This last Hall of Fame vote saw the worthy Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza gather the required number of votes necessary from the baseball writers for enshrinement. Three other players, all worthy of the honor in their own rite, Jeff Bagwell (71.6%), Tim Raines (69.8%) and first-timer Trevor Hoffman (67.3%) all received over 65 percent of the vote, thus making them strong candidates for enshrinement next year, with a pair of stars, Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez, making their initial presence on the ballot. However, the focus of this entry will be on one relief pitcher, who, like Hoffman, was on the ballot for the first time last year. This pitcher only received 10.5% of the writer’s vote. Was Trevor Hoffman really 57 percentage points better of a pitcher than Billy Wagner?

Hoffman and Wagner were the two finest firemen in the National League during the late 1990s and on into the 2000s. Their paths to the majors couldn’t have been any more dissimilar. Although Hoffman had Major League bloodlines—his brother Glenn was a shortstop for the Red Sox—he wasn’t taken until the 11th round by the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds were more interested in Trevor’s bat and he spent his first two years in their chain as a position player before transitioning to the mound. The Marlins took him in the expansion draft and quickly flipped him to San Diego for Gary Sheffield, where Hoffman would make a name for himself as an elite closer. Wagner, by contrast, was the twelfth overall selection by the Houston Astros in the 1993 draft. In his brief minor league career, Billy never once made a single relief appearance, having been groomed as a starter, only to settle into the Majors as a power closer.

What the Baseball Writers must have done was simply glance at the career saves totals of these two distinguished closers. Trevor Hoffman rests second on the all-time saves list behind Mariano Rivera with 601, while the southpaw Wagner is currently fifth with 422. With close to 180 more career saves, it’s little wonder that Hoffman received a higher percentage of the Hall of Fame vote. Throughout history, voters have been more impressed, especially in regards to pitchers, with career totals rather than dominance and excellence. Herb Pennock and Waite Hoyt were both serviceable Major League pitchers, whose high wins totals, thanks to pitching for the offensive juggernaut of the Ruth-powered Yankees, carried them to Cooperstown. Peers such as Charlie Root and Urban Shocker have better peripheral stats however. Few would argue that Tom Glavine, one of Atlanta’s three co-aces during their marvelous run, was a better pitcher than Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling, even though his career wins totals dwarfs theirs, and he, not Schilling, is a member of the Hall of Fame.

Career totals should not be scoffed at, for a productive longevity is the mark of a quality player, but excellence in a trade, rather than sustained quality, seems to be a more modern standard. Some recent Cy Young Award winners have had lesser win seasons than their peers, but nevertheless, given their dominance in peripheral stats, they, not the quality starters on winning clubs, gather the award.

Both Wagner and Hoffman were selected to seven All-Star teams during their careers and each hurler enjoyed seven campaigns with a WHIP under 1.000. Hoffman gets extra credit points for leading the NL in saves on two separate occasions while Wagner never did lead the circuit in that category. However, when one peruses the stats that showcase a pitcher’s excellence: WHIP, strikeout-to-walk-ratio, strikeouts-per-nine-innings, etc., they see that Billy the Kid was the better pitcher.

Wagner is that rare gem whose career WHIP rests under 1.000. That, as far as pitching is concerned, is like having a lifetime batting average north of .330. Billy’s career WHIP is an impressive 0.998, which makes Hoffman’s terrific 1.058 career WHIP look rather pedestrian. Both men weren’t cut from the Jim Kern/Mitch Williams mold—racking up sizable strikeout totals to go along with massive base on bases totals, thus enabling them to have very impressive WHIPs. They coupled their power arms with solid control.

In 903 career innings pitched, Wagner only surrendered 601 hits and just 300 walks, which enabled him to be one of but a few pitchers to average less than one batter to reach first on average per inning during his career. Trevor Hoffman, by contrast, worked more innings at 1,089, but gave up 846 hits and issued 307 walks, allowing for a WHIP north of 1.000. And, although Hoffman worked more innings than Wagner, Billy the Kid amassed a greater total of career strikeouts: 1,196 for Wagner compared to 1,133 for Hoffman. Wagner’s strikeouts-per-nine-innings mark was an astounding 11.9; far superior to Trevor’s 9.4 mark. The former Astros closer thus ended his career with a 3.99-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio; handily better than Hoffman’s 3.69-to-1 showing.

