LAS VEGAS – Greetings from Vegas, where the Winter Meetings Confidential staff has unpacked and is ready to dig up news, rumors and innuendo.
The news Sunday was of a Windy City sweep that few saw coming: The 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee elected Harold Baines (heavy on White Sox roots) and Lee Smith (deeply Cubs) to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Baines batted .289 with 384 home runs and an .820 on-base-plus-slugging percentage during his career, from 1980 to 2001. He collected 2,866 hits and went from being a lean right fielder with a rocket launcher for an arm to one of the best designated hitters of his time.
Joining Baines will be reliever Lee Smith. You could read this story five times and still finish in the time it took Smith to walk from the bullpen to the mound. His deliberate strut was a ruse. Once there, he was coming at you with a blazing fastball and the mentality to finish off games. His 478 saves from 1980 to 1997 rank third all-time.
The 10 candidates needed 12 votes for election — Smith was unanimous, Baines got 12 and Lou Piniella fell one short with 11.
Smith was on the Hall of Fame ballot for the maximum 15 years. Baines fell off after five years.
LA VELLE E. NEAL III