CLEVELAND – When Tony Oliva missed election to baseball’s Hall of Fame by only one vote in 2014, he resigned himself to a three-year wait for the next Golden Era committee meeting in 2017, though he noted that “three years is a long time.” And it only got longer when, in 2016, the Hall reorganized its voting process for long-retired players, reduced the Golden Era (1950-69) elections to only two per decade, and scheduled the next one for the 2020 winter meetings.
This week came yet another setback: The Hall of Fame announced that, because the COVID-19 pandemic has put the annual meetings in jeopardy, it is postponing the Golden Era vote until December 2021, choosing to simply skip this year rather than hold the election via conference call.
Oliva, the eight-time All-Star and three-time AL batting champion for the Twins, was 76 years old when he received 11 of 16 votes, one short of the required 75%, in 2014. One of the most popular players in Twins history, Oliva will be 83 when the committee finally meets again in 15 months, and if he’s elected this time, he’ll be 84 when he’s inducted in 2022.
Another longtime Twin, pitcher Jim Kaat, missed election by two votes in 2014; he’ll also be 83 by the time Golden Era candidates are considered again. And if either comes up short again, the next vote is scheduled for December 2026.
The delay, in other words, is particularly discouraging as the years go by. Former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo narrowly missed veterans-committee election three times over a decade, and died a year before he finally cleared 75% in 2011.
“While we understand the current challenges, we are disappointed in the delay,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said Wednesday. “Fingers crossed that we are having a huge celebration in Cooperstown during the summer of 2022.”
The 16-member committee is made up of former players, broadcasters and executives; Rod Carew was a member, and an advocate for his former Twins roommate, in 2014.
Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller were elected to the Hall of Fame last winter, the latter two by veterans committees, but this year’s induction ceremonies were postponed until next summer by the pandemic.
Tyler Clippard was a teammate of Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac last season, so he’s been closely following how Cleveland’s management has handled their discipline after they were caught breaking MLB’s coronavirus protocols in Chicago earlier this month.
“They handled it pretty fairly, and I liked what they did,” Clippard said of the team’s decision to suspend the pitchers, then temporarily option them off the 28-man roster, as punishment. Clevinger returned Wednesday after 12 days; Plesac remains with their reserves, training in Eastlake, Ohio. “It speaks to that organization and how they view things.”
The sanctions were a vivid reminder to all MLB players, Clippard said, of how each player can impact many others.
“That’s what we all kind of realize. If somebody does something they’re not supposed to do and the virus spreads through the clubhouse, it can jeopardize the industry, and everybody’s ability to play this year,” Clippard said. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve taken away — you really have to look out not only for your teammates, but everybody in baseball. And in society, really.”
No need for audition
The Twins aren’t ready to announce when Michael Pineda will make his 2020 debut, but manager Rocco Baldelli said the righthander won’t need to audition for him when he rejoins the team Monday.
“I’m not going to need to see Big Mike in person. I know Wes [Johnson, the Twins pitching coach] has seen him throw,” Baldelli said. “We have our staff in St. Paul watching him all the time. Derek Falvey went over and had a chance to see him, and some of the other front office members, too. He’s doing great. I believe he’s going to be ready to go” when his 60-game suspension for a failed PED test lapses.