Earned Run Average (ERA) is another stat of common focus, and in this regard, Wagner doesn’t just eclipse Hoffman by a marginal mark, but by a career showing greatly superior to Hoffman. Billy the Kid ended his career with a minuscule 2.31 ERA (he had five seasons with an ERA south of 2.00, including his final two seasons in the Majors) while Trevor’s 2.87 career ERA (with only two years of a sub 2.00 mark) hardly compares with Wagner’s brilliance in this regard.

In conclusion, the voters must have perused the career saves list and valued Hoffman much higher than Wagner, when Wagner was clearly the more dominant pitcher of the two. Personally, I think both men belong in the Hall of Fame. For whatever reason, relief pitchers tend to fizzle out quickly, despite their limited workloads, and those stoppers like Hoffman, Wagner and Mariana Rivera, and their Cooperstown-neglected forefathers Lee Smith and John Franco, who sustained excellence for many years, should, and I expect will, over time, acquire more respect from the voting populace.

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There are a few interesting newcomers to the ballot next year, headed by the best catcher I have ever seen play the game, Ivan Rodriguez and a dynamic hitter who never saw a pitch he didn’t like, Vladimir Guerrero.  These two men are the closest things to a shoo-in on the upcoming ballot, but neither one will challenge Ken Griffey’s 99.3% record mark set on Wednesday.

Here is a list of the possible names for next years ballot, annotated alphabetically:

(LF) Pat Burrell: who played for the Phillies and Giants, as well as other teams.  He supplied some power, but will not receive 5% of the vote.  (SS) Orlando Cabrera: a solid middle infielder and nothing more.  (CF) Mike Cameron: he had power, speed and a glove, but a woeful batting average and was suspended for PED use; he hasn’t a prayer.  (RF) J.D. Drew: the poster-child of the disabled list, Drew is more for the annals of “What-Could-Have-Been.”  (RF) Vladimir Guerrero: one of the strongest candidates for enshrinement next year.  His triple-slash exceeds Griffey’s; he was fun to watch and might just be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  (SS) Carlos Guillen: a solid hitter for a middle infielder, Carlos was a good player but won’t get any Hall support.  (1B) Derrek Lee: the Ron Guidry of first basemen, meaning he had a very solid career with one season, 2005, where he played in another galaxy.  He should get at least five percent but may not stay on the ballot long despite his credentials.  (3B) Melvin Mora: a decent hitter for average, but not Hall material.  (RF) Magglio Ordonez: a batting champion who never could seem to stay healthy.  His chances of remaining on the ballot are very slim.  (C) Jorge Posada: the catcher for a dynasty, Posada will see plenty support.  He won four consecutive Silver Slugger Awards.  I can see him on the ballot for a number of years, and he may make the Hall of Fame, but only after languishing on the ballot for awhile.  (LF) Manny Ramirez: suspended for PED use; don’t waste a vote on him.  (SS) Edgar Renteria: he had some Postseason heroics, but he isn’t Hall material.  (C) Ivan Rodriguez: the closest thing this ballot has for a slam-dunk induction.  Boy was he fun to watch behind the plate.  It’ll be interesting to see how his tenure in the Steroid Era effects his vote total.  If playing in the Steroid Era has hurt guys like Jeff Bagwell, it should hurt Ivan as well.  (CF) Aaron Rowand: he could ballhawk really well, but his career isn’t Hall-worthy.  (C) Jason Varitek: he’ll see some support, and might even stay on the ballot for awhile, but alas, players of his captain makeup with just solid numbers rarely make the Hall of Fame.  (P) Javier Vazquez: too inconsistent for consideration.  (P) Tim Wakefield: he won’t be the latest knuckleballer since Phil Niekro to make the Hall, rest assured.

The holdovers will be, with their percentage from the last vote in parentheses, are:

Jeff Bagwell (71.6), Tim Raines (69.8), Trevor Hoffman (67.3), Curt Schilling (52.3), Roger Clemens (45.2), Barry Bonds (44.3), Edgar Martinez (43.4), Mike Mussina (43.0), Lee Smith (34.1), Fred McGriff (20.9), Jeff Kent (16.6), Larry Walker (15.5), Mark McGwire (12.3), Gary Sheffield (11.6), Billy Wagner (10.5) and Sammy Sosa (7.0).

