I consume Baseball Reference pages the way that most people consume water. The other day stumbled upon Kevin Brown's page. Kevin Brown played 19 seasons at the Major league level for six different teams, and upon further inspection, I'm amazed that Kevin Brown isn't in the Hall of Fame. I never expected to say that, but the numbers don't lie. Kevin Brown was one of the best pitchers of his generation. We're talking about a pitcher who led the league in wins once, ERA twice, including a 1.89 ERA for the Marlins back in 1996. He was durable as hell. He pitched 265.2 innings in 1992 with the Texas Rangers. He finished his career with 211 wins in a 3.28 ERA. He won a World Series ring with the Marlins in 1997, a year in which he also threw a no-hitter, and he had one of the most dominant postseason starts of all time in Game One of the NLDS against the Astros in 1998 when he was with the Padres. In that game, he went eight scoreless innings, only giving up two hits and striking out 16. He made the All-Star team six times and finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting five times, including a second-place finish in 1996, A year in which he lost out to John Smoltz despite having a higher WAR and an ERA that was over an entire run lower than Smoltz's was. Despite all these accomplishments, Kevin Brown fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after his first year, receiving only 2.1% of votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America. So what went wrong?
For starters, Kevin Brown was notorious for having a shitty attitude and having trouble with the media. Now, in my opinion, that shouldn't mean anything. It doesn't matter to me what a baseball player has done in his personal life. Ty Cobb is one of us celebrated baseball players of all time, and he's a notorious pile of garbage. If you played well enough on the field, you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that how the media feels about you doesn't play a factor. David Ortiz had more positive steroid tests than Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds combined, and yet he (rightfully) made it in first ballot while the other three continue to be on the outside looking in.
One of the significant issues plaguing Kevin Brown's Hall of Fame candidacy was that his career ended poorly. He finished his career with the Yankees, and in his final two seasons, he put up a 4.95 ERA and an even more abysmal 8.68 ERA in the postseason for a Yankees team that blew a 3-0 ALCS lead against the Red Sox in 2004. At the same time, he was 39 years old in that postseason. When it comes to postseason performance, what matters more is the moments as opposed to the overall body of work. Clayton Kershaw's numbers in the postseason are not that much worse than Jack Morris's were throughout their career. The difference is Jack Morris had two legendary postseasons in 1984 and 1991, including probably the most clutch Game Seven performance in baseball history in which he threw ten scoreless against the Atlanta Braves. Jack Morris, who ultimately made it into the Hall of Fame because of the Veterans Committee, has a career WAR that is 25 points lower than Kevin Brown's. Brown maybe never had a shining moment like Morris or even his 1997 Marlins teammate Livan Hernandez did in the postseason, but at his peak, he was one of the last people you wanted to face in October.
One thing I like about the current age that we live in is that advanced analytics provide us with a tool to reassess the actual value of a former player. Alan Trammell is one of the greatest shortstops that ever lived, yet it took him well over a decade to make it into the Hall of Fame because the advanced numbers reflected his true value. These numbers allowed people to take a second look at his body of work. Larry Walker was the same way. Regardless of whatever the media thinks of him, I believe Kevin Brown is one of those players who deserves a second look. There are far worse players than him who have made it to Cooperstown.