Baseball Hall Of Fame 2012: Lee Smith Running Out Of Time For Election To Cooperstown

Pitcher Lee Smith, seen here in a July 9, 1995 game while with the California Angels at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California, is on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the 10th time in 2012. (Photo: Stephen Dunn /Allsport)

Lee Smith saved 478 games in his 18-year career, and held the all-time saves record from 1993-2006.

The Baseball Writers Association of America on Monday will announce the 2012 inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Among the candidates, former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin is perceived to have the best chance to gain election this year, with starting pitcher Jack Morris somewhere behind him. Former closer Lee Smith, however, is running out of chances to get elected to Cooperstown.

Smith pitched for 18 seasons for eight different teams, and retired as the all-time leader in saves with 478. Smith set the all-time saves record in 1993, surpassing Jeff Reardon, who had passed Rollie Fingers one year before. Smith held the saves record until 2006, when he was passed by Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres. Mariano Rivera passed Hoffman in 2011 and is the current all-time saves leader with 603 career saves.

Smith was 71-92 in his career with a 3.03 ERA in 1,289 innings, a 132 ERA+, with 1,251 walks and 486 walks from 1980-1997. One of his eight teams was the then-California Angels, for whom he pitched in 1995 and 1996. Smith saved 37 games for the Halos, and preceded Troy Percival as the Angels' closer.

This is the 10th year on the ballot for Smith, who hasn't really progressed in his vote totals. In fact, his hall support declined last year.

Lee Smith Hall of Fame Voting
Year Vote%
2003 42.3%
2004 36.6%
2005 38.8%
2006 45.0%
2007 39.8%
2008 43.3%
2009 44.5%
2010 47.3%
2011 45.3%

It seems unlikely that Smith will garner enough support to reach the required 75% to gain election by the time his time on the ballot runs out after 15 years. But if Smith needs any sort of motivation or perhaps a silver lining, he can note that Bert Blyleven also declined in support from his eighth year (53.3%) to his ninth year (47.7%) on the ballot, and Blyleven was elected in 2011, in his 13th year on the ballot.

Is there a Rich Lederer out there to lead the cause for Smith like there was for Blyleven? It's hard to say, but if Smith is to one day be elected to Cooperstown he is running out of time.

For more news and notes on the Angels, be sure to read Halos Heaven.

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