I wrote a few days ago that the Hall of Fame doesn’t have a great track record of honoring aging players. This was prompted by the Veterans Committee candidacy of Minnie Minoso who, depending on the source, is anywhere from 88 to 92. Even if Minoso’s listed birthday on Baseball-Reference.com of November 29, 1925 is correct, placing him just shy of his 89th birthday, he’d be the oldest living honoree ever for Cooperstown at the time of getting in, if it happens.
1. Elmer Flick at 87 years, 16 days old on January 27, 1963
I’ve written before of Flick, a Deadball Era great nearly traded for a young Ty Cobb in 1907. Detroit lucked out on that one, as Flick contracted a stomach ailment that ended his career in 1910. All but forgotten by Cooperstown thereafter, save for one vote from the BBWAA in 1938, Flick was stunned when the Veterans Committee honored him. As my Twitter friend Vince Guerrieri told me, Flick thought Branch Rickey was fooling when he called to congratulate him. “I can’t believe it,” Flick said. “I had given up all hope. When Sam Crawford was voted in [in 1957], he sent me a letter and said he couldn’t see how he was getting in before me.”
2. Ed Barrow at 85 years, four months and 18 days old on September 28, 1953
Being voted into the Hall of Fame is valedictory. As a reader recently pointed out to me, excluding HOF players serving as coaches, only Connie Mack continued to work at the job that got him into Cooperstown after his induction. Legendary executive Ed Barrow worked for the New York Yankees until he was 77. But by the time the Veterans Committee selected Barrow in 1953, he’d been in ill health for many years and was about two months from dying. Barrow was posthumously inducted in August 1954, one of four Hall of Famers I know of besides Chief Bender, Eppa Rixey and Leon Day to die between being voted in and the next induction ceremony.
3. Rube Marquard at 84 years, three months and 22 days old on January 31, 1971
I hear proponents of a small Hall of Fame talk of kicking honorees out. I imagine they could start with Marquard, who got his plaque partly because he was featured in Lawrence Ritter’s 1966 book, The Glory of Their Times and partly because the Veterans Committee railroaded in seven new members the day it voted Marquard in. January 31, 1971 may rank as one of the most ethically-bankrupt days in Hall of Fame history. It reminds me of the danger when small groups– this iteration of the Veterans Committee had ten members– are given a lot of power. It’s one of the reasons I try to have as many people as I can vote in projects here.
But I think of how happy the news made Marquard, who was on a cruise at the time. He wrote to Ritter, who shared the letter in a preface to a 1984 edition of his classic. Marquard wrote:
I was the happiest and most surprised man in the world when I heard your voice yesterday telling me I was voted into the Hall of Fame. The reason I didn’t say anything for so long was that I couldn’t. I was all choked up and tears were running down my cheeks.
Yesterday evening, a few hours after you called, everybody was dancing and having a good time and suddenly the Captain of the ship stopped the music and said he wanted to make an important announcement. He said they had a very prominent man on board who had just been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His name is Rube Marquard and he is right here dancing with his wife.
Well, all hell broke loose, people yelling and clapping, and the band played ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game.’ I was so happy and Jane just loved it too. When we go to Cooperstown this summer, please come with us and be my guest.
It’s hard, at least for me, to stay angry reading a letter like that. There are worse things in life than a few undeserving people being in the Hall of Fame, especially with all the joy the living ones must have felt when they got that call and later stood on the Cooperstown dais. I’m certainly not in favor of kicking anyone out. It seems cruel. It also seems pointless. Wipe the slate clean on the Hall of Fame and there’d be a lousy honoree within 10-15 years.
4. Happy Chandler at 83 years, seven months and 24 days old on March 10, 1982
Bowie Kuhn may rank as one of the more reviled figures in MLB history, baseball’s commissioner while Marvin Miller was leading the successful charge to take down the reserve clause. Here’s one thing Kuhn got right: leading the campaign to honor Chandler, who was commissioner at the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. That may seem insignificant, though the man Chandler succeeded, Kenesaw Mountain Landis did much to keep blacks out of the majors.
5. Harry Hooper at 83 years, five months and seven days old on January 31, 1971
Like Marquard, Hooper was interviewed for The Glory of Their Times and got in the day the Veterans Committee gave out plaques like it was going out of business. Hooper might be a slightly more deserving pick, having played in arguably the best defensive outfield of the Deadball Era with Tris Speaker and Duffy Lewis on the Boston Red Sox. My friend through the Society for American Baseball Research, Jacob Pomrenke told me a few months ago that one of Hooper’s sons campaigned heavily for his induction.
6. Tommy Connolly at 82 years, eight months and 28 days old on September 28, 1953
Longtime sportswriter Joe Williams wrote of Connolly, a few months before the Veterans Committee tabbed him, as the lone surviving member of the original American League staff. An umpire as well as a teacher and supervisor for other umps, Connolly’s career spanned 60-plus years. He worked the first World Series in 1903, at a time when umpires got $50 a game and paid their own travel expenses.
7. Lee MacPhail at 80 years, four months and six days old on March 3, 1998
Weird fact about MacPhail: The former American League president was on the board of directors for the Hall of Fame nearly a quarter century before he got his plaque. In the interim in 1978, his father Larry MacPhail, a groundbreaking executive was posthumously enshrined.
8. Bobby Wallace at 79 years, 10 months and 24 days old on September 28, 1953
Why Wallace and not his contemporary Bill Dahlen? Statistically, the two Deadball Era infielders are roughly equal: 110 OPS+ for Dahlen, 103 for Wallace; 139 defensive runs saved for Dahlen, 133 for Wallace. For stats that may have meant something to Veterans Committee voters at the time, Dahlen bested Wallace .272 to .268 in batting average, 2,461 to 2,309 in hits and 8,138 to 7,465 in assists, though he had more errors, 975 to 814.
Perhaps the Veterans Committee wanted to honor the living. While Dahlen died in 1950 after several years in retirement, Wallace scouted for the Reds into the early 1950s. Three of the other five men the Veterans Committee selected in 1953 were also still alive. Ironically though, none of the four attended the subsequent induction ceremony in 1954. Ed Barrow and Chief Bender died in the interim, while Wallace and Tommy Connolly were too ill to attend.
9. Dave Bancroft at 79 years, nine months and 11 days old on January 31, 1971
Bancroft’s defenders sometimes speak of him as a defensive wizard. This may be an exaggeration. According to the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool, Bancroft ranks 30th all-time among shortstops with 93 defensive runs saved above average. Among the 18 non-Hall of Famers ranked in front of him for this stat: Bill Dahlen, Jack Glasscock and Art Fletcher, all of whom had better bats. As has been widely noted, Bancroft’s former teammate Frankie Frisch was on the ten-member Veterans Committee that voted him in, as was Bill Terry.
10. Doug Harvey at 79 years, eight months and 24 days old on December 7, 2009
Harvey’s page at the Hall of Fame website lists him as the ninth umpire enshrined, with Hank O’Day bringing the number to 10 in 2013. “This much is indisputable,” Hal Bodley wrote for USA Today upon Harvey’s retirement in 1992. “Harvey is one of the best umpires the game has seen. He’s a Hall of Famer, period.” It’s a wonder it took another 17 years for Harvey to get his plaque.
With Hall of Fame voting season upon us, a couple of friends from Twitter have incorporated Minnie Minoso into their usernames. The American League and Negro League star is one of 10 nominees being considered by the Veterans Committee. Results will be announced December 8, though I’m not hugely optimistic for Minoso. While I think he belongs and will eventually get in, the Hall of Fame doesn’t have a great track record honoring aging players, with death too often the impetus for a player being enshrined. My fear is that it will take guilt over Minoso’s death for him to get in. It happened with Ron Santo and it’s occurred a number of other times as well.
With the help of Baseball Reference, which has a nifty feature showing birth and death years of all Hall of Fame honorees, I looked at the 20 people who’ve been inducted within three years of death. Hall of Fame candidates have regularly received renewed attention after dying. Arguably, death has even gotten a few people enshrined.
The 20 people inducted within three years of death are as follows:
George Wright, inducted 1937: A baseball pioneer, Wright died August 21, 1937 at age 90 and was selected to the Hall of Fame on December 7 of that year by the Centennial Commission. His brother Harry Wright wasn’t inducted until 1953 by the Veterans Committee.
John McGraw, inducted 1937: The legendary manager died in 1934 and was selected in 1937 by the Veterans Committee, the committee’s only selection until 1953.
Kenesaw Mountain Landis, inducted 1944: The first MLB commissioner was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame on December 10, 1944, just 15 days after his death.
Jimmy Collins, inducted 1945: Bob Stedler, sports editor of the Buffalo [N.Y.] Evening News began a campaign for Buffalo native Collins’ induction two months before his death in March 1943. An AP story on the campaign noted, “In the opinion of Stedler, who has been writing sports for four decades, the comparative youngsters who are now writing baseball and whose votes select the stars for places in [Cooperstown] should have someone call their attention to the merits of a standout whom they never saw.” A special Old Timers Committee enshrined Collins and 20 others between 1945 and 1946.
Roger Bresnahan, inducted 1945: Similar with Collins, the Old Timers Committee selected Bresnahan in January 1945, shortly after his death on December 4, 1944. The Associated Press said both men stood “the best chance to enter the charmed circle this time. Their deaths within the past year have focused fans’ attention on them and their historic diamond exploits.” Bill James noted that Bresnahan’s help in devoloping catcher shin guards also helped get him in Cooperstown.
Herb Pennock, inducted 1948: Pennock received Hall of Fame votes seven years between 1937 and 1947, rising to 53.4 percent of the BBWAA vote in 1947. He was voted into Cooperstown just four weeks after his sudden death at 53 on January 30, 1948. An ace pitcher during the Yankees Murderers Row years, Pennock may rate as one of the least impressive Hall of Fame selections for sabermetrics, with a 106 ERA+ and 44.1 WAR.
Three Finger Brown, inducted 1949: Somehow, the Old Timers Committee missed Brown in its mass of inductions between 1945 and 1946. Shortly after Brown died in February 1948, Grantland Rice wrote, “Certainly, a group of stars that doesn’t carry the names of Mordecai ‘Three Finger’ Brown and Kid Nichols can’t be called complete.” The committee made Brown and Nichols its final two selections in 1949.
Harry Heilmann, inducted 1952: A .342 lifetime hitter, Heilmann figured in 12 Hall of Fame elections between 1937 and 1951, rising to 67.7 percent of the vote in 1951. Usually, anyone who gets at least 60 percent but less than the necessary 75 percent of the vote with the writers will be enshrined not long thereafter. After Heilmann was diagnosed with cancer later in 1951, three newspaper writers organized a push to get him immediately honored by the Veterans Committee. Though that failed, with Heilmann dying on July 9 at 56, the BBWAA inducted him the following year with 86.8 percent of the vote.
Bill Klem, inducted 1953: Perhaps as compensation for not honoring Heilmann, the Veterans Committee selected six people on September 28, 1953, the most people it’s enshrined in one year aside from 1971. Klem, who died in 1951 and ranks as perhaps the most well-known umpire in baseball history, got in. So did ailing, 84-year-old Ed Barrow, the longtime Yankees executive, who would die December 15. It’s worth noting that prior to 1953, the committee had only enshrined one person, McGraw, in 1937 so maybe it was itching to get some deserving candidates in.
Rabbit Maranville, inducted 1954: The Deadball Era shortstop and hero of the 1914 Boston Braves had steadily gained in votes through 13 years of Hall of Fame elections, rising to 62.1 percent of the vote in 1953. Like Heilmann, I think Maranville would have eventually gotten in regardless of his death. That said, Maranville has one of the shortest windows between death and induction of any Hall of Famer. He died January 5, 1954 and was elected by the BBWAA with 82.9 percent of the vote on January 21. Grantland Rice wrote in a column that ran January 15 calling for Maranville’s induction, “[Johnny] Evers is in the Hall of Fame. [Joe] Tinker is in the Hall of Fame. I hope The Rabbit is on his way to the same place. You can’t leave that much heart out and call it a Hall of Fame.”
Eppa Rixey, inducted 1963: Notified of his Hall of Fame induction on January 27, 1963, Rixey died a month later of a heart attack at 71 and was posthumously inducted in August.
Branch Rickey, inducted 1967: Groundbreaking executive, died in 1965.
Will Harridge, inducted 1972: American President 1931-59, died in 1971.
Roberto Clemente, inducted 1973: Died New Years Eve 1972, standard five-year waiting period waved so he could be inducted.
Larry MacPhail, inducted 1978: Among the better general managers in baseball history, died in 1975.
Warren Giles, inducted 1979: National League president 1951-69, died February 7, 1979, selected by the Veterans Committee on March 7 of that year.
Leo Durocher, inducted 1994: It’s a wonder it took Leo the Lip as long as it did to get in Cooperstown. Durocher, who died in 1991, ranks fifth all-time among managers with 2,009 wins and was instrumental in helping a young Willie Mays find his place in baseball. Then again, the Hall of Fame is fairly fickle with managers, with just 23 enshrined.
Leon Day, inducted 1995: Adam Penale told me on Twitter that Day, a star of the Negro League learned of his Hall of Fame selection just six days before his death in March 1995.Day’s SABR bio has more. Reached at his hospital bed, Day said, “I thought this day would never come. I’m feeling pretty good. I’m so happy, I don’t know what to do.” Day was posthumously inducted in the summer.
Bowie Kuhn, inducted 2008: MLB commissioner 1969-84, died in 2007.
Ron Santo, inducted 2012: Joe Posnanski wrote shortly after Santo’s death in December 2010, “The structure and standards of the committee changed so that in the last 10 or more years the Veteran’s Committee has turned into a grumpy bunch of scrooges who seemed to come out once a year for the expressed purpose of not voting for Ron Santo or Marvin Miller.” The sub-committee handling Santo’s era voted him in at its next meeting in December 2011.
Someone asked me at work this morning who I see winning Game 7 of the World Series this evening. It’s a tough call. On one hand, I’ve been a Giants’ fan since first grade. Even my girlfriend, a devout A’s fan, hasn’t broken me of this. But I’ll admit my girlfriend and I didn’t make it through all of last night’s game. We’re big fans of the F/X series “Sons of Anarchy” and while the sixth season, which was just added to Netflix, has thus far been relentlessly downtrodden, it was a more appealing option than watching the Royals expand the 8-0 lead they took in the third inning last night.
Based on Tuesday’s game and the fact that no road team has won a World Series Game 7 since 1979, my gut says Kansas City will prevail this evening. And I don’t know if that bothers me too much. While the Giants have two titles from the past five seasons, “Back to the Future” was in theaters the last time the Royals won anything. I always like a good underdog story. But there’s a good thing that could happen if the Giants win tonight: Tim Hudson might cement his Hall of Fame candidacy.
In sabermetric circles, I suspect Hudson already seems destined for Cooperstown. According to the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index tool, Hudson’s lifetime 56.9 WAR is second-best among active pitchers, behind Mark Buehrle. Hudson bests Buehrle for FIP, 3.75 to 4.10 and ERA+ as well, 122 to 117. According to the Play Index tool, Hudson is also one of 13 pitchers who have at least 200 wins and a 120 ERA+ but aren’t enshrined. I suspect the majority of these pitchers will be inducted over the next 10-20 years. In alphabetical order, they are:
Kevin Brown, 211 wins, 127 ERA+
Bob Caruthers, 211 wins, 122 ERA+
Eddie Cicotte, 209 wins, 123 ERA+
Roger Clemens, 354 wins, 143 ERA+
Roy Halladay, 203 wins, 131 ERA+
Tim Hudson, 214 wins, 122 ERA+
Randy Johnson, 303 wins, 135 ERA+
Silver King, 203 wins, 121 ERA+
Pedro Martinez, 219 wins, 154 ERA+
Mike Mussina, 270 wins, 123 ERA+
Curt Schilling, 216 wins, 127 ERA+
John Smoltz, 213 wins, 125 ERA+
Will White, 229 wins, 121 ERA+
But sabermetrics has only recently entered into consideration for some Hall of Fame voters [with many other voters still rejecting it] and even by advanced metrics, Hudson doesn’t look anything like the lock Bert Blyleven was for Cooperstown. For WAR and ERA+, Hudson ranks as something like his generation’s version of Billy Pierce, maybe one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball history by sabermetrics but a distant Veterans Committee candidate today. Much as some of my friends in baseball research may protest, I fear Hudson is destined to be historically underrated as well. It’s why I didn’t recently predict Hudson being inducted in the next 20 years.
A memorable outing from Hudson tonight could change this. A memorable postseason performance can make a good but generally not great player a viable Hall of Fame candidate. Just ask Bill Mazeroski or Jack Morris. While much talk in the media today has centered around how much Madison Bumgarner may pitch in relief on three day’s rest, I’d like to think the 39-year-old Hudson has something special in store.
In his seminal 1994 book The Politics of Glory, later retitled Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?, Bill James memorably predicted 25 years worth of Hall of Fame inductees. It’s fun to go back now and see where James was spot-on and where he absolutely whiffed [Ruben Sierra, anyone?]
In the same spirit, I spent a few hours today coming up with some predictions of my own. The next 20 years of the Hall of Fame ballot, particularly the next decade look like a mess, but I figured someone ought to make sense of it looking forward.
I’ll preface this by saying I made my picks assuming the Veterans Committee will keep its current election structure, having three sub-committees for different eras that rotate with one sub-committee getting to vote each year. I wouldn’t be surprised if this voting structure is tweaked in the next decade, as Veterans Committee processes change often, though I have no idea what the new voting practice will be. I also think the players I suggested have a good shot of going in regardless of when the Veterans Committee allows them to be voted on.
One other thing– I didn’t mess around predicting managers, executives or Negro League selections [though I’d like to see Buck O’Neil and Double Duty Radcliffe enshrined at some point.] That’s for another post.
Anyhow, without further adieu, here is who I see going into the Hall of Fame over the next 20 years:
2015: Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Craig Biggio in his third year of eligibility
2016: Ken Griffey Jr. in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; John Smoltz in his second year of eligibility; Mike Piazza in his fourth year of eligibility; Bill Dahlen through the Veterans Committee
2017: Trevor Hoffman in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Jeff Bagwell in his seventh year of eligibility; Jack Morris through the Veterans Committee
2018: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Minnie Minoso through the Veterans Committee
2019: Mariano Rivera in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Curt Schilling in his seventh year of eligibility; Jack Glasscock through the Veterans Committee
2020: Derek Jeter in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Mike Mussina in his seventh year of eligibility; Alan Trammell through the Veterans Committee
2021: Ichiro Suzuki in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Omar Vizquel in his fourth year of eligibility; Dick Allen through the Veterans Committee
2022: Roy Halladay in his fourth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Jim McCormick through the Veterans Committee
2023: Todd Helton in his fifth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tommy John through the Veterans Committee; a newly-appointed Steroid Era Committee will enshrine strongly-suspected or confirmed PED users whose eligibility with the BBWAA has expired, namely Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. It’s lame it might take another decade to begin to resolve the steroid mess on the Cooperstown ballot, but I don’t see it happening sooner. There isn’t huge incentive to take drastic action, for three reasons:
1. This year’s selections of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas showed that top-tier clean candidates can be enshrined their first year of eligibility even with suspected and admitted steroid users clogging the writers ballot.
2. I don’t see the Hall of Fame and Veterans Committee overstepping the authority it’s granted the BBWAA beyond the Hall’s recent move to shorten the window of eligibility for players on the writers ballot from 15 years to 10.
3. It’s not like players stop being eligible altogether for Cooperstown under current voting rules. It’s perfectly logical that the Hall of Fame will allow more time– as much as it deems necessary and then some– for emotions to settle from this period in baseball history before deciding how to honor it.
2024: Vlad Guerrero in his eighth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Billy Wagner in his ninth year of eligibility; Jim Kaat through the Veterans Committee
2025: Jimmy Rollins in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Andruw Jones in his eighth year of eligibility; Harry Stovey through the Veterans Committee
2026: Albert Pujols in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tim Raines through the Veterans Committee
2027: Yadier Molina in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Adrian Beltre in his third year of eligibility
2028: Joe Mauer in his third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Tony Mullane through the Veterans Committee
2029: Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander in their first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Lee Smith through the Veterans Committee
2030: Robinson Cano in his second year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Dustin Pedroia in his third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Luis Tiant through the Veterans Committee
2031: Jose Reyes and Jered Weaver in their third year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Pete Browning through the Veterans Committee; another meeting of the Steroid Era Committee will enshrine Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Rodriguez and David Ortiz
2032: Andrew McCutchen in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Edgar Martinez through the Veterans Committee
2033: David Wright in his fifth year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Pete Rose, in a sympathy vote from the Veterans Committee shortly after his death
2034: Felix Hernandez in his first year of eligibility with the BBWAA; Paul Goldschmidt in his second year of eligibility
Did I miss anyone? Let me know…
Will get in sometime after 2034, but not too long: Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Craig Kimbrel
Wouldn’t mind seeing these guys go in, but it seems unlikely in this timeframe: Carlos Beltran, Ken Boyer, Will Clark, Jim Edmonds, Dwight Evans, Bobby Grich, Keith Hernandez, Gil Hodges, Tim Hudson, Jeff Kent, Kenny Lofton, Evan Longoria, Dale Murphy, Graig Nettles, Tony Oliva, Dave Parker, Scott Rolen, Bret Saberhagen, Johan Santana, Ted Simmons, Cecil Travis, Chase Utley, Larry Walker, Smoky Joe Wood
It’s one of the most star-packed Hall of Fame induction weekends ever. Tomorrow, three of the greatest players of this era as well as its three finest managers will be inducted. Record crowds, maybe 100,000 people, are expected in Cooperstown. It’s the kind of magical weekend that seemed so far away just a year ago when barely 10,000 people attended Hall of Fame weekend after the Baseball Writers Association of America refused to induct anyone off its ballot.
It seemed after last year’s vote that the process was broken, that the Hall of Fame ballot would remain forever glutted with players from the Steroid Era and that even top stars might not be able to secure first ballot induction. Personally, I’ve wanted drastic changes to the voting process, such as the establishment of a committee to handle Steroid Era candidates and an end to the rule that allows voters to select a maximum of 10 players even in years where more worthy candidates might be on the ballot. Those changes may still occur, but it won’t be anytime soon. Today, the Hall of Fame announced its first changes to voting since 1991: shortening a recently-retired player’s eligibility with the BBWAA from 15 years to 10 and having BBWAA members sign a registration form and code of conduct.
Disaster may be the greatest catalyst for change in life, and in a sense, I wanted that with Hall of Fame voting this year. I wanted the voting results to be such a quagmire that the BBWAA or Cooperstown would be forced to take immediate substantial action. But then, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were all voted in first ballot, and it became clear that top Hall of Fame candidates could make it through quickly, even with the current voting system. Several more of these inductees will follow in the next few years including Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Ken Griffey Jr.
Baseball has one of if not the most talked about Halls of Fames in sports. The reason for this is its exclusivity, with roughly 300 members and only 72 living ones after tomorrow. This weekend, the Hall of Fame is looking to preserving this. The announced changes in voting will make it harder for the likes of Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, and other arguably lesser greats to win induction, at least through the BBWAA, since six honorees have needed 11-15 years on the ballot to reach the needed 75 percent of votes. Tomorrow, a few irreproachable candidates will receive their plaques in front of a record crowd. We can expect more of the same in the immediate years to come.
For anyone who likes the Hall of Fame small, reserved for only the best of the best, this weekend is sweet vindication. For people like myself who would like to see Raines, Mussina, and Martinez receive their due now rather than 20 or 30 years on, today offers more of the same frustration of the past few years.
When I was in high school, there were a couple of local amateur meteorologists who claimed to have developed a system of predicting major snowstorms weeks in advance. They supposedly got seven correct in a row in virtual anonymity. So they landed a front-page newspaper article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, touting their success record, and predicting the next big blizzard: January 26, 1975. People circled their calendars and buzzed about it for weeks.
Then January 26 came, and it was 52° and rainy. As far as I know, that was the last anyone heard of the two meteorologists.
I thought of this many times as my Hall of Fame forecast reached print here last month, and went more-or-less viral. I’d been doing the forecasts for over 30 years – often in national publications like Baseball Digest, Sports Collectors Digest, and Sporting News – but usually just among a cult following of colleagues. I had a terrific track record, but I’d never gotten anything close to this much attention. Now here I was, being quoted by notable journalists around the country, and doing radio and TV interviews. I worried that this would be the year my forecast tanked.
And, unfortunately, I was right (about being wrong). My 2014 Hall of Fame election forecast was my worst ever.
As you know, I predicted that only Greg Maddux would make it to Cooperstown this year, while everyone else was saying there would be three to five inductees. Everyone else was right and I was wrong. Maddux of course made it, but so did Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, and Craig Biggio just missed. There have been years I guessed wrong on one inductee, but never two, and never by as much as I missed on Glavine: I predicted 66%, he got 92%. That’s plain ugly.
So, what went wrong? And should I just go the way of the two weathermen?
First of all, other than Glavine, Thomas (predicted 63%, actual 83%), Biggio (61-75), and Mike Mussina (7-20), my forecast was quite accurate. But that’s kinda like saying, except for the four games they lost, the Cardinals did well in the 2013 World Series.
Part of it was timing. I write my forecasts in October, three months before the announcement. When Bobby Cox was elected by the Veterans’ Committee in December, that no doubt gave Glavine a boost. Writers liked the idea of inducting three long-time Braves – Cox, Maddux, and Glavine – together. Then, my article was published in mid-December, about half-way through the balloting process. It’s possible it influenced some voters to use more of their voting slots.
Whatever the reason, the writers used an average of 8.39 votes per ballot this year. That’s after not going above 6.87 since 1986, even in years there was a big crop of worthy candidates. In 1999, for example, newcomers Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, and Carlton Fisk joined holdovers Tony Perez, Gary Carter, Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, and Bert Blyleven, among others, on the slate – yet writers used an average of just 6.74 votes per ballot.
So I didn’t foresee this year’s 8.39, and I don’t see how anyone else could, either (though apparently everyone else did). I projected 7.5, which I thought was going out on a limb. If I knew it was going to reach 8.39, I probably would have predicted both Glavine and Thomas to make it, though not with the lofty percentages they actually received.
The bottom line is, I struck out this year. But that won’t stop me from getting back in the batters’ box this fall, hopefully having learned from my mistakes. I can only hope you’ll still be interested in reading it.
Editor’s note: I was elated to have Bill’s predictions exclusive to this website for a second straight year and I expected they would get some attention. I never expected this much. Per Google Analytics, more than 13,000 people visited Bill’s post, spending an average of four minutes, 55 seconds on it; and those are just the people who clicked through from the myriad of prominent websites Bill was mentioned on. Rather than list all of these websites here, one after the other, check out these search results. It was unreal.
I will say two things. First, based on the amount of traffic and the wealth of respected sites that took interest, as well as the timing of Bill’s post two weeks before Hall of Fame voting closed, I imagine it skewed results. Polemical as I can sometimes be, I’m not wild about this. I know from talking to Bill that it wasn’t his intent. That said, it was my decision to publish Bill’s post when I did, and I take full responsibility for any effect on voting it may have had.
Bill has a place at this website as long as he wants. He’s a good writer and has a research background that’s perfectly in-line for what we try to do here. Should Bill choose to return next year, we’ll publish his predictions after voting closes, which is generally about a week before results come out. I believe Bill’s 30-year track record of generally being spot-on in his predictions speaks for itself and that his methodology for making picks is solid. I consider this year aberrational and believe that next year, Bill’s predictions will be back on course.
For four years, I’ve asked the same question here: Who are the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame? It’s not 50 players who need to be enshrined tomorrow or ever, necessarily, just the 50 best not enshrined. As founder and editor of this website, it’s my pleasure to present the latest answer to this question.
To anyone who’s new, four things:
1) This project is strictly voter-driven, with 208 ballots this year. I do little to no active campaigning and invite people to set their own criteria.
2) Everyone who votes is required to vote for 50 players. Next to each player a person selects, the voter is asked to put a “Yes” or “No” designating if the player belongs in the Hall of Fame. The latter component has no effect on ranking and is meant, in part, to signify that a player can be among the 50 best not in Cooperstown while having no business holding a plaque there. That said, were it up to voters from this project, seven players would be enshrined this coming summer, all from the 2014 writers ballot. In alphabetical order, these players are: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines and Frank Thomas.
3) I offered a ballot of more than 500 players at the start of voting. Full voting results are posted below, in alphabetical order of last name.
That being said, voters are not restricted to the ballot. Any player who hasn’t appeared in the majors in five years is eligible for this project. A player need not have played 10 seasons or even in the majors to be eligible here. A player is eligible until he is enshrined at Cooperstown’s annual summer ceremony.
I will likely cut the ballot down next year, as it has become unwieldy and confusing. Thus far, though, my aim has been not to omit any worthy player.
All this being said, here’s how voting came out this year:
1. Tim Raines, 191 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 177 yes, 11 no, 3 N/A), written by Dan McCloskey of Left Field:
Only eight players in history have reached base 4,000 times, scored 1,500 runs, stolen 500 bases and were worth more than 60 Wins Above Replacement lifetime.
Six of them (Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins and Honus Wagner) are unquestionably among the top five all-time at their respective positions. Of those six, only Bonds (due to PED questions) and Collins (due to the overcrowded ballot during the Hall’s early years) are not first-ballot Hall of Famers.
The seventh is Paul Molitor, who doesn’t quite fit into the top five all-time at his position category (unless you count DH), but is a first ballot inductee nonetheless.
The eighth, of course, is Tim Raines.
You can cherry-pick an argument for virtually any candidate, but there’s no reasonable debate against this straightforward comparison of Raines to seven upper tier Hall of Fame caliber players.
Lest anyone think he was just a compiler, his career WAR/162 of 4.455 ranks ahead of 55 Hall of Fame position players, including Brooks Robinson, Robin Yount, Reggie Jackson, Eddie Murray and Ernie Banks (h/t @BRefPlayIndex).
As the voters of this project have attested by ranking him in the top ten for the fourth year in a row, and No. 1 for the second straight year, Tim Raines is clearly one of the Hall of Fame’s most glaring omissions.
2. (Tie) Craig Biggio, 185 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 170 yes, 11 no, 4 N/A), written by Mark Kreidler, a voting member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Kreidler explains here why he gave Biggio a vote in the BBWAA’s 2014 Hall of Fame election:
In an era of redrawn valuations, on a Hall of Fame list that grows more vexing each year, Biggio strikes me as one of the easiest Yes votes on the ballot – and he did so in 2013, when I voted for him in his first year of eligibility. A multi-position player whose up-the-middle metrics compare favorably with HOF standards, Biggio ranks 21st in MLB history in hits and 15th in runs scored, and he delivered more doubles than any RH hitter ever. (“Team guy” addendum: He was HBP more times than any player in the modern era.) He wound up with 3,060 hits, likely extending his career a year too long to do it – but even for those who aren’t milestone-fascinated, three thousand hits is something only 27 other players have achieved. It’s not nothing. And Biggio did this while earning four Gold Gloves, playing his entire career for a single organization, making 19 straight Opening Day starts, being honored as a Roberto Clemente Award recipient for community service, and being recognized – by teammate after teammate – as the lock-down, no-questions-asked leader of a Houston franchise that enjoyed its only run of sustained excellence on his watch. He goes in.
2. (Tie) Jeff Bagwell, 185 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 171 yes, 10 no, 4 N/A), written by Daren Willman of Baseball Savant:
Jeff Bagwell was the most dominant first baseman of the mid 90’s and is very worthy of the hall of fame. His numbers speak for themselves. In the 15 year period he played, he was second in RBI (1529), third in runs (1517), hits (2314), and walks (1401), and fifth in HR (449). Bagwell received MVP votes in 10 of his 15 years and won it in 1994. He’s one of only 12 players in MLB history to hit 400 HRs and steal 200 bases. While playing Bagwell was regarded as one of the smartest base runners in the league. His career stats compared to all players are equally as impressive 40th all-time in OBP, 36th in OPS+, and 63rd in career WAR. With all these things considered Jeff Bagwell should be a hall of famer.
4. Greg Maddux *New to ballot*, 183 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 179 yes, 1 no, 3 N/A), written by me:
Greg Maddux is the reason I will be trimming the ballot next year. I included more than 500 players on the ballot this year, making it somewhat unwieldy and indecipherable. On a clear, easy-to-read ballot, a player like Greg Maddux ought to get 100 percent of the vote. If the longtime Atlanta Braves ace, four-time Cy Young Award recipient and 355-game winner wasn’t the best pitcher of his generation or even baseball history, he isn’t far off.
In a normal world, you would not be reading anything about Barry Bonds in this space. Based purely on the whole “playing baseball” thing, Bonds missing from Cooperstown is the equivalent of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame leaving out the Beatles. They did take creativity-enhancing drugs after all…
But just in case you need to be reminded of the excellence of Barry Bonds, let’s run down the crazier parts of his resumé. 762 homers. a .298/.444/.607 career line for an OPS+ of 182, the latter number behind only Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, two sluggers whose names you should at least vaguely recall. 7 MVP awards, 8 Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers, and if there existed an award with Platinum or Diamond in the name, Bonds would probably have 10 of those too. Before performance-enhancing drugs became a concern in baseball, a half-century after their introduction into the sport, Bonds was infamous among casual fans for not playing well in the playoffs, which he eventually rectified to finish with a .936 career postseason OPS.
Bonds is one of the greatest players to ever play baseball. Not greatest in the sense that one would say “Wow, that was totally the greatest sandwich I ever ate!” but the kind of greatness that inspires generations. To write the story of 1990s/2000s baseball and not talk about the feats of Bonds is like writing a history of the Civil War and not mentioning Ulysses S. Grant. Come back here in a year’s time and again, Barry Bonds will top this list.
6. (Tie) Mike Piazza, 178 votes out of 208, (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 165 yes, 10 no, 3 N/A), written by Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus:
Writers often engage in hyperbole when discussing Hall of Fame candidates, but despite Piazza’s amazing offensive numbers as a catcher he hasn’t generated the same excitement that some all-time greats have when they reach the ballot. Some of this is a result of all of the negativity surrounding PEDs (even though Piazza has never been linked to steroids in any way whatsoever), but most of it probably is due to a misunderstanding of his value. His rWAR of 59.2 is low for a Hall of Famer, but when you compare Piazza only to other catchers, he sits right up there with all time greats like Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, and Carlton Fisk, at least with the bat. Piazza’s 427 home runs and .308/.377/.545 slash are amazing numbers for an everyday catcher and even when you adjust for his era his career offensive WAR is on a par with Bench’s. It’s easy to make a Hall case for Piazza even with “simpler” numbers; he hit 30 home runs or more nine years out of 10 and .300 or better for 10 consecutive seasons. Piazza belongs in the Hall, and despite the current ballot logjam should eventually find his way to Cooperstown.
There are those that say the horned minotaur is simply a creature of fiction, of myth, that there is no way a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man could exist. Those people clearly never saw Roger Clemens pitch.
The fact that Clemens, weighing in at 205 lbs of ground chuck, spit, and vinegar, remains on this list, earning only 37.6% of the vote last year, is a shame. He has seven Cy Youngs awards, 354 victories, a 3.12 ERA. Seven times he lead the league in shutouts, another seven in ERA. Five times he lead the league in strikeouts, twice in innings. His 140.3 JAWS is third behind Walter Johnson and Cy Young. He even has his own Nintendo video game.
Clemens also had two separate peaks, his early years from 1986-1992, going 136-63 with a 2.66 ERA and his comeback with the Blue Jays, going 149-61 with a 3.22 ERA between 1997 and 2005. Just one of those is enough for a Hall of Fame career, two is simply overwhelming.
So while his performance can’t be denied, only Clemens’ use of performance enhancing drugs is keeping him out of Cooperstown. Forget that Clemens is arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time despite playing the second half of his career in a heightened offensive environment. Forget that much of his competition was also using drugs. Because Clemens was so successful, arrogant, and bull-headed, the voters have decided to trap Clemens in a labyrinth of fuzzy moral logic and out of Cooperstown.
And that’s more absurd than a creature with a bull’s head and a man’s body.
8. Alan Trammell, 177 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 148 yes, 22 no, 7 N/A), written by Joshua Pease:
Alan Trammell is inexorably linked with Lou Whitaker, who now rather famously failed to reach the 5 percent threshold in his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Thankfully, Trammell remains on the ballot, though he is now in his 13th year of eligibility and has yet to hit even 40 percent of the vote. Trammell debuted in 1977 and manned shortstop for the Tigers for the next 20 seasons, retiring in 1996. Over the course of his career, he proved to be an excellent all-around talent. He was an above average hitter (111 wRC+ and 3 Silver Sluggers), had good power for a shortstop (185 HR), was a good baserunner (236 SB), and played excellent defense (22 dWAR on Baseball Reference and 4 Gold Gloves). He was a better hitter than Ozzie Smith, as good a fielder as Cal Ripken, and a similar all-around player to Barry Larkin. The fact the Trammell was very good at everything but otherworldly at nothing may very well be what has kept Hall of Fame voters from enshrining him thus far.