As of this moment, if I had a ballot to fill out for 2017, I’d pencil in: Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero,Trevor Hoffman, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner.

I may eventually persuade myself to give Mike Mussina a vote by then, and maybe even the two “Problem Children” in Clemens and Bonds, with three spots left vacant on my ballot.  Time has a way of altering perception; we’ll just have to see.

Congratulations go out to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza for their induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  The former Mariners/Reds center fielder netted 99.3% of the vote, setting an all-time record for vote percentage.  The ex-Dodgers/Mets receiver made the Hall with 83% of the vote.

Coming up a little short this year was lifelong Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell who received 71.6% and longtime Montreal left fielder Tim Raines, who was named on 69.8% of the submitted ballots.  I’m certain, although it may not be next year, that both men will eventually make the Hall of Fame.  Raines may have to rely on the Veteran’s Committee in a number of years, since next year’s ballot will have some impressive newcomers with Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez.  Bagwell, like Piazza this year, will be the ballot’s lead holdover and hopefully will get the required 75% needed for enshrinement next year.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Trevor Hoffman receive 67.3% of the vote, as he stands a fair shot of getting enshrined next year.  The fireman has, historically, been undervalued by Hall of Fame voters, but with 601 career saves, Trevor is one of the game’s elite stoppers.  However, the poor showing for Billy Wagner, another elite fireman whose career saves total is far inferior to Hoffman’s, albeit with some better peripheral stats, still indicates that relief pitchers aren’t valued as other positions.

Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds saw modest upticks in their vote totals.  I fully understand the arguments both for and against these former players, and although they were the best pitcher and hitter of their time, I wouldn’t lose sleep if they never get inducted.  Be that as it may, neither man ever was suspended by Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs, which inclines me suggest that we should step down from our soapboxes and place them not in the same regard as Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ryan Braun and Manny Ramirez.  Those four men, like Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte don’t deserve a single vote cast for their enshrinement.  Sure, they were surly, unlikable ball players, but what they accomplished in their careers, even before the Steroid Era, was worthy of the highest esteem.  But I understand and support the arguments against them as well, and hold the honest players, those who performed without the benefit of some injected substance, at a much higher level than those who took steroids.

Edgar Martinez shot up in the ranks, as did Fred McGriff, but both men still have a way to go for enshrinement.  Curt Schilling is beginning to garner the support he clearly deserves.  Sure, his supporters will tell you that he was one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time, but that’s only a piece of the story.  Schilling is perhaps the single most excellent pitcher the game has ever seen.  He was the perfect blend of power and control, which enabled him to set a record for strikeout-to-walk ratio that inspires awe every time I visit his stats.  The career wins aren’t as impressive as they could be, but neither was Pedro Martinez’s and he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  One must remember that Schilling toiled for an abysmal Phillies team before he caught on with Arizona and Boston and won championships.

The totals of the vote are listed below:

Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3), Mike Piazza (83.0), Jeff Bagwell (71.6), Rock Raines (69.8), Trevor Hoffman (67.3), Curt Schilling (52.3), Roger Clemens (45.2), Barry Bonds (44.3), Edgar Martinez (43.4), Mike Mussina (43.0), Alan Trammell (40.9), Lee Smith (34.1), Fred McGriff (20.9), Jeff Kent (16.6), Larry Walker (15.5), Mark McGwire (12.3), Gary Sheffield (11.6), Billy Wagner (10.5) and Sammy Sosa (7.0).  The other players on the ballot, to include Jim Edmonds (2.5%) and holdover from last year, Nomar Garciaparra (1.8%) failed to garner the necessary 5% of the vote for retention.

The Veteran’s Committee failed to elect anyone into the Hall of Fame this year, although they had plenty of worthy candidates. Whenever the Committee is handed a ballot, only ten former players/managers/executives are listed, and this year listed were:

