With the 2013 MLB Hall of Fame having NO live players inducted, speculation can resume about which players should have had their day in the Cooperstown sun on Induction Weekend of July 27-28. The 2013 Hall of Fame voting occurred on January 9. No one on the players’ list made it in. However, many Chicago Cubs fans cannot believe that Lee Smith has not made it after 11 tries. He received only 272 votes out of 569, good for 47.8%. A player needs 75% (447 votes) for entry. This very heavy scrutiny makes many wonder what a player must do to get in.
Lee Smith retired as the all-time saves leader with 478, and he held onto that record for 13 years. He has 84 more saves than Dennis Eckersley, 137 more than Rollie Fingers, 168 more than Goose Gossage, and 178 more than Bruce Sutter. All of these closers are in the Hall of Fame and very rigthfully so. Fingers, Gossage, and Sutter pitched when closers threw three innings routinely and saves were just coming into vogue. Smith helped define the closer’s role as we see it today.
(Note: Eckersley began his career as a starter but was phenomenal as a closer for the second half of his career.)
It cannot be because Lee Smith bounced around so much at the end of his career. Smith pitched for eight teams, six of them in his last five years. Well, Gossage landed on six different rosters in his last seven years and pitched for nine total teams in his career.
Is it because Lee Smith never pitched in the World Series? If so, then that is a terrible excuse. Closers cannot send teams to the World Series if the teams do not give them leads to protect. Granted, he gave up the home run to Steve Garvey in 1984, but he had no other similar chances in his career either. Even Mariano Rivera blew a World Series Game 7 save opportunity in 2001 and a few other postseason saves (but not many). Rivera is a first-ballot inductee in waiting.
Many voters may have snubbed everyone on the 2013 ballot because of the alleged actions of some of the candidates from the so-called PED era. Lee smith had nothing to do with any of it, so what was the reason for not voting for him?
Lee Smith has four more years on the Hall of Fame ballot. The voters need to take a long, hard look at themselves before casting their 2014 ballot. Smith deserves Hall of Fame induction – and not in the same way that Ron Santo had to get in. That’s another story, but at least Santo is now in. Smith, though, deserves the normal 75% vote and more. The voters need to reconsider and get it right in 2014. Lee Smith deserves Hall of Fame induction.
Barry Bloom, Biggio Tops Vote but No One Elected to Hall, mlb.mlb.com, January 9, 2013.
Baseball Almanac, Career Leaders for Saves, baseball-almanac.com.
Baseball Almanac, Lee Smith Player Page, baseball-almanac.com
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