Harold Baines might have had a very quiet career as he was arguably one of the more underrated players in Major League Baseball history. That being said, he was never elected to the Hall of Fame by the writers despite putting up numbers that were undoubtedly good enough to make the Hall of Fame.
Baines got his career started in 1980 with the White Sox and played until 2001. That’s 22 seasons. While he played a long time, he spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter due to his knee problems. While it is a ridiculous reason, some of the voters for the Hall of Fame have an issue with players who played mostly as a designated hitter. It’s a total bias because some can’t wrap their heads around the progression of the sport and that baseball is not in the 1920s anymore. They need to get with the times as the rule for the American League to have a DH was implemented in 1973 which means there have been a few generations born where all they have known, including myself, that the AL had the DH (nearly 50 years). That’s why former Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez has had such difficulty even garnering the necessary votes to get in despite his Hall of Fame worthy numbers because there are some people who can’t accept the new rules and letting their own biases getting in the way. If the only bias was based off numbers, then that’s totally fine, but not liking the DH? That’s silly. The designated hitter is a position/job, plain and simple. Players get inducted into the Hall of Fame based off their hitting statistics or pitching numbers, plain and simple. If fielding statistics were incorporated into the voting process, then would a lot of now Hall of Famers be in it? Or pitchers and their hitting statistics? Probably not, which only solidifies my point. Yes, he did play a long time, but he was productive in almost every season he played.
Baines had an awesome career. He had 2,866 hits (just short of the coveted 3,000 that essentially makes you a lock to become a Hall of Famer), 384 home runs, and 1,628 RBIs. His 1,652 games as a DH are a major league record, and had the most career home runs as a DH (236) until Martinez passed it. He also had the most career hits as a DH (1,688) until David Ortiz passed that mark as well. Baines was a six time All-Star and even led the AL in slugging percentage in 1984. He was also known to be a clutch hitter, but he also hit 13 grand slams and is tied for seventh in major league history in walk off home runs with 10. He was one of the most productive players in baseball in 1980s to mid 90s and he was so valuable that even the White Sox retired his number, while he was still playing.
Yes, he did play some outfield, but once his knees started to hurt him, it limited his ability to play, and he still was productive. He was also regarded as one of the more clutch players during his time, which is valuable. A lot of sabermetricians will say that there is no way to quantify being clutch because there aren’t numbers to back it up. Well, there actually is, but you also had to watch them to play to understand what it means to be clutch. That’s another reason why some writers never voted for him and that’s silly too.
Look, Baines is not your typical Hall of Fame player, but when you look just at the statistics (or even the few I mentioned), you will understand why he should be one. It’s not even a debate. Yes, he was unorthodox, but he was consistently productive even for as long as he played and people saw that. I even heard many people talk about how he should be a Hall of Famer right around the time he was retiring. That alone suggests that he was good enough to be considered to be one. People need to stop it with their personal biases about the sport, let the numbers do all the talking. If one such voter felt his numbers weren’t good enough, that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be based off biases. That being said, he was undoubtedly good enough to be a Hall of Famer and the Veteran’s Committee, who saw him play, agree too. So put the debate to rest.