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A Quick Look at the Modern Era Ballot: The Yankees Against the Field – Part 1

I have been doing a fair amount of research and writing on which of the former Yankees players might earn Hall-of-Fame induction through the Modern Baseball Era Ballot . In articles I have written, I have advocated for Thurman Munson and Tommy John’s inclusion and (unfortunately) against Don Mattingly’s (I wish it weren’t so).

The following is the full list of the players who are on the Modern Baseball Era Ballot for possible 2020 induction into Baseball’s Hall-of-Fame: Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. (Union head Marvin Miller is also there, but since he was not a player, I will absent him from this discussion.)

As I read and watch the reporting from baseball writers and experts, I am noting who they seem to be advocating for. Of the non-Yankees on the ballot, it seems the players getting the most support are Lou Whitaker, Ted Simmons, and Dale Murphy. None of these players sets the bar as the very best of all-time (of course), but none also set a low bar. Good cases can be made for each of these players.

With that in mind, I decided to take a quick look at how the Yankees’ candidates fair against the field. This is just a quick look to see how some of the members of the voting committee might be thinking.

Of note, to start, Tommy John is the outlier. He’s the only pitcher on the ballot. We have two catchers (Thurman Munson and Ted Simmons), two first basemen (Steve Garvey and Don Mattingly), one second baseman (Lou Whitaker), and three outfielders (Dwight Evans, Dave Parker, and Dale Murphy). That’s some mix. Because of the positional differences, comparing the players isn’t easy, but let’s try anyway.

Modern Era Ballot Players Ranked by WAR (baseball reference):

Lou Whitaker 75.1

Dwight Evans 67.1

Tommy John 61.5

Ted Simmons 50.3

Dale Murphy 46.5

Thurman Munson 46.1

Don Mattingly 42.4

Dave Parker 40.1

Steve Garvey 38.1

Ouch. On this site, we have been publishing a plethora of articles that speak to Thurman Munson’s worthiness for inclusion in the Hall-of-Fame. And he is worthy.

The big question to ask though is “Is he more worthy than some of the other candidates?” Looking at WAR, the answer might be, “No.”

On the other hand, this specific exercise argues in favor of Tommy John getting elected. He is the only pitcher on the list. He ranks as the third highest player on the ballot in regard to WAR. This really should be Tommy John’s year.

WAR, of course, isn’t the only standard. I wanted to look deeper…

Next, I wanted to look at the awards highlighted at the top of each player’s Baseball-Reference page. We’ll call this the Major Award Test to see which of these candidates has the most hardware. (An argument could be made that the player with the most awards was the one most often at the top of his game as recognized by experts, writers, and fans.)

Major Awards Won (position players)

Don Mattingly: MVP, Gold Glove (x9), Silver Slugger (x3), All-Star (x6) = 19

Dale Murphy: MVP (x2), Gold Glove (x5), Silver Slugger (x4), All-Star (x7) = 18

Steve Garvey: MVP, Gold Glove (x4), All-Star (x10) = 15

Dave Parker: MVP, Gold Glove (x3), Silver Slugger (x3), All-Star (x7) = 14

Lou Whitaker: Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove (x3), Silver Slugger (x4), All-Star (x5) = 13

Dwight Evans: Gold Glove (x8), Silver Slugger (x2), All-Star (x3) = 13

Thurman Munson: Rookie of the Year, MVP, Gold Glove (x3), All-Star (x7) = 12

Ted Simmons: Silver Slugger, All-Star (x8) = 9

This exercise demonstrated that Don Mattingly’s peak was extremely noteworthy in comparison to these peers.

Steve Garvey led in All-Star games with ten. That’s a lot and demonstrates that he was seen as a star for a long time.

Also of note, Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans, and Ted Simmons were the only three players on this list who did not win an MVP.

Conclusion – These are all very similar players and strong cases can be made for each. The results of this election are going to be fascinating.

Personal Feeling – I hope the fact that the field is so strong that this does not work against Tommy John and Thurman Munson. I am feeling that it might. I keep hearing a lot about Ted Simmons. As a fan who grew up in the late 1970’s, I saw both Thurman Munson and Ted Simmons play. This isn’t a knock on Simmons, but in that time, when they played head-to-head, I don’t remember many, if any, experts (or others) who argued that Simmons was the better player.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll look at championship play to determine which of these players appeared in the most post seasons and won the most championships… (Spoiler alert – this should help Munson’s case.)


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