The Ballot: Garcia and Garland

Freddy Garcia

Pitching: 120 points

League leaders: 10 points (led league in ERA and innings in 2001)

Was the pitcher on the mound when Bud Selig declared the All-Star Game a tie: 5 points.

That the All-Star Game thing is one of the few interesting things I can think of to say about Freddy Garcia: minus-10 points.

Kind of a poor man’s Bartolo Colon: 10 points

Kind of a poor man’s Bartolo Colon: minus-10 points.

Race to 400: 125 points

* * *

Jon Garland

Pitching: 20 points

League leaders: 5 points (shutouts in 2005)

I always remember his name is spelled without an H: 5 points

According to Wikipedia, he attended Van Gogh Elementary, Robert Frost Middle School and John F. Kennedy High, a triple play of famous people: 5 points

I remember him being super tall: 5 points

Eh, he was 6-foot-6, so not Randy Johnson or even Jerry Spradlin tall (I might have been thinking of Jon Rauch): -10 points.

Race to 400: 30 points

* * *

Freddy Garcia made $53 million as a pitcher. Jon Garland made $52 million.

Garcia made 357 starts and won 156 games. Garland made 342 starts and won 136 games.

Garcia finished with a 4.15 career ERA, a 107 ERA+. Garland finished with a 4.37 career ERA, a 103 ERA+.

Garcia had a 4.30 FIP. Garland had a 4.67 FIP.

Garcia came up at 22, had a terrific season, probably had his best season at 24 — an All-Star season, third in the Cy Young voting — and he gradually lost his stuff and coughed and wheezed his way through six teams after that, finally running out of steam at 36. He has continued to keep trying, and played briefly in Mexico this year.

Garland came up at 20, had his best season at 25 — an All-Star season, sixth in the Cy Young voting — and he kept on going, eventually signing a deal with the Dodgers. He blew out his shoulder, and pitched his last games for Colorado at 33. He, too, refused to give up and, after pitching pain-free, considered a comeback last year.

Garcia and Garland were teammates and huge contributors for the 2005 White Sox World Series champions.

So here's the thing: I go back and forth on how I feel about clear non-Hall of Famers like Garcia and Garland being included on the Hall of Fame ballot. On the one hand, good intentions aside, it's kind of fakey. I mean, come on, NOBODY thinks Freddy Garcia or Jon Garland belong in the Hall of Fame. Nobody. Plus, these kinds of ballot entries lead to one of my least favorite things: when a writer throws one of them a vote, wasting a precious roster spot, and everyone loses their minds, and all of it just kind of stinks.

Plus, it’s all so arbitrary. Remember a couple of years ago, Garcia and Garland’s old teammate, Javier Vazquez, didn’t make the ballot, and he was a better Hall of Fame candidate than either of them, as far as that goes.*

Javier Vazquez Race to 400

Pitching: 175 points

League leaders: 5 points (shutouts in 2001)

Race to 400: 180 points

[caption id="attachment_23903" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Garcia and Garland were half of the rotation for the 2005 world champion White Sox.[/caption]

But then I come around to two reasons why I like having these guys on the ballot. The first, as I’ve written before, is that it’s fun to remember them. Would I be writing about Jon Garland today if he weren't on the ballot? No. Not a chance. And it's fun to write about Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia and players like that every so often. Everybody who shows up on the ballot was a GOOD baseball player. How good were Garcia and Garland? Well, in 2005, they decided to have good seasons at the same time, and they were a core reason why the Chicago White Sox won their first World Series in several billion years.

And that leads right into the second reason: Garcia and Garland WERE good players. Very good. Garcia and Garland are two of the 500 greatest pitchers in major league history. Garcia is comfortably on that list, Garland a bit closer to the edge, but it’s still true. We rarely think about it that way, but it’s true.

And neither one is even CLOSE to being a Hall of Famer.

It provides a little perspective, you know?

I think often about something I call the Swimming Pyramid. It's true in all walks of life, but I think of it with swimming because, as you might remember, our oldest daughter used to swim on a team. She wasn’t a competitive swimmer — in both the literal and figurative senses — but she liked it for a time, and that meant that I would go to swim meets and look around and think about stuff. There's nothing else to do at swim meets.

There were parents in the crowd who truly believed that their little Taylor or Brittany or Charlie would someday swim at the Olympics, because, hey, look, she or he just swam away from the field in the 9-year-old 25-meter backstroke.

And they didn’t seem to realize that, sure, while Taylor was amazing at this little recreational meet, Taylor would finish third at a slightly bigger meet that includes teams from 10 miles around.

And the winner of THAT meet might finish sixth at a meet that includes everyone in the southern part of Charlotte.

And the winner of THAT meet might finish third at the Charlotte meet.

And the winner of THAT meet might finish fourth at the state meet.

And the winner of THAT meet might finish 16th in the regional meet that included five states.

And the winner of THAT meet might finish 43rd at the national youth age group meet.

And the winner of THAT meet might …

It just keeps going, higher and higher, so high you can't even SEE the top. There was this incredible swimmer on our daughter’s team. He never lost. He would win races by a full length of the pool. He was just spectacular, and then one day we heard that he had qualified and would be going to the U.S. Olympic Trials.

He finished something like 114th in his race.

That's not an exaggeration. It really was something like that. But here's the thing, he was HAPPY to finish 114th, thrilled to finish 114th, because qualifying for the Olympic trials is an extraordinary life achievement, the sort of thing that countless people only dream about. And just to be that good -- to be one of the 125 or so best swimmers in America at an event -- is incredible. He was a celebrity in our world. He will have that achievement for the rest of his life.

Freddy Garcia and Jon Garland were obviously more incredible than that. They made the Olympics. They won medals. Look: Each made an MLB All-Star team. Each got Cy Young Award votes. Each started a World Series game. Each lived remarkable baseball lives; they are the envy of millions and millions of people.

And yet, neither one is even close to being a Hall of Famer.

And that's why I like that they're on the ballot. It’s good every now and again in these Hall of Fame conversations to stop and do what they tell you in the movies NEVER to do: look down. When talking about the Hall of Fame, we're impossibly high off the ground.