’ ALDS loss to Baltimore. He was traded after the season with Vizcaino, Julian Tavarez, and Joe Roa to San Francisco for third baseman Matt Williams and outfielder Trent Hubbard. Over his 17-year career, he was a five-time All-Star for the Giants and won the National League MVP award in 2000.
Casey, the Indians’ second round draft pick in 1995, got a quick cup of coffee with the Indians in 1997. He appeared in six games, getting a pair of singles in ten at bats. Just prior to the 1998 season, he was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for starting pitcher Dave Burba.
Casey played eleven more seasons after his debut in Cleveland, including eight with the Reds. “The Mayor” also spent a half season in Pittsburgh, a year and a half in Detroit, and played a final season in Boston in 2008. Known as a sound defender and great clubhouse presence, he posted a .995 fielding percentage and .302 batting average for his career.
Sexson emerged late in the 1997 season for the Indians, a former 24th round pick of the 1993 draft. He spent time at first base, designated hitter, and left field for Cleveland between 1997 and 2000 before he was dealt to Milwaukee with pitchers Kane Davis and Paul Rigdon and infielder Marco Scutaro for pitchers Jason Bere, Bob Wickman, and Steve Woodard.
Sexson, who had hit 31 home runs and driven in 116 runs in 1999 for Cleveland, would twice hit 45 home runs over the next three seasons for the Brewers. After twice being recognized as an NL All-Star, he would be shipped to Arizona as part of a nine-player trade after the 2003 season, but played in only 23 games for the Diamondbacks after hurting his shoulder. A free agent after the season, he signed in Seattle with the Mariners on a four-year, $50 million pact and spent parts of four seasons in the Great Northwest before joining the New York Yankees for one month of the 2008 season before his release in August, effectively ending his 12-year, 306-homer career.
Other former Indians who were eligible for the 2014 ballot for the first time but did not make the final ballot included: closer Joe Borowski, pitcher Scott Elarton, cather Sal Fasano, 2007 spring training retiree Keith Foulke, starter Jason Johnson, reliever Kent Mercker, outfielder and rally pie guy Trot Nixon, reliever Ricardo Rincon, outfielder Dave Roberts, and 17-year reliever Rudy Seanez.
The Indians’ candidates this year are a far cry from those players first considered for the Hall of Fame on its initial ballot.
In 1936, five players were inducted (Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson). Johnson spent his entire career as a member of the Washington Senators, but managed the Indians for parts of the 1933 season through the first half of 1935, accumulating a 179-168 record in that span. The three players with the highest percentage of votes who did not get voted in during the 1936 vote all formerly represented the city of Cleveland on the diamond – Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, and Cy Young.
Lajoie debuted with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1896 and joined Cleveland in 1902. The team would use his nickname as the team’s third moniker in as many years, starting with the 1903 season. His career in Cleveland ended after 13 seasons and a career .339 batting average, but he played two more seasons for the Philadelphia Athletics. He finished his career with 3,243 hits and a batting average of .338.
Speaker spent nine seasons in Boston with the Red Sox, winning the MVP award in 1912, before joining the Indians in 1916. The “Grey Eagle” spent eleven of his 22-year career in Cleveland, where he accumulated 73 home runs, 486 doubles, and 1,965 hits. He finished his career with a season each in Washington and Philadelphia, amassing 3,514 career hits. Eighty-five years after his playing career ended, he remains the all-time doubles leader (792) in baseball history.
Young played his first nine seasons with the Cleveland Spiders of the National League after being purchased from Canton (Tri-State) for $300. He compiled a 241-135 record (.641 winning percentage) with a 3.10 ERA. Of his 369 starts for Cleveland, he threw 346 complete games and had 24 shutouts. He would later return to Cleveland as a member of the Naps after a trade from the Boston Red Sox in 1909. He was released by Cleveland in August, 1911, and was signed by the Boston Rustlers (now the Atlanta Braves).
All three men would be voted in to the Hall of Fame the very next season.
Former Indians who gained induction to Cooperstown in their first season of eligibility include the legendary Bob Feller, pitcher Steve Carlton, outfielders Frank Robinson and Dave Winfield, and first baseman Eddie Murray.
Feller received 93.8% of the vote in 1962. He entered the Hall with Jackie Robinson, who was also on his first ballot, and the two became the first players since the Hall of Fame’s first year to enter on their first attempt.
Former Indians shortstop and skipper Lou Boudreau received just two votes in his first year of eligibility in 1956 and would not be inducted until 1970, when he received votes on 232 of 300 ballots.
The ageless Satchel Paige received votes in 1951 after his career had ended with the Indians, but he would resume his career with the St. Louis Browns for three seasons from 1951 to 1953 and would again suit up in 1965 with the Kansas City Athletics for three innings. He was selected to the Hall in 1971 by the Negro League Committee.
The last time an ex-Indians player was inducted to the Hall was in 2011, when both players to gain entrance that season played for the Tribe.
Roberto Alomar made the Hall in his second season of eligibility, being named on 90% of the ballots by the BBWAA after falling just short (73.7%) in 2010. He played 17 years in the Majors, including three in Cleveland with the Indians, and made 12 consecutive All-Star teams, ending with his final three as an Indian. He batted .323 for Cleveland from 1999-2001, including .336 in his last year with the Indians, and finished his career with a .300 batting average. He was traded to the Mets as part of an eight-player trade in December, 2001.
Bert Blyleven gained entry to Cooperstown on his 14th attempt, earning 79.7% of the vote that season. He pitched for five different teams over his 22-year career, including four and a half seasons with Cleveland. He was 48-37 with a 3.23 ERA in 104 starts for Cleveland and earned his second of two career All-Star nods. He led the AL in starts (37), complete games (24), shutouts (5), strikeouts (206), and innings pitched (293 2/3) in 1985, when he was traded in August by the Indians to the Twins for four players. He finished his career with 287 wins and ranks fifth all-time in strikeouts with 3,701.
Brian Giles highlights the best former Indians of the potential first-timers on the 2015 ballot. Also eligible for the first time, but unlikely to make the final ballot, would be relievers Tavarez, Alan Embree, Ron Villone, David Weathers, and starter Paul Byrd.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer