With the Baseball Writers Association of America announcing the results of its latest round of Hall of Fame voting, one of my favorite traditions occurred. If the revelation of who’s getting into Cooperstown is like Christmas, seeing who doesn’t receive any votes each year has got to at least be like Cranberry Sauce. I think it’s secretly the best thing about this most wonderful time of the baseball year. Six more players can now be added to the list of solid, if far from great, veterans who got zero votes their only time on the BBWAA ballot: Carlos Baerga, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Raul Mondesi, and Kirk Rueter,
Months ago, I created a line-up of some of the best players to not receive any Hall of Fame votes from the writers. One of the regulars here emailed me today, suggesting I do an update to the post, considering Baerga, Johnson, and Mondesi might boost the talent level. I’m happy to oblige. To anyone reading, please feel free to request a story, either by leaving a comment or emailing me. It helps me out a lot, since coming up with original content here four times a week can be challenging.
To make things interesting, I’m adding a different wrinkle to my new roster. Rather than simply revise my old lineup, I’ll offer a second one comprised of Baerga, Johnson, and Mondesi, as well as many players I missed the first time around. No one who appeared on the first lineup is on this one.
Anyhow, here goes:
P – Earl Wilson: One of the first successful black pitchers, Wilson went 121-109 with just nine full seasons and was 22-11 for the Tigers in 1967. Had Wilson not stayed in the minors for much of the 1950s with the Boston Red Sox, who did not field a black player until 1959, he may have had Hall of Fame numbers.
C – Charles Johnson: It’s no surprise Johnson failed to dent the rather deep Cooperstown ballot this year, since his .245 career batting average and OPS+ of 97 would rank him near the bottom of Hall of Fame hitters. Nevertheless, in his prime, Johnson was perhaps the best defensive catcher in baseball, winning four Gold Gloves.
1B – Hal Trosky: The 1930s was a time for hulking first basemen in the American League, with Jimmie Foxx in Boston, Hank Greenberg in Detroit, and Trosky in Cleveland. Trosky topped 100 RBI his first six full seasons, had 136 home runs by his 25th birthday, and hit .302 lifetime. Had he sustained the pace for a full career and not began to decline in his late 20s, who knows what might have been.
2B – Carlos Baerga: Same story, same city even. But after Baerga’s All Star-level career flat-lined, he resurrected himself as a mediocre journeyman. I give him points for trying. Call it the Ruben Sierra Award.
3B – Harlond Clift: Clift played 12 years in the majors and was an All Star in 1937. Mostly, though, his career is about what might have been. Playing his prime years with the St. Louis Browns probably lowered his numbers some, and he suffered a horseback riding injury and case of the mumps in the early ’40s, never the same player thereafter.
SS – Vern Stephens: Here’s proof a few hundred Hall of Fame voters can be wrong. Of any man here, Stephens deserved at least one vote. A seven-time All Star, he offered impressive power for his position, leading the American League in RBI three times and home runs once. It makes little sense his contemporary and teammate Bobby Doerr is in Cooperstown and Stephens isn’t.
OF – Raul Mondesi: Early in his career, Mondesi looked on-track for Cooperstown, a Gold Glove-winning right fielder who could hit for average and power and was the best thing going offensively in Chavez Ravine besides Mike Piazza. After Mondesi’s batting average dipped in 1999, Los Angeles unloaded him to Toronto for Shawn Green, and his career went south, taking him to five other teams. I’m no Dodger fan but I once booed Mondesi at a Yankee-Red Sox game. It’s not one of my prouder moments.
OF – Debs Garms: I came across Garms yesterday in researching my post on Harry Walker, and the name alone makes Garms worthy for here. He sounds more like a soap opera character or a rodeo star or a woman than a former National League batting champion. Of course, his .293 lifetime batting average and .355 clip that NL-leading 1940 season helps, too.
OF – Hal McRae: He’s here for hijacking George Brett’s bat following the Pine Tar Incident, racing down a stadium tunnel, and doing his best to keep opposing manager Billy Martin from stealing a game based on an obscure rule. McRae hit .290 lifetime and had an OPS+ of 122, and while his defense wasn’t much to speak of, he’d be the kind of bat and teammate I’d want around.