In a few hours, the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce whether or not it elected anyone to the Baseball Hall of Fame. A player needs at least 75 percent of the vote, and indications are no player on the ballot will reach that mark this year.
I’m sure that will create all sort of conversation – from the viability of those who played in the Steroid Era to whether or not writers should even continue voting.
I empathize with my colleagues on that front.
I am a longtime member of the Golf Writers Association of America, and I vote for the organization’s year-end awards.
It’s a big deal for everyone involved. As a voter, I take the responsibility seriously and I’m honored to do so. I take my time on each vote and I vote with a purpose. It’s a big deal for the players, too. They are honored at a dinner every spring at Augusta National Golf Club prior to The Masters, making speeches and telling stories that often move the crowd to tears.
In 2012, the GWAA named its Players of the Year in Rory McIlroy (PGA Tour) Stacy Lewis (LPGA Tour) and Roger Chapman (Champions Tour). All were overwhelming selections, though I did pick U.S. Women’s Open champion Na Yeon Choi as my LPGA Tour POY, along with 30 other voters.
Was I wrong in my selection of Choi? I don’t think so. But, that’s the way the cookie crumbled. If I was asked, I would defend my vote.
I bring this is up because I was asked to participate in another vote, for the 2013 class of the Milwaukee Brewers Walk of Fame. The voting is anonymous, but the Brewers were more than happy to have me talk about my selections, which I thought long and hard about.
Yes, it’s "just" a Walk of Fame, but I took it seriously. The voters do, too. Since 2007 only Lew Burdette has been honored. The former Brave was inducted in 2010.
We were asked to vote for players who either played for the Brewers or Braves, and a candidate must receive 65 percent of the vote to become a member of the Walk of Fame. If they do not receive at least 5 percent of the vote, they fall off the ballot.
It seems we’ve reached a point where many of the Brewers on the ballot were from a period of time in which, frankly, the team wasn’t very good. There were many fan favorites, but few real impact players. Perhaps that is why there haven’t been many inductions the last few years.
That said, I did feel several players were worthy of my vote – if anything to keep them on the ballot for future consideration.
Here is who, and why.
Teddy Higuera broke in with the Brewers at the ripe old age of 27 and pitched nine years. Even though he didn’t win 100 career games due to age and injury, his first four years with the Brewers were outstanding. In those four seasons he compiled a 69-38 record with a 3.25 ERA in a whopping 949 2/3 innings pitched.
He won 20 games for a 77-win team in 1986, earning an All-Star nod, a Cy Young runner-up to Roger Clemens and a top 15 finish in the AL MVP voting. He also finished runner-up to Ozzie Guillen for AL Rookie of the Year in 1985 and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote in 1987.
He won only 25 more games after 1988 which means I was really deciding if his first four years was worthy of frankly, immortal status with the organization.
To me, those four years were spectacular enough to say yes. He holds three of the top five spots single-season WAR by a pitcher in team history, including an incredible 9.1 in ’86. He has the sixth-best ERA in team history and tied for second for most wins in a season. His 0.999 WHIP in 1988 remains third all-time in single-season history.
For his career, Higuera rates as one of the all-time best starters in Brewers history. His career WAR is 28.9, easily the best in the franchise. He ranks third in career ERA and wins and winning percentage and for you stat-heads, adjusted ERA (ERA adjusted for the player’s ballpark). Yovani Gallardo should pass him this year for No. 2 all-time in strikeouts.
Dan Plesac falls in the same category as Higuera to me – he had a short career in Milwaukee (seven years), so were they great enough to be considered worthy of Brewers immortality? Three All-Star appearances and MVP votes in 1988 started me on the road to "yes."
Plesac saved 133 games and finished with 269 for the Brewers as that role was changing in the late '80s and early '90s (he did start 10 times in 1991). He is the organization’s all-time leader in saves, ERA, adjusted ERA appearances, third in strikeouts per nine innings and 10th in career WAR. His 33 saves in 1989 was a record that stood for eight years.
Del Crandall played 11 years for the Braves in Milwaukee (13 including two years in Boston). He didn’t hit much for average (.257 in that time) but he slugged over 20 homers on three occasions and hit at least 15 for eight straight seasons. He was named an All-Star eight times as well, won four Gold Gloves and received MVP votes in seven seasons. In his prime, he posted a solid WAR , including a career high 4.5 in 1958. He wasn’t a great defensive presence, but he was an important part of the Braves World Series championship team in 1957 and runner-up finish in 1958. He returned to Milwaukee to manage the Brewers in the 1970s.
John Logan was my other pick after spending 11 years with Boston and Milwaukee from 1951 to 1961. Again – not the greatest hitter at shortstop but he was a defensive difference-maker. He led the league in field percentage three times and finished in the top five in three other years. For the sabermetricians he finished in the top four in the NL in range factor eight times, leading the league once.
He could hit a little, leading the league in doubles in 1955 and finished in the top five in WAR two times. He was a four-time All-Star and received MVP votes in six different years. He, too, was part of the World Series teams in 1957 and 1958.
I guess the question is how many of the players from ’57 and ’58 should be honored by the organization. But, when you have only three World Series appearances in all of Milwaukee’s pro baseball history, pretty much every one of those players can be considered legendary.
My one write-in vote was for executive Jim Baumer.
In his years as Director of Scouting and General Manager in the 1970s, it seemed he had a big hand in the evaluation and drafting of Robin Yount, Jerry Augustine, Moose Haas, Larry Sorensen and Paul Molitor. He also traded for Bob McClure, Cecil Cooper and Mike Caldwell and signed Sal Bando. While no one man ever truly puts an entire team together in baseball, Baumer played a key role in creating the great Brewers teams in the late '70s and early '80s.
Those were my picks. Will any of them meet the 65 percent threshold to be inducted into the Brewers Walk of Fame? We’ll know soon enough.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.