I would vote for Alan Trammell if I had a Hall of Fame ballot.
9. Tom Glavine *New to ballot*, 176 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 170 yes, 3 no, 3 N/A), written by Eno Sarris of Fangraphs:
The word is “frustrating.” Both the numbers and the eyes agree on that one. Tom Glavine spent most years striking out batters at a well-below average rate. His walk rate was only slightly better than average. His ground-ball rate, though only measured in the twilight of his career, was basically average. He gave up a ton of hits — almost 4,300 by the time he hung it up. Somehow, he spent a career doing average things and getting great results. You still can’t ignore the 3.54 career ERA or the 305 wins just because he was on good teams and over-performed his peripherals. At some point, you just have to believe. Remember how frustrating it was to watch him hit that outside corner with fastball and changeup, time and time again. Remember how he stretched that outside corner as far as the umpire would let him. Remember how he just didn’t give up home runs with runners on base. These things all contribute to the confounding gap between his peripherals and results, and they even inspire us to re-examine some of our assumptions about pitching. So really all that frustration is just food for inspiration.
10. Shoeless Joe Jackson, 174 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 143 yes, 36 no, 5 N/A), written by Christopher Kamka of Comcast SportsNet Chicago:
Shoeless Joe Jackson is a player often distorted by myth and legend, but is best appreciated by simply examining the facts.
Joe could never exist today. Perhaps this is why he remains one of the more intriguing figures in baseball history. Can you imagine a guy playing an actual game in his socks? Even in the minors? For that matter, who was the last illiterate superstar to grace the diamond?
Consider the circumstances under which his career ended. A group of players throwing a World Series because they’re underpaid? Jackson’s 1919 salary was $6,000. Calculating for inflation, that translates to roughly $80,000, while today’s league minimum is more than six times that. Forget about it.
Jackson’s last season was 1920; his age 32 season. Plenty of good baseball left. His first sniff of the live ball era. What would he have done with league production trending like this:
American League average BA/SLG for the last five seasons of Jackson’s career
AL average BA/SLG for the first five seasons after Jackson
How many more .400 seasons? In the inflated offensive era of the 1920’s, many doubles & triples would turn into homers. Would White Sox fans not have had to wait until Bill Melton in 1971 for the first 30-HR season in franchise history? It’s a compelling thought because of his limited but incredible body of work.
Jackson hit .408, .395 & .378 in his first three full seasons – but thanks to Ty Cobb, he finished second in the American League each time.
Amazingly, he put up a .356 lifetime average (3rd all-time) without a single batting title. He had a .423 OBP, good for 16th all-time. Struck out only 234 times against 519 walks.
Jackson’s career OPS+ of 170 is tied with Dan Brouthers for 7th all-time. Only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, & Mickey Mantle are better.
He compiled 2,800 plate appearances for two original American League franchises (Indians & White Sox) and still owns the highest lifetime average for each (.375 for Cleveland, .340 for Chicago).
His game was not just limited to hitting. He could also run (202 SB), and throw (183 outfield assists).
This is a player who could conceivably make a list of the top 50 players period; not just limited to those not enshrined in Cooperstown.
Shoeless Joe Jackson (along with the other seven Black Sox) and John D. Rockefeller (a stunning $29 million fine imposed in 1907 on his Standard Oil in antitrust case) were the two most notable opponents taken down by Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The Standard Oil fine was overturned long ago. Isn’t it about time to give Joe his due?
We tend to talk about baseball players’ Hall of Fame candidacies in terms of greatness. The greatest players are cast in bronze, while the less great need a ticket to get into the museum. Greatness seems more closely tied to talent than it is to value, which reflects both talent and opportunity.
Taken on value, Edgar Martinez is a worthy Hall of Famer. His 68.3 WAR (per baseball-reference) rank 64th among eligible position players, well above the established standard and ahead of no-doubt Hall of Famers like Ernie Banks, Willie McCovey, and Dave Winfield.
Edgar’s case, though, is far stronger when measured by talent, irrespective of opportunity. Blocked by such legends as Jim Presley and Alvin Davis, Martinez didn’t crack the Mariners’ starting lineup until age 27 despite batting above .340 over his last three years in the minors. Defensively, he was an adequate third baseman, putting up positive Total Zone rankings more often than not until being banished to designated hitter duties in 1995, when Mike Blowers was ready to start butchering the position.
The original Papi’s 147 career OPS+ ranks 37th among Hall eligibles- 29th if we consider only players whose careers began after 1900. By this measure, he was a better hitter than Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, or Alex Rodriguez. He accumulated more adjusted batting runs than Carl Yastrzemski in more than 5,000 fewer plate appearances, and more than Hall of Famers Tony Perez and Johnny Bench combined.
Martinez, it seems, is outside the Hall of Fame now because he did not play in the field for three quarters of his career. McCovey and Killebrew were hitters of similar talent who cost their teams scores of runs by playing the field, only because the rules said they had to. His employers’ decisions should not cost Edgar Martinez the bronze bust he deserves.
12. Frank Thomas *New to ballot*, 168 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 158 yes, 7 no, 3 N/A), written by Dan Evans, currently a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays; former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and assistant GM for the Chicago White Sox:
I was part of the White Sox staff involved in drafting Frank Thomas with the 7th selection overall in the 1989 draft. We thought his unique combination of zone awareness and power would develop into an impact bat. It turned out to be consistent excellence. Thomas had a legendary batting practice session in the old Comiskey Park shortly after signing in 1989 that tipped off his elite skills to others and seemingly NEVER gave up an at-bat. I worked for the White Sox through Thomas’s first 11 seasons and made sure I saw nearly every one of his plate appearances in that span.
One of the best right-handed hitters in MLB history, Thomas was a rare combination of high batting average, elite all-fields power, remarkable consistency, and an outstanding strike zone feel. His .301/.419/.555 career triple slash is matched or bettered in all three categories by only five players in history and his career .419 OBP is the best for a right-handed hitter since World War II.
Thomas is the only player ever with seven consecutive seasons of at least a .300 batting average, 100 walks, 100 runs, 100 RBI, and at least 20 homers, and it occurred in his initial seven full years (1991-1997). He won consecutive American League MVP Awards in 1993-94, placed in the top 10 in MVP balloting seven other times, and won the 1997 AL batting title. His .729 SLG and .487 OBP marks in 1994 were levels that had not been attained by an AL hitter since Ted Williams in 1957.
Nicknamed “The Big Hurt,” Thomas played the bulk of his career with the White Sox, and also played for Oakland and Toronto over his 19-year career. His 521 career homers rank 18th all-time, and more than one-half were hit to centerfield or right-center field. His #35 was retired by the White Sox in 2010.
Throughout Thomas’ career, he was outspoken about PED use among some of his peers. After hitting his 500th career homer, he said “This means a lot to me, because I did it the right way.” He was the only active player to voluntarily interview for the 2007 Mitchell Report.
I look forward to being in Cooperstown this summer when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
13. Pete Rose, 166 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 122 yes, 41 no, 3 N/A), written by Alex Putterman, assistant sports editor for the Daily Northwestern (Northwestern University):
Maybe Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame — he’s the all-time hit king, of course, and achieved that distinction through an impressive peak and famous longevity. He is arguably the iconic player of his era, and Cooperstown is about nothing if not iconic players.
Or maybe he doesn’t belong in the Hall — he committed baseball’s cardinal sin, guilty of the most explicitly inexcusable offense of the time. He deserved punishment, and there’s no reason to commute his permanent sentence.
But the semantics of this project render that debate irrelevant. We’re looking for the best players not in the Hall, and all else aside, Rose is one of them. JAWs lists him as the fifth most Hall-worthy left-fielder ever (well ahead of Tim Raines, for example). He’s eighth among eligible non-Hall of Famers in WAR on Baseball-Reference and seventh in WAR on FanGraphs and in Hall Rating on HallofStats.com. Had Roseretired before a series of sub-replacement seasons he could rank even higher. It’s not unreasonable to argue using career value stats that he’s the fourth or fifth best player outside of the Hall.
Thus Rose, like a host of others here, is likely held down in voting for this project by non-baseball factors. Unlike those drug-accused others, his transgressions did not affect how good a baseball player he was.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Pete should have a place in the Hall of Fame. It does mean he should have a place very high up on this list.
14. Larry Walker, 161 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 119 yes, 37 no, 5 N/A), written by Brendan Bingham:
Most players perform better at home than on the road, but Larry Walker is an unusual case. His career numbers are dominated by the extreme park effects of pre-humidor Coors Field, making it difficult to compare him to other players of his day.
Limiting the analysis to road splits and choosing career slash line as the metric, let’s get a glimpse of the Larry Walker who would have existed had he never played for the Colorado Rockies. Slash line is a vast oversimplification, but it provides a quick and easy handle on hitting performance, especially when era and career length are controlled for. Like Walker, all of the players mentioned below played from the late 80s or early 90s through at least 2005, and all had at least 4000 plate appearances on the road.
As a hitter, Walker (.278/.370/.495) was a step ahead of Steve Finley (.273/.332/.447) and Ivan Rodriquez (.285/.322/.447), but no match for Manny Ramirez (.314/.409/.580), Frank Thomas (.297/.414/.511) or Jeff Bagwell (.291/.398/.521). Walker was somewhere in between, part of a cluster that includes Bernie Williams (.299/.378/.479), Luis Gonzalez (.283/.367/.489), Rafael Palmeiro (.291/.366/.502) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (.272/.355/.505).
Thanks to Coors Field, Walker was Superman at home and Jeff Kent (.290/.353/.504) on the road.
15. Mark McGwire, 158 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 99 yes, 56 no, 3 N/A), written by Susan Fornoff. Fornoff was instrumental in getting female reporters access to locker rooms and wrote a book about it. She covered McGwire and the Oakland Athletics’ beat for the Sacramento Bee in the 1980s and ’90s:
In the final round of a home-run derby pool in the spring of 1987, because no other name came to mind, I chose Mark McGwire. He wasn’t supposed to be a starter for the Oakland A’s that year, but, geez, he looked powerful and had hit three homers in an 18-game major-league cameo a year earlier. It was the last round, what the heck.
Needless to say, I cleaned up in that home-run pool when McGwire hit 49 homers, drove in 118 runs and hit .289 to coast to the Rookie of the Year award. All of us who watched him marveled at his seemingly limited potential.
We also marveled at his huge arms and neck the next spring. How on earth did he grow so much in just a few months?
McGwire excelled in the steroid era. If I represented him during so many years he stayed quiet thereafter, I probably would’ve advise him to just come out and say so. Say, “I’m sorry I used steroids. But I played in the era of the steroid. I did the best I could in the conditions of the game at the time.” Three years ago, he finally came clean.
With 15 seasons of 20 homers or more — and 12 of those over 30 — plus seven seasons of 100 RBIs or more, a respectable career batting average of .263 and a pretty nifty glove at first when he was healthy and at his best, McGwire deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Apply a steroid tariff — 20 percent, even — and he’d make it in any other baseball era.
16. Curt Schilling, 157 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 127 yes, 27 no, 3 N/A), written by Amanda Gill:
Curt Schilling is most well known as a member of the Boston Red Sox for the infamous “Bloody Sock.” However, there was more to Schilling’s playing career than one postseason legend. Schilling spent time with five teams during his MLB career: the Orioles, Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox and he went to the World Series with the Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox, winning World Series Championships with Arizona (2001) and Boston (2004, 2007). Across his 20 years in the big leagues, Schilling amassed numerous impressive statistics including a career record of 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA, 3116 strikeouts to 711 walks, and an 11-2 record with a 2.23 ERA in postseason play. Schilling’s true lore lies in the postseason where he accumulated accolades including a NLCS MVP award with the Phillies in 1993, and a share of a World Series MVP with Randy Johnson when the Arizona Diamondbacks won in 2001. Curt Schilling deserves to be added into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. As a six-time All-Star and a three-time World Series champion, Schilling boasts a phenomenal combination of regular season and postseason success that he deserves to be enshrined for.
17. Dwight Evans, 155 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 98 yes, 51 no, 6 N/A), written by Dalton Mack of High Heat Stats:
Dewey never had the MVPs nor the widespread praise that outfield mates Fred Lynn or Jim Rice could lay claim to, was never the talk of Major League Baseball in his rookie season nor considered the “most feared hitter in baseball.” What Dwight Evans was however, was the 4th greatest position player in Red Sox history by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), behind only men named Williams, Yastrzemski and Boggs.
He only led the American League once in a traditional slash category (22 HRs in strike-shortened 1981), but where Evans excelled was in decidedly unsexy areas, like drawing walks and playing great defense. In fact, his 103 Fielding Runs from 1974-81 was, among outfielders, second only to Garry Maddox.
So why the lack of BBWAA support for Evans, who peaked at a tad over ten percent his second year on the ballot and fell off the following cycle? Likely for the same reason that keeps Alan Trammell from making Hall of Fame progress year after year—Evans did a host of things very well, without being truly outstanding at any particular one.
18. Dick Allen, 154 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 101 yes, 47 no, 6 N/A), written by Neal Kendrick of High Heat Stats:
The 1960’s and 70’s had some amazing players, all time greats like Mays, Aaron, & Frank Robinson. However there was one other great basher in that period that has largely been forgotten. Perhaps it’s because he was never a graceful fielder making dazzling plays, or maybe simply because he was traveling from city to city, but with the batDick Allen was right up there with anybody. Probably the best way to evaluate a player’s hitting ability is wRC+. It factors era, league, and home ballpark to give a true measure of a hitter’s performance, with 100 being average. Dick Allen had a 155 career wRC+. From 1963-1977, the length of Dick Allen’s career, that was tied with Frank Robinson for the best mark in baseball, ahead of pantheon guys like Mays, Aaron, Clemente, and Reggie Jackson. Allen was a dynamic all around hitter, who 3 times lead the league in Slugging Percentage, and twice in On-Base Percentage. He won an MVP award in 1972, receiving 21 of a possible 24 first place votes, in what arguably wasn’t even his best season. He had a slightly higher WAR in 1964 as a rookie. Dick Allen may not have been one of the most complete players of all-time, but he was certainly one of the best hitters of all-time. Across virtually the same timeframe Willie McCovey had .374 OBP and .515 SLG% with poor defense at first, while Dick Allen had a .378 OBP and .534 SLG% with poor defense at first and third. If McCovey can make it on the first ballot then Dick Allen should make it too.
19. Mike Mussina *New to ballot*, 150 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 125 yes, 22 no, 3 N/A), written by Jen Mac Ramos of Beyond the Box Score:
1999 was a good year for pitching. For one, Pedro Martinez was having a career year — one that lead to winning the AL Cy Young award. Everyone remembers Pedro. There’s Mariano Rivera, Bartolo Colon, David Cone, Jamie Moyer. They’re all easy to name. I know those were some of the first players I was aware of when I started following the game in 2007.
But then, there’s Mike Mussina. He kinda flew under the radar — pitching for the Orioles for more than half his career, and mostly on Orioles teams that were middlingin the AL East. That didn’t stop Mussina from throwing numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame: 3.68 ERA, 23 CGSHO, 3.58 K/BB, 0.95 HR/9, 82.8 RA9-WAR, 82.7 rWAR. He also averaged 34 games started for every 162 games his team played. Mike Mussina was a consistent pitcher, with some of the best numbers a career could have.
20. Lou Whitaker, 148 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 123 yes, 23 no, 2 N/A), written by Paul McCord of Braves Paul:
When “Sweet Lou” retired, he was one of only five second baseman ever with 200 homers, 1000 runs scored, and 1000 RBI (Alomar, Biggio, and Kent have since made Whitaker one of eight). His 74.8 career bWAR was highest among position players on the 2001 Hall of Fame ballot, including inductees Dave Winfield (64.0) and Kirby Puckett (50.8). He was clearly one of the best offensive second baseman in baseball history, and he was part of the most prolific double-play duo the game has ever seen. So why was Whitaker dismissed from Hall of Fame consideration so unceremoniously in his only year on the ballot?
Whitaker’s career numbers are remarkably similar to Ryne Sandberg’s (each is the other’s most similar batter in MLB history), which works well for this discussion since “Ryno” also played second base and wound up in the Hall of Fame. A comparison reveals that Whitaker’s consistency may actually have been his Hall of Fame weakness. He didn’t shine as brightly on consistently good Tigers teams as Sandberg did on consistently bad Cubs teams, and Whitaker’s lengthy peak that lasted late until his retirement simply lacked flair compared to Sandberg’s eye-popping numbers (and eventual flame-out).
21. Rafael Palmeiro, 146 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 80 yes, 57 no, 9 N/A), written by Mike Hllywa:
Let’s say you’re a General Manager, and you have the chance to add a player to your roster who averages a slash line of .288/.371/.515 for every 162 games played. That’s good for an OPS+ of 132. Would you do it? Of course you would. Who wouldn’t want an above average hitter with an above average walk-rate and above average power? And that is the type of hitter than Rafael Palmeiro was for the balance of his career.
But none of that is ever going to matter to the BBWAA because Palmeiro got busted when a urinalysis came back positive for steroids.
Was it the Ballpark in Arlington or the short walls at Camden Yards that played perfectly to the kind of swing that Palmeiro had? Or was it the anabolic cocktails that he was taking? We will never know. But we will always know this: From Palmeiro’s rookie season on, he never posted an OPS+ below 108, and that came in the final two seasons of his career. He wasn’t the best defender despite his fabled Gold Glove season in 1999. But with a bat in his hand, Rafael Palmeiro had few equals during his 20-year baseball career. Very few equals.
When baseball was taken from me in my youth by a confusing labor dispute my passion for the game waned and I experimented with other sports. I wandered in the football and soccer territories but was called home by Sammy Sosa and 1998. We’ve learned a lot about what was behind those home run chases. The luster is gone but I do remember Sosa in a warmer light than most. His 609 HR total and career slash line of .273/.344/.534 isn’t as impressive as it seemed 20 years ago but those numbers still speak to a player who was great at his peak, even if the numbers were augmented by playing conditions (probable) and chemicals (likely).
Sosa is a polarizing figure whose greatness is overshadowed by what went on during his career, but I feel that history will be kinder to him in the long run. It’s irresponsible to pretend that he didn’t happen and we should make peace with his place in baseball history.
23. Luis Tiant, 133 votes out of 208, (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 85 yes, 42 no, 6 N/A), written by Andrew Martin of Baseball Historian:
Tiant is an interesting case. Although he had 229 wins, a 3.30 ERA and 2,416 strikeouts, he comes across as more of an accumulator because of his 19-year career. Make no mistake about it though, because he was a dominant pitcher.
A severe shoulder injury abbreviated his 1970 and 1971 seasons and caused him to reinvent himself in his prime, which prevented him from padding his already impressive resume.
The right hander’s record is one of contradictions. He won 20 or more games four times, led the league in ERA twice, and totaled an impressive 187 complete games and 49 shutouts. His career WAR of 66.1 is 40th all-time among pitchers according to BaseballReference.com. On the other hand, he made just three All-Star teams and never finished higher than fourth in Cy Young voting—both things Hall of Fame pundits typically hold in high regard.
Bert Blyleven (career ERA+ of 118), who was a similar accumulator and took 14 years of steadily increasing vote totals to finally get inducted, is a reason for Tiant (career ERA+ of 114) to have hope. However, since Tiant fell off the ballot in 2002, his fate rests in the hands of the Veterans Committee.
Robert Anthony Grich was a first-round draft pick of the Orioles in 1967 and played shortstop during his time in the minors before settling in at second in Baltimore in 1973 after the O’s traded away Davey Johnson.
Grich was a confident soul. Writer Phil Jackman recounted one day in 1970, Frank Robinson came by when Grich was talking about hitting and remarked: “What does a rookie like you know about hitting?” Grich replied to Robinson: “Tell you something, pal. I’ll be hitting for 10 years around here after you’re gone.”
1972 was the Grich’s first full season in the big leagues, and he compiled a 127 OPS+ (.278/.358/.415) while being named an All-Star and receiving a few down-ballot MVP votes. He quickly established himself as an excellent fielder, with good range, soft hands, a good arm, and skill turning the double play. He won four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1973-1976 and in 1973 he set an all-time major league fielding record with a .995 fielding percentage (he broke that record in 1985, with a .997). For his career he out-performed his peers in Range Factor (5.70 to 5.40 per 9 innings) and fielding percentage (.984 to .979).
He left the Orioles via free agency after 1976 and spent the next ten years with the Angels, logging a 124 OPS+, three All-Star appearances, two years with MVP votes, and a Silver Slugger award in the strike-shortened 1981 season. Despite all of his regular season success, he never played in a World Series. He himself batted a mere .182/.247/.318 in 24 post-season games.
How should we think of Bobby Grich now? Well of the top 10 second baseman in Jay Jaffe’s JAWS Hall of Fame metric, only Grich is missing from Cooperstown. His WAR, WAR7 (7 best seasons) and JAWS scores are all above the average of the enshrinees, and the WAR7 and JAWS scores are better than current “missing from the Hall” darling Lou Whitaker.
[Lofton is third from left. Photo from 1980 Senior League teammate Tony Puente.]
You don’t need me to tell you that Kenny Lofton was a six-time All-Star who won four Gold Gloves. It doesn’t take a third party to point out that the Hall of Stats has Lofton as the sixth-best center fielder in MLB history. And I hope it is obvious that Lofton’s falling off the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility is one of the biggest mistakes the BBWAA has ever made.
But the stats don’t tell you that, for a baseball fan growing up in Cleveland, Lofton’s infectious energy came to define the great Indians teams of the 1990’s. With all due respect to fans of the many other teams he played for later in his career, those outside Northeast Ohio might not know what a joy it was to watch him flying across the dirt to steal a base or leaping into — or over — the wall to make a jaw-dropping catch.
I still look at Lofton with the same sense of childlike wonder that I did when my dad would take me to Jacobs Field as a kid. And I know I’m not alone.
26. Ted Simmons, 123 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 97 yes, 22 no, 4 N/A):
Former Hall of Fame senior research associate Bill Deane wrote for this project last year:
As a teenager in the mid-1970s, I’d hear people debating about who was the best catcher in baseball: Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, or Thurman Munson? I’d say, “What about Ted Simmons? The guy hit .332 with 100 RBI!” I’d get only puzzled looks from people who were barely aware that St. Louis had a team.
That exemplified Simmons’s problems in getting attention throughout his career: He played in media-Siberias and was overshadowed by two contemporary HOF catchers. But consider their average HR-RBI-AVG stats from 1971-80: Bench (27-93-.263), Fisk (16-57-.285), Simmons (17-90-.301). Simba was also unjustly regarded as a poor defensive catcher; I tackle this legend at length in my book, Baseball Myths. (Editor’s note: Page 375 of The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract notes: ‘Bill Deane has studied the records at great length, and demonstrated that Simmons threw out an above-average percentage of opposing base stealers in his prime seasons.’)
Ted Simmons retired as the all-time leader in hits and doubles among catchers, and ranked second in RBI behind only Yogi Berra. Only Ivan Rodriguez has surpassed him in those categories since. Yet, Simmons was dropped from the BBWAA HOF ballot after one try, then waited 16 years to be snubbed by the Veterans’ Committee. His next try is this December.
Simmons was one of the ten best all-around catchers in baseball history. He deserves serious consideration for Cooperstown.
Usually, the list of players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame is filled with those who excelled, but cannot be called the best at anything. (Leaving the tiresome steroids arguments aside, that is.) Or if they managed to reach the absolute peak at some part of baseball, it’s a remarkably narrow one, and mitigated by other failings in their game. Lenny Harris and pinch-hitting, or Pat Tabler and bases-loaded situations come to mind.
But Keith Hernandez is the finest defensive first baseman I’ve ever seen, and I suspect will ever see. He came along just before defensive metrics allowed the baseball world to more completely factor this incredibly aspect of his game into total value, so it became almost a trivialized fact you’d find about him on the back of a Topps card: “Keith enjoys fishing, hunting, and playing first base as well as anyone, ever.”
Those lucky enough to have seen baseball when Vic Power or Gil Hodges or, when he was on the level, Hal Chase played it might disagree. But I’ve seen many first basemen since Hernandez-no one comes close.
We have no advanced defensive metrics from Hernandez’s time, though. So we are left with this fact, along with an offensive game that isn’t a blight upon his overall record, like Power’s or a man on the other side of the high brick wall to entry, Bill Mazeroski.
He was an astonishingly graceful hitter, with an offensive game notable for its breadth. Hernandez won an MVP in 1979, a year he hit .344 with 48 doubles, both league-leading marks. A year later, his .408 on-base percentage led the league as well. He recorded nine double-digit home run seasons, hitting 15 at age 23, 18 at age 33. He had a pair of top-ten NL finishes in triples. He walked 100 times one season, led the league in walks another season, and his team won the World Series both times.
I find OPS+ a terrific catch-all offensive stat. Hernandez, for his career, is at 128, a bit below Orlando Cepeda’s 133, a bit ahead of Tony Perez’s 122.
Both Perez and Cepeda, of course, are Hall of Famers. And nobody ever mistook them for Keith Hernandez in the field. There is that, the profound way Hernandez’s fielding could alter a game. It’s the kind of thing that should get a guy enshrined in Cooperstown.
“You look at two aspects of my career,” Tommy John said after being named the inaugural member of The Hall of Very Good™ two years ago. “You look at 26 years and you figure you’ve got to be doing something to be around for 26 years. You look at the wins, the complete games, innings pitched…and you couple that with coming back from Tommy John surgery, I think that my name should be up there with anybody.”
Pretty much sums it up, right?
The pride of Terre Haute, Indiana is probably known for two things…longevity and that surgery. Truth is, you don’t have one without the other.
We can sit here and talk about John’s 288 wins and how, when he retired in May 1989, they placed him 21st all-time and how Bobby Mathews was, at the time, only one Hall-eligible not in the Hall of Fame.
But it always comes back to that surgery, doesn’t it?
You know the story. It’s July 1974 and the 31-year-old was shelved with a pretty impressive career ERA of 2.97 and after putting up back-to-back seasons where he led the National League in winning percentage. 639 days later, the lefty would re-emerge on the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers with a new arm. He’d go on and throw 2544 innings post-surgery and collect 164 wins along the way. Sure, the ERA was a little higher than before…but John’s overall control was better.
It sounds cliché, but John had two careers that a number of pitchers would be envious of and when you add them up, you find that he belongs among those enshrined in Cooperstown.
29. Dale Murphy, 114 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 46 yes, 65 no, 3 N/A):
Murphy’s son Chadwick wrote for this project last year:
Of course I’m a little biased, but I think there’s no doubt that my dad was one of the top 5 or so players of the 1980s (eerily similar to Gil Hodges in the 50s, in fact.) No matter which side of the peak vs. longevity debate you come down on, you can always find exceptions who are already in the Hall of Fame. Even with his late-career decline, my dad was 19th on the all-time home run list (just behind Duke Snider, I believe) when he retired.
The other important consideration (which I discuss at some length here) is all the intangibles he brought to the game: the way he inspired a generation of baseball fans, especially in the South; his long streak of consecutive games for a set of Braves teams that were, for the most part, truly awful; and, most importantly (in my opinion), the integrity he brought to the way he played the game. He’s a walking advertisement, in fact, for the very cliche but undoubtedly true notion that it’s not what you achieve that matters most but how you achieve it. So it’s not just that my dad was “a nice guy.”
True, being a model citizen off-the-field shouldn’t be totally relevant to HOF decisions, but these days the more pertinent character issue, I believe, is whether or not you cut corners for personal gain and by doing so compromised the integrity of the game. Not only did my dad make the correct decisions– for himself and for the game– but he also managed to put up impressive numbers in the process. If such a well-rounded career is not worthy of the top 50, not to mention the HOF, then we might do well to re-evaluate a few things.
30. Fred McGriff, 113 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 56 yes, 55 no, 2 N/A), written by Neil Paine of fivethirtyeight.com:
McGriff’s acquisition by the Braves in the summer of 1993 has always stood out as one of my favorite “you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up” stories from baseball history. On the evening of McGriff’s Atlanta debut, a freak press-box fire delayed Atlanta’s game by 2 hours; he went on to homer in the Braves’ win later that night, touching off a stretch run in which the Crime Dog hit .310/.392/.612 and Atlanta won 51 of the 68 games he played, overcoming a 10-game deficit in July to pass the Giants for the NL West crown on the last day of the regular season.
At the time, McGriff seemed to have a good chance at the Hall of Fame, with 262 career HR and a 153 OPS+ through age 30. But from 1995 onward, McGriff — while still good — was not the hitter he once was (with the exception of vintage late-career seasons in 1999 & 2001), even as contemporaries like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire continued to hit like superstars.
Then again, this has come to be a point in McGriff’s favor in recent years, as McGriff’s name has remained clean while many of peers who outpaced him in their 30s were implicated in doping scandals. In the end, McGriff’s legacy will be as a key cog on the dynasty Braves of the 90s and one of the best clean power hitters of his era… There are worse marks to leave on the game.
31. (Tie) Jack Morris, 109 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 51 yes, 54 no, 4 N/A), written by Alex Putterman, assistant sports editor for the Daily Northwestern (Northwestern University):
Much (much, much) has been written about Jack Morris’s statistical inadequacy as compared to Hall of Fame precedents. The debate about the former Tigers ace’s Hall qualifications has essentially overwhelmed all other conversation about his career.
Truth is, Morris compares unfavorably to most pitching inductees of the last 40 years and to numerous non-Hall of Fame pitchers as well — using both stats conceived a century ago and formulas created yesterday. By the numbers, Morris’s lack of worthiness should be near-unanimous.
Last year more than two thirds of BBWAA voters granted the righthander a Hall vote.
Morris has finished in the top 40 of this project three of its four years.
Knowledgeable and reasonable baseball people insist he belongs in Cooperstown.
I’m too young to have experienced Morris’s career in real time. All I have to evaluate him are those underwhelming statistics. That and the opinions of my elders.
So, as I figure, the best argument for Morris’s inclusion on this list and in the Hall is that a lot of people think he should be on this list and in the Hall.
31. (Tie) Jeff Kent *New to ballot*, 109 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 74 yes, 31 no, 4 N/A), written by Kyla Wall-Polin:
Jeff Kent might be the textbook borderline Hall of Fame candidate. 60 WAR is a number that’s often thrown around as the dividing line between the great and the really really good, and no matter how you calculate it, Kent falls just a little short, with roughly 56 WAR. Kent was an adequate defensive second baseman at best, and he is – apparently this matters to the voters – kind of a jerk, as well as the world’s worst truck detailer.
Great, got that out of the way. Kent is also one of the best hitting second basemen in the history of the game. That slightly less than 60 WAR? Good for the 17th best among all 2Bs. His 351 career home runs stands as the record at his position, and with a career slash line of .290/.356/.500, a wOBA of .367 and a wRC+ of 123, he was no three true outcomes slugger. Kent received MVP votes in seven seasons, winning in 2000. Hitting cleanup after Barry Bonds during his peak years, Kent was half of one of the nastiest one-two punches in baseball’s recent history, and like his teammate, he deserves to be honored in the Hall of Fame.
Graig Nettles was one of the greatest power-hitting third basemen in history (his 390 home runs rank 5th among players who spent most of their career at the position), but was overshadowed because he played in the same era as Mike Schmidt, the greatest power-hitting third baseman ever.
Nettles was also one of the greatest defensive third basemen in history (he’s among the top ten in fielding runs for third basemen at Baseball Reference and FanGraphs), but was overshadowed because he played in the same era as Brooks Robinson, the greatest defensive third baseman ever.
The hot corner is the most underrepresented position in Cooperstown, there are only 13 third basemen enshrined. Nettles’ 68 WAR beat the average of those 13 players’ totals, and are the most by any eligible third baseman not already inducted. Nettlesnever received more than 8.3% of the BBWAA Hall of Fame vote, and fell off the ballot after just four years. That’s a shame, because he’s now largely overlooked or unknown to modern fans, and he deserves much better.
34. Joe Torre, 104 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 79 yes, 20 no, 5 N/A), written by Stacey Gotsulias of It’s About The Money:
Joe Torre was elected into the Hall Of Fame last month and will be enshrined this summer primarily for his managerial accomplishments (2,236 wins and four World Series titles being among them.) Some baseball pundits would argue that Torre had a pretty strong case for going into the Hall of Fame merely for what he did as a player.
In 18 years of playing time in a strong pitcher’s era (1960-1977), Torre batted .297/.365/.452/.817, with a .364 wOBA, 129 wRC+ and he amassed a 57.4 WAR. Torre was also a nine-time All-Star and won the NL MVP award in 1971. That year, Torre led the National League with a .363 batting average, and he clubbed 230 hits while driving in 137 runs.
Torre’s WAR total places him 7th all-time for catchers on Baseball Reference’s list which puts him ahead of Hall of Famers Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane but the problem with Joe Torre according to the Hall of Stats is that even though he played the most behind the dish, that position only accounts for 41% of his playing time – he also played 36% of the time at first base and 26% of the time third base. And while it could be argued that Torre did a nice job at all three positions, players like that seem to be viewed differently than players who are known for one position for most of their career and it could be why Torre has been overlooked as a player.
35. Minnie Minoso, 100 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 76 yes, 20 no, 4 N/A):
Former Hall of Fame research librarian Gabriel Schechter wrote for this project last year:
A dynamic player who combined power and speed at a time when it was rare, Saturnino “Minnie” Minoso starred for the Chicago White Sox for the bulk of his lengthy career. The Cuban-born left fielder was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1951, batted .300 in eight All-Star Games, and won three Gold Glove awards. Consistent production was his hallmark. In the 11-year period from 1951-1961, he hit over .300 eight times, scored 90+ runs nine times, topped 100 RBI four times, and was always in double figures in home runs and stolen bases. He also led the AL in getting hit by pitches ten times and in stolen bases and triples three times each, a testament to the speed that electrified the league. The “Go! Go!” chant of White Sox fans early in his career became the mantra of the 1959 AL champs, and even though he had been traded to the Indians two seasons earlier, he remained so popular in Chicago that Chisox owner Bill Veeck gave him a World Series ring.
If he were friendlier and the winner of a memorable Game 7, Kevin Brown might have remained on the ballot long enough for voters to recognize his superiority to Jack Morris. Alas, Brown was neither and must settle for being one of the game’s dominant pitchers from 1992 to 2001, ranking fifth in ERA+ and bWAR among pitchers that decade (behind only Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens). The rest of his career was spent being merely very good, like Morris.
Brown led his league in ERA twice and wins once, and consistently ranked among the top ten in multiple pitching categories. He probably should have won the NL Cy Young Award in 1996 and 1998. Heck, he led MLB in bWAR and fWAR in ’98, and that includes position players.
Maybe if he had hugged babies instead of smashing toilets, things would be different. Even so, it’s hard to understand a process that elects Catfish Hunter in three tries and dismisses Brown without a thought. One ranks 109th in career bWAR and 46th in ERA+, the other ranks 460th and 535th. You can guess which is which and why Brown didn’t receive more serious consideration.
Hug babies. Don’t smash toilets. Don’t have a career that coincides with those of Maddux, Martinez, Johnson, and Clemens.
37. Jim Kaat, 97 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 58 yes, 35 no, 4 N/A), written by Brandon Warne of ESPN 1500:
Jim Kaat’s Hall of Fame credentials are a lot like a couple of other 200-plus game winners who also didn’t make Cooperstown in Luis Tiant and Tommy John. Tiant didn’t quite have the same number of innings or appearances as the other two did, but still hung around to win nearly 230 games in 1000-plus innings fewer than the other two.
Each had their phenomenal peaks. Four times Tiant won 20 games, and his 1.60 ERA in 258.1 innings paced the American League in 1968. John won 20 games three times, but won 10 or more games in 17 seasons as part of a testament to his longevity (26 years). It’s almost a shame John is likely known more for the surgery that bears his name than his on efforts on the field.
Kaat also won 20 games three times, and is one of just three Twins pitchers to throw 300 innings in a season (1966). Kaat had double-digit win totals in 15 seasons, and despite never leading the league in ERA, or really in anything other than hits allowed, hit by pitch, and wild pitches, he still has one of the best fWARs (69.8) of all non-Hall pitchers. That WAR actually ranks him 31st all-time.
38. Gil Hodges, 93 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 59 yes, 32 no, 2 N/A), written by Nick Diunte of Examiner.com:
Hodges is the leading vote-getter in BBWAA elections for the Hall of Fame that has yet to be elected. He finished third in the Hall of Fame balloting of 1976. Ten of the next 11 players behind him in votes were eventually elected to the Hall of Fame. Why is he not there?
By the time he played his last game, his 370 home runs set the record for right-handed hitters in the National League. He played Gold Glove caliber defense at first base, long before the award was created, and as a manager, he guided the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series Championship.
Sadly, his promising managerial career was cut short after he suffered a fatal heart attack during spring training in 1972. With this year’s election of Joe Torre, who compares very favorably as a player and a manager, it is further evidence that it is time to put Gil Hodges in the Hall of Fame.
If nicknames were a voting criteria, Don Mattingly would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Despite its simplicity, “Donnie Baseball” says more about Mattingly than any one statistic. A tireless worker, the Evansville native played the game the right way, and, as Captain of the Yankees, he imparted his baseball wisdom to countless others. In addition, the proliferation of #23 on the backs of the generation that followed was a testament to the admiration and respect he garnered from young fans around the country, not just in New York.
Mattingly’s greatness as a player isn’t simply defined by intangibles. With nine gold gloves, he is also one of the most decorated defensive first basemen in history. Oh yeah, he could also flat out hit. From 1984 to 1989, Mattingly’s 160 home runs, 684 RBIs, and .902 OPS all ranked at or near the top of the major league lead. In the midst of that run, he won an MVP and batting title, was named to six All Star teams, and, in a 1986 New York Times poll, was voted the best player in baseball by his peers.
Don Mattingly was never the same after the 1989 season. Hampered by a chronic back injury, his final six seasons were a relative struggle. Still, he was the Captain…a rare bright spot during one of the darkest periods in Yankees’ history. And, even though he’ll probably never make the Hall of Fame, Donnie Baseball will always be the epitome of a ballplayer, not to mention one the greatest to ever play the game.
40. (Tie) Ken Boyer, 90 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 54 yes, 34 no, 2 N/A), written by Christine Coleman of Aaron Miles’ Fastball:
The cover story in the March 1965 issue of Dell Sports magazine touted third basemen Ken Boyer and Brooks Robinson as “Hottest Ever at the Hot Corner” in a preview of the upcoming season. Boyer was the 1964 National League MVP and a key contributor to the St. Louis Cardinals World Series championship that year. The next spring, he and Robinson were described as “two of the best third basemen in baseball history. Possibly the best ever,” in the Dell Sports article by Dave Anderson. Robinson, of course, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983 and had a career line of .267/.322/.401 with 268 home runs, 1357 RBI and 80.2 WAR in a career that was eight years longer than Boyer’s 15 seasons. His big league debut was delayed two years due to service in the Army, and Boyer compiled a line of .287/.349/.462 with 282 home runs, 1141 RBI and 54.8 WAR while winning five Gold Gloves and being named an All-Star seven times. The Cardinals retired his number – a distinction typically bestowed by the team to Hall of Famers – in 1984, two years after his untimely death from cancer at age 51.
40. (Tie) David Cone, 90 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 41 yes, 42 no, 7 N/A), written by Dan McLaughlin of Baseball Crank:
The curveball was the first thing you noticed. In his second appearance with the Mets in 1987, David Cone entered a tense game with the bases loaded and froze Jack Clark with that jaw-dropping curve. Many more victims would follow in the years to come.
When Cone arrived in Queens from the Royals in 1987, he was a nervous, baby-faced 24-year-old, already in his seventh professional season; he had recovered slowly from a knee injury that cost him the 1983 season after a breakout 16-3, 2.08 ERA campaign in A ball and likely kept him from being a part of the young Royals staff that won the 1985 World Series.
Despite years of missed opportunities, bad timing, injuries and controversies, the career Cone actually had was pretty fantastic. His best year, a 16-5 Cy Young campaign with the Royals, was cut short by the 1994 strike. As a rookie, he had his pinky crushed by a pitch while bunting; the next year he went 20-3 with a 2.22 ERA, but shot his mouth off and got shelled in the NLCS. The Mets never recaptured 1986, but Cone got a ring after a midseason trade to Toronto in 1992 and three more with the Yankees, the first after missing two-thirds of the 1996 season with a shoulder aneurysm.
42. Bill Dahlen, 86 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 81 yes, 5 no), written by Adam Darowski, creator of The Hall of Stats:
In my role as chair of SABR’s Nineteenth Century Overlooked Legend Committee, my charge is to identify and campaign for candidates from over a century ago who have been denied entry to the Hall of Fame for a variety of reasons. In my other role as creator of the Hall of Stats, my obsession is identifying and campaigning for candidates who produced statistically at a Hall of Fame level but remain on the outside.
These two sets of candidates have very little overlap, but there are a pair of shortstops who played in the nineteenth century with overwhelming statistical cases—Jack Glasscock (who remains terribly underrated and didn’t make this list) and Bill Dahlen (who came two votes shy of the Hall of Fame in 2013 and has a strong chance of induction via the Pre-Integration ballot in 2016).
A century before there was Alan Trammell, there was Bill Dahlen. Both players are the most easily overlooked type of candidate—the one who was good at everything but didn’t dominate in one way. Like Trammell, Dahlen was a long-time shortstop who played the position so well that he was never removed from it. Dahlen’s 2,133 games at short rank 11th all time (Trammell had six more). The new-dangled defensive numbers (Total Zone runs, specifically) say Dahlen was an exceptional fielder. That’s backed up by Dahlen’s eight top three finishes in fielding percentage and ten top three finishes in range factor.
While Dahlen hit only .272, he paired his 2,461 hits with 1,064 walks, raising his OBP to .358. This leads to an OPS+ of 110, above average for all players but certainly for a shortstop.
Combining Dahlen’s longevity, well-above average offense, spectacular defense, and great baserunning (he stole 548 bases) makes him one of the very best eligible players outside of the Hall. And you’ll notice that the voters who know about him overwhelmingly support him.
43. Darrell Evans, 82 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 34 yes, 44 no, 4 N/A), written by Rob Neyer of SB Nation:
It’s one of baseball’s great historical coincidences: Two of the game’s all-time underrated players, both of them active in the 1970s and ’80s, shared the last name Evans and the same first initial. One almost wonders if Major League Baseball secretly decreed that Dwight and Darrell could never play on the same team. Because it just would have been too confusing for everyone involved.
A lot of smart people think that Dwight Evans, and not Jim Rice, was the 1980s Red Sox outfielder who belongs in the Hall of Fame. And you know what? Some of those same people think that Darrell Evans has been sadly neglected by Hall of Fame voters.
Neglected? “Ignored” is more like it. In Evans’ first and only appearance on the BBWAA’s ballot, he received EIGHT votes. He received eight votes despite finishing his career with approximately 60 Wins Above Replacement, which at the time (1995) placed Evans 12th all-time among major leaguers who spent at least half their career at third base.
Of course, the voters at the time didn’t have Wins Above Replacement. And even if they had, it wouldn’t have made much difference. Evans finished his career with a .248 batting average. That was more than balanced by his .361 on-base percentage, but voters at the time — and still today! — care very little about on-base percentage. Evans did hit 414 home runs when that meant something … but he drove in 100 runs just once in his whole career.
So it’s not surprising that DWIGHT Evans got only eight votes. It’s actually quite understandable. But that doesn’t make it right.
44. Dave Parker, 77 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 32 yes, 42 no, 3 N/A), written by Dan Epstein, Rolling Stone Magazine columnist and author of the upcoming Stars and Strikes:
During the spring training of 1979, Pirates right fielder Dave Parker announced that he had his sights set on his third straight batting title. “When the leaves turn brown,” The Cobra famously prophesied, “Dave Parker will have the batting crown.” It seemed a highly plausible prediction; likewise, one could have easily rhymed at the time that, when Parker’s career finally wound down, he would surely have his ticket punched to Cooperstown. But things didn’t quite play out like that…
If The Natural had been penned by George Clinton, Roy Hobbs would have turned out something like Dave Parker — a mountain of a man and true five-tool player with a lethal bat, a cannon arm and enough funky bravado and star quality to light up a Soul Train set all by his lonesome. One of the most thrilling players (and feared hitters) of the mid/late 70s, Parker had the goods to be one of the all-time greats, and he most likely would have been a shoo-in for the Hall if he hadn’t been derailed for a while in the early 80s by injuries, drugs and other distractions.
But if his star never again burned as brightly as it did circa ’75-‘79, The Cobra still managed to finish his 19-year career in 1991 with 2,712 career hits, a .290 batting average, a 1978 NL MVP trophy, two NL batting titles, one NL RBI title, three Gold Glove awards, three Silver Sluggers, two World Series rings, and a highlight reel to rival Shaft in both overall length and sheer badassery. (Editor’s note: On this website, badassery is and will always be a word.)
45. (Tie) Lee Smith, 76 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 45 yes, 28 no, 3 N/A), written by William Tasker of MLBDirt.com and It’s About the Money:
Lee Arthur Smith was born in Louisiana in 1957 and pitched eighteen years in the Major Leagues for eight different teams. Smith was drafted out of high school by the Cubs in the second round of the 1975 draft. After toiling in the minors for four seasons, the Cubs converted him to the bullpen and except for six Major League starts, he remained there for the rest of his career.
Smith led the league four times in Saves and Games Finished and retired as the all-time leader in both categories. Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera eclipsed those totals and Smith now stands third all time.
Perhaps Smith’s best season was 1991 with the Cardinals when he led the league with 47 Saves and finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting.
Smith’s career view suffers in hindsight from Hoffman and Rivera who followed him and from his two losses in four post season appearances. But he was a top closer in the game during his era.
OPS+ is an odd stat. It adds two things that aren’t based upon the same thing and then compares them to an average. Everyone who understands the stat fully recognizes that it undervalues On-Base Percentage and over values slugging. Guys like Willie Randolph take the biggest hit with OPS+. OPS+ saysRandolph’s just 4% better than the average hitter who played during the course of his career. That’s not a true picture. He was 8 times in the top 10 in Walks, leading the league once, and six times in the top 10 in OBP. Randolph’s .373 OBP came in an era with a league OBP of .325. Meanwhile he hit only 54 HR in over 8000 ABs, leading to a 41 point lower than league average SLG. But, OBP is worth almost half as much more than SLG, so Randolph was likely 10% more valuable as a hitter than his league and that’s without factoring in his solid baserunning. Randolph was also an outstanding defender. His 19.4 dWAR ranks him sixth all-time at 2B. Meanwhile his WAR is 11th among 2B nestled nicely between HOFers Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio,* and Jackie Robinson.
47. Bobby Bonds, 74 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 23 yes, 48 no, 3 N/A), written by Peter Nash of Hauls of Shame:
Bobby Bonds never had the numbers to warrant his waltzing into Cooperstown and his claim to fame today is more for his ties to the ballplayer who did put up the best numbers in baseball history and likely won’t waltz into the Hall either. The father of Barry Bonds, however, was more than a sperm donor who created the game’s most controversial PED-fueled slugger, he was a notable ballplayer in his own right and number 47 on BBP&P’s 50 Greatest Players Not in the Hall of Fame.
Bonds was a gifted athlete who became one of the game’s great lead-off hitters and capitalized on his power and speed to become baseball’s first 30/30 player, hitting that mark five times. But Bonds’ lifetime batting average of .268 was far from Hall-worthy and aside from an All-Star Game MVP in 1973 his trophy case was devoid of all the major awards and milestones that his son compiled.
Still, Bonds was the San Francisco Giants star player at the peak of his career and he hit 332 home runs, stole 461 bases and once hit 35 homers batting leadoff setting a MLB record at the time. But Bonds was always unfairly compared to Willie Mays and was dogged by talk that he’d never quite reached his full potential. He once told the LA Times, “They said I was supposed to be the next Willie Mays.” He wasn’t. Bonds could never fill those shoes and thus remains on the outskirts of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Whenever I got double baseball cards of my favorite and best players, they would go into the spokes of my bicycle tires. Dave Stieb was one of those.
In the 1980’s, the bulk of his career, he was the best starting pitcher. From 1980-1990 Stieb lead all pitchers with 50.8 WAR and was a balance of durability and quality. He was also third in wins (158), tied for first with 29 shutouts in an high offensive era and led all starting pitchers with an ERA + of 128 during that time. After a decade of excellence the cherry on top was a 1990 no-hitter after coming close twice in consecutive starts in 1988 and a near perfect game in 1989.
Stieb amassed 57 WAR for his career, ranking him 67th all-time among pitchers. If he had started his pitching a decade later with this day and age of sabermetrics being viewed and accepted by a wider audience you have to think he’d get a better and longer look then falling off the ballot after one year.
But there’s also nothing wrong with being a very good pitcher at the highest level for a very long time. And Dave Stieb was clearly that.
48. (Tie) Thurman Munson, 71 votes out of 208 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 40 yes, 29 no, 2 N/A), written by Aaron Somers of Call to the Pen:
Depth at the catching position was quite strong across the game in the 1970s – led most prominently be a trio of Hall of Fame catchers in Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, and Gary Carter. Work Ted Simmons and Gene Tenance into the mix and we’re now looking at five of the Top 15 leaders in career bWAR at the position, all playing in the same decade.
Not to be forgotten, the New York Yankees were also the benefactors of yet another star-caliber backstop who remains unique in his own right beyond his contributions on the field. Munson spent 11 years in New York, playing nine full seasons. Across 5,905 career plate appearances the right-hander batted .292/.346/.410 with 229 doubles, 113 HR, and a 116 OPS+. Munson played in seven All Star Games, won three Gold Gloves, was named AL Rookie of the Year in 1970, and three times finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting (including winning the award in 1976).
Munson was beloved in New York just as much for his trademark facial hair – worn despite the personal preference of George Steinbrenner and the Yankees organization – as he was for his on field production. Yet his candidacy for the Hall of Fame is best known due to the tragic accident that cut his career and life short during the 1979 season. Munson’s a prime candidate for special exemption to the Hall, due to his shortened career, but to date that pursuit has resulted in little support beyond a rabid segment of Munson fans and supporters that don’t plan on giving up their cause.
Voting resulted in a three-way tie for this 50th spot between three players of baseball’s recent past: Bret Saberhagen, Steve Garvey, and Orel Hershiser.
As for head-to-head anecdotal evidence, Steve Garvey never faced Bret Saberhagen. Orel Hershiser limited Garvey to one walk, a single, and a double in twenty-four plate appearances, striking him out seven times.
Garvey’s best story comes from Win Expectancy metrics:
Does it mean anything if WAR does not align with Win Shares?
Bret Saberhagen 59 (4.6 per 200 IP)
Orel Hershiser 49 (3.1 per 200 IP)
Steve Garvey 38 (2.6 per 650 PA)
Career Win Shares
Garvey 279 (19.2 per 650 PA)
Hershiser 210 (13.4 per 200 IP)
Saberhagen 193 (15.1 per 200 IP)
Notice that Saberhagen outperformed Hershiser in Win Shares as a rate state. His 3.64 K/BB dwarfed Hershiser’s 2.00. Saberhagen also had a better ERA- (80) to Hershiser (89). In fact, Saberhagen’s 80 ERA- is tied with Curt Schilling and better than many Hall of Famers including Juan Marichal, Bob Feller, and Steve Carlton.
Either way, Saberhagen > Hershiser > Garvey or Saberhagen > Garvey > Hershiser
[V] Ellis Valentine *Write-In* 1 (DHB: 1N), Fernando Valenzuela 18 (DHB: 6Y, 11N, 1NA), George Van Haltren 13 (DHB: 10Y, 3N), Johnny Vander Meer 2 (DHB: 2Y), Hippo Vaughn 5 (DHB: 5Y), Mo Vaughn 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Bobby Veach 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N), Bob Veale *Write-In* 1 (DHB: 1N), Robin Ventura 20 (DHB: 5Y, 15N), Justin Verlander *Not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 1N), Mickey Vernon 12 (DHB: 7Y, 5N), Frank Viola 4 (DHB: 4N)
[W] Billy Wagner *Not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 1Y), Tim Wakefield *Not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 1N), Fleet Walker 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Todd Walker 1 (DHB: 1N), Bobby Wallace *In HOF* 1 (DHB: 1NA), Bucky Walters 13 (DHB: 6Y, 6N, 1NA), Daryle Ward 1 (DHB: 1N), Lon Warneke 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Buck Weaver 5 (DHB: 5Y), Bob Welch *Write-In* 2 (DHB: 2N), David Wells 10 (DHB: 2Y, 8N), Vic Wertz 1 (DHB: 1N), John Wetteland 1 (DHB: 1Y), Gus Weyhing 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Bill White 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N), Deacon White *In HOF* 7 (DHB: 7Y (Note: I accidentally left White on the ballot this year. He was enshrined last summer.)), Frank White 7 (DHB: 2Y, 5N), Roy White 5 (DHB: 3Y, 2N), Will White 2 (DHB: 2Y), Bernie Williams 42 (DHB: 14Y, 26N, 2NA), Cy Williams 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Ken Williams 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N), Matt Williams 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N), Woody Williams 1 (DHB: 1N), Ned Williamson 2 (DHB: 2Y), Vic Willis *In HOF* 1 (DHB: 1Y), Maury Wills 28 (DHB: 8Y, 18N, 2NA), Willie Wilson 6 (DHB: 2Y, 3N, 1NA), Nip Winters 1 (DHB: 1N), Tony Womack 1 (DHB: 1N), Smoky Joe Wood 26 (DHB: 16Y, 10N), Wilbur Wood 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N), Tim Worrell 1 (DHB: 1N), Jim Wynn 42 (DHB: 22Y, 17N, 3NA)
[Y] Koji Yamamoto *Write-In* 1 (DHB: 1Y), Kazuhiro Yamauchi *Write-In* 1 (DHB: 1Y), Rudy York 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Tom York *Write-In* 1 (DHB: 1Y), Eddie Yost 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Dmitri Young 1 (DHB: 1N), Eric Young 1 (DHB: 1N)
Appeared on the ballot, received no votes: Edgardo Alfonzo, Bobby Avila, Dick Bartell, William Bell Sr., Bret Boone, Ken Boswell, Jeromy Burnitz, Jeff Burroughs, Jeff Cirillo, Roy Cullenbine, Jim Davenport, Kelly Downs, Damion Easley, Morgan Ensberg, Scott Erickson, Shawn Estes, Carl Everett, Ferris Fain, Jeff Fassero, Art Fletcher, Keith Foulke, Dave Foutz, Bob Friend, Scott Garrelts, Jim Gentile, Hank Gowdy, Danny Graves, Don Gullett, Rick Helling, Roberto Hernandez, Tommy Holmes, Ken Holtzman, Bob Horner, Pete Hughes, Kei Igawa, Larry Jackson, Sam Jackson, Geoff Jenkins, Charley Jones, Davy Jones, Eddie Joost, Brian Jordan, Bill Joyce, Darryl Kile, Ellis Kinder, Ryan Klesko, Johnny Kling, Mike LaCoss, Carney Lansford, Arlie Latham, Matt Lawton, Jon Lieber, Bob Locker, Elliot Maddox, Candy Maldonado, Mike Matheny, Sadie McMahon, Kent Mercker, Jose Mesa, Irish Meusel, Bill Monroe, Wally Moon, Matt Morris, Wally Moses, Bill Mueller, Mark Mulder, Terry Mulholland, Randy Myers, Jeff Nelson, Trot Nixon, Larry Parrish, William Perry, Bruce Petway, Johnny Podres, Jack Powell, Ernest Riles, Felix Rodriguez, Joe Rudi, Reggie Sanders, Elmer E. Smith, Mike Stanton, Dixie Walker, Rondell White, Todd Worrell
Every player who has finished in the Top 50 at least one year of this project
1. Aaron Somers, 3rd year voter, director of recruiting at FanSided, senior editor at Call to the Pen
2. Aaron Whitehead, 2nd year voter
3. Adam Darowski, 3rd year voter, SABR member, chair of the SABR Nineteenth Century Overlooked Legends Committee, creator of the Hall of Stats
4. Adam Hardy
5. Adam Penale
6. Akil Lindsey
7. Alan Manship, 2nd year voter
8. Albert Lang, 2nd year voter, former SABR member, writes h2h Corner and The Fantasy Fix
9. Alex Putterman 3rd year voter, journalism student, assistant sports editor for the Daily Northwestern (Northwestern University)
10. Alfred Scott, 2nd year voter
11. “ali maship”
12. Alvy Singer, 2nd year voter
13. Andre Lower, 2nd year voter, SABR member, author of three books, including Auditioning for Cooperstown: Rating Baseball’s Stars for the Hall of Fame; writes Baseball By Positions .com
14. Andrew Ball, SABR member, writes for Beyond the Box Score and Fake Teams
15. Andrew Martin, 3rd year voter, writes Baseball Historian
16. Andrew Nadig
18. Bart Silberman, 3rd year voter, MLB licensee since 1996, specializing in Cooperstown Collection vintage design
19. Ben Henry, writes The Baseball Card Blog
20. Bill Bumgarner
21. Bill Rubinstein, 2nd year voter, SABR member
22. Bob Finn, 2nd year voter
23. Bob Rittner, 2nd year voter
24. Bob Sawyer, 3rd year voter, SABR member, co-founder of SABR’s Games and Simulations committee
25. Bob Sohm, 2nd year voter
26. Bobby Aguilera, 3rd year voter, writes Baseball Reality Tour
27. Brad Howerter
28. Brendan Bingham, 4th year voter, SABR member, contributor to this website, authored chapter for Bridging Two Dynasties: The 1947 New York Yankees
29. Brendon Salatino
31. Brian Gramman
32. Brian Metrick, 2nd year voter
33. Bryan O’Connor, 2nd year voter
34. Bryan Walker
35. Buddy Stricker
36. Carl Punty
37. Charles Beatley, 3rd year voter, wrote Andre Dawson for the Hall of Fame
38. Charles Reinhard
39. Chip Buck, 3rd year voter, contributes to Firebrand of the American League
40. Chris Bacon
41. Chris Fluit
42. Christian Ruzich, founder of The Cub Reporter
43. Christine Coleman, writes Aaron Miles Fastball
44. Christopher Kamka, SABR member, researcher and producer for Comcast SportsNet Chicago; contributed to a soon-to-be-published group book on Old Comiskey Park
45. Chuck Modehringer
46. Collin Whitchurch
47. Craig Cornell, 4th year voter
48. Dalton Mack, 2nd year voter, SABR member, writes for High Heat Stats
49. Dan Evans, 2nd year voter, SABR member, professional scout with Toronto Blue Jays, former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers
50. Dan McCloskey, 4th year voter, SABR member, writes Left Field, contributes to High Heat Stats
51. Dan O’Connor, 3rd year voter
52. Daniel Shoptaw, 2nd year voter, founder and president of Baseball Bloggers Alliance, writes C70 At The Bat
53. Danny Fain, “I believe I have the world’s largest Craig Biggio baseball card collection (over 4000 different with all the variations, misprints, errors, etc.)”
54. Dave Cohen
55. Dave England, 2nd year voter, SABR member, writes juniusworth.tumblr.com
56. David Klopfenstein, Japanese baseball enthusiast
57. David Lawrence Reed, SABR member, occasional contributor to John Thorn’s Our Game blog
58. David Lick, 2nd year voter, writes Not Mad Sports
59. Dean Godfrey
60. Dean Sullivan, 2nd year voter
62. Don Fairchild
63. Domenic Lanza, 2nd year voter
64. Doug Bisson
65. Drew Barr, 2nd year voter, voter for the Hall of Merit at BaseballThinkFactory.org
66. Drew Phillips
67. Ed White, 3rd year voter, former news reporter, sportswriter, editor, and TV news manager; currently self-employed as freelance writer and editor (recently edited two books); athletic scout for national collegiate athletic scouting association
68. Ed Woznicki
69. Eric Casey, executive producer for “the Art Of” local television show for Channel 15, Rochester, New York; 2004 Billboard World Song Contest Winner for music production with R&B singer Charley Janel
70. Eric Chalek, 2nd year voter, writes The Hall of Miller and Eric
71. Eugene Freedman, 3rd year voter, writes for Baseball Prospectus
73. Gabriel Egger, 2nd year voter
74. Gabriel Schechter, 3rd year voter, SABR member, author, researcher at the Hall of Fame library from 2002-2010; current freelance writer, researcher, and editor; writes Charles April.
75. Galen Andrews
76. Gary Bateman, 2nd year voter
77. Gary Passamonte
79. George Haloulakos, 2nd year voter, contributor to this website, financial book author, contributor to Galaxy Nostalgia Network
81. Graham Hudson
82. Gregg Weiss, 3rd year voter
84. Jacob Thompson, 2nd year voter
85. Jake Rashbaum, junior at the University of Toledo
86. James Newburg
87. James Nicolls
88. James Smyth, former minor league baseball play-by-play broadcaster, has a website
89. Jason Hunt, 4th year voter, writes Fake Teams
90. Jason Lukehart, 2nd year voter, managing editor of Let’s Go Tribe, also writes at Ground Ball With Eyes
91. Jeff Larick, 2nd year voter, past SABR member
92. Jena Yamada, 3rd year voter
93. Jenny Mirabella
94. Jesse Achtenberg
95. Jesse Collings, sports editor for The Beacon (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) newspaper
96. Jim Bernstein
97. Jim Gross
98. Joe Mello, 2nd year voter
99. Joe Serrato, 2nd year voter
100. Joe Williams, 4th year voter, SABR member, former chair of SABR’s 19th Century Overlooked Legends Project (and current member of committee), contributor toSeamheads.com and has attended the last 27 induction ceremonies at Cooperstown
101. Joel Hammerman, 2nd year voter
102. Joey Bartz, 2nd year voter, SABR member, former freelance sportswriter for the Mississippi Press, PhD candidate
104. John Hussey
105. John Quemere, 2nd year voter
106. John Robertson, 3rd year voter, SABR member, author
107. John Sharp, 3rd year voter, writes John’s Big League Baseball Blog
108. John Sours, 2nd year voter
109. John Swol, 2nd year voter, SABR member, writes Twins Trivia, authored a book of the same name
110. John Tuberty, 2nd year voter, writes Tubbs Baseball Blog
111. John Znamirowski
112. Jonathan Stilwell, 2nd year voter, SABR member
113. Jonathan Wagner, 3rd year voter
114. Joseph Jordan
116. Kazuto Yamazaki, 2nd year voter, writes for Paranoid Fan
117. Ken Poulin
118. Ken S
119. Kevin Johnson, 3rd year voter, SABR member, creator of Seamheads Ballparks Database; received SABR Baseball Research Award in 2012; appeared on Bob Costas special, “Behind the Seams: The Ballpark Factor”
120. Kevin Mattson, 2nd year voter
121. Kevin Porter, 3rd year voter
122. Kristopher Kennedy
123. Larry Cookson, 2nd year voter
124. Lawrence Azrin, 2nd year voter, former SABR member, writes at High Heat Stats; seventh-most comments all-time on HHS and proud of it
125. Lee Domingue, 3rd year voter
126. Loren Flynn
127. Louis Smith, 3rd year voter
129. Mark DeLodovico, SABR member
130. Mark Hausherr
131. Mark Taylor, writes Mark My Words
132. Matthew Aschaffenburg, 3rd year voter
133. Matthew Cornwell
134. Mauricio Rubio of Baseball Prospectus and Cubs Den
135. Michael Clair, 3rd year voter, SABR member, doing an upcoming charity blogathon for Doctors Without Borders (DONATE)
136. Michael Cook, 3rd year voter, past SABR intern, wrote at Pinstripe Alley
137. Michael Martin, 3rd year voter
138. Michael S
139. Michael Terilli, 2nd year voter
140. Michael Thomas
141. Mike Gross
142. Mike Huey
143. Mike Lackey
144. Mike Livingston, SABR member, publishes annual magazine for local Strat-O-Matic league
145. Mike Lortz, Tampa-based baseball writer, contributor to The Bus Leagues Experience Vol I, II, III
146. Mike S
147. Mike Schneider
148. Mike Walczak, 2nd year voter, “My kids call me the ‘Rain Man’ of baseball stats”
149. Mike Warwick
150. Mitch Lutzke, SABR member, author of The Life and Times of Kimber M. Snyder, A Soldier in the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry; working on a history book of Williamston, Michigan, which will feature at least one chapter on baseball in 1895
151. Myles McDonnell
152. Nate Horwitz, 2nd year voter
154. Nick Diunte, 2nd year voter, SABR member
155. Pat Corless, 2nd year voter
156. Patrick, active member of Royals Review and other sites
157. Patrick Mackin, 3rd year voter
158. Paul Lanning, 2nd year voter
159. Paul Perilli, freelance writer, last won a home run derby contest at age 10
160. Paul Martin
161. Paul McCord, 2nd year voter
162. Pete Livengood, 2nd year voter
163. Peter Nash, 2nd year voter, author, writes HaulsofShame.com; wrote, produced and co-directed the Emmy-nominated documentary, Rooters: Birth of Red Sox Nation; former member of the Def Jam rap group 3rd Bass (here’s a fun Deadspin post about it)
164. Phil Dellio, 2nd year voter, has his own website
165. Ralph Peluso, SABR member, Yahoo News contributor, writing a fictional book on baseball
166. Ray Anselmo
167. Ricardo Lugo
168. Rich Dubroff, Orioles Insider, CSNBaltimore.com
169. Rich Lipinski, 2nd year voter
170. Rich Moser, SABR member, writing a book on the Hall of Fame
171. Richard Solensky
172. Robert Ewing, 2nd year voter
173. Robert Ulmschneider
174. Ross Carey, 2nd year voter, SABR member, hosts Replacement Level Podcast
175. Ruben Lipszyc, 2nd year voter, contributor to the Canadian Baseball Network
177. Ryan Jameson
178. Ryan McCrystal, 3rd year voter, writes for It’s Pronounced Lajaway
179. Ryan Redimarker
180. Scott Lindholm, web columnist for 670 The Score in Chicago, writes at Beyond the Box Score
181. Sam Atwood
182. Scott Candage
183. Scott Crawford, writes Scott Crawford on Cards
184. Scott Jackson
185. Scott Stewart
186. Scott Taylor
187. Shawn Anderson, writes The Hall of Very Good
188. Shawn Weaver, 2nd year voter, has written Cincinnati Reds Blog since 2002
189. Stefano Micolitti, 2nd year voter
190. Steve Holtje
191. Steven Nichols
192. Steven Sheehan, 2nd year voter
194. Swifty Washington
195. Ted Mulvey, 2nd year voter
196. Theo Gerome, 2nd year voter
198. Tim Deale, SABR member, writing nonfiction baseball book
199. Tom Crittenden, 2nd year voter
200. Tom Thrash, 3rd year voter, has seen games at 43 MLB ballparks
201. Tom Thress, SABR member, creator Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
202. Tom Tunison, working on a non-fiction baseball book
203. Triston Aprill, 2nd year voter
204. Victor Dadras, 4th year voter, SABR member
205. Vincent Sparagano
206. Vinnie, 4th year voter
207. William Schuth, SABR member, writes Walking Point
208. Wayne Horiuchi, 4th year voter, avid sports card collector who has one of the most extensive game-used/autograph Hall of Fame collections in America
Just a quick note to say I’ve decided to extend the voting deadline in my project on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame to this Saturday, December 28 at noon PST. I realized between work and the holidays, I wasn’t going to do much on the project before then.
As of this writing, 176 people have voted, our highest turnout in the four years this project has run. I’m confident we’ll have our best project yet, as well as our most meaningful one. Actual Hall of Fame voting is a mess right now. I’d like to think on some small level we’re doing something that could help the process and foster more discussion.
I thank everyone who’s voted so far. If you’ve yet to vote and would like to, please check out this post for further instructions.
Editor’s note: I’m pleased to welcome Bill Deane back to the site. The former senior research associate at the Hall of Fame, Bill’s made a science of predicting voting results for more than 30 years. As a commenter noted, most of Bill’s predictions last year were close to dead-on. Once again, I’m proud to have Bill’s predictions exclusive to this website.
In 2013, for only the second time since 1971, the baseball writers failed to select anyone for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. Most observers think this was an aberration, and that there may be as many as five people elected to the Hall in 2014, with plenty more to follow. After all, Craig Biggio and Jack Morris were each just 7% short of making it last time, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza were not far behind, and newcomers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas should be shoo-ins.
Yet, according to my crystal baseball, 2013 was the start of a clear trend on the writers’ ballot, and only one of these stars will make it to Cooperstown in ’14.
This is my 33rd year predicting Hall of Fame elections. I think the acid test of prognostication performance lies in guessing the fate of men who finish within 10% either way of being elected (i.e., who receive between 65-85% of the vote). Among such candidates, I have gone 50-12 (.806) in correctly predicting who would or would not make it over the years. I was one of the few who correctly, publicly forecast the 2013 shutout.
A review of the voting process: Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) do the voting. Late each fall, ballots are distributed to active and retired beat-writers who have been BBWAA members for ten years or more. The ballots, which are to be returned by the end of the year, list candidates in alphabetical order, instructing voters to choose up to ten players (the average writer selects about six). Eligible candidates include men who played in at least ten seasons in the majors, the last of which was not less than five nor more than 20 years prior to the election. Any candidate being named on at least 75% of the ballots is elected to the Hall; anyone receiving less than 5% of the vote is dropped from further consideration. The BBWAA honors an average of about two players per year. The 2014 results will be announced on January 8 at 2:00 EST.
More than half of the 37 players who were listed on the 2013 ballot are not on the 2014 version: Dale Murphy, who failed in his final attempt; and 19 others (Bernie Williams, Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar, Jr., Julio Franco, David Wells, Steve Finley, Shawn Green, Aaron Sele, Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, Rondell White, and Woody Williams) who were dropped for failing to reach the 5%-cutoff. These men collected just 177 votes in 2013, and the strong 2014 rookie class figures to amass many more than that. This means that most if not all of the 17 returnees are likely to drop down in the voting. There are a lot of new and returning candidates with Cooperstown credentials, but there are simply not enough votes to go around. Though each voter is permitted ten selections, the average voter uses considerably fewer than that. The number of votes per voter has been below seven every year since 1986, and sunk to a record low of 5.1 in 2012. Though I expect that number to soar to its highest level in three decades, it won’t be enough to unclutter the ballot
Many of the 2014 first-time eligibles are destined for just one try on the writers’ ballot, the consequence of being overshadowed and receiving less than 5% of the vote. Those include Moises Alou (332 home runs, .303 average, between injuries), Luis Gonzalez (2591 hits, 596 doubles, and 354 homers, including 57 in 2001), Sean Casey (.302 average), Kenny Rogers (219-156 record, including a perfect game), Richie Sexson (306 HR), Hideo Nomo (123-109, including two no-hitters), Ray Durham (2054 hits), Eric Gagne (187 saves, including 84 straight, and the 2003 NL Cy Young Award), and Keith Foulke (191 saves).
Here’s the way I foresee the rest of the election shaping up, with newcomers in bold and predicted percentages in parentheses:
Greg Maddux (94) – The winningest right-hander of the past century, Maddux went 355-227 with four straight NL Cy Young Awards (1992-95). He’ll make it to Cooperstown easily.
Tom Glavine (67) – Though seldom considered the ace of his own team, Glavine won two Cy Youngs himself while going 305-203. In this crowd in this year, that won’t be good enough for Cooperstown.
Frank Thomas (63) – The most fearsome slugger of the 1990s, The Big Hurt finished with 521 homers and a .301 average, winning the 1994 and ’95 AL MVPs. See the Glavine comment.
Craig Biggio (61) – An excellent but not dominant player who amassed 3060 hits, 1844 runs, 668 doubles, and 414 stolen bases.
Jack Morris (58) – The winningest pitcher of the 1980s, he went 254-186 in his career without ever posting an ERA below three or a Cy Young Award finish above third. This is his final try on the BBWAA ballot.
Mike Piazza (54) – The best offensive catcher of all time (419 homers, .308 average), he managed to survive steroids rumors and a poor defensive reputation.
Jeff Bagwell (48) – Batted .297 with 449 homers and 1529 RBI in just 15 seasons, winning the 1994 NL MVP Award.
Tim Raines (45) – Rock was an outstanding player whose credentials (including an 808-146 stolen base record) are only starting to be appreciated by voters.
Lee Smith (39) – Lost his all-time saves record (and his only persuasive Hall of Fame argument) in 2006 to Trevor Hoffman, who in turn lost it to Mariano Rivera in 2011.
Roger Clemens (29) – The most-accomplished pitcher of the past century, if not any century, Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards and seven ERA crowns while going 354-184 with 4672 strikeouts. His reputation has been skewered by well-documented accusations of steroids and HGH use, though he was acquitted of perjury on the subject.
Barry Bonds (29) – The most accomplished non-pitcher with the possible exception of Babe Ruth, Bonds won a record seven MVP Awards and set all-time marks for career homers (762, including a record 73 in 2001) and walks (2558, a record 668 of them intentional). For good measure, he added 514 stolen bases and eight Gold Glove Awards. But, like Clemens, his accusations of using performance enhancers in the second half of his career, along with his surly relationship with the media, will keep him out of Cooperstown for the foreseeable future.
Curt Schilling (27) – His won-lost record (216-146) is modest by Hall of Fame standards, but he had three second-place Cy Young Award finishes and 3116 strikeouts with a record 4.38 SO:BB ratio. Moreover, he starred for three different World Series teams, the 1993 Phillies, the 2001 D’backs (for whom he shared Series MVP honors), and the 2004 Red Sox (for whom he authored the gutsy “bloody sock” performance). Nevertheless, he’ll drop sharply from his strong 39% showing in his first try.
Edgar Martinez (26) – Though he didn’t become a big league regular until he was 27, the DH wound up with 2247 hits, 514 doubles, 309 homers, and a .312 average.
