The Veteran’s Committee inducted six new members to the Baseball Hall of Fame: Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and Buck O’Neil. For most of these players, their induction righted a long standing wrong. However, it did something else. It lowered the bar on what is truly a Hall of Fame level player.
Putting aside O’Neil, who spent his career in the Negro Leagues and was inducted for more than just his playing days, and Fowler, who played in the 1800s, the players inducted were not up to the level of what we have seen of recent Hall of Famers. Of course, that’s not really news with players like Harold Baines being inducted three years ago.
This is what the Veteran’s Committee typically does. For every wrong they right, they also proceed to lower the bar on what is and what is not a Hall of Famer. Consider, the WAR/WAR7/JAWS for each of the new inductees:
- Hodges 43.9/33.7/38.8
- Kaat 50.5/38.1/34.4
- Minoso 53.8/39.7/46.7
- Oliva 43.0/38.6/40.8
By standards for each position, each one of these players falls far short. As a result, it does open the door for players who were once seen not Hall of Fame worthy for various reasons. One such player would be David Wright, who would’ve probably been a lock for the Hall of Fame if not for his back injury robbing him the rest of his career.
In his 14 year career, Wright posted a 49.2/39.5/44.3. His WAR would be third highest amongst that group despite his career being far shorter than that group. His WAR7 would be second best and his JAWS second best despite the end of his prime being robbed from him. Just think about that. Wright didn’t get to have a full career, and he still posted better numbers than players who had lengthy and storied careers.
What Wright was able to do in his brief career was remarkable. If he was able to have 1-2 more full seasons, he very likely would have easily cleared the bar for Hall of Fame induction. That goes double when you consider he would have had the benefit of being able to be inducted after spending his entire career with the Mets, and perhaps, some boost from his play in the World Baseball Classic (not all that likely).
In the end, Wright’s career will always be defined by what ifs. What if Jon Niese covered third. What if the Wilpons treated his career with more concern. What if Carlos Beltran doesn’t strike out. What if Terry Collins had a clue in the 2015 World Series. Mostly, what if he stayed healthy.
Whatever the case, based on what we saw with the recent inductions, Wright’s career has now risen to the caliber of Hall of Fame worthy. While it’s likely the writers will overlook him, based on recent standards, we may very well see him inducted by the Veteran’s Committee one day.