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Friday, May 20, 2022
Home Sports MLB Joe Nathan to fall off the ballot is a loss for MLB

Joe Nathan to fall off the ballot is a loss for MLB


The 2022 MLB Hall of Fame poll is complete and we have our final answers, with David Ortiz as the only candidate to be inducted into Cooperstown. Ortiz’s biggest day was overshadowed by the presence of controversy in voters’ credibility, as there were several key players beaten from the ballot box, including the former Minnesota Twins closer. Joe Nathan.

Ortiz should have been able to celebrate with those close to him. Sorry, no one seemed to care, as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa were all beaten after ten long years of voting. But what if there is a bigger shadow waiting over this whole day? One that does not get much attention but can do the most damage to MLB’s Hall of Fame voting process?

A Minnesota Twins Hall of Famer, but apparently not enough for the MLB.

Joe Nathan, who gets less than 5% of the vote, is covered by the larger than life images of Bonds or Clemens, but carries much more weight. Relay pitchers are easily the most underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame and have many generational talents looming in the dark waiting for their ray of light.

Mariano Rivera entered as the only unanimous player in MLB history, who should have opened a gate for more. Instead, it has created such a hole that voters seem to only want enlighteners in the rankings of THE greatest. So what does it take to meet these expectations? Maybe a change of perception.

Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees plays against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. (Photo by Focus on Sport / Getty Images)

Cooperstown loses its honor because of how underrepresented the museum actually is. Several positions lack quality representation due to dated benchmark statistics used as a judgment tool. One key position that is underrepresented is assistance.

How do you determine a Hall of Fame pitcher? “They do not throw many innings, so they do not have cumulative statistics that are equal to the efficiency of a beginner.” This attitude allows voters to consider only one statistic: Saving.

The main reason why enlighteners are in the Hall of Fame is because they kept the record of all time savings during their respective eras. Lee Smith kept it in the early 90’s (The Veterans Committee agreed with him), Trevor Hoffman entered because he had the all-time record for a very short time, and then Mariano Rivera took the crown forever.

Mariano deserves to be a unanimous choice. He was unearthly dominant and is an all time great. Does this mean that each position should only be represented because they had all time records during their playing career?

By this logic, Willie Mays is not a Hall of Famer. Well what if you base it on overall cumulative statistics? Then you usually get starting throwers as they have more turns. By this logic, an above-average beginner like CC Sabathia is much more of a Hall of Famer. So why can above average lighters not come in? Or even those from their respective eras dominate?

Minnesota Gemini

Closer Billy Wagner of the Atlanta Braves plays against the Kansas City Royals. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman were the best of the best. Everyone knew them, everyone was afraid of them. But there are 28 other teams that are closer. Many of those teams have closers that have been out of automatic All-Star throwers year in, year out. Two guys come to mind that fit that form and have done enough to have Hall of Fame careers: Billy Wagner… ..and Joe Nathan.

Let’s start with Billy Wagner. It is safe to say that Billy Wagner is the best left-handed reliever in MLB history. His 11.9 SO / 9 is best for any reliever. Its 2.31 ERA (187 ERA +) is the second lowest of all time, behind the staple Rivera.

He is sixth of all time in his career’s savings with 422. This kind of statistics line competitors Trevor Hoffman, and you can even say is better than Hoffman. Wagner can not be an “above average” reliever if his stats are better than the one-time rescue leader Hoffman. So what could be the benchmark for relay pitchers reaching Cooperstown? The answer is Joe Nathan.

Joe Nathan is theoretically a top ten closer in MLB history. He was the 8th place all-time in saves (377) and first all-time for the Minnesota Twins. Of 2004-2013, he was only second to staple food Mariano Rivera in WAR. His 151 ERA + is third all-time behind Mariano and Billy Wagner. He also finished top 5 in the AL seven times in saves in his career.

What hurts both Nathan and Wagner is turns. This is a problem only if you stick to your current mindset. FanGraphs does a fantastic job showing how both of these illuminators, given the fact that they did not store as much as an inner circle hall of fame, were dominant in high leverage situations. Nathan was seventh in their table projection with a minimum of 1,000 innings. In fact, he was taller than Billy Wagner AND Mariano Rivera.

Minnesota Gemini

Joe Nathan, a member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame, gets a pitch from his son during a pre-match ceremony against the Kansas City Royals. (Photo by Adam Bettcher / Getty Images)

With the 2022 Hall of Fame announcement unveiled, we see all the controversy at stake. The steroid scandal will always take center stage and ruin any good moment for MLB. Too many big names are flooding this year’s ballot and the numbers are too artificial to determine who deserves recognition over the others.

The darkest of shadows are the names that have produced at a high level throughout their careers, but have done so quietly enough not to get attention. Quiet enough to where many become victims of the 5% rule and never get a fair shot again. Not only has the use of steroids had an impact on playing careers, it has also had an impact on legacies in the legacy of fame.

Billy Wagner gets to see another day. With the steroid era starting to get away from the ballots, players with non-artificial numbers will finally get the attention they deserve. Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Andrew Jones and Billy Wagner will all see an increase in votes and voters will eventually realize how dominant these players have been during their careers.

But Joe Nathan will not be seen another day. Until voters recognize all positions equal to player production, Joe Nathan is just another amazing player who has always been and will always be undervalued.



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