Doc Adams, who, as someone that pours over baseball history, I, admittedly, know very little about. Clearly I wouldn’t have placed him on a ballot I drafted. (2) Sam Breadon, who was the Cardinals’ magnate when they were the cream of the National League during their Gashouse Gang days and World War II era dynasty. (3) Bad Bill Dahlen, the greatest shortstop, and perhaps infielder in general, not in the Hall of Fame. For you WAR buffs, his lifetime WAR exceeds the almighty Derek Jeter (4) Wes Ferrell, a surly starting pitcher with a terrific winning percentage in the high-offense 1930s. (5) Garry Herrmann, former Cincinnati magnate who owned the Reds when they beat the Black Sox in the 1919 World Series. (6) Marty Marion, a slick-fielding shortstop who won an MVP Award during the war years. (7) Frank McCormick, a hard-hitting first baseman for the Reds prior to World War II. (8) Harry Stovey, the five-tool superstar of the long forgotten American Association, who held the all-time homerun record for a spell. (9) Chris Von der Ahe, the colorful owner of the American Associations’ greatest team, the St. Louis Browns, who is widely regarded for introducing beer sales to the game and (10) Bucky Walters, a solid pitcher of the 1930s who was a converted third baseman.

Among the group offered, I would cast a vote for Bad Bill Dahlen without any hesitation; how he keeps getting left out of the Hall of Fame is a great mystery. Sam Breadon would also get my vote. His Cardinals teams were always in the thick of things and they brought home many pennants during his tenure. Harry Stovey would also get my final vote. There may never have been a better five-tool star in the game’s history than Stovey. He could steal 100 bases a season and lead the league in homeruns.

When I first saw the Veteran’s Committee ballot I was a little taken aback. For one, I never expected to see a name foreign to me on any baseball Hall of Fame ballot, but Doc Adams hearkens back to pre-organized days. He came before Spalding, McVey, Anson and Deacon White. He came before Dickey Pearce, Nate Berkenstock, Dick McBride and Davy Force. I was very much pleased seeing his name on the ballot—it gave license to researching, and I adore research about as much as anything.

Three names were rather shocking to see on this ballot: Garry Herrmann, Frank McCormick and Chris Von der Ahe. There was a rather heavy Cincinnati Reds bias on this veteran’s ballot, with Walters joining Herrmann and McCormick as men whose ties are primarily to the Reds. Herrmann hasn’t much business on the ballot, in my opinion. He owned the Reds from 1902 to 1927. They won one NL pennant in that span, under Miracle Man Pat Moran, with far more second division finishes. In 16 of those seasons, the Reds finished fourth or worse in the standings—there were only eight teams in each league then. There are many, many more deserving candidates than Herrmann that could have been placed on this ballot. Sam Breadon, by contrast, won nine pennants with the Cardinals—he’s on this ballot legitimately. Frank McCormick is another head-scratcher: he was a fine ballplayer, but he played first base in the era of Foxx, Gehrig, Greenberg and Mize, and was nowhere near as good as them. He wasn’t much better, if any better, than Hal Trosky and Dolph Camilli, who also played first base in his time. McCormick had three real good years with the Reds when they were contenders prior to World War II. If Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy’s windows of excellence were too narrow for HOF voters, than McCormick hasn’t much business on a ballot such as this.

Chris Von der Ahe is one of the most interesting characters in the history of baseball, and I’m actually inclined to vote for him, but having done quite a bit of research on the former Browns owner, I’m still not certain if he was the game’s preeminent dunce, or a shrewd businessman. He loved his Browns, even if most people connected to the game thought he didn’t know a baseball bat from an officer’s cudgel. He was boisterous, a show-boat unrivaled and made headlines more for the things he said and did than for anything smacking of baseball acumen. About his entrance into baseball, J.B. Sheridan wrote, “Von der Ahe knew nothing of baseball. He knew a lot about beer. He found out that the sun and heat and hollering at baseball games made spectators thirsty. So he thought that baseball was, like pretzels, salt crackers and politics, an excellent stimulant of thirst. He became interested in baseball as a side issue. It was akin to the lunch counter at his saloon. It made people buy beer” (Ogden Standard Dec 30, 1916).

If I were delegated to create a list of ten pre-integration baseball figures for the Veteran’s Committee, Bill Dahlen would assuredly be on it, as would Sam Breadon and Harry Stovey, but I’d probably leave off the rest. I’d much rather see someone like Al Reach, whose contributions to the game of baseball are more known, and hence greater appreciated than Doc Adams. Early manager Jim Mutrie might make my list, or his Giants owner John B. Day. Reach’s business crony and former Athletics magnate Ben Shibe seems to me more deserving of consideration than Herrmann, as does Charles Stoneham and John Brush, who owned the Giants during the heyday of John McGraw. Pitcher Jim McCormick would have been a much wiser McCormick to have placed on this list than former Reds first baseman Frank. Where’s Buddy Myer, the old Senators’ second baseman, who if it weren’t for Charlie Gehringer, would be regarded as the best second baseman of his time. And while we’re on second basemen, how about Cupid Childs, Laughing Larry Doyle and Fred Dunlap? Pete Browning would be another ideal selection; the old batting champion of the now defunct Louisville Colonels.