Alan Trammell (25) – A fine shortstop, overshadowed throughout his career by Cal Ripken and Robin Yount.
Larry Walker (16) – Hit 383 homers and batted .313, winning three batting titles and the 1997 NL MVP Award, though most of his damage was done a mile above sea level.
Fred McGriff (15) – Crime Dog had 493 home runs and 1550 RBI, winning homer titles in each league.
Mark McGwire (13) – Had 583 home runs, a .588 slugging average, and the highest homer percentage of all time, but has become the voters’ poster boy for players accused of using PEs.
Don Mattingly (10) – After a half-dozen years as one of the game’s most productive hitters, Mattingly was reduced to mediocrity by back problems. Still, he wound up with credentials eerily similar to 2001 first-ballot inductee Kirby Puckett’s.
Jeff Kent (9) – Kent set the record for most career home runs by a second baseman and won the 2000 NL MVP Award. The recent Survivor contestant finished with 377 homers and a .290 average, but will struggle to survive on this ballot.
Mike Mussina (7) – Moose went 20-9 in his final season to finish at 270-153. Since 1893, only 12 pitchers finished with more wins over .500, and just three have a higher career strikeout-to-walk ratio. Nevertheless, Mussina will be lucky to even make the 5% cut.
Rafael Palmeiro (5) – He was a slam-dunk Hall of Famer until a positive steroids test (shortly after his finger-pointing denial of steroids-use under oath) effectively ended his career. Voters remember that performance more than his 3020 hits, 569 homers, or 1835 RBI, and may just snub him off the ballot.
Sammy Sosa (5) – Slammed 609 home runs, including three 60-homer seasons and an MVP Award, in a career also tainted by performance-enhancer accusations. He too may be knocked off the ballot, after just two tries.
Looking ahead toward upcoming elections, it appears the ballot will only get more crowded. In 2015 the leading newcomers will be pitching aces Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez (nine Cy Young Awards among them), along with sluggers Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado. The following year, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Trevor Hoffman will top the rookie list. The 2017 ballot will include Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada. Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Omar Vizquel, Johnny Damon, and Jamie Moyer will become eligible in 2018. And any ten-year veteran who played in 2013, but does not return next season – Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Todd Helton, to name three – will join the 2019 ballot.
On December 2, I kicked off voting for my annual project on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame. Due to a WordPress glitch, several posts on my site were destroyed including my call for votes. If you’ve already voted in my project: 1) Thank you; and 2) Your votes are safe and have been recorded in a Google document independent of this site.
To anyone just joining us, since 2010, we’ve made an annual thing here of this project. Here are the preceding three years: Version 3.0, Version 2.0 and the debut of this project. This year looks to be better than ever, with an unusually deep class of newly-eligible players on the ballot including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
I’d like to invite anyone interested to submit a ballot. To vote, please go here. A reference ballot of 526 players can be found here.
There aren’t too many rules for this, except:
1) You must vote for 50 players. Next to each player you select, please put a “Y” or “N” to signify if he belongs in the Hall of Fame. This project isn’t about designating 50 players who must be enshrined tomorrow, simply the 50 best players not in Cooperstown.
2) Anyone who hasn’t played in at least five years is eligible. A person need not have played for five years or even in the majors to be eligible. I encourage people to work independently and use whatever criteria they prefer for voting.
3) All votes are due by December 23 at 9 p.m. PST. No late ballots will be accepted. Results will be unveiled on January 6, two days before the Baseball Writers Association of America reveals the results of its Hall of Fame voting.
4) I prefer if people vote at the link provided above. That said, if anyone has problems with it, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This being said, I look forward to seeing how everyone votes. Thanks and good luck!
Last year, I asked readers to vote on an inner circle for the Hall of Fame. I’ve run a few voter-driven projects, and while I enjoy getting to look at everyone’s ballot, it’s generally the same story. I doubt any two ballots are alike. Voters use a variety of rationales. And most every ballot has a glaring omission or imperfection– in the case of my inner circle project, no player received 100 percent of the vote, not Willie Mays, not Babe Ruth, not Honus Wagner. We’re not fools, it’s just the way these things work. Some voters consciously omit players. Others simply forget them. I don’t think this is a a bad thing. I set very few rules for voters, by design. If enough people vote independently, the right thing seems to happen. Unanimity’s a nice ideal, but it’s never been necessary here.
I’m reminded of all this by a piece Buster Olney has up at ESPN Insider, advocating that retiring New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera be the first unanimous Hall of Famer. In the piece, mostly hidden behind a paywall link, Olney recounts the bizarre, implausible, unpalatable truth through more than 75 years of Hall of Fame voting– there’s never been a unanimous selection. Never. Ty Cobb, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, and others have come within a handful of votes, but something always seems to prevent unanimity. One writer left Ryan off his ballot, for instance, because he wanted to make a stand about Don Sutton’s candidacy.
Maybe it’s time for this embarrassing tradition to end. Maybe it’s time for this small handful of writers who want to turn themselves into a speed bump at the gates of the Hall Fame to stop making themselves the story….
Five years from now, there is no reason for any voter to not put a check mark beside Mariano Rivera’s name on a ballot, because his candidacy is pristine.
It’s a great idea, and I support it wholeheartedly, but it seems highly unlikely it will happen, not in five years, probably not ever. I imagine people responding to Olney’s piece will make this about Rivera, fixating on his worthiness or lack thereof as a relief pitcher, but the broader debate isn’t about Rivera or any other player. So long as the current process for Hall of Fame voting remains, I doubt there will ever be a unanimous selection. And I’m cool with that.
If an algorithm determined picks, it would stand to reason that a player could get in satisfying every requirement. But voting is still done by humans, through an electorate that continues to grow, with a record 581 ballots cast in 2011 and another 573 last year. Few requirements exist for making picks, with a basic set of rules that concern eligibility. Beyond that, voters are invited to set their own criteria. One writer from last year’s election told me he didn’t vote for Tim Raines, in part, because he only logged 13 full seasons. Again, I’m fine with this. I’d shudder if any one voter got to determine all the plaques in Cooperstown using this mindset, but I assume that with enough people casting ballots, the right thing will generally happen.
It doesn’t mean that questionable candidates won’t sometimes be enshrined, be it on the first pass or the 10th, with 98 percent of the vote or 75.2. But the point of the Hall of Fame isn’t perfection or unanimity. It’s about honoring the best moments in baseball history. More often than not, Cooperstown and its voters have honored this ideal.
Months ago, a friend asked me to make a personal Hall of Fame for a project he’s doing. It sounded like a fun idea. The Hall of Fame has been a topic of frequent discussion here in the past, and I annually do a project on the 50 best players not in Cooperstown. Off the top of my head, I can name 100-200 surefire Hall of Famers and another 50-100 who aren’t currently enshrined but make my list. It’s fun to make these kinds of lists. I guess it’s how my mind works, and I assume others who frequent this site think similarly.
An interesting thing happened when I started to write down names, though. After exhausting the obvious picks for me, I turned to Baseball-Reference.com and found a number of long-ago players I knew little about beyond stats. This threw me. Being into baseball history, I rely on statistics and basic sabermetrics to have a more complete understanding of the game, but I don’t like being utterly beholden to numbers, particularly when it comes to making a personal Hall of Fame. It kind of takes the fun out of it for me.
Faced with this dilemma months ago, I set my list aside and put off coming back to it. Recently, though, I had an epiphany that I’d rather share my personal Hall of Fame, imperfect though it may be than stay quiet. I talk myself out of writing posts to often for fear of being wrong or mediocre. I’m calling bullshit on this. I’d like to start writing more about baseball history again because I enjoy the process and it adds something to my life.
I will present the following names without comment besides to say a few things. One, I only considered players who’d been retired at least five years, though I’ve included a few guys who wouldn’t meet Cooperstown’s eligibility requirements. I also favor a big Hall of Fame; it wasn’t this way for me when I started this website a few years ago, though the more I’ve written about players not in Cooperstown, the more I’ve found guys worth celebrating. It doesn’t water down the institution to me to tell more of their stories. That being said, I imagine I neglected to include a few players here. If there’s one thing I know about Hall of Fame voting, it’s that it’s very easy to forget players. Even Babe Ruth only got 95 percent of the vote.
All this being said, here are the players for my personal Hall of Fame. Let me know who else belongs here:
Editor’s note: Please welcome Bill Deane, former senior research associate at the Hall of Fame and a longtime friend of the site. For more than 30 years, Bill has made a science of studying past voting results for Cooperstown by the Baseball Writers Association of America and predicting who will get in. He does this with great accuracy, including predicting Barry Larkin’s enshrinement last year. I’m honored to have Bill’s predictions exclusive at BPP, the night before BBWAA voting results are released. Let’s see how Bill does.
The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot is the most star-studded and controversial since the very first one in 1936, with newcomers including arguably the best position player and the best pitcher of all time, along with four others with obvious Cooperstown credentials. Yet, according to my crystal baseball, none of these notables – nor anyone else – will be elected to the Hall this January, resulting in the first BBWAA shutout since 1996.
This is my 32nd year predicting Hall of Fame elections. I think the acid test of prognostication performance lies in guessing the fate of men who finish within 10% either way of being elected (i.e., who receive between 65-85% of the vote). Among such candidates, I have gone 48-12 (.800) in correctly predicting who would or would not make it over the years.
A review of the voting process: Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) do the voting. Late each autumn, ballots are distributed to active and retired beat-writers who have been BBWAA members for ten years or more. The ballots, which are to be returned by the end of the year, list candidates in alphabetical order, instructing voters to choose up to ten players (the average writer selects about six). Eligible candidates include men who played in at least ten seasons in the majors, the last of which was not less than five nor more than 20 years prior to the election. Any candidate being named on at least 75% of the ballots is elected to the Hall; anyone receiving less than 5% of the vote is dropped from further consideration. The BBWAA honors an average of about two players per year. The 2013 results will be announced on January 9.
More than half of the 27 players who were listed on the 2012 ballot are not on the 2013 version: Barry Larkin, who was elected; and 13 others (Juan Gonzalez, Vinny Castilla, Tim Salmon, Bill Mueller, Brad Radke, Javy Lopez, Eric Young, Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan, Terry Mulholland, Phil Nevin, Ruben Sierra, and Tony Womack) who were dropped for failing to reach the 5%-cutoff. These men collected just 537 votes in 2012, and the stellar 2013 rookie class figures to amass many more than that. This means that most if not all of the 13 returning candidates are likely to drop down in the voting.
The problems facing the ballot rookies are (1) those with the best credentials have been tarnished by accusations or rumors of the use of performance-enhancers, and (2) there are simply not enough votes to go around. Though each voter is permitted ten selections, the average voter uses considerably fewer than that. The number of votes per voter has been below seven every year since 1986, and sunk to a record low of 5.1 in 2012.
Many of the 2013 first-time eligibles are destined for just one try on the writers’ ballot, the consequence of being overshadowed and receiving less than 5% of the vote. Yet, many have solid résumés, and will get some votes. Among these are David Wells (239-157 record, including a perfect game), Kenny Lofton (622 stolen bases, .299 average), Steve Finley (2548 hits, 304 homers, 320 SB), Julio Franco (2528 hits, the last at age 49), Shawn Green (328 HR, including four in one game), Reggie Sanders (305 HR, 304 SB), Roberto Hernandez (326 saves), Jose Mesa (321 saves), Sandy Alomar, Jr. (six All-Star selections), Jeff Conine (214 HR, .285), Ryan Klesko (278 HR, .279), Aaron Sele (148-112), Rondell White (198 HR, .284), Jeff Cirillo (112 HR, .296), Woody Williams (132-116), Mike Stanton (1178 games pitched), and Royce Clayton. White and Stanton were named as HGH-users in the Mitchell Report.
Here’s the way I foresee the rest of the election shaping up, with predicted percentages in parentheses:
Craig Biggio (72) – An excellent but not dominant player who amassed 3060 hits, 1844 runs, 668 doubles, and 414 stolen bases.
Jack Morris (63) – The winningest pitcher of the 1980s, he went 254-186 in his career without ever posting an ERA below three or a Cy Young Award finish above third.
Mike Piazza (58) – The best offensive catcher of all time (419 homers, .308 average), he managed to survive steroids rumors and a poor defensive reputation.
Jeff Bagwell (56) – Batted .297 with 449 homers and 1529 RBI in just 15 seasons, winning the 1994 NL MVP Award.
Tim Raines (46) – Rock was an outstanding player whose credentials (including an 808-146 stolen base record) are only starting to be appreciated by voters.
Lee Smith (45) – Lost his all-time saves record (and his only persuasive Hall of Fame argument) in 2006 to Trevor Hoffman, who in turn lost it to Mariano Rivera in 2011.
Roger Clemens (44) – The most-accomplished pitcher of the past century, if not any century, Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards and seven ERA crowns while going 354-184 with 4672 strikeouts. His reputation has been skewered by well-documented accusations of steroids and HGH use, though he was acquitted of perjury on the subject.
Curt Schilling (41) – His won-lost record (216-146) is modest by Hall of Fame standards, but he had three second-place Cy Young Award finishes and 3116 strikeouts with a record 4.38 SO:BB ratio. Moreover, he starred for three different World Series teams, the 1993 Phillies, the 2001 D’backs (for whom he shared Series MVP honors), and the 2004 Red Sox (for whom he authored the gutsy “bloody sock” performance).
Barry Bonds (35) – The most accomplished non-pitcher with the possible exception of Babe Ruth, Bonds won a record seven MVP Awards and set all-time marks for career homers (762, including a record 73 in 2001) and walks (2558, a record 668 of them intentional). For good measure, he added 514 stolen bases and eight Gold Glove Awards. But, like Clemens, his accusations of using performance enhancers in the second half of his career, along with his surly relationship with the media, will keep him out of Cooperstown for the foreseeable future.
Edgar Martinez (31) – Though he didn’t become a big league regular until he was 27, the DH wound up with 2247 hits, 514 doubles, 309 homers, and a .312 average.
Alan Trammell (30) – A fine shortstop, overshadowed throughout his career by Cal Ripken and Robin Yount.
Fred McGriff (22) – Crime Dog had 493 home runs and 1550 RBI, winning homer titles in each league.
Larry Walker (20) – Hit 383 homers and batted .313, winning three batting titles and the 1997 NL MVP Award, though most of his damage was done a mile above sea level.
Sammy Sosa (20) – Slammed 609 home runs, including three 60-homer seasons and an MVP Award, in a career also tainted by performance-enhancer accusations.
Mark McGwire (17) – Had 583 home runs, a .588 slugging average, and the highest homer percentage of all time, but has become the voters’ poster boy for players accused of using PEs.
Don Mattingly (14) – After a half-dozen years as one of the game’s most productive hitters, Mattingly was reduced to mediocrity by back problems. Still, he wound up with credentials eerily similar to 2001 first-ballot inductee Kirby Puckett’s.
Dale Murphy (14) – Two straight MVPs highlight a checkered résumé. This is his final try on the BBWAA ballot.
Bernie Williams (12) – The only 2012 first-year candidate to remain on the ballot, he helped the Yankees to four world championships in the midst of his eight straight .300-seasons, including the 1998 AL batting crown.
Rafael Palmeiro (10) – He was a slam-dunk Hall of Famer until a positive steroids test (shortly after his finger-pointing denial of steroids-use under oath) effectively ended his career. Voters remember that performance more than his 3020 hits, 569 homers, or 1835 RBI.
Looking ahead toward upcoming elections, it appears the ballot will only get more crowded. In 2014 the leading newcomers will be Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent. The following year, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez will bring their nine Cy Young Awards up for consideration, joining Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado. In 2016, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Trevor Hoffman will top the rookie list. And the 2017 ballot will include Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada. Any ten-year player active in 2012 who does not return in ’13 (Chipper Jones and Omar Vizquel, for two) will become eligible in 2018.
Recently on Twitter, someone asked my friend and fellow baseball writer Dan Szymborski how many people he’d enshrine off this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. I had to speak up. “Like 15,” I tweeted. It’s been a long time since the ballot has had this glut of talent, maybe 50 years if we go back to the 1960s when the Baseball Writers Association of America instituted modern voting rules and the Veterans Committee enshrined several players, greatly thinning the ballot. Perhaps the time has come for another rule change or mass induction.
This year at least, however, the opposite may happen. With the BBWAA a week away from announcing its picks for enshrinement this summer, I wouldn’t be stunned if no players are selected. No consensus picks seem to exist among the writers, with Baseball Think Factory’s monitoring tool having first-year candidate Craig Biggio leading in the early count at 71.6 percent of votes, which would place him just shy of the 75 percent needed for induction. The BBWAA continues to grapple with what to do over players suspected of using steroids, while holdover candidates like Tim Raines and Alan Trammell also remain on the ballot. It’s a mess.
All this in mind, I offer something to ease the confusion.
For the past three years, I’ve run an annual project at my website having people vote on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame– not 50 players who need to be enshrined tomorrow, necessarily, just the 50 best not enshrined. Voting has two components: 1) I ask people to vote on who they think are the 50 best players outside of Cooperstown, regardless of if they’d enshrine them; 2) Next to each of the 50 players a voter selects, I ask them to put a Y or N signifying if they belong in the Hall of Fame. The latter component doesn’t have any effect on rankings, though I might use it as a tiebreaker next year.
The 2010 debut of this project was a great success and last year’s project only built on this, taking on a sabermetric slant. I’m proud to say this year’s version is our best work yet, with 148 voters– about as many as the first two years combined (if I had remembered to vote, we would’ve had exactly as many.) We also had a crew of great writers to tackle the players involved. Writers include the son of one of the players we’re honoring as well as a BBWAA member who explains why he voted Barry Bonds (and Roger Clemens) for Cooperstown.
With the BBWAA’s deadline for voting having passed on December 31, it’s too late to affect change on this year’s ballot. That being said, I hope our work can help spur discussion and move toward easing this historic backlog. With Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent and others due to become eligible for Cooperstown next year, I don’t expect the 2014 ballot to be any less packed.
All this being said, here are the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame as we voted:
1. Tim Raines, 130 votes out of 148 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 116 yes, 11 no, 3 N/A), written by Dan McCloskey of Left Field:
The Hall of Fame worthiness arguments for Tim Raines frequently include comparisons to three players: Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock. Relative to Gwynn, it’s suggested Raines was nearly as good, and since Gwynn received 98 percent support in his first year on the ballot, Raines is worthy of election as well. With regard to Henderson, the belief is that Raines is unfairly downgraded by comparison to one of the 25 greatest players of all-time. Alternatively, Brock—also a first-ballot inductee—was a clearly inferior player to Raines and, if 80 percent of voters thought he was worthy, just as many or more should be in Rock’s corner.
But, Raines’ Hall of Fame case stands on its own, as this project’s voters attest. He was arguably the best player in the NL from 1983-1987, accumulating 31.4 WAR and hitting .318/.406/.467 with 568 runs and 355 steals during that five-year peak. Looking at his entire career, the Hall of Stats ranks him as the 104th greatest player ever. If you prefer an approach that’s not purely stats-based, ESPN’s Hall of 100 places him 96th on their all-time list. As there are currently 208 members of the Hall inducted as players, Tim Raines clearly belongs.
(Raines’ places in first two years of this project: 2011 – 5th; 2010 – 7th)
2. Craig Biggio, *New to ballot* 128 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 119 yes, 7 no, 2 N/A), Dan Szymborski of ESPN:
In the handicapping of this year’s Hall of Fame vote, it’s looking like an uphill climb for Craig Biggio to get elected into Cooperstown on his first ballot and as with his teammate, Jeff Bagwell, it will be an obvious mistake on the part of the voters.
For some reason, playing on the Astros in the 90s is a surefire way to be underappreciated. Of the Killer B’s, Biggio and Bagwell are easy picks that will still be out of the Hall, Carlos Beltran is closing in on a slam-dunk on merit, but is rarely connected with the Hall, and Lance Berkman, at least a borderline candidate worth discussion in a few years, is also likely to be dismissed.
Biggio’s case is very straightforward. A 281/363/433 line, good for a 112 OPS+ and 414 stolen bases over an extremely long career — his 12504 career plate appearance ranks 10th in MLB history — and doing it all as a second baseman, and before that, behind the plate. Biggio was a very ordinary defensive player and his glove doesn’t add much value beyond that, but that’s the career line of a Hall of Famer. By career WAR, that puts him smack-dab in the middle of the group consisting of Robert Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, and Jackie Robinson, easy Hall inductees that had very short waits.
Biggio had a peak run of 304/399/476 from 1993-1998 (135 OPS+), so nobody can claim he Don Suttoned his way to a solid career WAR.
Unfortunately, Biggio became eligible for the Hall at a time in which voting for the Hall is suddenly a gigantic problem, thanks to an electorate that has many voters reacting to eligible players with a steroid cloud being on the ballot by various tropes of anti-intellectualism, from throwing out the entire era to disqualifying players from their ballots with the most tenuous connections to steroids possible. Biggio was a teammate of Ken Caminiti, enough for him to be guilty in the eyes of a handful of bad actors among the voters.
Regardless, until Craig Biggio’s plaque is up on that wall in Cooperstown, the Hall will be missing one of this generation’s best second basemen.
(Biggio’s places in first two years of this project: Not yet eligible.)
Jeff Bagwell is a Hall of Famer. This is not a topic on which there is room for reasonable people to disagree. Across his career, his bat — as measured by OPS+ or wRC+ — was a bit better, in comparable numbers of plate appearances, than Willie McCovey’s and Willie Stargell’s and Jim Thome’s, and unlike any of those guys, he also added value in the field and on the bases. If your own personal Hall of Fame has room for at least three or four first basemen in it, Jeff Bagwell belongs there.
(Bagwell’s places in first two years of this project: 2011 – 3rd; 2010 – 5th-Tie)
4. Shoeless Joe Jackson, 124 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 98 yes, 25 no, 1 N/A), written by Jacob Pomrenke, web editor for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR.org):
Shoeless Joe Jackson isn’t in the Hall of Fame for one reason: He accepted money from gamblers in the plot to fix the 1919 World Series. Whether he played his best for the Chicago White Sox in that Fall Classic against the Cincinnati Reds is a matter of conjecture — Jackson’s own testimony was confusing and contradictory at times, but you have to stretch the evidence to suggest he wasn’t trying — but any time Jackson appeared on a baseball field, from age 5 to age 50, he was one of the best.
Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb both called Jackson the greatest natural hitter they had ever seen. Ruth admired Jackson’s swing so much that he copied it. Jackson could hit (.356 batting average is still third-highest in history), he could run (led the AL in triples three times) and he could field (twice had 30-plus assists as a left fielder until opponents stopped testing his arm). His Hall of Fame ability has never been in question.
Should Jackson be honored in Cooperstown? For some, taking the money is reason enough to keep him out. But you can’t make a list of the 50 best players of all-time — let alone the 50 best players outside the Hall of Fame — without Shoeless Joe Jackson.
(Jackson’s places in first two year of this project: 2011 – 1st; 2010 – 5th-Tie)
Arguably among the best dozen shortstops ever, Alan Trammell was gifted both offensively and defensively, and one of the most fundamentally sound players of his era.
Trammell, who played all 20 years of his career (1977-1996) with the Tigers, collected more hits than two-thirds of the 21 Hall of Fame shortstops, and had more RBI than 12. Barry Larkin is the only “pure” shortstop in Cooperstown with more career home runs. Trammell’s career WAR (67.1), seven-year WAR peak of 43.3, and 55.2 JAWS are all above-average when compared to Hall Of Fame shortstops.
Selected by the Tigers in the 2nd round of the 1976 Draft out of San Diego’s Kearny High School, Trammell turned down a basketball scholarship to UCLA to sign, and was the American League’s youngest player when he made his Major League debut just 15 months later in 1977. He and Lou Whitaker played 1918 games together as Detroit’s keystone combination, the most ever in Major League history.
One of the first power hitting shortstops, Trammell (career .285/.352/.415) was a six-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, three-time Silver Slugger recipient, and hit .300 or better seven times. Primarily a #2 hitter, Trammell made quality contact, never fanning more than 71 times in a season, and was an excellent two-strike hitter. He finished second in the AL MVP in 1987 when he was moved to cleanup and responded with 28 homers and 105 RBI, posted an 8.0 WAR. Trammell was the 1984 World Series MVP, and batted .333 in two post-season appearances. Trammell was a scout’s dream, doing the “little things” exceptionally well.
Defensively, Trammell was textbook with an incredibly accurate overhand throwing action and superb athleticism. His career Range Factor is better than Omar Vizquel and superior to most of today’s top defenders like JJ Hardy and Jimmy Rollins.
Ironically, Baseball Reference lists Trammell as the most similar player to 2012 Hall of Fame inductee Barry Larkin. Trammell was a slightly better defender while Larkin has an edge offensively, and both have career 67.1 WAR.
Injuries and labor stoppages limited Trammell in the second half of his career, as he played at least 130 games just once in his final nine seasons.
Trammell, now the Arizona Diamondbacks’ bench coach for former teammate Kirk Gibson, is in his 12th year on the Hall of Fame ballot. He managed the Tigers from 2003-2005.
(Trammell’s places in first two year of this project: 2011 – 6th-Tie; 2010 – 4th)
6-Tie. Roger Clemens, *New to ballot* 119 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 98 yes, 20 no, 1 N/A), written by Josh Wilker, author of Cardboard Gods:
Corporations cheat. Corporations hunger, expand, devour. Corporations employ lawyers and publicists to blur and beautify. Corporations are duplicitous, unknowable, emitting into the world that tolerates them noxious clouds of uncertainty. They’re the gods of our uncertain world. Funny then that Roger Clemens, that embattled enormous corporation, once centered an unprecedented certainty that stands as one of the more pleasurable feelings I’ve had as a fan. Whenever he took the mound during his breakthrough season in 1986, I was as close to certain as I’d ever be that my team was going to win. Amazingly, that season, which felt as it was happening like a once in a lifetime apotheosis, would prove to be more the norm than the exception for Clemens over his staggering 24-year career. Eventually, of course, he became a corporation, like A-Rod, like Bonds, and we haven’t figured out yet how to integrate these ambiguous financial behemoths into our sense of baseball history. Like many, I came to dislike Clemens intensely, intimately. Maybe he’s a scapegoat for our uncertainty; maybe he’s what we want to believe he is: a beady-eyed cheater, a prick. One way or another, he was also the best pitcher we’ve ever seen.
(Clemens’ places in first two year of this project: Not yet eligible.)
6-Tie. Pete Rose, 119 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 89 yes, 28 no, 2 N/A), written by Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated:
Pete Rose never knew when to quit. Through the first 17 years of his career, he hit .312/.381/.432 with 3,372 hits. He was the 1963 National League Rookie of the Year, the 1973 NL Most Valuable Player and the runner-up in 1968, won three batting titles, led the league in hits six times, in doubles and runs four times each, and on-base percentage twice, was a 13-time All-Star, and a two-time Gold Glove winner in right field, one of five positions he had played regularly. Over a seven-year span from 1970 to 1976, he helped the Big Red Machine finish in first place five times, reaching four World Series, winning twice, and was the MVP of one of the great World Series of all time in 1975. In 1978, at the age of 37, he set the modern National League record with a 44-game hitting streak. He was, at that point, the end of the 1979 season, 38-years-old and a slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Then he played for seven more seasons, hitting .274/.354/.333 as a first baseman while chasing Ty Cobb’s career hits record. He accomplished the feat in 1985, finally retiring after the 1986 season with 4,256 hits, still the record, but the impact of the record was diminished by the quality of his play in pursuit of it, an aggregate 2.5 wins below replacement over those seven seasons. Named the player-manager of the Reds when reacquired by the team in August 1984, he remained in that post beyond his retirement as a player only to bring real shame upon his name for gambling on baseball during that period, ultimately receiving a lifetime ban late in the 1989 season which left him ineligible for Hall of Fame thereafter.
(Rose’s places in first two years of this project: 2011 – 6-Tie; 2010 – 10th.)
8-Tie. Barry Bonds, *New to ballot* 117 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 97 yes, 19 no, 1 N/A), written by Art Spander, a BBWAA member who tells us why he voted Bonds for Cooperstown this year:
Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer. Which is why I voted for the man. Also for Roger Clemens. They almost certainly used performance-enhancing drugs, although we are not sure when they started using them.
We’ve seen the before and after photos of Bonds, lean then muscle-bound. While he was lean, until the mid 1990s, presuming he had yet begun with steroids or other PEDs, Bonds won the MVP award four times and Bonds became a 40-40 man, 40 steals, 40 home runs. Bonds already earned his place in the Hall.
Did he “cheat,” using steroids or human grown hormone to gain power and longevity? Apparently. But another former member of the San Francisco Giants, pitcher Gaylord Perry, was voted into the Hall and subsequently wrote a book how he applied a type of petroleum jelly to the ball. Isn’t that cheating?
The “character” clause is invoked by those who don’t want Bonds in the Hall. Same thing for Pete Rose – having recorded more hits than anyone in the history of the majors, he unquestionably belongs – because Rose wagered on baseball.
Bonds, Clemens and Rose pass the vision test. When we watched, what did we see? Men who were Hall of Fame players. The rest is incidental.
(Bonds’ places in first two years of this project: Not yet eligible.)
Dusty Baker called Edgar Martinez “a professional, quiet, humble giant…one of the best right-handed hitters ever seen.” Dusty may have been onto something. In putting together a career .300/.400/.500 slash line along with 300 home runs, 500 doubles, and 1,000 walks, Martinez joined just nine other players, all of whom are now enshrined in Cooperstown.
Edgar was more than a great hitter, of course, earning the Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award in 2004 for his work with countless organizations around the world. He spent his entire career with the Seattle Mariners, a rare modern star to not jump ship.
Perhaps the lone knock on Martinez’s Hall of Fame credibility is that he spent nearly three-fourths of his career as a designated hitter. Consider this, though. Cooperstown represents a platform void of judgment. Rather, it lionizes those who excelled on the diamond, regardless of color and nationality. It also captures baseball’s past. The designated hitter has been in baseball almost 40 years. It represents a significant chunk of baseball history. And Edgar Martinez might be the best DH in baseball history.
(Martinez’s places in first two years of this project: 2011 – 9th; 2010 – 9th)
10. Lou Whitaker, 115 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 96 yes, 16 no, 3 N/A), written by Joey Bartz:
I can still hear the long and over drawn out “Looooooooooooou!” cheer in my sleep. It takes me back to a time of great baseball at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues. As a kid, I never realized that I was witnessing one of best second basemen in baseball history. I cannot justify why he is not in the Hall of Fame, but I can testify why he deserves his spot in Cooperstown.
Lou Whitaker earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1978 followed by five All Star nominations, four Silver Slugger Awards, and three Gold Gloves. In 1983, Whitaker finished an astonishingly 8th place in the MVP voting, whereas statistically only MVP winner Cal Ripken Jr. had a better year, both offensively and defensively. In 1984, Whitaker, Alan Trammell and cast would lead the Tigers to the World Series crown.
One only needs a single hand, presuming it has five fingers attached, to find out how many second basemen have had better career WAR (Wins above Replacement) numbers than Whitaker. Simply put, there are only five, and all five are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Take Whitaker’s career WAR and divide it by his seasons played and he still ranks ninth all-time among second basemen, even ahead of 2011 inductee, Roberto Alomar.
(Whitaker’s places in first two years of this project: 2011 – 12th; 2010 – 14th)
In a 16-year big-league career, Mike Piazza hit more home runs (427) than Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, or Gary Carter (the four hittingest catchers in the Hall of Fame). He also holds the top score for plate appearances per home run at 18.14. (Roy Campanella is next on the all-time catchers list with 19.90 PA/HR.) When Piazza was 15, his father built a batting cage in the backyard and enticed Ted Williams to come see the Pennsylvania prodigy. Williams, on seeing young Mike’s swing told father Vince, “I guarantee you that he will hit in the major leagues.” Piazza hit 35 homers in 1993 and won the NL Rookie of the Year, then went on to top 30 homers in nine of his 16 seasons, eight consecutive). And it wasn’t all home runs: 201 hits in 1997 were the most by a catcher in MLB since Joe Torre hit 203 in 1970, and the resulting .362 average tied Bill Dickey for second all time and best for a catcher since 1900. His first ten years in the big leagues he tallied OPS over 900. Piazza didn’t get much praise for his glove, but with a bat like that, he didn’t need it.
(Piazza’s places in first two years of project: Not yet eligible.)
12. Dick Allen, 111 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 80 yes, 30 no, 1 N/A) , written by Matt Trueblood of Arm Side Run:
Dick Allen had a sheltered childhood in small-town Pennsylvania, encountering far less overt racism than most African-Americans of his age. When he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, and when they immediately denied his request not to be sent to Little Rock, the culture shock posed a challenge he did not meet well. In many ways, Allen was rarely a man in the right place at the right time.
By the time Allen reached the majors, he was frustrated with the organization’s treatment. They asked him to play third base in 1964, for the first time in his life. He felt ill-suited to the position. They alluded to him as Richie and local papers followed suit. Allen bristled. The choice encouraged comparison to venerated Phillies star Richie Ashburn, wildly popular and shiny white. Allen called it “a little boy’s name.” He adopted apparent disinterest as a defense mechanism for criticism of his fielding. He became more glowering to dispel the connotations he feared the “Richie” moniker would attach to him.
This steeliness and hot-headedness came to a head when Allen and teammate Frank Thomas (a white man with a reputation for race-baiting) squared off. It began as a shouting match and escalated into a fistfight with Thomas hitting Allen in the shoulder with a bat. The Phillies released Thomas, but the fans only hated Allen the more thereafter.
As Allen’s relationship with the team continued to sour, his career soared. He swatted 80 extra-base hits in 1964, winning Rookie of the Year. From 1964-69, he batted .300/.388/.555, averaging 28 doubles, 10 triples and 30 homers. To put those figures in context, compare Allen in that span to the best six seasons of Manny Ramirez’s career. Ramirez hit .327/.428/.633 over that span, averaging 35 doubles and 39 home runs. Yet, adjusting for league and park factors, Ramirez was 69 percent better than the league-average hitter in those years, while Allen was 64 percent better.
Defense was an issue. Allen was a very good athlete and had good range, but committed 41 errors as a rookie at third base. Managers shuffled him around the field and he rarely responded well. He reported bizarre injuries, wore a batting helmet in the field in a nod to the fans’ penchant for throwing things at him and demanded a trade prior to the 1970 season.
Once he left Philadelphia, Allen got less flak. Jack Buck set the tone when Allen showed up in St. Louis, by referring to him as Dick, not Richie. Allen spent single seasons in St. Louis and Los Angeles, before landing in Chicago in 1972. He joined the White Sox who made him the regular first baseman and he embraced it. Allen led the AL in homers, RBI, walks, OBP and slugging, winning his third MVP. People began to see him as audacious slugger rather than brooding slacker. He would never have another season in that strata and was out of the game at 35 with 351 homers but that peak–1964-72– still makes Allen one of the underappreciated offensive studs of all time.
In his time, Allen exemplified the harder path black players faced and the dangers of failing to embrace the sycophantic sports media of the day. In historical perspective, Allen shows what gets lost in translation across eras. He ranks 57th all-time in OPS, but 19th (tied with Willie Mays, ahead of Aaron and DiMaggio) in OPS+, which adjusts for league context. Allen is most frequently compared to Albert Belle, another prickly African-American player who changed his name mid-career and mashed the ball, but could not defend. Fair enough, but Allen was better– much better.
If Dick Allen played during the 1990s, or if he had signed with most any other team besides Philadelphia in 1960, or if he were a nicer guy, he would have been in Cooperstown decades ago. He absolutely belongs.
(Allen’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 4th; 2010 – 11th)
It’s not that Dwight Evans was a unique hitter. His 352 (Baseball-Reference) WAR Batting Runs have been matched by 89 other players. His fielding skills weren’t very unique, either. 194 players have more WAR Fielding Runs than Evans’ 66. But only 18 players have surpassed him in both categories.
Bill James referred to this combination of skills when he wrote an open letter to the Hall of Fame about Dwight Evans. He touched upon other reasons the Sox right fielder has been overlooked—such as his low batting average (with high OBPs), his defensive value (which is still hard for many voters to wrap their heads around) and the fact that his best offensive seasons came in his 30s (when his reputation was already established). You can add that his best season was actually a strike-shortened one. In 1981, Evans led the league or tied in homers, walks, total bases, and OPS. His legacy might be a bit different if he had another season with MVP-caliber numbers.
(Evans’ places in first two years of project: 2011 – 10th; 2010 – 12th)
13-Tie. Rafael Palmeiro, 109 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 67 yes, 41 no, 1 N/A), written by Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt:
Rafael Palmeiro rarely seems to get his due despite an impressive resume. He is 12th all-time with 569 home runs, tied for 6th all-time with 1192 extra-base hits, 11th all-time with 5388 total bases, tied for 19th all-time with 4460 times on base, and a member of the 3000 hit club.
