My plan tonight was to write about Jim Kaat, a former longtime pitcher for the Twins, and his return to the club to be a special assistant, the team recently announced. Kaat joins an increasingly long list of ex-Twins who are now working with the club in that capacity.
Naturally, I was going to include a few stats from his playing days, but after taking a look at his body of work, I got completely sidetracked by the fact that despite 283 career wins, Kaat is not in the Hall of Fame. Not only is he not in the Hall of Fame, he was never that close to getting in, previous vote totals show. And that’s a mistake.
Take a look at these numbers:
Complete games: 180
Innings pitched: 4,530.1 (He’s one of 27 pitchers who pitched at least 4,500 innings; 22 of them are in the Hall of Fame, according to the Sporting News).
20-win seasons: 3 (1966, 1974, 1975)
Gold Glove awards: 16
So what’s not to like? To my thinking, nothing, but to those who vote on such matters, a lack of a Cy Young award probably doesn’t help. And yet in 1966, a season after he won 18 games and appeared in the 1965 World Series, Kaat went 25-13 with a 2.75 ERA. In most cases, a season like that would win you the award. Unfortunately for Kaat, baseball in 1966 still awarded only one Cy Young for both leagues. The winner? Sandy Koufax who went 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA and 317 strikeouts.
According to the Sporting News:
Kaat first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1989.
Kaat received 87 votes (19 percent) for the Hall of Fame in his first year on the writers’ ballot, 1989.23 He was among the top 10 candidates in nearly all of his years on the BBWAA ballot, peaking at 29 percent in 1993. His candidacy moved to the Veterans Committee and then the Golden Era Committee, for which voting is conducted by current Hall of Famers. In 2012 Kaat was the second leading vote-getter among Golden Era candidates, falling just two votes shy of election.
In those later committees, vote totals improved but not enough for enshrinement.
Since 2010, Kaat has topped 60 percent of the vote in two Golden Era Committee elections, with 75 percent needed for induction.
Kaat shared his thoughts about his Hall of Fame chances.
“I got to be honest with you, I don’t spend much time thinking about it,” Kaat said. “I don’t think deeply about it. There’s no question it’s a great honor, but as I said when we started this interview, I’ve been down this road so many times before that I really, my cynicism runneth over.”