There were some terrific players who had their careers cut short by World War II, unlike Marty Marion and Frank McCormick, who played through the fighting. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it is seeing Frank McCormick on this ballot. Cecil Travis and Dominic DiMaggio were stellar players who missed sizable portions of their careers, prime years, mind you, to service during WWII, and lesser lights like Marion and McCormick are on this ballot. Where’s curveball wizard Tommy Bridges, the former ace of the Detroit Tigers teams of the 1930s, who was a superior hurler to Wes Ferrell? A couple shortstops from the 1800s, Ed McKean and Jack Glasscock might make my list, as would some pre-World War I first basemen like Jake Daubert and Stuffy McInnis; maybe even Fred Tenney. Where’s George Van Haltren? Has time done away with John T. Brush, a magnate during the AL/NL wars? Nick Young presided over the National League for many years as president and was a charter member of the game’s organization. Few men loved the game like Uncle Nick.

I’d like to see an old catcher like Jack Clements or Deacon McGuire get some exposure to the Veteran’s Committee, and truth be told, third base is lacking representatives in the Hall of Fame, although the Veteran’s Committee has a handful of worthy men to analyze: Bill Bradley, Harlond Clift, Lave Cross, Larry Gardner, Heinie Groh, Willie Kamm, Ned Williamson, and one of my personal favorites, Smiling Stan Hack. Cy Williams was a terrific outfielder in the days of Babe Ruth, as was Ken Williams. Sherry Magee had his name on this ballot a few years ago, and Indian Bob Johnson would be a worthy selection as well. Babe Herman and Riggs Stephenson, two hit machines, used to get their names bandied about a lot among Hall of Fame enthusiasts. And pitchers like Bob Shawkey, Hippo Vaughn, Will White, Urban Shocker, and others could have made this list also, perhaps more deserving than the two hurlers they selected: Ferrell and Walters. Let’s not forget the Negro League stars like Dick Lundy, Spot Poles, Buck O’Neil and Newt Allen; it would also be nice to see on this ballot old umpires like Tim Hurst, Beans Reardon and Honest John Kelly.

As you can see, the task of compiling a list of ten is an endeavor of immense difficulty, and I pity the men that had the task. I really don’t like the Veteran’s Committee system; choosing ten individuals for selection, but that’s the method the Hall of Fame has adopted, and until something better is presented, that’s just the way it is.

With the 2016 Hall of Fame induction class set to be announced tomorrow, here’s a look at the players on this year’s ballot with my percentage prediction listed in parentheses:

Ken Griffey Jr. (94.8), Mike Piazza (84.4), Jeff Bagwell (73.7), Tim Raines (72.5), Curt Schilling (58.5), Trevor Hoffman (43.6), Barry Bonds (40.8), Roger Clemens (40.6), Mike Mussina (39.8), Alan Trammell (38.6), Edgar Martinez (37.5), Lee Smith (28.8), Billy Wagner (26.8), Larry Walker (24.4), Jeff Kent (17.7), Gary Sheffield (16.8), Fred McGriff (15.9), Mark McGwire (15.4), Jim Edmonds (6.2), Sammy Sosa (6.0)

Those I think won’t get the required 5% for future consideration: Nomar Garciaparra (who I see just barely missing 5%), Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell, Mike Sweeney, Randy Winn.

Should a ballot been issued me, I would have selected Jeff Bagwell, Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner.

My bubble guys are Jim Edmonds; his power, OBP and defensive wizardry made me an instant fan. Bonds and Clemens, they both belong in the Hall of Fame, but I won’t lose sleep if they never get there. With two spots open on my ballot, I’d consider them, since they weren’t suspended for PED use, but that’s a story for another day. Mike Mussina keeps looking better the more I look at him. Larry Walker was a terrific talent, but there’s that Coors Field effect. Sheffield and Kent should get more support than they’ve seen, but each man wasn’t on the best of terms with the press, and you see how far that’s gotten Clemens and Bonds; two stars vastly superior to Jeff and Gary.

