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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Sunday, December 15, 2002
The Pride of Hawaii gets his due.
The Keltner List is a set of 15 questions posed by Bill James in an effort to determine whether a player is deserving of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Here we’ll examine each of these questions as they pertain to one of the players on the 2003 ballot, LHP Sid Fernandez.
Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
Was he the best player on his team?
Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
No. The closest Fernandez came was a close second to Tom Glavine in the NL in 1992 among left-handed starters.
Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
His teams finished first or second in their division in each of his first eight seasons. Fernandez won 16 games for the Mets in 1986, when they beat the Red Sox in the World Series. He won 12 games for the Mets in 1988, when they lost to the Dodgers in the LCS. Fernandez went 4-2 over the final two months of the 1986 season and won his final six decisions in 1988. He also pitched very well in three relief appearances in the 1986 WS. Overall, Fernandez had a very small positive impact on two pennant races.
Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
Due to injuries, Fernandez worked fewer than 400 innings in his 30s, although he remained marginally effective when healthy.
Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
No. Not close.
Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
No. Of the players most similar to Fernandez who pitched in the modern era, Bob Veale probably is the most worthy of the Hall of Fame, and he isn’t really worthy at all.
Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
Fernandez spent most of his career pitching half his games at Shea Stadium, which was a favorable environment for hurlers during his years there. Fernandez took advantage of Shea probably as much as anyone could take advantage of any ballpark. Here are his home/road splits from 1985-1990 (courtesy of Retrosheet):
Home Road IP ERA IP ERA 1985 70.2 2.67 99.2 2.89 1986 107.2 2.17 96.2 5.03 1987 93.2 2.98 62.1 5.05 1988 98.1 1.83 88.2 4.36 1989 129.2 2.78 89.2 2.91 1990 104.2 2.41 74.2 4.94
Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
No. Not close. The best LHP eligible for the HOF are Jim Kaat and Tommy John. Beyond those, there are many others (e.g., Vida Blue, Mickey Lolich) who would warrant consideration long before Fernandez.
How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
Zero. Fernandez won no MVP awards, nor was he ever close. He did finish 7th in the 1986 NL Cy Young voting.
How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
Fernandez made two All-Star teams: in 1986 and 1987. Interestingly, those were not his best seasons. In 1989 and 1992 he had better overall numbers but did not make the team. Conversely, in retrospect he may not have been the most worthy candidate in the years when he did make it. The vast majority of players who have been in just two All-Star games are not in the Hall of Fame.
If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
“Likely” is probably too strong a word, but it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to imagine a team winning the pennant with Fernandez as its best player. The one year he fit that description (1992) the Mets finished 6th in the NL East. But his numbers weren’t all that different from those of Tom Glavine that year. Glavine arguably was the Braves’ best player in 1992, and they ended up in the World Series.
What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Fernandez had no significant impact on any facet of baseball history.
Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
I could find no examples of conduct by Fernandez that would keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
Sid Fernandez won 114 big-league games and struck out more than 1500 batters. He finished his career with an ERA+ of 110. He had two excellent seasons (1989 and 1992), and several other very good ones (1985-1988). And he did have a hand in the Mets’ successes of 1986 and 1988. But ultimately Fernandez was more of a supporting member (albeit an important one) than the star of the show. There were always guys like Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Howard Johnson, and David Cone who shone more brightly, and Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez who had the name recognition, while Fernandez toiled in the background, doing a yeoman’s job in his role. No doubt Fernandez was a fine pitcher who could have enjoyed even greater success had he been able to stay healthy, but by no stretch of anyone’s imagination does he belong in the Hall of Fame.
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