“It’s a great day..this is what you dream about when you’re a kid, and I’m just so honored.” That’s how Tim Marchman imagines Kevin Brown’s reaction yesterday to the news he’d just been elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame with “77% of the vote on his first try.” Alas, back on Planet Earth, the 19 year veteran would’ve been likely to ask, “how’d you get this number?” if any journalist had the misfortune of calling him after just 12 voters out of 581 found him to be a viable candidate. Though Brown will remain on media ballots for the Hall Of Jerk for many years to come, the New York Times’ Dan Rosenheck stumps for the right-hander’s Cooperstown legitimacy, arguing, “folks, this is a no-brainer.”
During his 1996 to 2000 peak, Brown was arguably the best pitcher in the game, topping a historic class of greats. Over those five years, he threw 1,209 2/3 innings (first in the majors) and posted a 2.51 E.R.A (second to the 2.45 compiled by Pedro MartÃnez, who pitched 88 fewer innings). That is better than Greg Maddux (1,197 and 2.73), Randy Johnson (1,039 and 2.74) and Roger Clemens (1,133 and 3.23).
I did not expect Brown to come close to election in his first year on the ballot. He signed a costly, perk-laden contract, he was widely viewed as jerk, and he was accused in the Mitchell report of buying performance-enhancing drugs. But other steroid-tainted stars have still garnered some support: Mark McGwire (who admitted taking them) got about 20 percent this year, and Rafael Palmeiro (who tested positive) received 11 percent. Even Juan GonzÃ¡lez, who was barely half the player Brown was, hung around with the necessary 5 percent to remain on the ballot.
Had 18 more voters supported Brown, he might well have become the beneficiary of a revisionist campaign like the one that finally propelled the eminently deserving Bert Blyleven into Cooperstown. Now that his name has been dropped, writers like me will no longer have reason to beat the drums on his behalf every December. Kevin Brown isn™t an easy guy to feel sorry for. But he deserved much better than this.