I was always a big fan of Fred McGriff, Brad Ausmus, Jason Kendall and Garret Anderson, but can’t champion them for the HOF, although I’d might, with two votes open, give a courtesy vote to a pair of those men.

In the year 2000, the Veteran’s Committee elected slick-fielding Bid McPhee, who played during the late 1800s, into the Hall of Fame.  McPhee’s election to the Hall of Fame marked the first time a player from the 1800s was elected into the Hall of Fame during the 2000s.  Deacon White, in like fashion, was inducted into Cooperstown, as voters have finally decided to cast another analytical look at players of the game’s early years.  Another player worthy of a glance is former Cleveland Spiders second baseman Cupid Childs.

Childs, a stocky middle infielder, came about his nickname due to his cherubic appearance.  He may have looked like the Valentine’s Day mascot, but Cupid Childs was a remarkable ballplayer.  A solid if not sound defender, Childs was one of the premier middle infielders during the high-powered 1890s.  Modern day general managers, who obsess over on-base percentage, would go gaga for Cupid, whose keen batting eye made him a difficult out.  A perfect table-setter, Childs’ career on-base percentage is well over the .400 mark, which allowed for many runs scored.

With a career slash line of .306 BA/.416 OBP/.389 SA, Cupid’s value was slapping out base hits and drawing a large amount of walks.  Childs has a few Hall of Fame peers, such as the aforementioned McPhee, George Davis and player/manager Hughie Jennings.  Of these four ballplayers, Childs was handily the best on-base machine.  Cupid’s career mark of .416 was separated nicely from Jennings (.391), Davis (.362) and McPhee’s (.355) averages.  The Cleveland second baseman posted six seasons with an OBP of .400 or higher (nine consecutive years with an OBP of .390 or higher) while Jennings had six consecutive years of an OBP of .390 or higher.  George Davis, who enjoyed four .400 OBP+ seasons, and Bid McPhee, who only had three such campaigns, weren’t on-base nearly as much as Cupid.

With a hawk’s eye, Childs was an expert batsman who never seemed to giveaway at-bats.  It wasn’t an unusual feat for Cupid to walk 100 times in a season—well before the modern day 162 game schedule.  Unlike modern day drawers-of-walks, Cupid rarely struck out.  In four different seasons, Childs drew 100 walks yet failed to register over twenty whiffs.  None of Cupid’s peers ever had a 100-walk season: Jennings never drew more than 80 in a single season and Davis never reached 70 bases on balls.  In eleven straight seasons, Cupid finished in the league’s Top Ten in walks drawn, which enabled him to enjoy five Top Five finishes in on-base percentage.  George Davis never had a Top Five finish in on-base percentage, while McPhee never even saw his name reach a Top Ten list in that important category.  Hughie Jennings was the closest to Childs in on-base percentage, and he, too, failed to mirror Cupid’s excellence in that department.  Hughie had three Top Five finishes in on-base percentage and just one Top Ten finish in walks drawn.

Drawing walks was hardly the extent of Cupid’s game.  A well-rounded ballplayer, Childs also led the league, back when there was just one Major League in existence, in doubles and runs scored.  George Davis, who was championed for Hall of Fame enshrinement several years ago by historians, never led his league in an extra base hit department, nor did he ever pace his circuit in runs scored.  Hughie Jennings, as well, never saw his name atop a leader board in either runs scored or an extra base hit department.

Ask anyone who knows the basics of baseball, and they will tell you that the most important aspect of the game is the scoring of runs.  By scoring more runs than your opponent, your team is victorious.  Profound logic, huh?  When it came to scoring runs, Childs was head and shoulders above his Hall of Fame peers.  In two separate seasons, Cupid averaged over one run scored per game—McPhee and Davis accomplished this feat in one lone season.  The feet of Mr. Childs trampled home plate at a greater clip than the fellows enshrined.  For his career, Cupid averaged 0.833 runs scored per game; far superior to Hall of Fame peers McPhee (0.788), Jennings (0.773) and Davis (0.651).

As a star of a now defunct team, the Cleveland Spiders, Cupid Childs’ memory is lost but to the few historians that embrace disbanded franchises.  The left-handed hitting second baseman enjoyed a solid career, yet given that his team is one no longer in existence, his name has gone unrecognized.  Not regarded in a club’s Hall of Fame, Cupid Childs has only the Veteran’s Committee to offer him the immortality that comes with enshrinement.

