Let me start out by saying that I do not think Lee Smith should be in the Hall of Fame. I had trouble with the idea that Bruce Sutter was a Hall of Famer, but at least one could point to his perfection of the split-fingered fastball and argue he had a significant contribution on the game. I don’t necessarily agree with that. The splitter had been around for awhile in one shape or another (forkball) since at least 1905. Yes, Sutter had the best splitter ever, but if we elected people to the Hall of Fame based on such criteria as that it would be a very crowded Hall of Fame. Someone might try to argue that Neifi Perez was the best fielder of all time. They’d be wrong, but Neifi was a damn fine fielder. Those who argued that could then vote for him. It’s a silly precedent to set, but like I said, Sutter is the one who perfected the pitch so I can at least see some type of argument why he should be in.
But Lee Smith? No. Before we move on to that, here’s something that Bill James said this time last year.
That said, it is my opinion that Lee Smith is not a good Hall of Fame candidate, and I would not support his election, based on three arguments. First, modern baseball fans and contemporary baseball media over-rate and over-value the contributions of the bullpen, and this is now being reflected in a rush to induct Closers into the Hall of Fame. Since 1992 the BBWAA has elected two catchers to the Hall of Fame, two first basemen, two second basemen, two left fielders, two center fielders, one DH—and four Closers. And, if Lee Smith is the standard of a Hall of Fame closer, then there are several more who will need to be inducted in the next ten years.
The emphasis is mine. Think about that for a moment. Prior to last year there had been twice as many closers elected to the Hall of Fame since 1992 than everyday players at 5 positions. Those 5 positions play nearly every day. For 9 innings. The closer plays in less than half the games and throws 1 inning at a time. This is absurd. This is evidence why the BBWAA should never again be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame. They are simply not qualified to do so. To put it as simply as I can, the BBWAA is an incompetent group of people who have proven themselves incapable of placing checkmarks next to a name in an educated fashion. The BBWAA is the equivalent to a group of first graders when the teacher steps out of the room.
Let me ask you this, would anyone care who was in the Hall of Fame if first graders were actually the ones doing the voting? You might care because it’s cute and all, but would a single person take it seriously? No and the BBWAA has created the same situation with the HOF. Take their vote away and take it away immediately. Nobody in their right mind should be applying to the BBWAA as it only makes the situation worse. You don’t fix the problem by joining the BBWAA. You fix it by eliminating it. The system is broken.
The Chicago Tribune published its ballots for the Hall of Fame and most of them voted for Lee Smith. To their credit, most of them also voted for Tim Raines, but the idea that Lee Smith is a Hall of Famer is a joke in my opinion.