Despite collecting some of the best numbers in the history of the game, Palmeiro is often remembered more for his Congressional finger pointing and link to PEDs. Another argument against him is the lack of major peak. Palmeiro only eclipsed 6 rWAR thrice in his career but that is the same figure as Tim Raines who is regarded by many to be a Hall-of-Famer. The two are actually neck-and-neck in career rWAR and fWAR with Palmeiro slightly ahead in both (Palmeiro 66.0 and 74.3 to Raines 64.6 and 70.9).
This is not a knock on Raines but a reminder that Palmeiro’s hall of fame case is equally impressive, if not more.
(Palmeiro’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 19th-Tie; 2010 – 28th-Tie)
Over the course of a 20-year career there were often times where Curt Schilling wasn’t the best player on his team, let alone in all of baseball. But his consistency and overall track record are enough that he merits consideration for a place in Cooperstown. He won 216 games lifetime, including 20+ three separate times, while finishing with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts. He twice led his league in innings pitched, WHIP or strikeouts. Three times he led the way in games started.
Schilling’s postseason success, however, trumped it all. He went 11-2 in 19 starts with a 2.23 ERA and 0.968 WHIP, helping lead his teams to three World Series championships.
Schilling amassed 76.9 bWAR across his career and appeared in six All Star Games. Four times he’d finish in the Top 5 in Cy Young Award voting, coming in second three times. He was dominant, consistent and reliable. And he seemingly got better (particularly increasing his K/9 rate and lowering his BB/9 rates) as his career progressed.
(Schilling’s places in first two years of project: Not yet eligible.)
There is a sense in which Mark McGwire was a one-dimensional player: He couldn’t run and spent much of his career as a bad fielder. With a bat in his hands, though, he was more than a simple slugger: McGwire managed solid batting averages and, more importantly, he walked a ton, allowing him to rank in the top 100 all-time in on-base percentage. His power was gargantuan and his biceps bulged, but his eye at the plate was equally stunning.
The story of McGwire is only half about his batting, though. His frailty (such a word to apply to a 6’5″, 240-pound man!) is the other half. Give McGwire the 75 percent of his age-29 and -30 seasons that he lost to injury and he easily finishes over 600 homers and above the 62.3 bWAR the average Hall of Fame first baseman compiled. Injuries aren’t treated like time lost to the Army, though. Only what McGwire actually did counts and it’s hard to argue based on the record he accumulated on the field that pitchforks and torches should be raised if McGwire is ultimately denied a plaque in Cooperstown.
(McGwire’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 14th-Tie; 2010 – 20th-Tie)
17. Luis Tiant, 104 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 66 yes, 36 no, 2 N/A), written by Brendan Bingham of this website:
Luis Tiant, not Denny McLain, should be remembered as the AL pitcher whose 1968 performance epitomized the Year of the Pitcher. Tiant led the AL in ERA and shutouts and was second only to Dave McNally in WHIP, but McLain swept the Cy Young voting on the strength of his 31 wins. Tiant won only 21 for Cleveland. Never mind that the Tigers scored almost a run per game more than the Indians.
1968 was not the only season in which Tiant was a league leader. In 1972, he again led in ERA. In 1966 and 1974, he led in shutouts. In 1973, he led in WHIP. Interestingly, Tiant was a league leader in 1969, too, when he led the AL in losses and in home runs and walks allowed. Yes, I hold the contrarian view that accumulating negative stats is a badge of honor. Although Tiant might not have been at his best in 1969, Cleveland manager Alvin Dark never lost confidence, faithfully sending him to the mound for 37 starts.
A look at the all-time pitching lists finds Tiant rubbing shoulders with some Hall of Famers. His strikeouts exceed Juan Marichal’s and Jim Palmer’s. His ERA+ rivals Robin Roberts’ and Jim Bunning’s. His WHIP matches Bert Blyleven’s. His pitching WAR exceeds Bob Feller’s and falls just short of Palmer’s. In 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, Tiant somehow never received more than 31 percent of the BBWAA vote.
(Tiant’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 19th-Tie; 2010 – 17th-Tie)
18. Larry Walker, 101 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 70 yes, 28 no, 3 N/A), written by Andrew Fisher of Purple Row:
One would think a player with a .313/.400/.565 career batting line in 17 seasons would have no problem getting into the Hall of Fame, but Larry Walker’s peak coincided with two critical variables that voters still don’t know how to properly weigh. The best numbers of Walker’s career came during the offense-inflated so-called Steroid Era at pre-humidor Coors Field. Consequently, many voters throw up their hands at both factors and discount his offensive prowess.
However, a full 41 percent of Walker’s career games came with Montreal or St. Louis. And even if his bat wasn’t enough to earn induction (his blend of power and average yielded a career OPS+ that ranks sixth on the 2013 ballot), the Canadian brought more non-hitting contributions to the table than almost anyone in the game. As one of the smartest, most-efficient base-stealers in baseball during his career, Walker stole 230 bases at a 75 percent success rate. He was arguably the best defensive right fielder in the league during his tenure, racking up seven Gold Gloves. Injuries limited his ability to build up counting stats, but his resume over 17 years certainly makes him worthy of induction.
(Walker’s places in first two year of project: 2011 – 17th; 2010 – 15th)
When Joe Torre made his two at-bat appearance for the season debut for the Braves in 1960, my father was still putting baseball cards in the spokes of his bicycle. The next summer Torre would start an everyday career that would last until 1977 when my father took me to my first baseball game.
Joe Torre is remembered as a manager with 2,326 wins and his four World Series titles. Before that, Torre was an All Star catcher and first baseman, winning the 1971 National League MVP award when he led the circuit with 230 hits, 137 runs batted in, and a .363 batting average. Lifetime, he hit .297, all the more impressive considering the 18 years Torre spent in the majors were largely ruled by pitchers.
According to Baseball-Reference, Torre ranks 7th in all-time WAR for catcher. Of the six in front on him, four are in the Hall of Fame already. The other two are Mike Piazza and Pudge Rodriguez. Torre ranks just ahead of Hall of Fame catchers Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane. Of the 14 catchers in Cooperstown already the average WAR for career is 49.3 and JAWS [Jay Jaffe WARP score system] is 40.7. Torre is above those criteria with 54.2 and 44.7 respectively.
Joe Torre will one day be inducted as a manager. It appears he may have been overlooked as a player.
(Torre’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 11th; 2010 – 20th-Tie)
There are two reasons Bobby Grich isn’t in the Hall of Fame: a .266 lifetime batting average and Darrell Evans Syndrome. Come to think of it, that’s probably why Darrell Evans isn’t in the Hall of Fame too, but that’s a different story.
If you want to make Cooperstown and have a batting average that low, you’d better be a 500+ home run hitter, the GOAT defensively or a catcher. Bobby Grich is none of those things. What he is, is an extremely well-rounded player. Despite the batting average, Grich’s .371 on-base percentage is around average for any Hall of Famer (not just middle infielders.) His .158 ISO places him in the midst of players like Ryne Sandberg, Don Mattingly and Roberto Clemente. And while Grich won plaudits (and four Gold Gloves) for his excellent fielding percentage, he had some range too– leading to 8+ defensive wins.
That leads us back to Darrell Evans. Bill James once used Evans to illustrate how well-rounded players received less fanfare than players who had a noticeable trait. So, how did well-rounded Bobby Grich do in HOF voting? 11 votes in 1992, a quick exit from the ballot and a hope the Veterans Committee will someday be kinder. Thus far, it hasn’t.
(Grich’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 18th; 2010 – 22nd-Tie)
21-Tie. Sammy Sosa, *New to ballot* 89 votes, (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 48 yes, 41 no), written by Alex Putterman of this website:
Sammy Sosa’s Hall of Fame case comes down to power– the power needed to blast home runs and the power of round numbers and recognizable milestones. Slammin’ Sammy is the only player to ever hit 60 home runs in three different seasons and one of eight to crack 600 long balls in his career. But as Sosa got older and his offensive numbers soared, the right fielder’s defensive and base-running abilities shriveled, until he was essentially a one-dimensional masher. In the end, Sosa’s candidacy comes down to personal voter philosophy.
If you believe the Hall should be empty of steroid users, you won’t support Sosa. If you believe voters should consider the effects of steroid use on a player’s career, you probably won’t support Sosa. If you judge a player strictly on his overall production (Baseball-Reference credits Sosa with 54.8 career WAR), you might not support Sosa. If you believe that anyone who hits 600 home runs belongs in Cooperstown, that certain headlines and historic accomplishments warrant enshrinement regardless of all else, that this is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Productivity, then you certainly will support Sosa.
(Sosa’s places in first two years of project: Not yet eligible.)
21-Tie. Ted Simmons, 89 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 65 yes, 22 no, 2 N/A), written by Bill Deane, author of Baseball Myths and former senior research associate at the Hall of Fame:
As a teenager in the mid-1970s, I’d hear people debating about who was the best catcher in baseball: Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, or Thurman Munson? I’d say, “What about Ted Simmons? The guy hit .332 with 100 RBI!” I’d get only puzzled looks from people who were barely aware that St. Louis had a team.
That exemplified Simmons’s problems in getting attention throughout his career: He played in media-Siberias and was overshadowed by two contemporary HOF catchers. But consider their average HR-RBI-AVG stats from 1971-80: Bench (27-93-.263), Fisk (16-57-.285), Simmons (17-90-.301). Simba was also unjustly regarded as a poor defensive catcher; I tackle this legend at length in my book, Baseball Myths. (Editor’s note: Page 375 of The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract notes: “Bill Deane has studied the records at great length, and demonstrated that Simmons threw out an above-average percentage of opposing base stealers in his prime seasons.”)
Ted Simmons retired as the all-time leader in hits and doubles among catchers, and ranked second in RBI behind only Yogi Berra. Only Ivan Rodriguez has surpassed him in those categories since. Yet, Simmons was dropped from the BBWAA HOF ballot after one try, then waited 16 years to be snubbed by the Veterans’ Committee. His next try is this December.
Simmons was one of the ten best all-around catchers in baseball history. He deserves serious consideration for Cooperstown.
(Simmons’ places in first two years of project: 13th both years)
Few first basemen throughout history have excelled on both sides of the game as Keith Hernandez did. From 1978 to 1988, Hernandez won eleven consecutive Gold Glove awards; to this day, he remains the only player ever to win more than ten Gold Gloves at first base. By Total Zone, Hernandez is estimated to have saved nearly 120 runs on defense over his career. On the offensive side of things, he finished his 17-year career with a .296/.384/.436 line, a 130 wRC+, and more walks (1070) than strikeouts (1012). In 1979 at the age of 25, Hernandez appeared in all but one game, mashing to the tune of .344/.417/.513 (155 wRC+). For his efforts that season, he took home the NL batting title and shared MVP honors with Willie Stargell.
Kenny Lofton’s legacy is hurt by his having been an almost exact contemporary of Ken Griffey Jr., the greatest centerfielder of the last 40 years. Griffey captivated fans and media members in a way few players in history have, forcing Lofton to work in his vast shadow. During his prime (1992-1999) Lofton had a slash line of .311/.387/.432. He terrorized pitchers by getting on base at a high clip and stealing more bases than anyone in baseball, with an 80 percent success rate. He played Gold Glove caliber defense too. Per Baseball-Reference, Lofton was worth 45.8 wins in those years, 6th best in baseball. He deserved the 1992 Rookie of the Year Award and perhaps the 1994 MVP. In the final six years of his career Lofton bounced around, playing for nine different teams. He was a worth an average of 2.4 wins in those seasons, but rather than being viewed as a strong decline phase, they led to him being remembered by many as merely a well-traveled journeyman, a grave mischaracterization. He wasn’t quite Griffey, but Lofton was a good hitter, a great fielder, and a base thief with few peers in history. In short, he was tremendous.
(Lofton’s places in first two years of project: Not yet eligible)
To many baseball fans, Tommy John is an operation. Mention his name and, undoubtedly, what will pop into the minds of most is the elbow ligament replacement surgery that now bears his name. However, the left hander was more than just a medical pioneer.
Although never dominant, John was a model of a durability and consistency. His 26 major league seasons trail only Nolan Ryan in terms of longevity, while his 18 qualified campaigns with an above-average adjusted ERA rank behind only three of the game’s elite (Clemens, Maddux, and W. Johnson). With 288 victories (124 before the surgery and 164 after), John also owns the highest win total by any modern pitcher not elected to the Hall of Fame. And, for the more sabermetrically-inclined, his fWAR of 78.7 is the 28th highest in big league history, just a hair behind Warren Spahn. If John is judged by the company he keeps, perhaps he should be enshrined in Cooperstown along side them?
John’s longevity brought him to the threshold of the Hall of Fame, but his lack of a dominant peak is probably what kept him out. And, that’s really not such a bad place to be. Even without a plaque in the Hall of Fame Gallery, the left hander still merits a hallowed place in baseball history, because of both his remarkable ability to capitalize on a second chance as well as the role he played in ensuring one for countless others.
(John’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 26th; 2010 – 25th – Tie)
26-Tie. Fred McGriff, 78 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 40 yes, 37 no, 1 N/A), written by Michel Lim of Baseballs Deep
When he retired in 2004, I thought Fred McGriff was a pretty solid bet to gain eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. His overall mark of 493 home runs ties him with the immortal Lou Gehrig at tenth currently all-time for first basemen (Pujols should pass them both sometime in 2013.) His 2,239 games played as a first basemen place him third all time. In his fifteen seasons as a full-time player from 1988 to 2002, his 458 home runs, 1460 RBI, 2329 hits and 59.5 fWAR rank third, second, third and fifth respectively among first basemen. A five-time All-Star, McGriff was somehow not named an All-Star in 1989 and 1993, seasons in which he later won the Silver Slugger award. McGriff also won the Silver Slugger award in 1992. Though he never won an MVP award, McGriff did finish in the top ten of the voting six times.
At this time though, McGriff seems more likely to be inducted into the infomercial hall of fame than into Cooperstown. The time capsule that was his television commercial endorsement of a baseball instructional video set first aired in 1991 and aired over 100,000 more times unchanged as recently as 2006.
(McGriff’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 22nd-Tie; 2010 – 16th)
26-Tie. Bill Dahlen, 78 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 72 yes, 5 no, 1 N/A) 78 Joe Williams, chair of the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project, Nineteenth Century Committee, SABR:
If you ask a baseball historian to throw a few names at you who have long deserved a plaque in Cooperstown, Bill Dahlen’s name is almost always mentioned. He played in both the 19th Century and the Deaball Era, performing well in both eras while setting offensive and defensive marks along the way.
First, he set the consecutive game hitting-streak record in 1894 with a 42-game mark. He immediately followed that streak with a new 28-game hitting streak, thus getting a hit in 70 of 71 games. The 42-game streak would be broken by Willie Keeler in 1897, but still ranks fourth all-time.
At retirement, “Bad Bill” ranked second all-time in games played (2,444) behind only Cap Anson. He also had 1,590 runs (13th), 2,461 hits (15th), 413 doubles (11th), 163 triples (14th), 84 homers (13th), 1,234 RBI (12th), 1,064 bases on balls (2nd), 548 stolen bases (10th) and 140 hit by pitches (8th)—all totals not too shabby for a shortstop.
On defensive, he retired as the all-time leader in games played at shortstop with 2,133, currently ranked eleventh. He also was the career leader at shortstop in putouts with 4,856 (currently second) and assists with 7,505 (currently fourth). He was also the first player with 8,000 career assists at all positions with 8,138 (currently fourth).
Not only did he pile up stats, he was a winner. He contributed to NL championships in 1899 and 1900 with Brooklyn, and 1904 and 1905 with New York. New York won the World Series in 1905.
SABR’s Nineteenth Century Committee named him the 19th Century Overlooked Baseball Legend for 2012–a 19th-century player, manager, executive or other baseball personality not yet inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Dahlen missed election to the Hall a few weeks ago when he fell two votes short when the Pre-Integration Era Committee met at MLB’s Winter Meetings.
(Dahlen’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 32nd-Tie; 2010 – 40th-Tie)
Darrell Evans played the majority of his games at third base. Third base is one of the most underrepresented positions in the Hall of Fame, if not the most. The Baseball Writers Association of America has admitted Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Brooks Robinson and Pie Traynor. The Veterans Committee has admitted Home Run Baker, Jimmy Collins, Freddie Lindstrom, George Kell and most recently, Ron Santo. Meanwhile, the BBWAA has admitted 10 second basemen, with the Vets enshrining another nine. The BBWAA alone has put in as many shortstops as there are third basemen in Cooperstown.
Third base requires fielding and hitting. If you can’t field the position (Jim Thome), you are moved to first or DH (Edgar Martinez.) Players who are great hitters, even if they can field the position, are moved when their defense falters (George Brett and Paul Molitor.) For whatever reason, careers seem relatively short at third base. There are only 20 players with 1200 or more games played at third. Darrell Evans ranks somewhere between 10-15 among the group depending on which version of WAR you use. Granted a lot of the players ahead of Evans also aren’t in the Hall of Fame and Evans has more games played and plate appearances than all of them, but that said, shouldn’t there be more than 11 third basemen in the Hall?
If you don’t like Graig Nettles or Buddy Bell or Ken Boyer or Stan Hack or Robin Ventura or Ron Cey or Sal Bando or all of them shouldn’t you at least take the guy with the most HR by a considerable margin? Heck, I’m not sure one of these players is any better or worse than the others by a significant margin, but I can say this, after Chipper Jones gets in, I feel badly for Scott Rolen and Adrian Beltre because they’re going to be in the running with Evans and the rest for best third baseman not in the HOF. They’re all better than Lindstrom, Collins, Kell and Traynor.
While I’m not arguing we should lower HOF standards to the worst among these, I do think voters need to reevaluate how they make positional adjustments. Maybe that adjustment has been made appropriately with other positions for the most part. Every SS better than Alan Trammell is in the HOF (but for ARod and Jeter.) If the cutoff is the top 12 at any position, then maybe Trammell doesn’t belong. But, if the cutoff is the top 12 then third base is still well underrepresented and Evans needs to be considered against Nettles and Bell and Boyer and Hack and Ventura and Cey and Bando for spots 8-12 because only the top six plus Baker are in the Hall right now.
(Evans’ places in first two years of project: 2011 – 32nd-Tie; 2010 – 40th Tie)
28-Tie. David Cone, 74 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 33 yes, 40 no, 1NA), written by William Tasker of The Flagrant Fan:
David Cone, the 29th best player not in the Hall of Fame? Sure. David Cone compiled a WAR of 58+ on both major stat sites. He finished in the top ten in CY Young Award voting four times and won it once. He finished with a .606 career winning percentage and it would have been .638 before his three hang-on seasons. He added another eight wins in the post season for a .727 winning percentage there. And he was 2-0 in the World Series. Cone compiled 22 shutouts in an era of relief specialization and one of those shutouts was a perfect game.
Cone won twenty games in a season twice, 1988 and 1998 (going 40-10 in those two seasons.) He led the league three times in strikeouts per nine innings and allowed only 7.8 hits per nine innings for his career.
Cone did not compile enough stats for the Hall of Fame, but for ten seasons, was one of the best pitchers in baseball. And best of all, he is an ex-jock who uses sabermetric stats as a broadcaster. That just seals the deal.
(Cone’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 32nd-Tie; 2010 – 49th-Tie)
29. Don Mattingly, 73 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 22 yes, 51 no), written by Stacey Gotsulias, deputy editor of MLB for Aerys Sports:
Don Mattingly is the reason I became such a rabid New York Yankee fan.
When I attended my first games, a doubleheader in 1983, he served primarily as a part-time first baseman and outfielder. I started regularly going to games the following season and that’s when Mattingly got his chance to shine.
He became the full-time first baseman after the Yankees traded Steve Balboni to Kansas City before the 1984 season. In that first full season, Mattingly won the batting title with a .343 average. He also had a league-high 207 hits.
Mattingly won the American League Most Valuable Player award the following season after finishing with 35 home runs and 145 RBI. He was well on his way to a legendary career until a fluke back injury in June 1987. That same season, he still managed to homer in eight-straight games and hit six grand slams. Amazingly, they would be the only grand slams of his career.
Mattingly finished with 100+ RBI from 1984 – 1988, a streak that ended in 1988 when he collected 88 RBI.
His back problems flared up again in subsequent seasons and he could never regain his power stroke. After 14 respectable seasons with the Yankees and a .307 career average, Mattingly retired at 34.
(Mattingly’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 22nd-Tie; 2010 – 27th)
The slick fielding, power hitting Graig Nettles might be the greatest third baseman — outside active players– to not be enshrined in Cooperstown. In addition to a reputation as a great defender, Nettles hit 390 home runs and displayed excellent plate discipline.
Unfortunately for the former Yankee, his greatest attributes weren’t properly identified by voters during his opportunity for enshrinement. His 62.7 Wins Above Replacement ranks above HOFers such as Andre Dawson, Dave Winfield and Harmon Killebrew. Although Nettles topped out at 5th in any individual MVP vote, he finished 4th in MLB in ‘76 WAR. During the 70’s, Nettles walked during 10.2 percent of his PA’s, compared to an 11.1 K percentage. That discipline formula rated better than more heralded teammates like Munson, Jackson and Rivers.
Many referred to Nettles as “dependable” or “sturdy” during his time in the Bronx Zoo. As the years moved on, it’s clear that he was an underappreciated star who contributed heavily to five World Series appearances. Ironically, a modern day Nettles — Adrian Beltre — has started to receive Hall conversation. As times passes, it’s likely that more players of the Nettles-Beltre ilk will receive consideration for Cooperstown.
(Nettles’ places in first two years of project: 2011 – 40th; 2010 – 44th-Tie)
32. Jim Kaat, 71 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 46 yes, 24 no, 1 N/A), written by Brandon Warne of Fangraphs:
Long before Jim Kaat was a well-liked broadcaster, he was a pretty darn good pitcher whose career spanned four decades (1959-1983). And while Kaat gets a lot more credit for longevity than quality — including 162-game averages of 13-11 record, 3.45 ERA, and a 108 ERA+ in his 25-year career — his 71.2 WAR via FanGraphs paints the picture of a true fringe candidate. By JAWS, Kaat is on the outside looking in, but one could be forgiven for inducting him on the basis of nearly 300 wins, 16 Gold Gloves, and the fact that despite pitching in a non-strikeout era, he’s still 34th on the all-time list.
But in the end, Kaat falls short, and that’s probably a fair assessment.
(Kaat’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 27th-Tie; 2010 – 28th-Tie)
A dynamic player who combined power and speed at a time when it was rare, Saturnino “Minnie” Minoso starred for the Chicago White Sox for the bulk of his lengthy career. The Cuban-born left fielder was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1951, batted .300 in eight All-Star Games, and won three Gold Glove awards. Consistent production was his hallmark. In the 11-year period from 1951-1961, he hit over .300 eight times, scored 90+ runs nine times, topped 100 RBI four times, and was always in double figures in home runs and stolen bases. He also led the AL in getting hit by pitches ten times and in stolen bases and triples three times each, a testament to the speed that electrified the league. The “Go! Go!” chant of White Sox fans early in his career became the mantra of the 1959 AL champs, and even though he had been traded to the Indians two seasons earlier, he remained so popular in Chicago that Chisox owner Bill Veeck gave him a World Series ring.
(Minoso’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 21st; 2010 – 31st-Tie)
34. Will Clark, 68 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 21 yes, 46 no, 1 N/A), written by Peter Hartlaub, pop culture critic and blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle:
Will Clark’s biggest obstacle to getting into the Hall of Fame was always Will Clark.
The first baseman coasted on natural ability, a stranger to offseason workouts and (apparently) the concept of a side salad. Fans loved the good ol’ boy persona, but he made enemies among baseball writers. And after an epic comeback season – and within striking distance of the Hall-friendly 300 homer mark – the six time All-Star chose to hunt, fish and do other Will Clark things rather than play out the end of his career.
Clark didn’t make a case for himself, so we must dig a little to make the case for him. There’s his lifetime .303 batting average and gaudy .384 on-base percentage. He made 8,283 plate appearances and grounded into just 100 double plays.
He was the catalyst that brought back the San Francisco Giants franchise, electrifying the team and its fanbase with his perfect swing and swagger, then hitting .650 in the team’s landmark 1989 NLCS victory over the Chicago Cubs. A solid defensive first baseman, and an exceptional situational hitter. A legend in college, who hit .429 in the Olympics. Definitely the guy you want on your side in a fight.
And then there was that final season, filling in with injured Mark McGwire’s St. Louis Cardinals. With just 171 at-bats, the 36-year-old Clark hit 12 homers and 42 RBIs with a .345 batting average. An exclamation point on a Hall-worthy career.
(Clark’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 14th-Tie; 2010 – 17th-Tie)
35-Tie. Dale Murphy, 67 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 37 yes, 30 no), written by his son, Chad Murphy:
Of course I’m a little biased, but I think there’s no doubt that my dad was one of the top 5 or so players of the 1980s (eerily similar to Gil Hodges in the 50s, in fact.) No matter which side of the peak vs. longevity debate you come down on, you can always find exceptions who are already in the Hall of Fame. Even with his late-career decline, my dad was 19th on the all-time home run list (just behind Duke Snider, I believe) when he retired.
The other important consideration (which I discuss at some length here) is all the intangibles he brought to the game: the way he inspired a generation of baseball fans, especially in the South; his long streak of consecutive games for a set of Braves teams that were, for the most part, truly awful; and, most importantly (in my opinion), the integrity he brought to the way he played the game. He’s a walking advertisement, in fact, for the very cliche but undoubtedly true notion that it’s not what you achieve that matters most but how you achieve it. So it’s not just that my dad was “a nice guy.”
True, being a model citizen off-the-field shouldn’t be totally relevant to HOF decisions, but these days the more pertinent character issue, I believe, is whether or not you cut corners for personal gain and by doing so compromised the integrity of the game. Not only did my dad make the correct decisions– for himself and for the game– but he also managed to put up impressive numbers in the process. If such a well-rounded career is not worthy of the top 50, not to mention the HOF, then we might do well to re-evaluate a few things.
(Murphy’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 27th-Tie; 2010 – 17th-Tie)
Kevin Brown is an interesting case when we look at “bubble” Hall Of Fame candidates. He carries with him a pedigree of postseason success, a frequency of “that other guy” accomplishments, and statistical success that is on par with elite players during his time.
Taking a bit deeper look, we can see that Brown achieved the status of All Star six times in his career, spanning both leagues with one appearance in the American League and five in the National League. His career spanned 19 seasons and he accomplished over 200 wins during that time span. His career numbers boast over 200 wins (211), over 2,300 strikeouts (2,397), an impressive career earned run average (3.28) and over 3,200 innings pitched (3,256.1). While we are into a generation of pitchers that will, most likely, struggle to ever produce another 300 win pitcher, a player with more than 200 suddenly becomes in the discussion of the true “elite.”
Brown was never able to accomplish the pinnacle of awards as a pitcher, however, he did finish with second (1996), third (1998) and sixth (1992, 1999, 2000) in Cy Young voting during his career. Add to that, he was able to place in the top 25 in Most Valuable Player voting twice (1996, 1998).
He sports the coveted World Series Champion title, having won with the Florida Marlins in 1997 as well as finding his way back to the post-season as a member of the Padres in 1998 and the Yankees in 2004.
Is Brown truly a Hall Of Famer? Probably not. Is he among the best players that are not in Cooperstown? Very much so.
(Brown’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 35th; 2010 – 38th-Tie)
Perhaps the best measure of whether Ken Boyer belongs in the Hall of Fame comes from the St. Louis Cardinals themselves. Traditionally, the team retires numbers only for Hall of Famers – or, in the case of Tony La Russa whose No. 10 was retired in 2012, those sure to be inducted. Gracing the left field wall at Busch Stadium are the photos and numbers of the Cooperstown inductees: Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Red Schoendienst, Bruce Sutter, Whitey Herzog, on and on … plus Ken Boyer’s No. 14. Boyer’s number was retired in 1984, two years after his untimely death from cancer at age 51.
Boyer was the National League MVP in 1964, as well as a key contributor during that year’s Cardinals World Series championship. He was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove third baseman whose numbers for his 15-year career – .287/.349/.462 with 282 home runs, 1141 RBI, 58.7 WAR – are comparable to those of Hall of Famer Ron Santo over his 15-year career. Of course, Santo’s journey to the Hall was long and winding, but ultimately resulted in induction. And the sentiment of long-time Cardinals fans, with this being one example, is that the same should hold true for Boyer.
(Boyer’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 27th-Tie; 2010 – 35th)
38. Jack Morris, 64 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 30 yes, 34 no):
Joe Posnanski wrote today, “I’ve said way too much already about Morris as a Hall of Fame candidate. I admire the career, but I think there are many other better pitchers who are not in the Hall of Fame. But that’s an old story now.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
(Morris’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 52nd-Tie; 2010 – 36th-Tie)
Wes Ferrell didn’t win 200 games and had an ERA over 4.00. How is he even in a Hall of Fame discussion? He just might be the most unique pitcher in history. Ferrell’s 8-year peak took place when the league ERA was 4.50. Ferrell’s ERA during those years was 3.72. Add the fact that he played in two hitters parks (in Cleveland and Boston) and his ERA+ during that run was 128. For his entire career, his ERA+ was still an impressive 116—better than Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins, and Nolan Ryan (among several others).
Ferrell’s peak was tremendous, as he won 20 games six times and compiled 46.0 (Baseball-Reference) WAR on the mound (the rest of his career was below replacement level). Then there’s his bat. Ferrell was the best hitting (exclusive) pitcher of all time. His 100 wRC+ led to 12.1 WAR at the plate. Ten wins came during his peak, meaning he was worth 56.0 WAR, or 7.0 WAR per season. That is a Hall of Fame-level, Koufaxian peak. It just isn’t a traditional one.
(Ferrell’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 45th-Tie; 2010 – 86th-Tie)
Any fan of American League baseball in the late 1980s knew his favorite team would have its hands full a few times a year when future Hall-of-Famer Bret Saberhagen came through town. Saberhagen’s career took such a turn for the worse, though. Not only is he not bronzed in Cooperstown, he didn’t even crack this list either of the past two years.
In 1989, Saberhagen won his second AL Cy Young Award, leading the league in innings pitched (262 1/3), ERA (2.16), and wins (23). We would later learn that Saberhagen also led the league in WHIP (0.961) and WAR (9.2, per baseball-reference), each for the second time.
Saberhagen’s Hall case was derailed by inconsistency and injury. He pitched like an ace in ’85, ’87, and ’89, but failed to throw 200 innings in ’86 and ’90 and led the league in hits allowed in ’88.
Coming off a solid season in 1991, he signed a massive deal with the Mets (on which he’s still collecting). In New York, he made just 74 starts over the next 3 1/2 years before being traded to the Rockies in midseason 1995.
Saberhagen enjoyed a minor comeback with the Red Sox in his mid-thirties before retiring in 2001, having accumulated more career WAR (56) than Hal Newhouser, but fewer than Tommy John, and more wins (167) than Sandy Koufax, but fewer than long-time teammate Kevin Appier, whose Hall case is similar to Saberhagen’s despite a far quieter career.
(Saberhagen’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 58th-Tie; 2010 – 86th-Tie)
The first three Bobby Bonds cards I ever owned were all in the 1976 Topps set. #380 showed him in Yankee pinstripes, looking muscular and intense with a bandaged right hand that spoke of untold hours in the batting cage; “AL All-Star Outfield,” read the star in the lower left-hand corner. #2 was a “’75 Record Breaker” card, which featured a pic from the same photo session and celebrated the fact that Bonds now had more leadoff homers (32) and more 30-30 seasons (3) to his name than anyone in MLB history. And then there was #380T, which showed him in an airbrushed California Angels cap and sported the headline “Yankees Trade Bonds To Angels”.
And that, folks, is pretty much The Bobby Bonds Story in a nutshell. Barry’s late dad had tremendous power, speed and ability, yet — after playing his first seven seasons in San Francisco — seemed condemned to wander the baseball map like Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu. From 1975 through 1981, Bonds played for seven different teams, never quite living up to the “next Willie Mays” tag that had been hung on him. Injuries were a problem, alcoholism more so, and his career was all but over by the time he turned 34. Still, a man with 332 homers, 461 stolen bases, five 30-30 seasons (a record he now shares with his son), three Gold Gloves, and a .353 career OBP despite striking out essentially once every four at-bats deserves better than to be remembered as a mere underachiever. For much of his career, Bobby Bonds was a badass — and as Master Po might have said, better to be a flawed badass than to never be a badass at all.
(Bonds’ places in first two years of project: 2011 – 22nd-Tie; 2010 – 54th-Tie)
Making a top-50 case for Gil Hodges is a lot easier than some. Not only was he an excellent player, he was also a World Series winning manager.
The right-handed hitting Hodges is an all-time great based on his bat alone. In an 18-year career, spent mostly with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, the first baseman hit .273 with 370 home runs and 1,274 RBI. He was also an eight-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and ranks 72nd all-time in home runs, 170th in extra base hits and 119th in RBI. The Dodgers failed to finish first or second only three times during his 14 years as a regular.
Hodges’s career managerial losing record (660-753) must be split into two eras. He spent five seasons helming the Washington Senators in the second division. However, he brought magic to the hapless New York Mets. Still in their first decade of existence, they were a laughing stock and had never won more than 66 games in a season. Hodges had three winning seasons in the four he spent in Flushing, including leading the iconic 1969 World Series winning Amazin’ Mets.
Few figures in baseball history can match the record of excellence and success of Gil Hodges.
(Hodges’ places in first two years of project: 2011 – 25th; 2010 – 24th)
To borrow a page out of the Four Tops’ book and duly make an awful pun, Reggie Smith simply was “Standing in the Shadows of Glove” for the entirety of his career—overshadowed by Carl Yastrzemski during his time in Boston (rightfully so) and Steve Garvey in Los Angeles (less rightfully so.)
Never once did Smith have a full season with an OPS+ under 100; in fact, aside from his rookie year, it never dipped below 116. While never recording any truly eye-popping seasons, he managed to post nine seasons with 4 or more WAR and retired from Major League Baseball (he would go on to play in Japan) with a final season OPS+ of 134 for San Francisco, barely below his career average.
Splitting his time between center and right field, Smith was arguably one of the top-ten fielders at his position between 1965 and 1985, and compares favorably in overall value to many HOF outfielders, from Tommy McCarthy to Dave Winfield. To me, he’s slightly above a borderline case— maybe undeserving of a vote on a stacked ballot like this year’s, but far more worthy than the 0.7 percent he received in 1988.
(Smith’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 43rd-Tie; 2010 – 54th-Tie)
44. Dave Stieb, 57 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 20 yes, 35 no, 2 N/A), written by Sean Lahman:
Dave Stieb wasn’t perfect, but he came close. In 1989, he came within one out of a perfect game against the Yankees. He took no-hitters into the ninth inning in back-to-back starts in 1988, and he finally got his no-hitter against the Indians in 1990.
No-hitters aren’t enough to punch your ticket to the Hall of Fame, but these games give a glimpse at how dominating a pitcher Stieb was at his peak. He was a seven time all-star, starting for the American League in back to back games in 1983 and 1984.
Stieb got just a smattering of HOF votes in his only year on the ballot, but you have to think he’d have enjoyed much stronger support if he had reached the big leagues two decades later. Stieb didn’t fare well in the traditional statistics like wins and strikeouts which were considered important at the time. Toiling for an expansion team in the baseball wilderness of Canada didn’t help his feats get the appropriate exposure, either
Looking back now, the sabermetric stats help provide some context for his dominance. His WAR7 – his annual Wins Above Replacement score for his best seven seasons – is 42.7, well ahead of contemporaries like Nolan Ryan (41.0), Jack Morris (30.8), or Dwight Gooden (37.2).
Stieb led the American League in WAR for pitchers for three consecutive seasons, from 1982 to 1984, and finished second in 1981 and 1985.
He’s often compared to his contemporary Jack Morris, a perennial HOF candidate who was the only pitcher who compiled more wins than Stieb during the 1980s. But Stieb’s career WAR is much better, 53.5 versus 39.3, illustrating how much the case for Morris relies on traditional statistics, longevity, and the differences between playing for a playoff contender rather than an expansion team.
(Stieb’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 73rd; 2010 – 65th-Tie)
Ask a baseball fan about second basemen that should perhaps be in the Hall of Fame and Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker are immediately mentioned. One name that doesn’t get bandied about quite so much is Willie Randolph’s…although maybe it should.
The greatest argument against Randolph’s enshrinement is his lack of home run power. His 54 home runs would rank him one hundred and twenty-first among the 148 current hitter inductees, with only four of those inductees playing most of their careers in the Post World War II era.
But Randolph’s game didn’t revolve around power. His speed, defense and on-base skills are what made him great. Randolph’s steady play around the keystone, base stealing abilities, and his ability to work the count and take a walk made him into one of the best second basemen of his time and one of the top 15-20 second basemen of all time.
Randolph might very well fall on the “wrong” side of the HOF bubble. But as with his contemporaries Grich and Whitaker, it is a shame that Randolph was one and done on the ballot. Whether he is a Hall of Famer or not, Randolph’s case is most definitely underappreciated.
