By Glen Sparks
Jim Kaat almost made it into the Hall of Fame. Or, maybe he wasn’t that close after all.
The former pitcher needed 12 votes among the 16 members of the Golden Era committee; he got 10. Kaat was a near miss, right? He came up just two votes short. But, as he notes in his recent blog post, it’s a bit more complicated than that. (You can read my original post about Kaat and his Hall of Fame qualifications.)
Kaat is a big fan of horse racing, he explains. So, he understands something about narrowing the field. At least three of the committee members had very little chance of voting him into Cooperstown, he writes. All three were Golden Era members who never saw Kaat play or did not see him in his prime. (Kaat doesn’t call out the three by name, but he does drop some biographical hints. You can make a decent guess that the trio consisted of Elias Sports Bureau executive Steve Hirdt, writer Tracy Ringolsby and Royals owner David Glass.)
If that was the case, he needed 12 of the remaining 13 votes to go his way, or 92 percent. He got 77 percent (10 of 13), or just more than the 75 percent required for induction.
Kaat makes a few other solid points in his post. And, let me add that he does not come across as bitter at all. He thanks his friends and fans for their support. Also, he wasn’t exactly sweating out the suspense at home, waiting for a call from the Hall of Fame. He was sitting in a chair at the dentist’s office.
Anyway, Kaat suggests that the Golden Era committee—a group put together to look at players and executives who made their mark in baseball from 1947 to 1972—be made up of people who actually saw the nominated players perform. … I support this up to a point. Committee members should know about the superstars and the bench jockeys of the era, yes. Whether they know them by living through that time or by studying the game’s history is less important. And we’re going to need baseball historians—not eyewitnesses—to right any wrongs from a previous era.
Kaat also supports reconvening the committee if a particular player falls a vote or two short. Maybe point that out and call for a re-vote. … I like this idea. Look, you can’t put together a committee and torture the members by forcing them to watch reruns of The Golden Girls until someone gets 12 votes. You can, however, keep the debate going if a candidate has strong support.
The induction process is hard. You have 16 committee members, and each member has a maximum of four votes. So, that’s 64 votes to go around. So, yes, it’s hard, it’s supposed to be hard, and every player had his chance on the first go-round of voting, some of them for 15 years.
Hard, yes. Should it be nearly impossible, though? The Golden Era committee met one other time, in 2010 (with a different set of committee members). That time, of the 10 candidates, only Ron Santo got it. So, the committee is 1 for 20.
Why not bump up the size of the committee from 16 to 24 or 32? That would make it difficult for just a few committee members to hold up a player from induction. Also, change the maximum number of votes that each committee member can cast from four to six. That would increase the maximum number of votes from 64 to 96, maybe loosening up things a bit. Really, why even go through the bother of nominating players for the ballot, debating their merit and then voting “yea” or “neh” if “neh” always rules the day?
Kaat was a bulldog of a pitcher. He threw a ton of innings (4,530.1), and he won a lot of games (283). Did he take the ball when his arm was sore, when a pitcher from today’s game might beg off from a start? I bet he did. Did he play in an era when a good rubdown was all a trainer could offer? I think so. Will Kaat get another chance at going into the Hall of Fame? I hope so.