For those individuals well versed in baseball trivia, a question I will soon put forth might shock a great deal of baseball enthusiasts.  The Hall of Fame has acknowledged the relief pitcher, with selections of firemen such as Rollie Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm, and recent inductions of Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter.  Sutter and Gossage are modern relief artists, who both reached 300 career saves, however, when you ask the question who has the most career saves between Hall of Famers Gossage, Sutter and their unenshrined peer Tom Henke, few people would put forth the proper answer.  The two men with plaques in the Hall of Fame were outperformed by the underappreciated closer of the Blue Jays.  Henke saved 311 career games to Gossage’s 310 and Sutter’s 300.

The closer has become a valuable piece to a roster and few stoppers were as dynamite as Tom “The Terminator” Henke.  An overpowering closer who racked up high strikeout totals while also limiting base-runners by issuing few walks, Henke was an elite fireman whose career is more impressive than his two enshrined peers.  Not only did Henke amass more saves than Gossage and Sutter, but he also posted lower career totals in ERA and WHIP.  His totals weren’t just a little lower than the two Hall of Famers—they were a great deal lower.

When Henke hung up his spikes, he walked away from the game with a tidy ERA of 2.67.  Bruce Sutter’s career mark was quite a bit higher at a respectable 2.83 while Gossage’s exceeded 3.00, albeit by the scantest of margins.  With a career WHIP of 1.092, Henke was that uncommon fireman who kept runners off base.  Not only was The Terminator difficult to hit, but he was also stingy with bases on balls.  Bruce Sutter’s career WHIP of 1.140 was much higher than Henke’s while Gossage posted a decent career mark of 1.232, far inferior to both Henke and Sutter.  Henke enjoyed three seasons with a WHIP below 1.000, a feat matched by Gossage but not by Sutter, who only had two such campaigns.

Tom Henke posted an ERA under 2.50 in seven separate seasons (Sutter only had three such years) and enjoyed six 30+ saves seasons.  Relief pitchers are typically judged by the games they saved, which baffles the analyst as to why Sutter and Gossage were enshrined at the expense of Henke.  Whereas Tom had six 30+ saves seasons, Goose only notched two such campaigns while Sutter enjoyed four.  Of the three, Henke was also the most reliable, for he stringed together four consecutive seasons with 30 or more saves, while Bruce Sutter’s 30+ saves seasons were all spread out throughout his career—he never had back-to-back 30 saves seasons.

The mark of a terrific pitcher is limiting base-runners, and with firemen, the need to keep batters off base is of uppermost importance.  Oftentimes, especially in the days of these three gentlemen, stoppers were brought into games with runners already on base.  With inherited ducks on the pond, the fireman capable of missing bats was important.  Henke bested his peers in this regard as well.  In only one season did Henke allow more hits than innings worked—Gossage allowed this to happen in five seasons and Sutter in three.  On average, Henke allowed 6.9 hits per nine innings, a mark that easily eclipsed Sutter’s 7.6 and Gossage’s 7.4.  Strikeouts, the best way to strand runners, was a forte of Henke’s as well, for The Terminator averaged 9.8 whiffs per nine innings: Gossage (7.5) and Sutter (7.4) lagged way behind.

Many things separated Tom Henke from his bullpen peers, but what was most impressive about his game was his terrific location for a power pitcher.  Your typical late inning flamethrower simply pulls back and uncorks a fastball as hard as he can throw it, with little regard to accuracy, which, as one would imagine, often leads to free passes.  Strikeout-to-walk ratios aren’t as impressive as they could be given this disregard for control.  But Henke had both the strikeout arm and the control pitcher’s accuracy.  He retired with an impressive SO/BB of 3.38, which outdistanced Gossage’s (2.05) and Sutter’s (2.79) by margins immense.  At the top of his form, Henke posted five seasons in his career with a SO/BB of 4.25 or higher—something Bruce Sutter only did once, while Gossage was never able to perform.

Tom Henke was an elite closer, who, upon his initial run at the Hall of Fame, failed to receive even two percent of the vote from the BBWAA.  Why Henke was overlooked and the voters zeroed in on Sutter and Gossage is anyone’s guess, but it seems clear to me, that the best fireman owns not a plaque in the Hall of Fame’s gallery.