Over the last few years there have been quite a few closers who have been elected into baseball’s Hall of Fame. In 2004 Dennis Eckersley was voted in, and he was followed by Bruce Sutter in 2006 and Goose Gossage in 2008. It’s a pretty remarkable feat for the three of them, as historically, the closer position hasn’t gotten that much love from Hall of Fame voters. Of course while all three of those guys had amazing careers and deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, there is something else they have in common.
None of them have as many career saves as Lee Smith. When Smith retired from the game, he was the all-time leader in saves with 478, and he held on to the record until Trevor Hoffman broke it in 2006. Now most people are saying that Hoffman, along with Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, is a sure thing to enter the Hall after he retires. All of which confuses Smith more and more every year as he sits around and doesn’t get elected.
From the CHICAGO TRIBUNE:
“They’re holding out on me,” Smith said from his home in Castor, La. “I have, like, 200 more saves than two or three guys who are in there. Dennis Eckersley (390 saves, 197 wins) is the only Hall of Famer who has a better save opportunity [percentage] than I do (84 to Smith’s 82). I don’t understand, man.
“And Eck had unbelievable numbers as a starter,” Smith added, referring to Eckersley becoming the first pitcher with 20-win and 50-save seasons. “The man has 100 complete games. I have no problem with him. But Goose and Sutter … they were on the ballot for a long time.
“When I retired, nobody seemed to know I was the all-time saves leader for almost 15 years. Until Trevor Hoffman broke my record, half the people thought Eckersley was the all-time leader.”
Lee does have a pretty good point. The one stat that a closer has is the save stat, and he picked up more of them than anybody before he retired, so you would think he’d belong in the Hall of Fame if the others do. Yet, for some reason, he’s never gotten more than 45% of the vote, which is well short of the 75% needed to be inducted.
The one thing that is probably holding Smith back is the fact he picked up a lot of those saves on some pretty bad teams. The majority of his saves were picked up while he was playing for the Cubs, who didn’t spent much time winning games back in the 80s. When you think about it, it could be the same reason another Cub doesn’t get much love either, as Ron Santo played on a lot of bad Cubs teams himself.
Whatever the case is, I just know I’m happy to see another Cub getting screwed.