(Randolph’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 52nd-Tie; 2010 – 65th-Tie)
When I was reading Dan Epstein’s 2012 book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass I knew there would have to be some reference made to Yankee catcher Thurman Munson’s personal grooming preferences and sure enough Epstein noted that the Yankee captain “who seemed to sport a perpetual three-day scruff as prickly as his personality” grew a full beard in 1977 much to the chagrin of owner George Steinbrenner. Munson was a hard-nosed and mustached throwback that reminded me of the ancient Buck Ewing’s and King Kelly’s of the game and how could George have been upset with a guy who as a catcher was never (ever) on the disabled list. In a brief career cut short at the age of 32 by the tragic airplane crash that found him burned to death in the cockpit of his own plane, Munson’s name is often bandied about as a possible Hall of Fame candidate with a past precedent set by the enshrinement of another tragic figure, Cleveland pitcher Addie Joss whose career fell short of the Hall’s ten year career requirement. In 1977 the HOF Board of Directors bent the rules and passed a special resolution to pave Joss’ way to immortality in the plaque gallery.
Joss pitched only nine years and compiled a record of 160-97 with an ERA of 1.89, pitching two no hitters and a perfect game before his life was taken by a bout with meningitis in 1911. Comparably, Munson’s career lasted eleven years with only nine full seasons and had his last one cut short after playing 97 games in 1979. In his prime, Munson led the woeful Yankees back to prominence with an AL Pennant in 1976 and two World Championships in 1977 and 1978. His lifetime BA was .292 with 1,558 hits and along with HOFers Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench was undoubtedly considered one of the top catchers in the game. As Graham noted in 2010, Munson “made seven All Star appearances in the decade along with winning three Gold Gloves and the 1976 American League Most Valuable Player award.” Not too shabby.
Still, Munson falls way short of the dominance of fellow catcher Roy Campanella, whose career was also cut short, and his showing in the BBWAA voting was less than stellar after he first appeared on the ballot in 1981. Munson’s only shot for the Hall with the Veteran’s Committee is no doubt an uphill battle with many standing in line in front of him including fellow catcher Gil Hodges who received more votes than him back in 1981. Munson still has his devoted supporters, though, and a website devoted to his enshrinement.
(Munson’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 37th-Tie; 2010 – 47th)
47-Tie. Rick Reuschel, 52 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 28 yes, 23 no, 1 N/A), written by Cyril Morong of Cybermetrics:
Rick Reuschel may never have seemed like a Hall of Famer, but he excelled at the two things a pitcher directly controls the most: HRs allowed and strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was also a work horse, being one of only 83 pitchers to reach 3000 IP from 1920-2011 (3,548 IP).
Among that group, he was 16th in preventing HRs relative to the league average, giving up about 27% fewer HRs than the norm, pitching mainly in Wrigley Field! Wrigley was a great HR park during his Cub years, allowing 42% more HRs than average.
He is also 34th in strikeout-to-walk ratio relative to the league average, being 31% better than the norm.
He ranks ahead of the following Hall of Famers in both stats:
Some of them pitched more innings. Palmer for example, had 3,948. But Palmer was only 33rd in HRs prevented, being 14% better than average. In strikeout-to-walk ratio he was 63rd, being 9% better than average. Palmer got in on the 1st ballot with 92.6% of the vote. So Reuschel’s candidacy must be taken seriously.
(Reuschel’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 52nd-Tie; 2010 – 103rd-Tie)
47-Tie. Jimmy Wynn, 52 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 24 yes, 27 no, 1 N/A), written by David Pinto of Baseball Musings:
Jimmy Wynn played at the wrong time in the wrong stadium. Wynn posted a high OBP and a high isolated power for his career, but his batting average came in low in an era when most commentators saw that as a very important statistic. Wynn played for Houston, spending many years in the Astrodome, which reduced his power. A look at his splits shows him hitting 137 home runs in his home parks, 154 away. If you look at Wynn’s road stats during his 12 years as an everyday player, he compares favorably with Billy Williams, a Hall of Fame outfielder who played in a much better hitter’s park.
My favorite Wynn stat comes from his defense. While he was only about average defensively, the Toy Cannon could throw. In just 290 games in leftfield, Wynn collected 34 assists. As a matter of comparison, Alex Gordon leads ML leftfielders with 37 assists in 308 games over the last two seasons. All in all, Wynn threw out 139 runners from the outfield. Wynn’s powerful bat and arm helped make him one of the most underrated players of all time.
(Wynn’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 37th-Tie; 2010 – 44th-Tie)
In 1995, on the eve of Game Three of the World Series, Albert Belle’s episodic rage surfaced in the Indians’ dugout. Spewing profanities, he drove media members from the benches, redirecting his attacks to NBC’s Hannah Storm while she braved the outburst.
In 1995, Albert Belle became the only player in MLB history to reach 50 home runs and 50 doubles in a single season. He led the league with 121 runs, 126 RBI, and a .690 SLG, missing the MVP nod by a single vote and, perhaps, a temper tantrum or two.
Over 12 seasons, Albert averaged 143+ hits, 30+ home runs, and 100+ RBI per season. He posted an OPS+ over 100 each year, topping out at 194 in 1994. His defensive value was a liability, reaching a high of -0.6 dWAR in 1995 and tanking at -2.3 in ’99. A bout of degenerative arthritis forced Belle into an early retirement with career totals of .295/.369/.564, a .933 OPS, and 36.9 bWAR.
Sports Illustrated’s Michael Bamberger once described Belle this way: “He wants to be measured solely by his baseball accomplishments.” Although he has since been knocked out of Hall of Fame contention, it’s a mantra voters would do well to remember.
(Belle’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 31st; 2010 – 31st-Tie)
49-Tie. Dave Parker, 51 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 20 yes, 30 no, 1 N/A), written by Tara Franey of Aerys Sports:
Dave Parker’s career is really best told through briefer moments. His career batting and WAR numbers are great, but borderline. Bring it down to the season level, and you get an MVP award, two batting titles, three gold gloves, three silver sluggers, and seven all-star appearances. Come down a level further and you have a treasure trove of some of the era’s more memorable moments. Remember that time he broke his face and wore that crazy black and yellow goalie mask? Remember that throw home in the 1979 All-Star game? Remember that time he literally hit the cover off of the dang ball? …Remember the cocaine?
But in between those times – both after his heyday in Pittsburgh, and after his resurgence in Cincinnati – there were some rough periods for Parker, and it’s hard to say whether some combination of his career numbers and awards, and the other stuff: like his great moments, style of play, or loud personality, should merit inclusion into the hall. He never got strong support from the voters before dropping off the ballot last year, but he seems like a guy who could have better luck with the Veterans Committee.
(Parker’s places in first two years of project: 2011 – 36th; 2010 – 28th-Tie)
New to the Top 50 this year: Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Kenny Lofton, Jack Morris (in Top 50 in 2010), Mike Piazza, Willie Randolph, Rick Reuschel, Bret Saberhagen, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Dave Stieb.
Players who were in the Top 50 last year, but aren’t this year: Barry Larkin (Finished 2nd, now in HOF); Ron Santo (Tied for 6th, now in HOF); Harold Baines (45th-Tie); Bob Caruthers (45th-Tie); Dave Concepcion (45th-Tie); Steve Garvey (41st-Tie); Ron Guidry (41st-Tie); Orel Hershiser (41st-Tie); Roger Maris (45th-Tie); John Olerud (45th-Tie); Tony Oliva (30th); Bernie Williams (37th-Tie);
Players who were in the Top 50 in 2010, but haven’t been in since: Bert Blyleven (Finished 1st, now in HOF); Roberto Alomar (Tied for 2nd, now in HOF); Dan Quisenberry (38th-Tie); Buck O’Neil (44th-Tie); Bill Freehan (48th.)
Beyond the Top 50
30-50 votes: Harold Baines 39 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 8Y, 31N), Sal Bando 43 (DHB: 18Y, 23N, 2NA), Buddy Bell 48 (DHB: 21Y, 26N, 1NA), Jose Canseco 31 (DHB: 3Y, 28N), Bob Caruthers 38 (DHB: 26Y, 10N, 2NA), Eddie Cicotte 44 (DHB: 16Y, 27N, 1NA), Dave Concepcion 35 (DHB: 13Y, 21N, 1NA), Bill Freehan 32 (DHB: 16Y, 16N), Steve Garvey 46 (DHB: 21Y, 25N), Jack Glasscock 34 (DHB: 22Y, 11N, 1NA), Dwight Gooden 31 (DHB: 8Y, 23N), Ron Guidry 46 (DHB: 15Y, 31N), Orel Hershiser 44 (DHB: 14Y, 30N), Sherry Magee 49 (DHB: 30Y, 18N, 1NA), Roger Maris 33 (DHB: 11Y, 21N, 1NA), Tony Mullane 34 (DHB: 23Y, 11N), Buck O’Neil 35 (DHB: 31Y, 3N, 1NA), Sadaharu Oh* 30 (DHB: 25Y, 4N, 1NA), John Olerud 36 (DHB: 9Y, 27N), Tony Oliva 50 (DHB: 25Y, 24N, 1NA), Billy Pierce 34 (DHB: 24Y, 9N, 1NA), Vada Pinson 36 (DHB: 13Y, 23N), Lee Smith 49 (DHB: 30Y, 19N), Bernie Williams 43 (DHB: 11Y, 31N, 1NA)
20-29 votes: Kevin Appier 26 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 7Y, 18N, 1NA), Vida Blue 26 (DHB: 10Y, 16N), Pete Browning 21 (DHB: 15Y, 5N, 1NA), Joe Carter 28 (DHB: 11Y, 17N), Norm Cash 25 (DHB: 5Y, 20N), Cesar Cedeno 28 (DHB: 5Y, 23N), Willie Davis 21 (DHB: 6Y, 15N), Dom DiMaggio 22 (DHB: 8Y, 12N, 2NA), Curt Flood 29 (DHB: 19Y, 10N), Stan Hack 26 (DHB: 16Y, 10N), Indian Bob Johnson 24 (DHB: 11Y, 13N), Mickey Lolich 29 (DHB: 8Y, 20N, 1NA), Fred Lynn 27 (DHB: 6Y, 20N, 1NA), Lefty O’Doul 23 (DHB: 12Y, 9N, 2NA), Al Oliver 23 (DHB: 13Y, 8N, 2NA), Dan Quisenberry 27 (DHB: 14Y, 13N), Urban Shocker 24 (DHB: 11Y, 12N, 1NA), Rusty Staub 24 (DHB: 9Y, 15N), Darryl Strawberry 21 (DHB: 2Y, 19N), Deacon White 27 (DHB: 24Y, 3N), Maury Wills 22 (DHB: 10Y, 11N, 1NA), Smoky Joe Wood 23 (DHB: 6Y, 16N, 1NA)
10-19 votes: Sandy Alomar 10 (DHB: 2Y, 8N), Ross Barnes 12 (DHB: 11Y, 1N), Don Baylor 12 (DHB: 3Y, 9N), Charlie Bennett 12 (DHB: 9Y, 2N, 1NA), Tommy Bond 16 (DHB: 11Y, 5N), Bob Boone 10 (DHB: 2Y, 7N, 1NA), Bill Buckner 17 (DHB: 3Y, 14N), Charlie Buffinton 11 (DHB: 9Y, 2N), Ellis Burks 10 (DHB: 0Y, 10N), Ron Cey 15 (DHB: 1Y, 13N, 1NA), Jack Clark 18 (DHB: 2Y, 16N), Rocky Colavito 12 (DHB: 5Y, 7N), Vince Coleman 10 (DHB: 2Y, 8N), Gavy Cravath 13 (DHB: 7Y, 6N), Eric Davis 16 (DHB: 0Y, 16N), Chuck Finley 12 (DHB: 3Y, 9N), George Foster 13 (DHB: 4Y, 9N), John Franco 17 (DHB: 8Y, 9N), Julio Franco 16 (DHB: 4Y, 12N), Andres Galarraga 19 (DHB: 5Y, 14N), Kirk Gibson 17 (DHB: 3Y, 14N), Juan Gonzalez 16 (DHB: 4Y, 12N), Mark Grace 13 (DHB: 1Y, 12N), Paul Hines 12 (DHB: 11Y, 1N), Elston Howard 14 (DHB: 3Y, 10N, 1NA), Frank Howard 14 (DHB: 5Y, 7N, 2NA), Bo Jackson 10 (DHB: 3Y, 7N), David Justice 11 (DHB: 1Y, 10N), Charlie Keller 11 (DHB: 6Y, 5N), Dave Kingman 10 (DHB: 1Y, 9N), Ted Kluszewski 10 (DHB: 3Y, 7N), Bill Madlock 15 (DHB: 8Y, 7N), Marty Marion 10 (DHB: 3Y, 7N), Dennis Martinez 14 (DHB: 6Y, 8N), Bobby Mathews 17 (DHB: 13Y, 4N), Carl Mays 11 (DHB: 7Y, 4N), Jim McCormick 19 (DHB: 15Y, 4N), Don Newcombe 16 (DHB: 7Y, 8N, 1NA), Lance Parrish 11 (DHB: 3Y, 7N, 1NA), Allie Reynolds 16 (DHB: 10Y, 5N, 1NA), J.R. Richard 11 (DHB: 3Y, 8N), Al Rosen 11 (DHB: 5Y, 5N, 1NA), Jimmy Ryan 13 (DHB: 11Y, 2N), Vern Stephens 16 (DHB: 6Y, 10N), Harry Stovey 15 (DHB: 13Y, 2N), Frank Tanana 13 (DHB: 4Y, 9N), Gene Tenace 17 (DHB: 5Y, 11N, 1NA), Fernando Valenzuela 16 (DHB: 3Y, 13N), George Van Haltren 14 (DHB: 11Y, 3N), Robin Ventura 19 (DHB: 5Y, 14N), Bucky Walters 11 (DHB: 6Y, 5N), David Wells 14 (DHB: 4Y, 10N), Wilbur Wood 15 (DHB: 5Y, 9N, 1NA)
5-9 votes: Babe Adams 6 (DHB: 3Y, 2N, 1NA), Matty Alou 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N), Dusty Baker 9 (DHB: 3Y, 6N), John Beckwith 7 (DHB: 6Y, 1N), Mark Belanger 8 (DHB: 1Y, 7N), Bret Boone 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N), Larry Bowa 9 (DHB: 4Y, 5N), Tommy Bridges 8 (DHB: 6Y, 2N), Lew Burdette 6 (DHB: 3Y, 3N), Jeff Burroughs 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N), Brett Butler 9 (DHB: 0Y, 9N), Hal Chase 5 (DHB: 2Y, 3N), Cupid Childs 6 (DHB: 5Y, 1N), Jeff Cirillo 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N), Royce Clayton 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N), Cecil Cooper 5 (DHB: 2Y, 3N), Jeff Conine 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N), Wilbur Cooper 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N), Lave Cross 6 (DHB: 4Y, 2N), Mike Cuellar 9 (DHB: 3Y, 6N), Bob Elliott 5 (DHB: 3Y, 1N, 1NA), Steve Finley 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N), Carl Furillo 5 (DHB: 2Y, 3N), George Gore 9 (DHB: 4Y, 5N), Shawn Green 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N), Ken Griffey Sr. 5 (DHB: 1Y, 3N, 1NA), Heinie Groh 5 (DHB: 5Y, 0N). Mel Harder 6 (DHB: 3Y, 2N, 1NA), Tommy Henrich 7 (DHB: 1Y, 5N, 1NA), Babe Herman 9 (DHB: 4Y, 5N), Roberto Hernandez 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N), Dummy Hoy 5 (DHB: 3Y, 2N), Home Run Johnson 8 (DHB: 7Y, 1N), Jerry Koosman 9 (DHB: 5Y, 4N), Harvey Kuenn 6 (DHB: 2Y, 4N), Chet Lemon *Write-In* 5 (DHB: 2Y, 3N), Dick Lundy 6 (DHB: 6Y, 0N), Sparky Lyle 8 (DHB: 3Y, 5N), Greg Maddux *Write-in, not yet eligible* 5 (DHB: 5Y, 0N), Pepper Martin 5 (DHB: 3Y, 1N, 1NA), Tino Martinez 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N), Tug McGraw 8 (DHB: 5Y, 3N), Denny McLain 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N), Cal McVey 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N), Bobby Murcer 7 (DHB: 2Y, 5N), Paul O’Neill 7 (DHB: 0Y, 7N), Alejandro Oms 5 (DHB: 5Y, 0N), Dickey Pearce 6 (DHB: 6Y, 0N), Deacon Phillippe 6 (DHB: 2Y, 4N), Lip Pike 5 (DHB: 5Y, 0N), Spottswood Poles 6 (DHB: 5Y, 1N), Boog Powell 7 (DHB: 2Y, 5N), Jack Quinn 5 (DHB: 4Y, 1N), Johnny Sain 7 (DHB: 3Y, 4N), Wally Schang 9 (DHB: 7Y, 2N), Mike Scott 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N), Ken Singleton 5 (DHB: 1Y, 3N, 1NA), Joe Start 5 (DHB: 4Y, 0N, 1NA), Riggs Stephenson 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N), Cecil Travis 8 (DHB: 5Y, 2N, 1NA), Bobby Veach 5 (DHB: 4Y, 1N), Mickey Vernon 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N), Frank White 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N), Cy Williams 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N), Ken Williams 6 (DHB: 3Y, 3N), Matt Williams 9 (DHB: 0Y, 8N, 1NA), Eddie Yost 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N)
3-4 votes: Joe Adcock 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N), Edgardo Alfonzo 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N), Wally Berger 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N), Lyman Bostock 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N), Jeromy Burnitz 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N), Dolph Camilli 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Bert Campaneris *Write-In* 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N), Vinny Castilla 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N), Phil Cavarretta 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Jack Coombs 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Jose Cruz Sr. 4 (DHB: 0Y, 3N, 1NA), Al Dark 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Jake Daubert 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Paul Derringer 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Brian Downing 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N), Luke Easter 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N), Jim Edmonds *Write-in, not yet eligible* 4 (DHB: 3Y, 1N), Del Ennis 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N), Cecil Fielder 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N), Dave Foutz 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Jim Fregosi *Write-In* 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Tom Glavine *Write-in, not yet eligible* 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Hank Gowdy 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Dick Groat 4 (DHB: 1Y, 2N, 1NA), Ozzie Guillen 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N), Guy Hecker 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Tom Henke 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Jeff Kent *Write-in, not yet eligible* 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Ryan Klesko 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N), Johnny Kling 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Mark Langston 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Don Larsen 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Tommy Leach 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Sam Leever 4 (DHB: 2Y, 1N, 1N), Davey Lopes 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N), Greg Luzinski 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Sal Maglie 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N), Firpo Marberry 4 (DHB: 4Y, 0N), Oliver Marcelle 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Pedro Martinez *Write-in, not yet eligible* 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Gil McDougald 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Sam McDowell 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Stuffy McInnis 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Dave McNally 4 (DHB: 1Y, 2N, 1NA), Hal McRae 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Jose Mesa 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N), Dobie Moore 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Mike Mussina *Write-in, not yet eligible* 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Buddy Myer 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Tip O’Neill 4 (DHB: 2Y, 1N, 1NA), Jesse Orosco 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Dave Orr 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Ted Radcliffe 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Jeff Reardon 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N), Dick Redding 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Ed Reulbach *Write-In* 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Hardy Richardson 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Dave Righetti 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N), Schoolboy Rowe 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N), Tim Salmon 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N), Reggie Sanders 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Jimmy Sheckard 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N), Gary Sheffield *Write-in, not yet eligible* 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), John Smoltz *Write-in, not yet eligible* 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Jack Stivetts 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N), Ezra Sutton 4 (DHB: 3Y, 1N), Kent Tekulve 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N), Frank Thomas *Write-in, not yet eligible* 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Bobby Thomson 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Hal Trosky 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N), Quincy Trouppe 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Johnny Vander Meer 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N), Hippo Vaughn 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N), Mo Vaughn 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N), Fleet Walker 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N), Roy White 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N), Ned Williamson 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N)
1-2 votes: Ted Abernathy *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Newt Allen *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Felipe Alou *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Buzz Arlett 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Bobby Avila 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Dick Bartell 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Joe Black 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Ken Boswell *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), George H Burns 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), George J Burns 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Jack Chesbro *Write-in, already in HOF* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Harlond Clift 2 (DHB: 1Y, 0N, 1NA), Tony Conigliaro *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Jose Cruz *Write-in* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Roy Cullenbine 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Chili Davis *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Tommy Davis *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Bingo DeMoss 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Rob Dibble *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), John Donaldson 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Mike Donlin 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Patsy Donovan 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Fred Dunlap *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Mark Eichhorn 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Scott Erickson 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Carl Erskine 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Carl Everett 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Roy Face *Write-in* 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Ferris Fain 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Jeff Fassero 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Tony Fernandez *Write-in* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Charlie Finley *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Freddie Fitzsimmons 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Art Fletcher *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Jack Fournier 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Chuck Foster *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Bud Fowler 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Bob Friend 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Ned Garver 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Jim Gentile 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Brian Giles *Write-in, not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Kid Gleason *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Luis Gonzalez *Write-in, not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Mike Greenwell *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Ken Griffey *Write-in, uncertain if Sr or Jr* 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Ken Griffey Jr *Write-in, not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Charlie Grimm 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Marquis Grissom 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Jerry Grote *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 0N, 1NA), Pedro Guerrero 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Vladimir Guerrero *Write-in, not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Don Gullett *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Isao Harimoto *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Toby Harrah *Write-in* 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), John Hiller 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Larry Hisle *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Trevor Hoffman *Write-in, not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Bob Horner *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Willie Horton 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Randy Johnson *Write-in, not yet eligible* 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Smead Jolley 2 (DHB: 0Y, 1N, 1NA), Chipper Jones *Write-in, not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Doug Jones 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Fielder Jones *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Sad Sam Jones 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Eddie Joost *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Brian Jordan 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Bill Joyce 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Wally Joyner 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Masaichi Kaneda *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Jimmy Key 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Darryl Kile 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Ellis Kinder *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Silver King 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Ray Knight *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Chuck Knoblauch *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Ed Konetchy *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Arlie Latham *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Matt Lawton 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Bill Lee 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Al Leiter 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Jose Lima 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Bob Locker 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Herman Long 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Javy Lopez 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Dolf Luque 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Garry Maddox *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Mike G. Marshall *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Dick McBride 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Frank McCormick 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Lindy McDaniel *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), McDowell *Write-in, not sure if Sam, Jack, Roger or Oddibe* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Willie McGee 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Ed McKean 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Bob Meusel 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Levi Meyerle *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Clyde Milan 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Kevin Mitchell 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Bill Monroe 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Jeff Montgomery *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Wally Moon 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Manny Mota *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Terry Mulholland 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), George Mullin *Write-in* 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Jim Mutrie *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Randy Myers *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Robb Nen 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Phil Nevin 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Joe Niekro 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Amos Otis 2 (DHB: 0Y, 1N, 1NA), Milt Pappas *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Camilo Pascual 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Roger Peckinpaugh *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), William Perry *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Rico Petrocelli *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Bruce Petway 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Tony Phillips *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Darrell Porter *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Brad Radke 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Manny Ramirez *Write-in, not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Ivan Rodriguez *Write-in, not yet eligible* 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Red Rolfe 1 (DHB: 0Y, 0N, 1NA), Charlie Root *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Nap Rucker *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Joe Rudi 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Red Ruffing *Write-in, already in HOF* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), George Scales *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Herb Score 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), George Scott *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Aaron Sele 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Richie Sexson *Write-in, not yet eligible* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Bob Shawkey *Write-in* 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Ruben Sierra 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Roy Sievers 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Chino Smith 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Smith *Write-in, not sure if Lee or Reggie* N 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Elmer E. Smith *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Germany Smith 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Al Spalding *Write-in, already in HOF* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Mike Stanton 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Victor Starffin *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Steve Stone *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Jesse Tannehill 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Frank Thomas (62 Mets) 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Roy Thomas 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Robby Thompson 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Andre Thornton *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Luis Tiant Sr. 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Dizzy Trout 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), George Uhle *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Frank Viola *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Dixie Walker 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Todd Walker 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Lon Warneke 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N), Buck Weaver *Write-in* 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), John Wetteland *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Gus Weyhing 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N), Bill White *Write-in* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Rondell White 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Will White 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Woody Williams 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Vic Willis *Write-in, already in HOF* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Willie Wilson 2 (DHB: 0Y, 1N, 1NA), Nip Winters 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N), Tony Womack 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Tim Worrell 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N), Rudy York 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N), Eric Young 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N)
Appeared on the ballot, received zero votes: Dale Alexander, Hank Bauer, William Bell Sr., Ollie Carnegie, Ben Chapman, Walker Cooper, Jim Creighton, Jim Davenport, Kelly Downs, Larry Doyle, Scott Garrelts, Danny Graves, Mike Griffin, Rick Helling, Tommy Holmes, Ken Holtzman, Pete Hughes, Larry Jackson, Sam Jackson, Sam Jethroe, Charley Jones, Davy Jones, Joe Judge, Benny Kauff, Ken Keltner, Terry Kennedy, Mike LaCoss, Carney Lansford, Vern Law, Duffy Lewis, Elliot Maddox, Candy Maldonado, Mike Matheny, Sadie McMahon, Irish Meusel, Wally Moses, Bill Mueller, Jeff Nelson, Bill Nicholson, Joe Page, Mel Parnell, Larry Parrish, Jim Perry, Johnny Podres, Jack Powell, Vic Power, Joe Randa, Mike Remlinger, Ernie Riles, Don Robinson, Felix Rodriguez, Pete Runnels, Manny Sanguillen, Cy Seymour, George Stone, Jose Uribe, Vic Wertz, Todd Worrell
For the “Best of the Rest”, let’s focus on “The Next 50.” Players #51 through #100 of the voting results each received between 18 and 50 votes. The list features players supported through both a traditional lens [Lee Smith (T-51st), Tony Oliva (T-51st), Steve Garvey (55th), Harold Baines (60th)] and a sabermetric lens [Sherry Magee (53rd), Buddy Bell (54th), Sal Bando (T-59th), Bob Caruthers (61st)]. I’m going to pick a few to touch upon briefly.
Buck O’Neil led this group in Hall-worthy percentage. While only 35 voters placed him on the ballot, 91 percent believed he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I didn’t vote for Buck and I’m absolutely ashamed of that. I had my head stuck too far in the spreadsheets and didn’t think of him. I’m really not sure anyone outside of the Hall of Fame deserves induction more than Buck O’Neil.
Sadaharu Oh also received a high percentage of support, with 86% of the people who named him vouching for his Hall-worthiness. I also did not vote for Oh, but I’m not sure this was an oversight. Everyone in the Hall of Fame is enshrined for their play in the North America. Should it be opened up to players from different continents? If so, Oh and his 868 home runs, 2786 hits, 2170 RBI, 1967 runs, 2390 walks, and .301/.446/.634 slash line are a great place to start.
Deacon White did not finish in the top 50, but of the 27 who voted for him, nearly 90 percent stated that he was Hall-worthy. White, of course, was recently inducted by the Veterans Committee. His low placement on the list is probably due to the fact that he was inducted during the voting, but also a general under-appreciation for 19th century pioneers.
Jack Glasscock is the player who missed the top 50 who ranks the highest according to Hall Rating (my metric used at the Hall of Stats). Bill Dahlen received a lot of support on this list and I’m happy he did. But the only thing that really separated Dahlen from Glasscock is playing time. Dahlen had +137 WAR Batting Runs (by Baseball-Reference). Glasscock had 155. Dahlen had +139 WAR Fielding Runs. Glasscock had 149. Dahlen had a 110 OPS+. Glasscock’s was 112. I love Dahlen and think he’s exceptionally Hall-worthy. But I also think (like two thirds of the people who voted for Glassock) that Pebbly Jack is also Hall-worthy.
Switching back to modern times, Buddy Bell is the top 20th century player by Hall Rating who misses the Top 50. Bell has to be the closest player in history to Brooks Robinson. Bell was the better offensive player (though some may find that controversial). Robinson was peerless in the field, but Bell ranks second all time among third basemen (according to Total Zone). Bell won a half-dozen Gold Gloves, but was also competing with Robinson and Graig Nettles (6th all time in 3B Total Zone runs).
2. Aaron Somers
3. Aaron Whitehead
4. Adam Arnold
5. Adam Darowski
7. Alfred Scott
9. Alvy Singer
10. Andrew Lacy
11. Andrew Martin
12. Andrew Milner
13. Andrew Shauver
14. Andrew Sussman
15. Alex Putterman
18. Bart Silberman
19. Bill Johnson
20. Bill Rubinstein
21. Bob Sohm
23. Brendan Bingham
24. Brendan Evans
25. Brian Metrick
26. Bryan Grosnick
27. Bryan O’Connor
29. Cecilia Tan
30. Chip Buck
31. Chris Jensen
32. Chris Esser
33. Clifford Smith
34. Craig Cornell
36. Dalton Mack
37. Dan Evans
38. Dan McCloskey
38. Dan O’Connor
40. Dave England
41. David Lick
42. Dean Sullivan
44. Dick Clark
45. Drew Barr
46. Ed White
47. Eric Cockayne
48. Eric R. Pleiss
49. Eugene Freedman
50. Gabriel Egger
51. Gabriel Schechter
52. Gary Bateman
53. Gary Gray
55. George Bullock
56. Gilbert Chan
57. Greg Kyrouac
58. Gregg Weiss
61. Izzy Hechkoff
62. James Decker
63. Jason Hunt
64. Jason Lukehart
65. Jeff Angus
66. Jeff Larick
67. Jeremy Rigsby
68. Jim Price
69. Joe Mello
70. Joe Serrato
71. Joe Weindel
72. Joe Williams
73. Joey Bartz
74. John Raimo
75. John Robertson
76. John Sharp
77. John Sours
78. John Tuberty
79. Jonathan Stilwell
80. Jonathan Wagner
81. Kazuto Yamazaki
82. Keith Menges
83. Ken Poulin
84. Kevin Graham
85. Kevin Johnson
86. Kevin Mattson
87. Kevin Porter
89. Kris Gardner
90. Larry Cookson
91. Lawrence Azrin
92. Lee Domingue
93. louis louismas_2000
95. Matthew Aschaffenburg
96. Mel Patterson
97. Michael Martin
98. Michael Caragliano
99. Michael Cook
100. Michael Rapanaro
103. Mike Gianella
104. Mike S.
105. Mike Walczak
106. Mike Schneider527
107. Mike Scott
108. Nate Horwitz
110. Owen Wilson
111. Patrick Schroeder
112. Pat Corless
113. Patrick Mackin
115. Paul Lanning
116. Paul McCord
117. Pete Livengood
118. Peter Nash
119. Phil Dellio
120. PJ Brown
121. Rich Lipinski
122. Robert Ewing
123. Robert McConnell
124. Robert Rittner
125. Ross Maute
126. Ross Carey
127. Ruben Lipszyc
128. Scott Jackson
129. Sean Lahman
130. Sean O’Connell
131. Steve Cushman
132. Ted Mulvey
133. Tom Thrash
134. Tim Goldschmidt
136. Tom Crittenden
137. Tom Thayer
138. Tom Thompson
139. Victor Dadras
141. Wayne Horiuchi
142. William Tasker
143. William McKinley
144. William Miller
145. Unknown 1
146. Unknown 2
147. Unknown 3
148. Unknown 4
I recently read Harvey Araton’s 2012 book, Driving Mr. Yogi. While the book focuses primarily on the friendship between New York Yankee greats Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry, it stirred up a question for me on why Guidry is not in the Hall of Fame. In the book, Berra (who was enshrined in 1972) offers that perhaps Guidry did not play long enough to receive serious consideration, though he certainly played a very high level during his career. In my opinion, Guidry’s more than earned his place in Cooperstown.
For nine seasons, 1977 through 1985, Guidry was the leading winner in all of baseball with 154 wins and registering a 0.694 winning percentage. Overall, his career win total of 170 generated a 0.654 winning percentage.
These numbers are even more impressive because Guidry’s winning percentages exceeded those of his team by a factor of +0.115 during 1977-85 and +0.088 over his entire career. In other words, despite playing for baseball’s most victorious team, Guidry’s winning percentage was significantly greater which infers that he was truly adding value to his team. Many of Guidry’s peers from that same era, as well as others in the Hall of Fame, have peak-and-career winning percentages that are either in line or below their team average.
Guidry’s dominance was also reflected by leading the American League in major pitching categories on nine different occasions: wins (2), shutouts (1), earned run average (2), complete games (2) and winning percentage (2).
Guidry won 20 or more games three times, and this number might have been higher had he not played in the era where five and six-man rotations were the order of the day for Yankee teams. Not only did Guidry end up starting five-six fewer games per year due to the rotation, but he also gave up multiple starts because he did relief duty to help his team remain rested for the pennant stretch drives and/or postseason play. Given his very high winning percentage, one can infer that the cumulative effect of fewer starts may have prevented Guidry from not only exceeding the 20-win threshold more, but also may have kept his career wins below the vaunted 200-game level.
Guidry achieved a pitching milestone by twice recording seasons where his total bases allowed (hits + walks) were less than innings pitched.
Guidry’s peak and career earned run averages, respectively, were 3.19 and 3.29, and this was all during the era of the designated hitter. Bill James has noted that the designated hitter factor would account for about 0.50 earned run average points, which imply that Guidry’s numbers would be less than the 3.00 level typically regarded as the threshold between excellence and dominance.
Ultimately, Guidry’s career, like so many who have worn the Yankee pinstripes, was defined by winning the biggest games when they counted most.
His overall World Series win-loss record in three Fall Classics was 3-1 as he helped lead the Yankees to back-to-back WS Championships in 1977-78. Of note is that all those World Series were against the hated Dodgers, and Guidry’s average runs allowed in those four games was exactly 2.00.
In 1978, he won his 25th game of the season with a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park despite starting on only two-days of rest; that was the 163rd game of the regular season as an extra game was necessitated by a 1st place tie between New York and Boston.
Earlier that year he struck out 18 Angels, a game that marked the beginning of a tradition where fans begin to clap once a pitcher gets a 2-strike count on the batter.
In addition to being a 2-time World Series Champion, Guidry was a Yankee team captain (1986-88), Cy Young Award Winner (1978), 5-time Gold Glove Winner, 4-time All Star, Roberto Clemente Award Winner (1984) and had his jersey number (#49) retired by the Yankees.
As a final note, Guidry possessed a sense of strength and quiet confidence associated with the best Yankees, regardless of era. When Guidry pitched, there was no doubt of who was in charge, even when the opposition had the seeming advantage. The prime example occurred in the aforementioned 163rd game of the 1978 season in which the Boston Red Sox would host the Yankees in the winner-take-all game for the American League East Division. Despite coming in on an eight-game winning streak and possessing home field advantage, the Red Sox wryly noted that the Yankees had Guidry. When asked if he thought it fair that an entire season come down to a single contest, Guidry reportedly said that it was because he could only pitch one game.
The ultimate compliment from a historic peer may have been during the 1981 World Series when retired Hall of Fame Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax exchanged signed baseball caps with his fellow southpaw. Reportedly this was initiated by Koufax himself who had expressed admiration for Guidry’s pitching excellence.
By standards of the museum, all players honored in the baseball Hall of Fame are equal. Once a man’s in, he’s in and all players get the same plaque. There is no delineation between the Mickey Mantles and Tommy McCarthys of Cooperstown. Should this be?
Over the past month, I’ve run a project at this website challenging people to determine the best of the best. Between June 18 and the morning of July 15, 235 people submitted countable ballots to rank a 50-player Inner Circle for the Hall of Fame. Anyone was eligible to vote, the only requirements being that people vote for exactly 50 players. To do the players who made the Inner Circle justice, I recruited an All Star lineup of writers.
The results of our handiwork follow momentarily. On a side note, this project is dedicated to two people: my half-brother Richard who died in 2007 and would’ve turned 40 today; and former Sports Illustrated editor and prolific baseball writer Robert Creamer who died Wednesday at 90. Creamer gave an incredible interview to this site over the winter that’s worth a read after this.
Anyhow, here’s how the Hall of Fame Inner Circle came out:
He was so great that unless you saw Willie Mays during his prime, you’ve never seen anyone so great.
Granted, his prime lasted a dozen-odd years. But I’ve been watching baseball for nearly forty years, and I didn’t see Willie Mays in his prime. Which means all I’ve got are the memories of those who did see him play before 1965 or ’66 … Well, those memories and an awful lot of statistics.
Statistics, of course, can tell us only so much. Which in this case is actually quite a lot.
At some point it became, perhaps thanks to Bill James, de rigeur to allow that while Willie Mays probably enjoyed the greatest career since Babe Ruth, at his best he wasn’t quite the equal of Mickey Mantle at his best.
I no longer believe that’s true. Mantle drew more walks than Mays. But Mays had Mantle’s power, and Mays was far more valuable on the basepaths and in center field than Mantle. If you look at an overarching measure like Wins Above Replacement, Mays and Mantle’s best seasons were roughly equivalent.
