Today’s Game Era Ballot for Hall Class of 2017 Has Strong Cleveland Ties

The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Monday its ten candidates for consideration as part of the Today’s Game Era ballot, to be voted on December 5 during the annual Baseball Winter Meetings. Several former members of the Cleveland Indians, including three who played for the club during its revival in the 1990s, are among five former players, three executives, and two managers to make up the list.

Former Indians star Albert Belle, starting pitcher Orel Hershiser, and brief rental player Harold Baines will be up for consideration on the Hall of Fame Class of 2017 ballot by the Today’s Game Era Committee. Another member of the list, Lou Piniella, is under consideration for his time as a manager, but his Major League career as a player began as a member of the Indians.

The former Tribe players are joined by Will Clark and Mark McGwire, manager Davey Johnson, and executives John Schuerholz, Bud Selig, and George Steinbrenner.

The Today’s Game Era is the newest of the committees responsible for evaluating those who have been out of the game for at least 15 seasons who were not selected for entry into Cooperstown. The new era focuses on those who made their biggest marks on the game of baseball in the years beginning with 1988.

The candidates can gain entry to the Hall of Fame as part of the coming year’s class by getting votes on 75% of the ballots cast by the committee.

Belle had the longest ties to the Indians organization, dating back to his second round selection in the 1987 draft out of LSU. He reached the Majors by 1989 and spent parts of eight seasons in Cleveland before exiting via free agency following the 1996 season. He would make his fifth and final All-Star team with the Chicago White Sox in 1997 and put up career highs in several categories the following year before departing for Baltimore, where his career ultimately came to a close after two seasons due to a degenerative hip condition.

He lasted just two years on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots for the Hall of Fame, receiving 7.7% of the votes necessary in 2006 before his 3.5% total in 2007 eliminated him from the list for future consideration. His on- and off-the-field antics may have left a sour taste in the mouths of some voters, while his injury-shortened career left him well short of where his numbers could have taken him. He was just 34 years old at the time of his final game and was concluding his ninth straight 100+ RBI season.

He finished his career a .295 lifetime hitter with 381 homers and 389 doubles.

Hershiser came to Cleveland at the age of 36 in 1995 after a lengthy 12-year run with the Los Angeles Dodgers that earned him three All-Star appearances and a 23-win season in 1988, when he won the National League Cy Young Award and was named the World Series MVP.

Hershiser returned to the World Series with the Indians in 1995 after posting a 16-6 record during the strike-shortened season. He was 4-1 in the postseason for Cleveland and was named the 1995 ALCS MVP against Seattle. He remained with the Tribe through the 1997 season, returning to the World Series that year for the final time of his career. The right-hander averaged 15 wins a year in his three seasons in Cleveland. He finished his 18-year career with 204 wins and a 3.48 ERA.

Like Belle, he fell off the BBWAA ballot after two seasons, receiving 11.2% of the vote in 2006 before dropping to 4.4% in 2007.

Baines spent just a moment of his 22-year MLB career in Cleveland during a pit stop with the club in 1999. He was acquired by the Indians from the Baltimore Orioles on August 27 for a pair of minor leaguers after being named an All-Star at age of 40 earlier in the season. He spent just two months with the club before becoming a free agent, hitting just one home run while batting .271 in the final month of the season after hitting 24 homers with a .322 average with the Orioles. He spent two more seasons in the Majors to conclude his career, including his third stops with the Orioles and White Sox franchises.

He entered the league as the first overall pick by the Chicago White Sox in 1977. He spent his first ten big league seasons with the Sox before moving around with Texas, Oakland, and Baltimore before eventually returning to the Windy City. He was a six-time All-Star and finished his career with 2,866 hits.

Piniella, who is up for consideration for his time in the dugout as a manager and not a player, began his Major League career as a member of the Indians. He entered the professional ranks when he signed with the club as a free agent in 1962, but he was later drafted away from the Indians by the Washington Senators as part of the 1962 first-year draft. He would eventually return to Cleveland, spending 1966 through 1968 with the organization and six games at the MLB level in that final season with the club before he was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the 1968 expansion draft.

He spent 23 seasons in the dugout, leading the New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the Chicago Cubs.

In addition to the four above-mentioned players with ties to the Indians and Cleveland, Steinbrenner was nearly a key part of the Indians organization, but his attempts to buy the Indians from Vernon Stouffer in 1972 were thwarted. The Cleveland area native famously purchased the Yankees from CBS, and the rest of that story is history.

Any of the eligible men to receive the minimum 75% share of the vote will gain entrance with other players selected through the BBWAA voting in the winter for the induction scheduled for July 30, 2017, from Cooperstown, New York. Former Indian Jeff Kent is a carryover from last year’s voting (with 16.6% of the vote), while Manny Ramirez, Orlando Cabrera, Arthur Rhodes, and Danys Baez are all eligible to be on the ballot for the first time.

Photo: Associated Press

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