High ‘Sele-ing’

Aaron Sele debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 20, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Aaron Sele (NBHOF Library)

From Boston to Texas to Seattle, Aaron Sele won baseball games with a relentless consistency.

That winning attitude now has Sele among those considered for the Hall of Fame.

Sele is one of 37 players on the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Sele is making his debut on the ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born June 25, 1970 in Golden Valley, Minn., Sele’s family moved when he was 11 to Poulsbo, Wash., where he graduated from high school in 1988. He was drafted in the 37th round of the MLB Draft by the Twins that summer, but elected to go to college instead of signing and enrolled at Washington State.

After three successful seasons with the Cougars, Sele was taken by the Red Sox with the 23rd overall pick in the 1991 draft.

Sele shot through the Red Sox’s minor league system, quickly earning the title as the successor to Roger Clemens. Boston brought Sele up to the big leagues on June 22, 1993, and Sele went 7-2 with a 2.74 earned-run average the rest of the way, winning his first six decisions and finishing third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

His classic over-the-top curveball attracted attention from his first day in the big leagues.

“Aaron is one-in-a-million,” said former big league pitcher Jim Bibby, at the time the pitching coach of Class A Lynchburg, where Sele was playing in 1992. “He’s going to be successful wherever he goes.”

Sele went 8-7 in the abbreviated 1994 season, then was Boston’s Opening Day starter in 1995. But his season was cut short after six starts due to atrophied muscles in his throwing shoulder, shelving the 6-foot-5 right-hander for the rest of the season.

“It was that hot butter-knife feeling, you know?” said Sele, referring to how he felt after a May 23 start that would be his last at the big league level for the 1995 season. “I knew something was seriously wrong.”

Surgery repaired Sele’s arm, and by 1997 he had rebounded to a 13-12 mark with the Red Sox. Boston traded Sele to the Rangers prior to the 1998 season, and with Texas Sele produced his two best campaigns: 19-11 in 1998 with an All-Star berth, and 18-9 the following year when he finished fifth in the AL Cy Young Award vote.

“He’s pitching instead of trying to blow people away,” said future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, who knew Sele from his days in the Red Sox organization and was impressed by Sele when Boggs was wrapping up his career with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. “He looks like he learned some things after getting hurt.”

Sele signed with the Mariners as a free agent prior to the 2000 season, and with Seattle Sele posted records of 17-10 (earning another All-Star berth in 2000) and 15-5 (for a Mariners team that won an AL-record 116 regular-season games).

From 1998-2001, Sele won 69 games – more than any other American League pitcher.

Sele battled health problems for his last six seasons, finishing his career with stints with the Angels, Dodgers, Mets and another season with the Mariners. He retired following the 2007 season with a record of 148-112 and an ERA of 4.61.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum