Despite 478 saves, Smith's HOF support still too low

Closer, an 18-year vet, garnered 30.2 percent of vote on 13th ballot

Despite 478 saves, Smith's HOF support still too low

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Large Lee got another large rebuff.

Lee Smith, the relief pitcher who once hoarded saves, once again didn't garner enough support from Hall of Fame voters to improve his chances of ever reaching Cooperstown.

In his 13th year on the ballot, Smith received 30.2 percent of the 549 votes. This was incremental rise from his 2014 share of 29.9 percent -- but still a major relapse from the peak of 50.6 percent in 2013 that appeared to ensure his eventual election.

Instead, Smith has retreated to, and remains in, a corner of marginal relevance among Hall candidates.

There is no shortage of debates provoked by Hall of Fame voting, but Smith's case is one of the most heated.

You can even start with this most recent election, in which 154 saves were credited with turning John Smoltz into a first-ballot Hall of Famer. There is good evidence of this: Smoltz also won 209 games as a starter -- but Mike Mussina won 270 and got less than 25 percent of the votes, Tommy John won 288 and never made it and, in 1999, 240-game winner Frank Tanana got zero votes.

Smith amassed 478 saves in 18 seasons, including eight with the Cubs, four with the Cardinals and three with the Red Sox. The only closers with more have their names attached to new league reliever awards and are projected as first-ballot Hall of Famers: Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.

Cooperstown houses four closers, each with fewer saves than Smith: Dennis Eckersley (390), Rollie Fingers (341), Goose Gossage (310) and Bruce Sutter (300).

Smith might be consoled by the fact it took Gossage nine ballots to gain election, and that Sutter did not make it until his 13th year on the ballot. However, both were knocking on the door in the votes leading up to their selection.

Smith, on the other hand, keeps getting that door slammed in his face.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.