Former Orioles Harold Baines and Lee Smith headed to Cooperstown

LAS VEGAS - The first nugget of news has rolled through baseball’s Winter Meetings this afternoon at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. And it picked up a couple of former Orioles.

Longtime outfielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and reliever Lee Smith have been chosen for induction in the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era Committee. The announcement was made a few minutes ago on MLB Network.

Six former major league players, three managers and one executive comprised the list of candidates and the Orioles influence was heavy.

Baines, Smith, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Charlie Manuel and George Steinbrenner were chosen as finalists for the honor. Johnson, Piniella and Manuel were included for their contributions as managers.

Any candidate receiving votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast by the 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee earned election to the Hall of Fame, with induction in Cooperstown on July 21. Smith was named on all 16 of the ballots and Baines received 12 votes to reach the 75 percent threshold. Piniella finished one vote short of induction, and the other candidates each received fewer than five votes.

Baines With Bat Sidebar.jpgBaines, the St. Michael’s native, played for the Orioles from 1993-95 and 1997-99. He returned in 2000 and appeared in 72 games to run his Orioles total to 666 over a 22-year major league career.

Smith kept receiving my Hall of Fame vote until his eligibility ran out. Thirty-three of his 478 saves over 18 seasons came with the Orioles in 1994.

Both players are known more for their tenures in Chicago, with the soft-spoken Baines spending 14 seasons with the White Sox and Smith spending his first eight with the Cubs.

Johnson managed the Orioles to back-to-back playoff appearances in 1996-97, winning the division in his final season before resigning. He played eight seasons with the Orioles, making three All-Star teams and winning three Gold Gloves at second base. He was part of the championship teams in 1966 and 1970.

Piniella’s first four major league games came as an Oriole in 1964. He received only one plate appearance and didn’t resurface until 1968 with the Indians.

Belle retired after playing 141 games with the Orioles in 2000, a degenerative hip condition robbing the slugger of the mobility necessary to continue his career. He spent two seasons in Baltimore and batted .289/.374/.509 with 73 doubles, 60 home runs, 220 RBIs and countless sneers. He totaled 381 home runs over 12 major league seasons as was runner-up to Mo Vaughn in American League Most Valuable Player voting in 1995.

Asked in spring training whether Belle could play without being able to run, former executive Syd Thrift replied, “This ain’t Country Roundcat.” No one got the reference but we ran with it.

Carter played in 85 games with the Orioles in 1998, his final season in the majors, before they traded him to the Giants. He batted .247/.297/.424 with 15 doubles, 11 home runs and 34 RBIs before the deal. More fans will remember him dancing around the bases after his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.

But yeah, he also played for the Orioles and had little left in the tank.

Clark spent 1999 and half of the 2000 season with the Orioles before Thrift traded him to the Cardinals for infielder Jose Leon. He batted .302/.404/.477 in 156 games with the Orioles, better than I remembered.

The Today’s Game Era ballot was determined this fall by the Historical Overview Committee: Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun), Jim Henneman (formerly Baltimore Sun), Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau), Bill Madden (formerly New York Daily News), Jack O’Connell (Baseball Writers’ Association of America), Jim Reeves (formerly Fort Worth Star-Telegram), Tracy Ringolsby (Baseball America), Glenn Schwarz (formerly San Francisco Chronicle), Dave van Dyck (Chicago Tribune) and Mark Whicker (Los Angeles News Group).

Note: The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that Rockies bench coach and former Marlins manager Mike Redmond interviewed for the Orioles’ managerial position, increasing the list of known candidates to five, including Chip Hale, Brandon Hyde, Mike Bell and Pedro Grifol.

Redmond posted a 155-207 record as Marlins’ manager from 2013 to May 2015.

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