Except Mays had more of those seasons. And he had them in the better league.
Mickey might have been Willie’s equal, if he’d avoided all the injuries or taken better care of himself. But he didn’t, on either account. Both players reached the majors in 1951, at exceptionally tender ages. Twenty years later, Willie led the National League in on-base percentage and Mickey had been retired for three years.
It’s not abundantly clear that Willie Mays is the greatest baseball player who’s ever lived. But if there’s ever been a baseball player who’s done more things brilliantly, nobody has seen him.
Upon Babe Ruth’s death in 1948, his friend, longtime newspaper columnist Grantland Rice wrote, “No game will ever see his like, his equal again. He was one in many, many lifetimes. One all alone.”
I rate the best of the best in sports by how far above their peers they operate. The term “Inner Circle” was, for all intents and purposes, invented for men like Babe Ruth. He may not have been the greatest player in baseball history (I reserve that honor for Willie Mays and rate Ruth second, personally) but the Bambino was probably the closest thing to a God his sport’s ever known. There were the 714 home runs, his annual totals higher than many teams some years. There was the .342 lifetime batting average, the eight seasons he had at least 10 WAR, the 11 years he had an OPS+ above 200; and the list of statistical accolades of course goes on, way on. And along with all the eye-popping numbers that were, well, Ruthian, there was an out-sized personality to match.
I generally favor a larger, more inclusive Hall of Fame for the sake of history, but by that same token, I recognize Cooperstown could lose half its plaques and not be hugely worse off. That doesn’t go for players like Babe Ruth. The Hall of Fame wouldn’t be the Hall of Fame without him. He could commandeer his own wing, and it might still not do him justice.
Lou Gehrig’s name has escaped the abyss of oblivion and sailed on into our own time.
Sure, Gehrig is one of those unfortunates who bequeathed us a popular nametag for a dreaded disease. But a combination of power, consistency, clutch hitting, and genuine modesty distinguishes him from most of his fellows among the pre-World War II “immortals.”
Gehrig’s reputation survives the enormous shadow cast by his teammate, Babe Ruth. He still holds the American League season record of 184 RBI’s in 1931—- this despite often filling the cleanup spot in the Yankees’ lineup behind the Babe, who regularly cleared the bases himself with towering home runs and left not a scrap for Gehrig to send home. His career totals, though he was cut down near his peak by a fatal illness, remain impressive: A .340 batting average and 494 homers, while his 1995 RBI’s place him fourth behind Hank Aaron, Ruth, and Barry Bonds.
The argument against Hank Aaron being one of the all-time greatest players is one of “longevity,” meaning that Aaron didn’t have a high peak, but he instead compiled stats. It’s true he played a lot of games, 3,298, third-most all-time. But you can’t argue with his achievements. He’s the all-time leader in RBI, second in homers, fourth in runs, and fourth in hits. Aaron is one of four players with both 3000 hits and 500 homers, joining Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Rafael Palmeiro. But of those three players, only Mays is in the top ten all-time in either category, ranking fourth all-time in homers. Aaron is top five in both categories. Call him a compiler all you want, and while it’s true, Aaron is pretty much the best compiler in baseball history.
There was the blazing sprinter’s speed, the L’il Abner physique that generated the superhuman power to produce prodigious home runs from both sides of the plate, the alliterative, catchy, easy-to-remember name (delete the “MIC” from Mickey and the “TLE” from Mantle and what do you have?)
There was the boyish grin that caused his nose to crinkle, the dashing good looks of a blond god, the shy country boy persona, the endearing, innocent clubhouse pranks, and the mischievous ribald sense of humor.
All of it combined to create an “Inner Circle” baseball player.
Mickey Mantle was revered by teammates, (he was friendly and convivial unlike his Yankees’ superstar centerfield predecessor Joe DiMaggio who was aloof and distant), admired by fans (sportscaster Bob Costas carries Mantle’s baseball card in his wallet and comic Billy Crystal admits as a boy he emulated Mantle’s limp and slump-shouldered gait), and respected by opponents, dozens of whom grew up idolizing him.
As a baseball writer I covered Mantle and later assisted him in the writing of his best-selling book, “My Favorite Summer 1956.” I found him to be humble, profane, charming, rude, considerate, crude and generous. During a working brunch I watched him pay the check of an elderly gentleman, a stranger seated at the next table who was unable to pay for his meal.
More than a half century of covering baseball I have learned that home runs and a lofty batting average alone do not make an Inner Circle Player. Rather it’s a mystique, a presence, a perception. It’s a Babe Ruth, a Stan Musial, a Willie Mays, a Mickey Mantle.
That’s truthfully the only way to describe a career like that of Stan “The Man” Musial. Twenty-two years in baseball, all while wearing the ever-recognizable “Birds on the bat,” represents both colossal talent and immense loyalty, the likes of which are not often seen in the game of baseball today.
Musial made his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals on September 17, 1941, and in 1943 won his first “Most Valuable Player” award after posting a .357 average with 220 hits, 48 doubles, 20 triples and 13 home runs. He would win the award again in 1946 and 1948.
On his way to claiming nearly every offensive statistic record in St. Louis history, Musial was a part of three World Series’ teams (1942-44, 1946). His career franchise records include batting average (.331), hits (3,630), RBI (1,959), extra base hits (1,377), and total plate appearances (12,712) … to name a few.
Musial played his final game on September 29, 1963, and was induced into the Hall of Fame on July 28, 1969. In his induction speech, “The Man” said this:
“…of all the thrills I really experienced I still say that the greatest thrill to me was just putting on the uniform, reaching the top of your profession, and becoming a big league ball player … It’s a pleasure now to be a part of this great game and I hope that I gave baseball as much as it gave to me.”
Indeed you did, Mr. Musial. Indeed you did.
6-Tie. Ty Cobb, 227 votes, written by Josh Worn, columnist for the Detroit Free Press and blogger at Walkoff Woodward
Ty Cobb has to be the very first name that comes to mind when you look for an example of a player who was inducted into the Hall of Fame by numbers alone. If he had played in any era I wonder if he would have managed to play long enough to post such historic numbers.
You see, Cobb was not only a racist, but in 1912 he beat a man who had no hands for jeering him at a game against the New York Highlanders. He was only suspended 10 games. Such a horrific act would not have been tolerated had he played in a more popular time. I feel obligated to mention that if he had played in the era of beat writers, I wonder how many would actually vote him in. He wasn’t exactly the nicest guy to talk to.
However, no one can deny his numbers: a .366/.433/.512 line with 4189 hits and 2246 runs in over 24 major league seasons. The Georgia Peach is without a doubt an Inner Circle Hall of Famer, because without such gaudy talent on the baseball diamond, Ty Cobb left much to be desired.
When you talk about the greatest all-around players in baseball history, Honus Wagner immediately comes to mind. Wagner, like so few others, could do it all– and could do it all well. Upon breaking into the majors with the Louisville Colonels in 1897, he immediately established himself as a premier hitter, posting a 125 OPS+ through his first 242 career at-bats. By 1900, his first season with the Pirates, the then-26-year-old shortstop really came into his own, mashing to the tune of a .381/.434/.573 slash line with a league-best 176 OPS+.
And that was essentially the pace that Wagner would maintain for the next decade, as he went on to post a 175 OPS+ in 1256 games from 1901 to 1909. During his ten-year prime which coincided with the first decade of the 1900s, Wagner racked up 1847 hits, 487 steals, a .417 on-base percentage and 51 homers — outstanding totals in the context of the pre-live ball era. And he did this all while playing great defense at one of the most demanding positions on the baseball diamond.
What can we say about Ted Williams that hasn’t already been said? We all know his biggest claim to fame: he was the last player to ever hit .400 in a season. While his .406 mark is certainly an unbelievable feat, the story (one my grandfather shared with me repeatedly) of how he finished the 1941 season is perhaps the greatest example of the kind of person the Splendid Splinter was not just on the field, but off of it as well.
Entering the final day of the season, the Red Sox were scheduled for a double header against the Philadelphia Athletics. Prior to the start of that day’s twin bill, Williams was hitting .3996, which of course would be rounded up to .400. Understanding the rarity of such a feat, Red Sox manager Joe Cronin planned to sit Williams in order to protect his batting average. Upon seeing his omission from the lineup cards, Williams lobbied to get himself into the lineup. Although he understood Cronin’s rationale, he saw it differently. If he was going to hit .400, he wanted to do it with integrity. He didn’t want it be because his average was rounded up. He played both games of the double header, and finished up 6-for-8 with a double, home run, and two RBIs; thus giving him a .406 batting average on the season.
Above all else, integrity symbolizes Williams’s legacy. He lost nearly five full seasons to fighting in foreign wars, robbing him of much of his prime, and never complained once about taking time away from baseball to fight on behalf of his country. He wasn’t just a baseball great, he was an American hero.
Teddy Ballgame cemented himself as one of the all-time greats by producing a career .344/.482/.634 line with 521 home runs, 525 doubles, 2021 walks, 1839 RBIs, and 139.8 fWAR. One can only imagine his career totals had he not lost nearly five full seasons due to global conflict.
The holder of numerous pitching records that will not be broken any time soon, Denton True “Cy” Young is on the short list of the greatest pitchers who ever lived. He first starred in the high-scoring National League of the 1890s, where he won 286 games in 11 years (1890-1900) for the Cleveland Spiders and St. Louis Cardinals. Just when it appeared he might be slowing down, the 34-year-old joined the Boston club of the upstart American League in 1901, and won 192 games in eight years. After three more seasons, he finally retired with 511 wins, 815 starts, 749 complete games, and 7356 innings pitched, totals that read like misprints today.
At a time of characters and hooligans, Young was a quiet man known for his clean and temperate living. He was known for a great curveball a terrific fastball, one that led to his nickname of Cyclone, shortened to Cy. Honus Wagner, for one, thought he was faster than Walter Johnson. Besides his wonderful accomplishments, Young made his greatest impact on baseball history with his decision to jump to the upstart American League in 1901. The AL spent the winter aggressively trying to lure stars from the NL, it was the defections of Napolean Lajoie and Young that signaled the league might be for real. Within a few short years, the leagues had comparable talent. Young dominated the league right away, starred for the American in the first modern World Series in 1903, and in 1904 threw the first major league perfect game since the advent of the current pitching distance.
Joe DiMaggio is one of the no-brainers amongst the Inner-Cicle’s top fifty players of all-time. The Yankee Clipper never reached the 3,000 hit mark like Derek Jeter, but then again, Jeter didn’t have to serve his country and miss three seasons in his prime.
The Yankee Clipper’s sheer greatness is sometimes overshadowed by the famous 56-game hit streak in the summer of 1941, but his lifetime batting average of .325 and an OBP of .398 are a testament to his mastery at the bat.
Roaming center field with the monuments at old, old Yankee Stadium DiMaggio’s defensive skills were unmatched with speed and accuracy his trademarks.
DiMaggio was voted the “Greatest Living Player” in 1969 while Willie Mays was still an active player.
DiMaggio was the Say-Hey Kid’s idol. What more can you say?
(….and no one could carry $600k in a garbage bag through an earthquake like Joe D. either.)
Growing up, I knew the names of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays, but the first time I ever heard of Jimmie Foxx, I was eight years old and had finally won a game of Home Run Derby on Sega Genesis. Using the crude avatar of Foxx, I was able to defeat the cruel and unfeeling AI despite my stubby fingers and lack of hand-eye coordination. Which is the truest test for anyone’s Hall of Fame merits. How, with a nickname as cool as “The Beast,” coming long before “Beast Mode” or the X-Men character, could Foxx’s Q Score be so low?
Jimmie Foxx ended his career with with 534 home runs and a .325/.428/.609 line, becoming the youngest player to hit 500 HR before Alex Rodriguez came along and beat him by a measly 330 days. Foxx won three MVP awards, lead the league in home runs four times (topping 50 twice), RBI three times, average and walks twice, and slugging five times. As if that wasn’t enough, he started his career as a catcher and ended it as a pitcher, throwing 22.2 innings with a 1.59 ERA for Philadelphia in 1945. To put that into modern perspective, that would be like Albert Pujols finishing his career on the hill and doing a damn fine job.
Were it not for injuries and alcohol, The Beast with “muscles in his hair” would have put up even more spectacular numbers. But even as they stand, and as verified by an eight-year-old playing video games, Jimmie Foxx is absolutely deserving of membership in baseball’s pantheon.
All time great pitchers should possess a number of traits: power, control, and durability. Walter Johnson brought all three to the table and dominated an era of putting the ball in play.
Johnson struck out 3,509 batters during his career, a rate of 5.3 per nine innings. That doesn’t seem like much today, but from 1907 to 1927, the major league average stood at 3.4 per nine innings. The two fewer balls in play per nine innings not only made hits less likely, but the poor fielding of the day would hurt the Big Train less as well.
Batters saw few free passes from Walter especially early in his career. For his first 14 season, Walter averaged 1.8 BB per nine innings. He did lose some control late in his career, winding up walking 2.1 batter per nine innings an outstanding number for any era. Johnson also kept the ball in the park. While home runs rates were low during most of Walter’s career, three times he pitched over 250 innings without allowing a home run. Nineteen sixteen was one of those seasons, Johnson pitching 369 2/3 innings with no homers.
As for durability, Johnson topped 300 innings nine years in a row and pitched nearly 6000 innings during his career. The ability to stay on the mound gave him a career strikeout record that stood until the era of Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. The eight men who passed Johnson in total Ks all saw their careers start after 1960.
Put that all together and there stands a pitcher with 417 wins, a .599 winning percentage, a 2.17 ERA and a 147 ERA+. Four times Johnson posted an ERA+ over 200, and twice was voted MVP. At age 36, with his skills fading, Johnson went 23-7 to lead Washington to the only World Series championship in the city’s history. In every aspect, he deserved his first class Hall of Fame selection.
Rogers Hornsby’s legacy as a player is unquestioned. Offensively, he shattered that stereotype of the “good-field, no-hit” second baseman, dominating the entire decade of the 1920′s, winning the Triple Crown twice. He .358 career batting average is ranked second all-time, placing him only behind Ty Cobb. He batted over .400 three times, and holds the distinction of being the only player ever to hit more than 40 homers while batting over .400 in a season. At the time of his retirement, he had the home run record for the National League. Hornsby had difficulty translating his playing success to his managerial career, having strained relations with most of his players, showing difficulty understanding why the game didn’t come as easily to others as it did to him.
If you hear anyone say Matty in reference to the Giants today, you probably think of Matt Cain. 100 years ago, though, that honor fell to Hall of Fame right-hander Christy Mathewson. And before Michael Jordan perfected the fadeaway, it’s what they called Mathewson’s signature pitch; we just call it a screwball now.
Mathewson did it all. Though not at quite the rate they tend to at present, he missed a ton of bats in his day while, with his stellar control, not giving up many base on balls. That led to a still-record in the Senior Circuit of 373 wins. He also managed two no-hitters, two pitching Triple Crowns. And he managed it all without pitching Sunday, a day he reserved for the Lord.
If postseason is your thing, Matty was nearly unhittable in the 1905 World Series. He threw three shutouts in six days in that series, walking one and whiffing 18, propelling the New York Giants to their third World Championship.
If peak is your thing, Christy had that in spades too. In fact, he may have had one of the most unbelievable pitching peaks in history. From 1901 to 1913 Mathewson accumulated a bWAR of 92.8.
Sadly, Matty didn’t make it to his induction into Cooperstown’s five-man inaugural class in 1936, passing from tuberculosis in ’25 at the age of 45.
It was all about the knee. For 20 major league seasons, pitch after pitch, Tom Seaver dragged that right knee of his across the front of the mound with a form that was as consistent as his results. The dirtier the knee, the adage went, the better Tom was throwing. And in his prime — roughly 1968 through 1978 — Seaver’s knee, like his stuff, was positively filthy. During that period, “Tom Terrific” was terrific indeed, notching five 20+ win seasons, leading the NL in ERA and WHIP three times, and taking home three Cy Youngs. He logged nine straight 200+ strikeout seasons (leading the NL five times), and would made it eleven straight if he hadn’t whiffed “only” 196 hitters in 1977.
Seaver had some solid later years with the Reds and White Sox, but it was with the Mets that he firmly established his greatness, lifting a once-pathetic team onto his shoulders and carrying them to respectability, and a World Series championship to boot. He went 198-124 over 11½ seasons with the Mets, a W-L record that would be even more impressive had the Mets been able to put some decent bats in their lineup. He was so firmly established as the face of the franchise that many New Yorkers of a certain age can still tell you where they were when the news hit about his “midnight massacre” trade to Cincinnati. It happened about a month before the NYC blackout; and for many young Mets fans at the time, it was even more memorably traumatic.
What makes Frank Robinson an inner-circle Hall of Famer? Robby’s numbers don’t pop out at you the way you sometimes see with other greats – he simply achieved such a consistent level of excellent that he almost made awesomness seem run-of-the-mill. He fell short of obvious “great” milestone, like 3,000 hits and 600 homers, and his Triple Crown year was the only time he led the league in any one of the Triple Crown categories. Robinson was a jack-of-all-trades that just happened to master most of them and he put up a superstar season nearly every year for two decades, only occasionally slipping to the level of an ordinary star. Going by a more sabermetric stat, baseball-reference’s wins above replacement, Robinson ranks 20th among position players, 6th among those that have played in the last 40 years. It takes a darn good player to make acquiring a solid pitcher like Milt Pappas look like a bad idea, but Frank Robinson managed to do that. An inner-circle without Frank Robinson is a very small one.
After the 1976 World Series, Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson was asked to compare Yankees catcher Thurman Munson to his own catcher, the newly crowned World Series MVP. Anderson replied, “You don’t compare anyone to Johnny Bench. You don’t want to embarrass anybody”.
What is there left to say?
He has more Offensive bWAR than Mark McGwire, Raffy Palmeiro and Willie Stargell. He has more Defensive bWAR than Mike Schmidt, Luke Appling and Willie Mays. And he did it while spending 13 years as a full time catcher (in Cincinnati, in summer.)
Other things Bench achieved:
Multiple Rings and MVPs ( Rookie of the Year, too )
Double-Digit All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves
First Ballot HOF Inductee
Exceptional Durability in his prime (averaged over 140 games caught for his first 10 seasons)
Spent his whole career in one town and was one of the leaders of (arguably) the greatest team in Baseball History, The Big Red Machine
Namesake for the annual honor for the best young catcher in the nation, the Johnny Bench Award
He’s the first or second name mentioned in any and all Best Catcher discussions. The voters on this very site elected him Catcher for the BPP All-Time Dream Project this past spring, giving him more votes than the rest of the top 5 combined.
It is almost easier to try to list reasons that Johnny Bench is not one of the 50 best players ever because he fills out the resume so completely. Take Mike Piazza’s power and patience, Yogi Berra’s durability and leadership and Ivan Rodriguez’s mobility and rifle arm, and well… you’ve got Johnny Bench.
What makes a great player rank among the truly greatest players? If the player in question happens to be Rickey Henderson, then in his own words he is “the greatest of all time.” Rickey was a unique player for a whole host of reasons. From batting right-handed despite throwing left-handed, to his numerous pithy quotes and stories, or of course his fantastic batting numbers, he was always one to garner attention.
He was the best leadoff hitter of all time, with a lifetime on-base percentage of .401. His 1,406 stolen bases are 400 more than second place Lou Brock. On 81 separate occasions he started the scoring single handedly, hitting a home run to lead off his team. Those 81 leadoff home runs are a MLB record. To further illustrate him as one of the game’s inner-circle Hall of Famers, another record he holds is most runs scored in a career. You can’t win if you don’t score, and Rickey has scored more runs than anyone in the history of the game. Rickey has more unintentional walks than Barry Bonds, more doubles than Babe Ruth and hit more home runs than Brooks Robinson.
For 24 seasons Rickey was a part of the game, and now he is a first ballot Hall of Famer. To quote the great Bill James: “If you could split him in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. By any metric, new school or old, Rickey ranks among the greatest to ever play the game.
Mike Schmidt was the greatest third baseman in major league history. Period. He was also arguably the best player in baseball in over the course of his career, which lasted from 1972 to 1989. Indeed, over the 30-year span from 1965 to 1995, he leads all players, pitchers included, in Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (bWAR). From 1974 to 1987, the 14 seasons in which Schmidt qualified for the batting title, he hit .274/.387/.546 while averaging 36 home runs, 104 RBIs, 99 runs scored, and 98 walks per season and led the NL in homers eight times and the majors six times. He not only won ten gold gloves during that span, but earned them, seven times leading NL third basemen in Total Zone Runs saved.
Before he turned 32, he stole 141 bases (averaging 17 a season from 1974 to 1981) at a 69 percent success rate (not great, but significant for a power hitter in that era). He finished in the top three in the NL in bWAR every year from 1974 to 1981, and from 1980 to 1986, his age-30 to -36 seasons, he led his league in OPS+ six times in seven seasons (posting a 161 mark over the entire seven-year span) and won three Most Valuable Player awards. When he retired in 1989, the 12-time All-Star was seventh all-time in both home runs (548) and intentional walks (201), and in the nearly quarter century since, no one has come close to challenging his largely uncontested place as the game’s greatest third baseman.
In 1968’s “Year of the Pitcher,” no other hurler dominated like Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals. His numbers are still familiar 44 years later: 1.12 ERA. Thirteen shutouts. Seventeen strikeouts in Game One of the World Series. His accolades as Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner are familiar too, as well as the fact Major League Baseball lowered the pitcher’s mound in 1969.
And while 1968 was Gibson’s best season, it was just one of many very successful ones. He was the pitching cornerstone of the Cardinals 1960s World Championship teams. During the team’s epic 1964 stretch run alone, where they came back from 11 games behind the Phillies on Aug. 23 to win the pennant, Gibson was 9-2 with seven complete games and one shutout. He started three World Series games, winning two, including Game Seven on two days’ rest. He set a World Series record with 31 strikeouts and was named Series MVP.
Gibson was a fierce, intimidating competitor who rarely smiled and would never hesitate to throw a brushback pitch. Yet he was tough as well, facing three more batters after a Roberto Clemente line drive hit and fractured his right leg in July 1967. He returned in September and won three games during the World Series, again being named Series MVP.
During his 17-year career, Gibson was 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA, 3,117 strikeouts, 255 complete games and 56 shutouts. In addition to 1968, he also won the Cy Young Award in 1970. Gibson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981, his first year of eligibility.
Interesting side note: Gibson received a basketball scholarship to Creighton University and averaged 22 points a game his junior season. He even was a Harlem Globetrotter in 1957, before making his Major League debut in 1959 at age 23.
One of the earliest five-tool players, Speaker is criminally underrated by contemporary audiences, despite how well his numbers still hold up even today. The Hall of Fame center fielder is in the top ten all-time in numerous categories, including WAR, batting average, doubles, triples, hits, and outfield assists. While he played he was considered every inch the player as rival Ty Cobb. Speaker’s career OPS+ of 157 just nudges out the player many consider to be the best ever; Willie Mays, who posted a 156 mark. Speaker was also the linchpin of three World Series winning teams, including being the player/manager for the victorious 1920 Cleveland Indians. His penchant for playing an extremely shallow center field is an enduring legacy in baseball history and a testament to what a great defensive player he was. He had it all and did it all during his 22 year career; making his inclusion in the inner circle an absolute must.
People forget the proximity of WWII to the Jackie Robinson era. He was a great uplift for a war-weary nation, who had become sickened by the specter of their own casualties and the atrocities committed upon millions simply because of their ethnicity, religion and skin color.
The war was over, and the GI Bill was helping millions of vets get back on their feet. For the first time in a generation there was hope for a better life. Major League Baseball with the best players was back. And while not the best Negro Leaguer, Jackie would become a MLB All-Star six times in his remarkable career.
Though many white ball fans, still consigned African Americans to “less than” status for reasons they were never quite sure of, eventually joined the African American community, to celebrate his play, and his dignity. It was a beginning.
Jackie was probably the toughest man to ever play the game; physically, emotionally, and mentally. Nobody outside of combat has ever been tested the way Jackie Robinson was.
Forget the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Inner Circle of the 50 greatest ballplayers of all time. Jackie Robinson belongs in the Inner Circle of the Human Race Hall of Fame. And I am greatly privileged to have been given an opportunity to share my thoughts with you about Jackie.
Baseball in Kansas City in the mid-1970’s was electric. The Royals had everything you needed to build the blueprint for a successful baseball franchise. They had some power, a lot of speed, great defense, and excellent starting pitching from the left and right side. They had a great manager and an owner who loved his team and the city he lived in. But, one player emerged from those great ball clubs as a legend of the city.
George Brett was a California kid with a gap between his teeth, a plug of tobacco in his mouth and golden blonde hair flowing out the pack of his heavily salted cap. He played the game at 150 percent and was the dirtiest guy in the stadium almost every game he played. He had a textbook swing that began with a spin of his bat, shifting his weight back in the box before he uncoiled a beautiful swing that every kid in my school tried to emulate at 3&2 fields.
The fans of Kansas City saw Brett work hard on his defense to become a solid defender and a fantastic all around talent. He became a star in 1976 and the face of the franchise soon after. He played hard off the field as well as stories of long nights with his buddies are still told to this day. He respected the game and if clutch exists, and I believe it does, you should find a picture of Brett in the definition.
Those teams did not win a championship though as Chris Chambliss and the Yankees would rip out the heart of this city in one famous swing in 1976. But, Brett entered the 80’s with his book still being written.
1980 started off as one of the best sports years ever when Team USA beat Russia in Olympic Hockey. For Kansas City fans what followed could not have been written up by its own native son Walt Disney. George Brett went after the hardest and most prestigious goal in major league baseball “.400”.
After the first month of the season he was hitting just .259 and he was at .301 after May. He was at .337 on June 10th before one of his many career trips to the D.L cost him a month but when he returned on July 10th the magic began. He went 21-38 his first 9 games back and we saw his .AVG climb to .377 it was at .390 to end July. On August 17th he was above .400 (as high as .406) for 6 games. He dipped below for 3 games before a 5-5 game on August 26th at Milwaukee put him at a season high .407. He competed all year and was last at .400 on September 19th. The season ended with a .390 clip. However, the now 27 year old star, lead his Royals to finally beat the Yankees and get to the World Series.
The last half of the career of the face of his organization included a World Series title in 1985 and one more batting title as a 37 year old in 1990 which meant he was the only player in baseball history to win titles in 3 different decades. He reached the 3000 hit plateau near his boyhood home (El Segundo, CA) against the Angels and closed out his career in true Brett fashion. His second to last At Bat he grounded out to 2B and busted his ass the entire way to first. I would bet that if you asked him he would have loved for this to be his last AB because it was so important to him to show young fans the right way to play the game. But, for fans his last at-bat was perfect as he faced Tom Henke in the ninth inning at Texas singling up the middle for hit number 3,154.
Royals’ fans are like a childhood star that makes it in Hollywood but suffers the rest of his life as payment for the success he/she had before the age of 30. The last years are full of “remember when” and “if I could just get one more break” and this is often tortuous and leads to years of abuse to body and soul. George Brett, though, is a figure we can always go back to that reminds us of how great it once was.
If the Inner Circle is going to have a lefty, Warren Spahn is the perfect choice. Warren Spahn is the winningest lefty of all time, and has the most wins for a pitcher in the live-ball era.
Spahn debuted in the majors in 1942 but was demoted by Braves manager Casey Stengel for refusing to throw at Pee-Wee Reese. When Spahn returned to baseball after WWII he began dominating the National League. With his high leg kick, pinpoint control and flawless mechanics, Spahn started a string of thirteen 20-win seasons, 17 All-Star Games, two World Series appearances and the Cy Young Award in 1957.
When Spahn’s fastball began to wane he started throwing a devastating screwball, further confounding hitters and extending his career. Spahn’s greatest game was in 1963 when he was 42 years old, a 15-inning duel with 25-year-old Juan Marichal, in which Spahn gave up a solo homer to Willie Mays to lose 1-0.
Spahn played briefly for Casey Stengel’s Mets and the Giants in 1965 before leaving the major leagues. After two seasons in minor league ball Spahn retired for good. Spahn was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1973.
A few weeks ago I sat in the smoky mountains, drinking wine and chatting with an aging gentleman from Pittsburgh who sat in the bleachers at Forbes Field and watched Roberto Clemente play in the late 1950’s as a child. I’ll always remember this exact quote he said to me, “Son, you ain’t EVER seen an arm like that.”
Sitting there listening to this man transform back to being a little boy and now knowing he had witnessed in person one of the greatest players of all-time got me and him a little misty eyed. Now obviously Clemente was more than a right fielder displaying a precise and powerful arm. He won four batting titles, amassed 3,000 hits, won 12 gold gloves, went to the same number of all-star games and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting 8 times and winning it in 1966.
On New Years Eve 1972, following 18 tremendous seasons playing baseball Clemente, he died a saint’s death, killed in a plane crash attempting to deliver food and supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake.
Clemente and Lou Gehrig are immortal; they are the only players to have the five-year waiting period waived so they could be enshrined in the Hall of Fame immediately after their deaths.
His sweetest moment may have been, in the dugout after the Pirates won the 1971 World Series, be brought pride to all Latin America by choosing to speak Spanish to honor his parents back home.
In Spanish, Clemente means merciful. And it had to do the way he played and what he meant to his entire country.
He was intensely proud of everything about his native land; he was the fire of dignity, on and off the field. He was a patron saint for the way he played the game on the field and for what he did off it.
Until I was about five, I thought that the adorable, older man who played with the New York Yankees when my dad was growing up, who I always saw on television or heard stories about and who was famous for his silly quotes was actually named Yogi Bear. Unfortunately, my parents never corrected me because they thought my mistake was cute and it wasn’t until I arrived in kindergarten that I learned the error of my ways. It was 1979 and I figured I’d impress the boys with my baseball knowledge until one of them said to me rather obnoxiously, “His name isn’t Yogi Bear! It’s Yogi Berra!!”
As a young child, I didn’t quite understand just how good the man, Yogi Berra, actually was. And I think because he played in an era that is now so long ago, a lot of baseball fans still don’t know the greatness of Berra. So here are some facts about Yogi that everyone should know.
He has won more World Series championships than any other player in the history of Major League Baseball – he has enough rings for all of his fingers. He also appeared in 14 World Series, 14 All-Star games, was a three-time MVP, and was in the Top 30 in MVP voting every year from 1947-1961.
Berra had a long, consistent career, finishing with a .285/.348/.482/.830 line and 358 home runs. And while his batting average may not have been as high as Ted Williams (.344) and his home run total wasn’t exactly world beating like Mickey Mantle’s 536, his numbers are still impressive considering he played the majority of his career at catcher.
One more thing to know about Yogi Berra is that on October 8, 1956 he caught the only perfect game in World Series play. And as his battery mate Don Larsen walked off the field, Berra ran up to him, jumped into Larsen’s arms and wrapped his legs around him. For his part, Larsen didn’t miss a beat and kept on walking toward the victor’s dugout with Berra latched onto him. That iconic film image is still shown regularly today.
It is an absolute certainty that Cal Ripken, Jr. will forever be associated with “The Streak.” From May 1982 through September 1998, Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games as the Baltimore Orioles shortstop and third baseman. For the first five of those years, he even played in every inning.
But Cal was more than the streak. From 1982 to 1991, a period bookended by a Rookie of the Year award and two American League Most Valuable Player awards, Ripken was one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game. Despite his unconventional height, Ripken played a strong defense, setting a record for errorless games (95) and errorless chances (428) for a shortstop in 1990. In his “New Historical Abstract”, Bill James claimed that “Ripken had the best arm I ever saw on a shortstop.” It was his offense that set him apart, though. At a time when offense – and especially home runs – was down, Ripken had ten straight years of 20-or-more home runs at an historically weak position. He dwarfed his contemporaries (including greats like Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell, and Barry Larkin) in home runs, runs, runs batted in, slugging, OPS and more over that time. He also managed to put up an astonishing 67.4 Wins Above Replacement in that time, led mostly by his offensive contributions.
In the end, Ripken finished with many career records besides “The Streak”, including most home runs by a shortstop and most consecutive All-Star starts. The 1990s weren’t as kind to the Baltimore star, but the historic and league-changing start to his career more than makes up for any decline he experienced. There is no doubt that Cal Ripken, Jr. belongs on the very short list of “Best Shortstop in Major League History.”
If you only know Joe Morgan as an announcer that baseball analysts like to ridicule, then you should know that you missed one of the greatest players to ever play the game. For proof, there are the awards–two MVP’s, five Gold Gloves and ten All-Star game appearances–and there are the numbers–leading the league four times in OBP, once in Slugging, twice in OPS. He was a walking and stolen base machine. The ultimate sabermetric stat, Wins Above Replacment, ranks Morgan as the third-best second baseman of all time, behind Hornsby and Collins.
But they only tell part of the story. If you saw Morgan play, you remember the left elbow sticking straight out at bat. He always flipped the elbow down toward his body when the pitch was thrown. If he flipped it more than once, he was nervous. If he was locked in, just once. You also remember Bill James’ observation that Morgan was always standing on first base when a pitchout was thrown. He always picked up something from the catcher or pitcher that told him a pitchout was coming and held his ground. Pitching out was a waste of time against Little Joe.
And I remember the time that my brother, who had Morgan on his APBA for his entire career, once wrote Joe because he was worried that his stolen bases were down. Joe wrote back and told my brother to hang onto him, that he’d be stealing bases again soon. I don’t think my brother ever regretted that choice.
Truth is, when Morgan first began announcing the ESPN games with Jon Miller, I thought he was one of the best baseball announcers I had heard. His insights were quick and often spot on. He brought those brains and experience to the broadcast booth every day. He hasn’t done well with baseball analysts in recent years. Which is ironic, really. Because Morgan’s combination of skills made him an idol of the sabermetric set in his playing days. He was the best second baseman I ever saw.
30. Sandy Koufax, 178 votes, written by Dan Evans, former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers
Perhaps the most dominant pitcher over a five-year period in baseball history, left-hander Sandy Koufax harnessed control issues that plagued him early in his career and excelled before an arthritic elbow condition prematurely ended his career at age 30.
Koufax signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers for $14,000 at age 19 in December 1954, and existing rules slowed his development since he had to remain in the Majors his first two seasons as a “bonus baby.” Koufax was a pedestrian 46-38 his first six seasons.
Once a delivery flaw was detected in his overhand motion prior to the 1961 season, Koufax’ performance levels reached superior levels. Over the next six years, he was 119-49 with a 2.19 ERA, won the Cy Young Award unanimously three times, won the 1963 NL MVP, made seven consecutive All-Star teams, and led the National League in ERA his final five seasons. In addition, Koufax became the first pitcher to throw four no-hitters, including a perfect game in 1965.
His arthritic elbow, first diagnosed in 1956, forced him to end his career after an incredible 1966 season in which he went 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA and his final Cy Young Award. He finished with a career 165-87 record and 2.76 ERA.
He is the youngest person elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, attaining the honor in 1972 just weeks after his 36th birthday. His #32 was retired by the Dodgers that same year, and was named to the All-Century Team in 1999.
31. Bob Feller, 177 votes, written by Ev Cope, baseball historian
Much has been written about the amazing Iowa farm boy, American sports and World War II hero, Bob Feller. This writer had the privilege of being friends with Bob for almost 30 years. Over that period of time he never changed from the up-front, out-spoken, tell-it-like-it-is person that let you know if you were friend or foe. If you were the former, he would do anything for you. If you were the latter, you might as well stay away.
Bob Feller probably was baseball’s greatest ambassador – even more than Babe Ruth – due in part to his long and active life of 92 years. He also could rightful claim to have thrown more baseballs than anyone in history since he was still going to spring training, and doing exhibitions into his 80s. An example of Bob’s philosophy was how he kept his autograph fees at appearances affordable. He always defended that by saying he felt that anyone that wanted his autograph should be able to afford it. This attitude cost Bob several thousand dollars during the peak of paid appearances and also caused him to be criticized by contemporary signing players.
If not for two bunt singles and a miss-played fly-ball triple, Feller could have had a total of six no-hitters in his World War II interrupted career. Another ‘what if’ study shared with Bob is what if he had signed with the Yankees and pitched on those pennant-winning teams. Based on his actual record, the Indians’ record and that of the Yankees’ during Bob’s career, he could have won 300 games even with his lost war years and maybe won as many as 375 games with those seasons. How about this thought? With New York, he might have had two 30-win seasons (actually 33 in 1941 and 1946) and 29 in 1939!
U. S. Navy all season
U. S. Navy all season
U. S. Navy all season
U. S. Navy most of season
● Bob averaged 21.1 wins a season during his top 10 seasons and might have added another 75-80 wins to the above totals if not for WWII.
● Feller’s 26 victories represented 38% of his team’s wins in 1946.
● Bold – Indicates league leader.
Bob Feller never regretted being an Indian instead of a Yankee and was loyal to the city of Cleveland, and Indian fans, until the end of his life. Nor did he regret being a naval hero instead of an Indian for almost four seasons. His records were impressive, but Bob Feller was about more than numbers. Thanks for the memories Bob.
