The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame has struggled with what to do with its closers. For years, the position was discriminated against because of how the game was played in the early days.
Lee Smith, who was baseball’s all-time saves leader until Mariano Rivera passed him last decade, still is not in the Hall of Fame. Those barriers have started to be broken with Rivera and Trevor Hoffman entering Cooperstown in recent years.
Now, the TNBL will have a similar decision to make in the coming seasons once it opens its doors to the Hall of Fame: What will its voting members do with Javy Montes?
Montes, 36, retired earlier this offseason after an eight-year career spent mostly with the Philadelphia Phillies. He ended his run as the TNBL’s all-time saves leader with 284 to his name— at least a full season’s worth more than the next closest player.
The two-time all-star is at a disadvantage as we examine his HOF candidacy, as his career didn’t start until he was 28 years old. But for what he was, there’s never been anyone better.
How should his case be handled when he goes before the Hall of Fame voters in the next few years? Here’s a breakdown of his case.
The case for Javy Montes
Anytime a player retires as an all-time leader in a category, their HOF case automatically gains some credibility. That’s what happened with Montes, whose 284 saves is 41 more than Arturo Gamino and 62 more than Chang-bum Zoo.
A few other times Montes appears in the TNBL record books: 2nd in WHIP all-time (only trails Carlos Mateo); 3rd in opponents’ batting average; 8th in games pitched; 12th in ERA; 3rd in strikeouts per nine innings.
The raw numbers say he’s one of the best pitchers in TNBL history, regardless of designation. The advanced numbers do, too: He retired with an ERA+ of 157 and a FIP of 3.32, showing he was much more than a product of quality Phillies defense.
Montes’ 2035 season was a waste — he spent the year in AA after his ratings fell and was never able to get back to the big leagues. It’s all the more impressive he was able to put up such impressive stats — both counting and rate — in just seven years.
The case against Javy Montes
If the Hall of Fame was based on a seven-year sample size, Montes would certainly be in. But it’s not — especially as this league continues to grow. Montes’ 284 saves are impressive, but they won’t stand the test of time. Gamino and Zoo, and perhaps others, will pass him as early as 2037. In MLB, 284 saves would put him just below a guy named Rod Beck on the all-time list. Who? Exactly.
Moreover, his HOF testing numbers don’t add up. Over the years, different statisticians have developed metrics to help parse who belongs in the Hall and who doesn’t. Here’s how Montes sizes up when compared to MLB numbers:
- JAWS: 15.7 (average RP HOFer: 32.3)
- HOF standards: 34 (likely HOFer: 50)
- HOF monitor: 60 (likely HOFer: 100)
Perhaps the most damning part of his résumé? Over seven years in the big leagues, he was honored as the top reliever just once. He arguably could have won the award several different times, but his 2031 campaign was his only hardware.
What’s really going to decide this case
It’s obvious that Montes doesn’t have the longevity that you’d like to see in the Hall of Fame — but that’s hardly his fault. Again, his career didn’t start until he was 28 years old when this league was launched in 2028. It’s not necessarily fair to give him credit for years of pitching that aren’t on his résumé, but in this case, when Montes was such a model of consistency, is it fair to assume he could have reached certain benchmarks? The stats say yes.
Montes’ case will be among the most interesting the voting board decides on, because it will set a precedent for every other player who only played a half (or less) of a career before retiring.
Guys like Carlos Mateo and David Veloz? They are slam dunk Hall of Famers. Old sluggers like Cesar Escamilla? They retired far too early to truly be considered. But Montes is unique because he put enough in the record books that his potential unrecorded contributions must be considered before we cast away his candidacy. And he has a decent case to be made even if we don’t look at what he could have done prior to 2028.
Montes’ case could pave the way for players like Mick Kell, Tony Torres, Cruz Macia, Sal Franco and Sal Rosado — or, it could halt their candidacy before it even begins.