John on Hall's ballot for 12th time

John's consistency on ballot mirrors career

At some point, having more wins than anyone not in baseball's Hall of Fame loses its distinction and becomes just a festering frustration.

Tommy John, winner of 288 games, reached that point a long time ago. He is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 12th time, and still appears a better bet to make the American Medical Association's Hall of Fame than baseball's.

As a pitcher, consistency was his chief asset. He won 13-plus games 11 times, with an amazing 22 seasons spanning the first (1965) and last (1987).

As a Cooperstown candidate, John has been just as consistent, which in this case isn't such a good thing. In 1995, his first year on the ballot, he was named on 21.3 percent of the ballots. In 2005, he was named on 23.8 percent. The support has been similar every year in-between.

While puzzling, such reception appropriately reflects John's reputation during his active years. He didn't put fear into batters who, quite the contrary, couldn't wait to grab a stick against his soft stuff. Then they would go to bed muttering about another hapless night of flailing at it.

Similarly, the sum of his accomplishments have been no more impressive to veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who cast Hall of Fame votes.

John, who had every right to expect to be quickly ushered into Cooperstown, has dealt with his disappointment.

"I have no control over it. I don't really worry about things I can't control. Let it fall where it may," he told a year ago.

He was the epitome of the crafty left-hander, a soft-thrower who kept infielders busy dealing with the products of his sinker. For John, however, it was just another form of dominance.

He had 162 complete games. Randy Johnson, a left-hander on the opposite end of the spectrum perceived as the ultimate southpaw poison, has 96. John had 46 shutouts; Johnson has 37.

  Tommy John's resume
Teams: Indians, White Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Angels, A's
Key stats: 288 wins, 46 shutouts, 6-2 postseason record
Awards: Four-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young runner-up
Best HOF vote Pct.: 28% in 2001
Peers in Hall: Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton
More stats and bio >

John will always be synonymous with a historic elbow operation that now bears his name. Dr. Frank Jobe performed the medical miracle, transplanting a ligament into his dead left arm, but John performed the ensuing pitching miracle.

He won more games following the surgery (164) than prior to it. But voters who two years ago rewarded Dennis Eckersley for having two successful careers (as a starter, then a closer) haven't shown John the same consideration.

John must wonder whether he would at least be closer to Cooperstown, if not already on the wall, had he won 40 fewer games but taken six fewer seasons to do it.

To the skeptic, he hung around from 1984 to 1989 to chase personal goals, persistence now perhaps being held against him.

To John, it was a matter of still being able to pitch at a high level and still being asked to do so. He didn't pitch out the string in Detroit or Pittsburgh or some other doormat of the times, but in the Bronx, in his last four seasons, going 29-24 for the Yankees.

"I was one of the five best pitchers the Yankees could find in baseball for the last four or five years," he recalled, with some pride, some lingering bitterness.

"I didn't strike guys out and I gave up hits, but I didn't let runs score and I won ballgames. That's what you're supposed to do," John had said a year ago. "I think my win total, my longevity, coming back from the arm surgery, all of the wins I had post-surgery -- that should be enough."

Someday, it will be. John is the ideal candidate for the Hall of Fame's revised Veterans Committee, which in two sessions has yet to give anyone the nod.

However, John, with three more years remaining in his ballot-life, would prefer getting in alongside the hitters he spent a quarter-century getting out.

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.