SAN DIEGO -- Earned admiration can take time to reveal itself within the voting system that creates a National Baseball Hall of Fame class. For years, the late union leader Marvin Miller’s indisputable role in reshaping the sport was acknowledged everywhere but the small-committee ballot. And for years, the numbers
SAN DIEGO -- Earned admiration can take time to reveal itself within the voting system that creates a National Baseball Hall of Fame class. For years, the late union leader Marvin Miller’s indisputable role in reshaping the sport was acknowledged everywhere but the small-committee ballot. And for years, the numbers that best described catcher Ted Simmons' value weren’t in vogue with voters.
But Miller and Simmons finally got the recognition so many felt they richly deserved Sunday night, on the eve of the Winter Meetings at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. They were both elected into the Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee and will be honored, along with any selections from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, at the July 26, 2020, induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.
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Simmons was named on 13 of 16 ballots (81.3%), while Miller was posthumously named on 12 to reach the exact threshold (75%) required for entry. Dwight Evans, Dave Parker, Steve Garvey, Lou Whitaker, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson and Dale Murphy were not selected. Evans, who received eight votes, was the only other candidate to appear on at least half of the ballots.
Miller, who headed up the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966-82, passed away in 2002, at the age of 95. Before his death, he had railed against the selection process that routinely snubbed him and had asked to be omitted from future ballots. But his status as one of the most influential figures in sports labor history was ultimately too strong to be denied.
“Players are pleased that Marvin will now take his rightful and long overdue place in the Hall of Fame,” said current MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, “in recognition of the monumental and positive impact he had on our game and our industry.”
His selection came belatedly, but appropriately, on the eve of another Winter Meetings where more grandiose player pacts will be considered and, in all likelihood, consummated.
Before Miller, there was no such thing as free agency or arbitration. There was no such thing as a collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players. There was only the reserve clauses bounding players to their team’s whims and wishes.
Miller successfully fought that. He created a culture of solidarity and educated players on their rights as workers and their earning powers. The first CBA was negotiated in 1968. Arbitration began in '70. And free agency was introduced in '75, forever altering baseball’s offseason and economics. During Miller’s tenure, the average player salary increased roughly tenfold.
Miller had earned just seven of the 12 votes needed for election during the last Modern Baseball Era ballot in 2017. But this year’s panel, which included six Hall of Fame players (George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount) who were part of the 1981 players strike orchestrated by Miller, proved more favorable for him.
It also proved more favorable for the 70-year-old Simmons, who had come agonizingly close to induction on that 2017 ballot, falling just one vote shy.
“There’s never too long a time to wait if you finally make the leap,” Simmons said. “Today I did.”
He did it, he acknowledged, with the help of the analytics community. While the switch-hitting Simmons had strong attributes in the traditional sense -- 2,472 career hits, 483 doubles, 248 homers, 1,389 RBIs, eight All-Star selections over 21 seasons with the Cardinals, Brewers and Braves, and a World Series appearance with Milwaukee in 1982 – the deeper appreciation only arrived as stats like on-base percentage and Wins Above Replacement became a part of the regular parlance.
Simmons’ 50.3 career WAR (per Baseball Reference) makes him one of just nine catchers with 50 or more. The other eight -- Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Iván Rodriguez, Carlton Fisk, Gabby Hartnett, Yogi Berra, Mike Piazza and Bill Dickey -- are all already in the Hall. Simmons, meanwhile, lasted just one year on the BBWAA ballot after netting 3.7% of the vote in 1994.
“If it weren’t for the analytics people, my career as a potential Hall of Famer probably would have been shut down and forgotten a long time ago,” Simmons said. “When they started talking about on-base percentage and WAR and how WAR was comprised, it became a real study and then the real comparisons started to develop.”
In addition to the aforementioned players, the Modern Baseball Era voting panel included veteran executives Sandy Alderson, Dave Dombrowski, David Glass, Walt Jocketty, Doug Melvin and Terry Ryan and veteran media members/historians Bill Center, Steve Hirdt, Jack O’Connell and Tracy Ringolsby. The Modern Baseball Era considers candidates whose contributions were most prominent from 1970-87.
The BBWAA’s Class of 2020 will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 21, on MLB Network.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.