Napoleon Lajoie was not your prototypical Deadball Era 2nd baseman. At 6’1” and 200 lbs. he was a big man with a big bat, while fielding his position with sure hands and a strong arm.
In 21 seasons(1896-1916) Lajoie never played on a Pennant winner, but he was a lifetime .338 hitter with 3242 hits. He led the league in hitting 5x, hitting over .300 in 16 seasons, while leading all 2nd baseman in fielding % 7x.
After playing his 1st 5 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, he jumped to the American League in 1901 to play with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s.
Despite an injunction filed by the Phillies, citing baseball’s reserve clause, Lajoie was able to put together a Triple Crown season for the A’s, which featured a .426 average, the highest in the 20th Century.
At the start of the 1902 season a Pennsylvania Appeals court ruled in favor of the Phillies, a ruling that only had jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. Mack promptly sold Lajoie to the Cleveland Bronchos. In 1903 the city of Cleveland honored their slugging 2nd baseman by renaming the team the Naps. He played 13 seasons in Cleveland.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937, his 2nd year on the ballot.
Robert Grove (“Lefty” because, well, it was a simpler time) was probably the greatest southpaw ever. In seventeen seasons, pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox, Grove won exactly 300 games, led the league in strikeouts seven times, and led in ERA nine times. For comparison’s sake: last year, Justin Verlander put up one of the best pitching years in recent memory, logging 251 innings and racking up 8.3 WAR. Over a seven-year span from 1930 to 1936, Lefty Grove put up more innings and a better WAR five times. For the better part of two offense-heavy decades, there was no one better.
Oddly to modern fans of the game, he did it all while striking out only 5.2 batters per nine. That’s a rate lower than the career K/9 of Jason Marquis, a pitcher only the Twins could love. The more one looks at baseball’s history, the more it astounds. Baseball’s been exactly the same for over a hundred years, except in all the ways it’s changed.
“There is a catcher that any big league club would love. He can do everything. He hits the ball a mile.” –Walter Johnson
Josh Gibson was, by most accounts, the greatest hitter in Negro League history. Records are incomplete, but statistics provided by the Hall of Fame show a lifetime Negro National League batting average of .359 for Gibson, and a slugging percentage of .644. He won four batting titles, but the long ball was his signature talent. Gibson reportedly hit 84 home runs in 1936 alone. His Hall of Fame plaque credits him with “almost 800 home runs,” others have his total even higher.
Many called Gibson “the black Babe Ruth,” while others insisted that Ruth was “the white Josh Gibson.” Tales of 600-foot blasts to the farthest reaches of every stadium defy belief, but there is no doubt Gibson had remarkable power. As my favorite story goes, Gibson once hit a rocket in Pittsburgh, so deep the ball never landed. The next day, in Philadelphia, a baseball dropped from the sky into a fielder’s glove. The umpire pointed to Josh and said, “You’re out… yesterday, in Pittsburgh!” Gibson was, to my mind, the greatest catcher who ever lived.
Satchel Paige is human hyperbole; the words we use to describe him mean nothing when compared to anyone or anything else. His adjectives, much like his statistics, simply don’t translate.
Certainly, Paige was baseball player who threw baseballs and won baseball games and struck baseball players out. He did those things, and we have numbers to represent some of them, numbers that are strong enough to warrant our appreciation.
But what makes Satchel Paige such a special ballplayer was the way in which he created his own story. None of us are in complete control over our destiny; there are always external forces that buffet us from place to place. These forces kept Paige out of major league baseball until he was more than forty years old. They forced him to reinvent himself when his arm began to throb, commission new pitches with new names.
Paige’s career reads like an Icelandic saga: enjoying triumphs and weathering setbacks, voyaging to exotic new lands and conquering foes. He did not submit to the kings of his time, but instead earned his revenge by outliving them and writing his own history. His style, in pitching, as in life, was electric and ultimately unique.
It’s a shame that we haven’t perfected time travel, because if such a thing existed, I would gleefully head back to New York City in the 20s, 30s, and 40s just to catch a glimpse of the amazing Mel Ott. From his diminutive size — listed at 5’9″ on Baseball-Reference — to his highly leveraged swing — a swing that featured a leg kick, something ahead of its time — Mel Ott broke the mold as a professional baseball player.
Even after 65 years from his last game played, Ott is still in a class of his own — which is exactly the kind of player the Inner Circle needs. At his retirement in 1947 he exited the National League holding the records for the following offensive categories: Home runs (511), runs scored (1,859), RBI (1,860), walks (1,708), and total bases (5,041). Ott just didn’t redefine the concept of an offensive superstar — he shattered it. At age 19, in 1928, he produced the finest season ever for a teenager in professional baseball when he batted .322/.397/.524 (139 OPS+); in that season, the league average batter hit .281/.344/.397, and as a mere teenager, Ott bested men nearly twice his age.
Ott’s defensive tools were praised, too. He boasted a strong, and accurate, throwing arm from right field and most reports from his day indicate he was more than adept in the field; Total Zone figures Ott was worth +50 runs over his career on defense.
Some will point to Ott’s home park, the Polo Grounds, as the cause for his prodigious home run totals, and that’s not unreasonable; Ott surely benefited from hitting in the Polo Grounds, but to brush him off as something of a park-creation is unfair, and not to mention shortsighted.
Consider the following: Ott had 12 separate seasons in which he posted an OPS+ of 150 or greater (meaning that he was 50 percent better than the league average batter). That’s more seasons than Rogers Hornsby (11), Mickey Mantle (11), Albert Pujols (10), and Jimmie Foxx (10) just to name a few greats. OPS+ accounts for home park and league, so even though Ott saw benefits from hitting in the Polo Grounds, we can also see that he was a fantastic hitter in his own right, home park or not. Just a truly amazing and gifted ballplayer.
Mel Ott is, of course, a worthy addition to the Inner Circle Project. Now, if I could just figure out this time travel stuff …
The son of a Depression Era potato farmer who was a good semipro ballplayer himself, Carl was brought up with a tremendous work ethic. As early as age six, he would spend evenings hitting tennis balls against his dad’s pitching in their backyard. Carl’s dad knew his son had natural ability, and made sure his son had the best chance at succeeding in baseball.
The elder Yastrzemski turned down an offer from the Yankees to sign Carl prior to college, ostensibly because the scout visiting the Yastrzemski house “flipped a pencil” when he was given the family’s asking price. After a year at Notre Dame, the Red Sox signed Yaz in 1958, and two years later, he was in Fenway Park, faced with the unenviable task of replacing Ted Williams in left field.
At 5’11” and 175 pounds, he wasn’t a physical presence, and he wasn’t particularly fleet of foot. However, he learned to play “The Green Monster” extremely well, racking up 195 outfield assists and seven Gold Gloves during his 23-year career. He wasn’t a classic power hitter, but did top 40 homers three times. Instead, he peppered the Monster to the tune of 646 doubles, eighth-best all-time. He was also disciplined at the plate, walking in 13.2% of all plate appearances while striking out in only ten percent of them. And of course, he was the most recent batter to win the Triple Crown.
At the time of his induction into Cooperstown in 1989, he had the 6th-highest percentage of ballots cast (94.6%).
It’s amazing to think that of all the pitching greats that have graced this game, Steve Carlton was the first one to win four Cy Young’s.
Carlton’s amazing career spanned three decades and five U.S. presidencies while wearing six different uniforms.
But his best work came in Philly in 1972. His first season there he led the league in wins (27), ERA (1.97) and complete games (30). The lefty was an innings eater and even though he scuffled the following season with a 13-20 record, he still led the league with 18 complete games.
From 1972-1980 he never had less than 10 complete games while finishing with an astounding 254 for his career and a highly respectable 12 complete games per 162-game average.
The 35-year-old anchored the staff in 1980 and won Games 2 and 6 of the World Series to bring the title to Philadelphia.
Carlton had a good battle with Nolan Ryan for the all-time strikeout record before finishing fourth with 4,136 to finish behind Ryan, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.
Despite having a cantankerous relationship with the media, Carlton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 by nearly a 96 percent vote.
39-Tie. Eddie Collins, 148 votes, written by Jacob Pomrenke, chairman of SABR’s Black Sox Scandal Research Committee
Bill James once wrote:
Eddie Collins is described by various sources as the best bunter in the history of baseball, the best hit-and-run man in the history of baseball, the best defensive second baseman in the history of baseball, the best sign-stealer who ever lived, and the greatest World Series star who ever lived. … It seems unlikely that all of these claims could be true.
But they’re not too far off. Collins was called “Cocky”, and he had every reason to be. His 3,315 career hits and 741 stolen bases still rank among the top 10 in baseball history, more than a century after his major league career began.
As captain of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s dynasty from 1910-14, Collins’ aggressive, intelligent style of play was perfectly suited for the Deadball Era. Yet when offensive firepower began to rule the game in the 1920s, Collins adapted and excelled with the star-crossed Chicago White Sox — hitting .346 after age 32.
Eddie Collins was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, the year the museum opened in Cooperstown. He was part of baseball’s inner circle of greats then, and time has not diminished his legacy as one of baseball’s all-time best players.
Eddie Mathews was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978 after failing to be inducted the four previous years. To be quite honest, this is nothing short of a travesty as Mathews is and was unarguably one of the best players to have ever played the game. There was no reason that he should have been left off of a single ballot.
Mathews ranks 23rd all-time in fWAR with 107.2. The only two third basemen to rank ahead of Mathews in fWAR are Mike Schmidt and Alex Rodriguez (who has played more innings at shortstop than at third base). His 512 homeruns are the 21st most in history and his 1444 walks are 24th most.
Mathews was an offensive juggernaut at a position that was not used to seeing such great offense. His WPA of 57.6 is the 19th best mark in history and his RE24 of 616.64 is 21st. Mathews’ bat alone is one of the best we have ever seen. Oh, and Mathews handled the glove well with a career +33 UZR. His 2049 putouts are the 9th most at the hot corner and his 4322 assists are the 7th most.
Eddie Mathews, simply put, is not only one of the best third basemen of all-time but he would likely belong in any Hall-of-Fame inner circle of only 25 players and was an easy selection for Graham’s Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project.
A heavy drinker whose career began just over a century ago, Grover Cleveland Alexander, still ranks as one of baseball’s most accomplished pitchers. Nicknamed Old Pete, he was a workhorse who was capable of throwing well over 300 innings per season and established himself as an inner circle hall of famer during the first half of his career. From 1911 until 1920 he averaged 312 innings pitched while maintaining a 2.06 ERA that was 47 percent better than league average. At his peak, he was the National League’s best pitcher for six out of seven seasons. The one exception was 1918 when he missed the majority of the season while recovering from an accident that occurred during a WWI training exercise.
For his career, Alexander ranks second in shutouts behind only the great Walter Johnson, he is fourth in pitching Wins Above Replacement, tenth in innings pitched, 21st in ERA+, and is tied for third in wins with a staggering 373 victories during his 20-year career. Few pitchers are capable of even coming close to matching Alexander’s career accomplishments. He not only had tremendous longevity and endurance but also had one of the greatest peaks of any starting pitcher in the history of baseball. An examination of Cooperstown’s Inner Circle would be woefully incomplete if it did not include Grover Cleveland Alexander.
It’s too easy to sit here and rattle off his 5,714 strikeouts, 7 no hitters, 15 seasons of 200+ K’s explaining why he should be in the hall of the inner circle. So I’ll talk about a particular moment in time when I saw him pitch for the first time in person. It was April 30, 1989, his first season with my local nine, the Rangers. I was a junior in high school and he was a VERY seasoned veteran pitching at the remarkable age of 42.
I was sitting in the left field bleachers at the old Arlington Stadium on a sunny Sunday afternoon, he was facing a very young Roger Clemens, who was on his way to staking a claim to being one of the best pitchers of his generation.
In the top of the first Ryan gave up a walk, hit by pitch and a wild pitch brought home a Red Sox run. But in the old gun fighter on the porch, Ryan stayed out there for eight innings and 136 pitches, not allowing anything else, while doing what else? Striking out 11.
Clemens was fantastic as well, out dueling his child hood hero into the bottom of the 8th, when Rafael Palmeiro hit a 2-run home run into the right field bleachers to give Ryan and the Rangers. 2-1 win.
The 1989 season, at the ripe old age of 42, he won 16 games, pitched 239.1 innings, 1.08 WHIP, was an all-star and finished in the top five in voting for the Cy Young Award.
This is what Hall of Famers do, they shoulder the load and make you never forget.
When Cool Papa Bell first noticed Ernie Banks, he was a skinny teenager playing semi-pro ball in Amarillo, Texas. Later that winter, after hearing from Bell, Buck O’Neil signed Banks to his first contract to play for the legendary Kansas City Monarchs in 1950. After serving two years in the Army, Banks returned to the Monarchs and batted .347 in 1953. After that performance, O’Neil signed him again– this time, for the Chicago Cubs.
From 1954 thru 1960, Banks hit .294/.354/.557, averaging 41 homeruns and 118 RBI per 162 games, with a 140 OPS+. A peak performance of that magnitude is Hall of Fame worthy from any position, let alone shortstop. His play in the middle of the diamond was nothing to slouch at. In 1960, Banks became the only shortstop to ever lead the league in both homers and fielding.
As a player with two sides, Ernie Banks was ahead of his time. He provided power at from the shortstop position in a way that hadn’t been seen before, while also playing the game with a level of respect he learned from the greats of the ‘30s and ‘40s, on the Monarchs.
Becoming an elite baseball player is hard enough; becoming an elite baseball in a climate when both fans and fellow players would shout disparaging remarks about your religion is even harder but that’s exactly what Hank Greenberg did during an extremely volatile time in American History.
He played in the 1930’s when World War II was on the verge of erupting and in the 1940s when the war was being fought and being the first successful Jewish ballplayer was both a blessing and a curse for Greenberg.
But Greenberg, who was a proud man and a hard worker, didn’t let the names he was called on a daily basis affect his play, in fact, he was so good at the game of baseball that he won an MVP in two different years playing two different positions – first base in 1935 and left field in 1940. His career was shortened by both Military World War II – and by a wrist but Greenberg was still able to finish with a .313/.412/.605/1.017 career line. In his 13-year career he collected 1,628 hits, clubbed 331 home runs and amassed 1,276 RBI.
45. Al Kaline, 113 votes, written by Alex Putterman of this website
For more than two decades, Al Kaline roamed right field at Tiger Stadium and terrorized American League pitchers from the right-hand batters box. Dubbed Mr. Tiger, he remains a hero in Detroit, having served the organization in some capacity continuously since 1953, when he began a 22-year career of home runs, diving catches, and overall excellent play. Throughout his lengthy prime, Kaline was as much a five-tool player as anyone this side of Willie Mays.
An 18-time all-star and nine-time top 10 MVP finisher, Kaline amassed 3,007 career hits and 399 home runs while playing the 17th most games (2,834) of any player ever. All in all, he racked up the 24th most total bases all-time and stole 137 more. And while proprietor of undeniably gaudy offensive stats, the rightfielder was perhaps equally impressive in the field, where he won ten gold gloves while ranking as one of the best defensive corner outfielders ever according to both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference, which credit Kaline with 101.9 and 87.4 total wins above replacement respectively, good for 24th and 28th all-time among position players.
Cosmologists tell us that parallel universes exist. In one such alternate realm, the baseball player known as Brooks Robinson retired after the 1969 season. His career .274 BA and .421 SLG, coupled with his MVP award and ten consecutive Gold Gloves, were worthy of the game’s highest honor.
That world is different from ours in at least three important ways. First, Chico Salmon is the answer to the question, Who replaced the Vacuum Cleaner? Second, Aurelio Rodriguez won the first of his several Gold Gloves following Robinson’s retirement. Third, Paul Blair won the 1970 World Series MVP award.
Meanwhile, in our world, Doug DeCinces is the name of the player who replaced Robinson as the Orioles third baseman, but only after Robinson won six more Gold Gloves, while Rodriguez won the award only once. Of greatest importance, Robinson was the MVP of the 1970 World Series, redefining third base defensive excellence in the process. Numerous balls hit by Johnny Bench, Lee May and their Reds teammates failed to fulfill their potential as doubles into the left field corner, all thanks to Robinson’s glove work. Oh, and Robinson was a hitting star in that Series, too.
The Robinson who retired in 1969 is a Hall of Famer in his world, whereas the one who played until 1977 in our world is Inner Circle. We live in a far richer world.
One of the greatest aspects of baseball, that few sports share, is its history. We can reach back 140-plus years and investigate performances, legends, facts and data. As such, it is somewhat shocking that Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson joins just Honus Wagner, Cy Young and Nap Lajoie as 19th century ballplayers recognized by the Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project. Anson, perhaps the least known of the four, is no less deserving.
From 1880-1891, Anson led baseball in RBIs eight times. While RBIs alone can be hallow, during that time, Anson led the league in OBP three times, and average and OPS twice. He is also the hit king of the 1800s, being the first player ever to surpass 3,000 hits and finishing the century with roughly 800 more hits than anyone else. Anson owns a .334/.394/.447 career line, 142 OPS+ and 88.7 fWAR (the most accumulated before 1900).
In addition to his playing career, Anson managed for 21 seasons, serving as player-manager in all but one. In MLB history, 15 players with 90+ bWAR managed at least one MLB game. Anson has the best winning percentage, is the only manager that is more than 100 games above .500, and managed and won the most games of the group. Anson is credited with creating Spring Training, the hook slide, hit and run, third base coach and cutoff man. Connie Mack called Anson the “Napoleon of the Diamond.” Cy Young and Honus Wagner also served as managers during their playing careers, but lasted 11 games, combined.
Hall of Fame Inner Circle. Why does Tony Gwynn belong in such a theoretical realm?
Why doesn’t he? Gwynn didn’t walk or hit for power; his offensive value was heavily dependent on batting average. This is true, although hitting .338 makes it less of an issue. Only 17 men in history have a higher mark, and all of their careers ended by 1960. Besides, it’s not like a .388 OBP or .459 SLG is terrible.
Gwynn has come the closest to .400 in a single season since Ted Williams did it in 1941, hitting .394 in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Gwynn won eight National League batting titles, including four straight from 1994 to 1997. From 1993 to 1999 (his last season as a regular, at age 39), he posted a slash line of .358/.402/.503 in nearly 3,700 plate appearances.
Gwynn won five Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers. He was named to the NL All-Star team every year but one from 1984 to 1999. He ranks 19th all time in hits and 27th in doubles. He stole 319 bases.
Gwynn played for bad teams in a small market, and stayed there his entire career. He is an institution in San Diego and a great representative of a team that often gets overlooked. Beyond that, he is a great representative of baseball, period.
Teddy Roosevelt’s old adage “Speak softly and carry a big stick” was personified in baseball by the great Harmon Killebrew. Fondly known as Harm by former Twins legendary broadcaster Herb Carneal, Killebrew’s nickname was particularly apt for what he liked to do to baseballs.
And much harm he did. One of the early ‘bonus babies’, Killebrew toiled for parts of five years with the Senators before breaking out with 42 long balls at age 23 in 1959. He’d hardly ever look back, smashing 573 round-trippers in his storied career. In his fourth year of eligibility, Killebrew was inducted into the Hall of Fame, propelled by his power propensity (currently 11th on the all-time list behind a few noted steroids suspects) and keen batting eye (15th on all-time walk list). Killebrew’s inner circle case rests on overlooking his batting average, and the fact that he was a three true outcomes (HR-BB-K) player, and giving him ample credit for his power, and that he carried excellent on-base percentages.
Let’s not pretend that what made Reggie great was anything other than his 563 regular-season home runs, with 18 more in the playoffs. His on-base percentage ranks just 534th in baseball history (3,000 PA minimum). He stole more bases than you realize, but without a good percentage. His defense was fine early in his career and not fine late. He struck out more than anyone in history (though Jim Thome is closing in and four years of Adam Dunn should be plenty of time for him to catch up).
No, Reggie hit dongers. He cracked 40 or more in a season twice back when that was really hard to do. He led his league four times. He’s 13th in major-league history and Albert Pujols, the only active player we can count on passing Reggie, is over 100 behind. Reggie hit memorable homers and he hit boring homers and he hit homers that were memorable only to the people watching at the time. He hit long ones, like the famous Tiger Stadium All-Star Game shot off Dock Ellis, and (presumably) short ones. He hit important homers and homers in blowouts. Reggie hit homers.
How other Hall of Fame players fared in the voting
30-86 votes: Cool Papa Bell 72, Wade Boggs 86, Lou Brock 43, Roy Campanella 69, Rod Carew 82, Gary Carter 33, Oscar Charleston 69, Mickey Cochrane 40, Ed Delahanty 38, Carlton Fisk 67, Whitey Ford 62, Charlie Gehringer 68, Carl Hubbell 49, Buck Leonard 30, Juan Marichal 54, Willie McCovey 63, Eddie Murray 49, Kid Nichols 53, Phil Niekro 34, Jim Palmer 64, Gaylord Perry 33, Eddie Plank 30, Al Simmons 33, George Sisler 69, Ozzie Smith 71, Duke Snider 43, Arky Vaughan 33, Paul Waner 39, Robin Yount 68
10-29 votes: Roberto Alomar 27, Luis Aparicio 12, Home Run Baker 21, Bert Blyleven 26, Dan Brouthers 22, Mordecai Brown 24, Jimmy Collins 15, Roger Connor 25, Sam Crawford 29, Joe Cronin 14, George Davis 10, Dizzy Dean 19, Bill Dickey 28, Martin Dihigo 16, Don Drysdale 22, Dennis Eckersley 24, Frankie Frisch 15, Rich Gossage 10, Billy Hamilton 15, Harry Heilmann 13, Catfish Hunter 12, Fergie Jenkins 28, Willie Keeler 11, Ralph Kiner 26, Pop Lloyd 13, Johnny Mize 23, Paul Molitor 23, Kirby Puckett 11, Old Hoss Radbourn 25, Robin Roberts 22, Ryne Sandberg 17, Enos Slaughter 11, Willie Stargell 22, Bill Terry 13, Pie Traynor 18, Ed Walsh 19, Hoyt Wilhelm 11, Smokey Joe Williams 14, Hack Wilson 24, Dave Winfield 18
1-9 votes: Luke Appling 8, Richie Ashburn 5, Earl Averill 1, Chief Bender 5, Jim Bottomley 2, Lou Boudreau 4, Roger Bresnahan 2, Jesse Burkett 1, Orlando Cepeda 3, Frank Chance 2, Jack Chesbro 5, Fred Clarke 2, John Clarkson 7, Earle Combs 2, Kiki Cuyler 1, Ray Dandridge 1, Andre Dawson 3, Larry Doby 4, Bobby Doerr 3, Hugh Duffy 3, Johnny Evers 1, Buck Ewing 8, Rick Ferrell 1, Rollie Fingers 6, Nellie Fox 7, Pud Galvin 6, Lefty Gomez 8, Joe Gordon 1, Goose Goslin 6. Gabby Hartnett 7, Waite Hoyt 1, Monte Irvin 6, Hughie Jennings 3, Judy Johnson 2, Addie Joss 7, Tim Keefe 7, George Kell 1, King Kelly 7, Chuck Klein 6, Barry Larkin 9, Bob Lemon 5, Heinie Manush 2, Rabbit Maranville 2, Rube Marquard 4, Bill Mazeroski 5, Joe Medwick 6, Joe McGinnity 3, Hal Newhouser 2, Jim O’Rourke 1, Pee Wee Reese 7, Jim Rice 8, Sam Rice 7, Eppa Rixey 1, Phil Rizzuto 5, Bullet Rogan 3, Edd Roush 1, Red Ruffing 1, Amos Rusie 2, Ron Santo 8, Red Schoendienst 3, Joe Sewell 1, Hilton Smith 3, Turkey Stearnes 6, Bruce Sutter 5, Mule Suttles 3, Don Sutton 6, Sam Thompson 6, Cristobal Torriente 2, Dazzy Vance 5, Rube Waddell 6, Lloyd Waner 6, Monte Ward 3, Mickey Welch 1, Willie Wells 2, Zack Wheat 1, Billy Williams 7, Early Wynn 5
Appeared on the ballot, got zero countable votes: Dave Bancroft 0, Jake Beckley 0, Ray Brown 0, Willard Brown 0, Jim Bunning 0, Max Carey 0, Andy Cooper 0, Stan Coveleski 0, Leon Day 0, Red Faber 0, Elmer Flick 0, Bill Foster 0, Frank Grant 0, Clark Griffith 0, Burleigh Grimes 0, Chick Hafey 0, Jesse Haines 0, Billy Herman 0, Pete Hill 0, Harry Hooper 0, Travis Jackson 0, Joe Kelley 0, High Pockets Kelly 0, Tony Lazzeri 0, Freddie Lindstrom 0, Ernie Lombardi 0, Ted Lyons 0, Biz Mackey 0, Tommy McCarthy 0, Bid McPhee 0, Jose Mendez 0, Herb Pennock 0, Tony Perez 0, Louis Santop 0, Ray Schalk 0, Ben Taylor 0, Joe Tinker 0, Bobby Wallace 0, Vic Willis 0, Jud Wilson 0, Ross Youngs 0
When you choose a Hall of Fame Inner Circle, you’re guaranteed one thing: disagreement. While baseball is a game of countless objective statistics, the “Hall of Famer” and what he represents remains an incredibly subjective concept.
By my count, there are about thirty players who are simply no-brainers for such an Inner Circle. These are players that I can’t imagine anyone leaving out for any reason whatsoever. The last twenty or so spots? I’d imagine you could make a good case for over a hundred players.
With any select group like this, I can’t help but wonder who the snubs are. Since I’ve dedicated my baseballing life to giving overlooked players their due, this is just natural. While I actually agreed with 80% of the choices (good job, all!), here I’ll cover two snubs who stood above the rest.
Most egregious snub: Kid Nichols
Kid Nichols’ 111.6 Wins Above Replacement ranks fourth among Hall of Fame pitchers and fourteenth among all Hall of Famers. Let me remind you—we’re choosing the fifty greatest Hall of Famers. Nichols should have been one.
Nichols isn’t just a sabermetric darling. His 361 wins rank seventh (and he did it with a dominating .634 winning percentage). His sparkling ERA of 2.96 translates to an ERA+ of 140 when compared to his peers. Among Hall of Famers, only Lefty Grove, Walter Johnson, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ed Walsh, and Addie Joss finished with an ERA+ north of Nichols. Johnson did in nearly 6,000 innings. Nichols did it in 5,000. Grove had fewer than 4,000 and nobody else was remotely close.
Nichols’ combination of dominance and durability is matched by few Hall of Famers. I would put him in an elite group with Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Pete Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, and Tom Seaver. Nichols finished with 53 votes (23%). Compare that to Warren Spahn (who was in my Inner Circle). Spahn had about the same number of wins and innings as Nichols. But he also had a much lower winning percentage and didn’t come close to Nichols’ ERA+. Spahn, however, was named on 84% of ballots.
Most surprising snub: Wade Boggs
It never occurred to me that Wade Boggs might not make the cut. He nearly did, finishing one vote behind Reggie Jackson. Meanwhile, George Brett garnered more than twice as many votes as The Chicken Man.
I have no problem with George Brett (who’s career and position overlapped Boggs’) making the Inner Circle. But I am downright confused about how he could generate so much more support than Boggs. Boggs reached base 4,445 times. Brett reached base 4,283 times. Boggs was worth 84.0 Wins above Replacement and 57.5 Wins above Average. Brett was worth 88.3 WAR and 50.7 WAA. Boggs generated 441 WAR batting runs. Brett generated 427. Boggs won five batting titles. Brett won three. Boggs had a 131 OPS+. Brett had a 135. Boggs had a 131 wRC+. Brett’s was 133. The two key differences between the two? Brett lasted longer while Boggs was worth more defensively (he stayed at third base longer and played it better, according to Total Zone). They were very similar players. Both should have been in. Comfortably.
(Editor’s note: Initially, 270 ballots were submitted, though a number of people voted for more or less than 50 players. I emailed everyone I could to correct their vote totals, and ultimately, I only counted 50-player ballots submitted by the morning of July 15.)
Writing often about Cooperstown the past couple years, I’ve come to favor a large Hall of Fame. I don’t apologize for this, nor do I think there’d be anything wrong with a museum that would honor the likes of Dwight Evans, Alan Trammell, or Smoky Joe Wood. That being said, I understand one reason people decry the inductions of players like Travis Jackson, Tommy McCarthy, and Eppa Rixey. There isn’t much delineation in the players’ wing at Cooperstown, nothing to separate the Jacksons, McCarthys, and Rixeys of the museum from players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays. Every member gets the same plaque. By standards of Cooperstown, all enshrined players are, in effect, equal. Should this be so?
I’ve devised a new project to challenge this paradigm. As founder and editor of this site, I’m pleased to kick off voting on the Hall of Fame Inner Circle Project.
The past two offseasons, I’ve run a project through this website having people vote on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. The project that I’m kicking off today could perhaps be called the 50 best players in the Hall of Fame. This is about identifying the best of the best and giving them their due, their own special level of recognition. I don’t know if anyone’s devised an inner circle before, though I know there’s nothing like it at the Hall of Fame itself. Let’s build something together. I’ve created a ballot of the 237 men who’ve been voted into Cooperstown as players, counting Negro Leaguers, and I invite anyone who’s interested to vote for the 50 best of the best. Please vote via this Google Document.
As usual, there are few rules with voting. I welcome people using whatever system they’d like for voting, and as always, all votes count equally and rankings will be determined by number of votes. The only requirements are that people vote for 50 players and that all votes be submitted no later than Friday, July 6 at 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. I’ll unveil results on July 17, just ahead of the annual induction weekend at Cooperstown. On a related note, if anyone is interested in writing about a player for the final results post, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. I can also be reached for questions or feedback via this email. All this being said, thanks, and I look forward to seeing how everyone votes.
Not surprisingly only two managers with 900 or more wins (Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia) started their playing careers after 1980. Of course, we could probably add Ron Gardenhire, Jim Tracy and Ozzie Guillen (I’ve done so in the chart, but not the averages) to this list as they’ll likely earn the requisite wins to join the club.
Oddly, Francona and Scioscia have the same amount of games managed and, combined, their managerial record is 2095-1793. If you add the three other likely managers, this group has a 4,431-3,947. Pretty impressive. Together they have four World Series titles.
Of course, their playing careers weren’t all that successful. Tracy played just two years and Gardenhire played in just five (although he managed 0.5 WAR). Francona was a pretty poor player for 10 seasons somehow. Scioscia leads the way in WAR (with 23.7), with Guillen coming in second (15.9).
While we don’t have a ton of data, it does appear that there’s no relation whatsoever in recent history between being a great player and becoming a good manager. From the minors, Ryne Sandberg weeps.
1970s — Average playing career: 9.8 seasons — War: 70.4
The players who began their careers in 1970 and became 900+ win managers (combined record of 5,802-5,984) weren’t as successful as the 1980s group. Together the ‘70s PTMs have three World Series, but only one (Mike Hargrove) has a .500+ winning percentage and he sits at .503. That said, the others are reasonably close with Tom Kelly being the furthest away from even at .478. It’s interesting in a clearly-doesn’t-mean-anything-sort-of-way that the highest WAR and best win% match-up and so on. Poor Tom Kelly.
This group fared a bit better when it came to their playing careers, though. Hargrove and Phil Garner put together 25+ WAR careers and played for 12 and 16 years respectively. Art Howe played for 11 years and accumulated 11.9 WAR. While Bochy wasn’t very good (2 WAR), he did play for nine seasons. Tom Kelly is the black sheep of the group, again, playing just one season.
1960s — Average playing career: 11.7 seasons — War: 173.1
A whopping nine players began their careers in 1960 and went on to manage ball clubs to 900+ wins. The group was pretty successful: 15,120-13,331, with 10 World Series (thank you Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa).
This group also brings the first potential Hall of Fame player in Torre and two other well above average players in Jim Fregosi and Dusty Baker. In addition, Davey Johnson had a fine and long career, while Lou Piniella played for 18 seasons. There were some duds as players: LaRussa (-1 WAR), Jimy Williams (-0.1 WAR), Bobby Cox (1 WAR) and Bobby Valentine (0.8 WAR). Still, the group averaged nearly 12 seasons as major leaguers.
1950s — Average playing career: 10.4 seasons — War: 169
The nine players who began their careers in the 1950s won 10 World Series and posted a 12,343-11,361 record. Frank Robinson is really the only poor manager in the group. Chuck Tanner, who also had a sub-.500 winning percentage, at least won a World Series and was just barely under .500 (1,352-1,381).
That said, bringing Frank Robinson into the fold gives us the first no-doubt Hall of Famer who went on to win 900+ games as a manager. However, the rest of the group is pretty inauspicious. Felipe Alou had the second longest career and second most WAR. However, aside from him and potentially Bill Virdon, it’s a pedestrian collection.
1940s — Average playing career: 11.2 seasons — War: 89.7
The six managers who began their careers in the 1940s had winning percentages between .483-.540. Together, they went 7,910-7,748 and won six World Series. Danny Murtaugh seems to have been the most successful (.540 with two World Series) but he had the third shortest tenure and only fourth most wins.
That said, Bill Rigney was clearly the worst, as his average yearly finish was fifth place. Oddly, this group’s average yearly finish was between 3.3 and 5.2, whereas seven of the nine managers from the 1950s group averaged in the 2s.
This is the first set of players who all had at least eight seasons of pro-ball. That said, only Red Schoendienst and Al Dark had careers of any note. Altogether, they averaged nearly 15 WAR, but that is entirely the product of Schoendienst (40.4) and Dark (38.6)
1930s — Average playing career: 8 seasons — War: 56.3
Only Walter Alston, who won four World Series and was nearly 430 games over .500, can be considered a top notch manager. Lou Boudreau had a below .500 record and his team’s average finish was barely higher than fifth place. Paul Richards wasn’t much better than .500, as he was 923-901.
If Alston carried the group managerially, Boudreau carried them in terms of playing careers. Boudreau played for 15 years and accumulated 56 WAR. Combined, Richards and Alston played for nine seasons and accumulated 0.3 WAR.
For all intents and purposes, Richards played from 1932-1935. He came back from 1943-1946 as baseball was devoid of talent due to the War. Oddly, Richards might have been a better player during the second stretch: he hit .231/.313/.310 with 1.2 WAR while during the first part of his career he hit .216/.285/.281 and was a -0.9 WAR player. Richards was a no-hit catcher who could lead a pitching staff. He is credited with turning Dutch Leonard’s career around by suggesting he learn the knuckleball.
Meanwhile, Alston appeared in just one game, got one at bat and struck out on three pitches (reportedly one strike was a long foul ball). He was subbing in for Johnny Mize who was run out of the game. He wasn’t much better with the glove as he made an error in his two fielding chances.
1920s — Average playing career: 16 seasons — War: 88.2
This is an odd bunch. Combined, the four managed teams to a 5,662-4,741 record, yet just one World Series victory. The managerial star of the group, Al Lopez, won five pennants and his team’s average finish was 2.4. Leo Durocher claimed the World Series and won 3,739 games. This is the first group with significant player-managers, as, combined, Durocher and Joe Cronin player-managed for nearly 20 seasons.
While the group averaged 16 seasons in their playing careers, Cronin was the only real successful player. Lopez was a solid catcher who caught the most games in baseball history until Gary Carter broke his record, but was just a 13.5 WAR guy over 19 seasons. Durocher similarly hung around without doing much (3.6 WAR).
1910s — Average playing career: 16.7 seasons — War: 181.6
The older we get, the more player-managers appear: five of the seven managers in this group were player-managers. Together, they won 13 World Series and had a 9,978-9,272, aided mostly by Billy Southworth (1,044-704), Charlie Grimm (1,287-1,067) and Steve O’Neil (1,040-821). While Frankie Frisch and Casey Stengel were fine managers, they didn’t have the year-in, year-out regular season success of the others.
As managers, these guys were tremendous, as players, not so much. While they averaged nearly 17 MLB seasons, Frisch was, really, the only accomplished player. Southworth and Jimmy Dykes were fine regulars but did nothing of incredible note in their careers. If you take Frisch out of the equation, the group played 98 seasons and accumulated 106.8 WAR.
1900s — Average playing career: 12 seasons — War: 38.2
Just two players started their careers in the 1900s and went on to win 900+ games as managers – but boy did they. Combined, Bill McKechnie and Miller Huggins went 3,309-2,857 and won five World Series.
Huggins was, by far, the better player though. Blessed with the knowledge that making an out was a bad thing, Huggins routinely led the league in walks, finishing with a .265/.382/.314 line. Meanwhile McKechnie was good in just two of his 11 seasons. He finished as a .251/.301/.313 hitter. Huggins was also the better manager. His teams finished higher in the standings, had a higher winning percentage and he won more pennants and World Series.
1800s — Average Playing Career: 16.7 seasons — WAR: 399.4
Five managers in this group had winning percentages above .576 – that’s astounding. As a collective, they were 16,949-14,481. While they had solid regular season success, they brought home just 11 World Series. Of course the first Series wasn’t until 1903 and many of these men began their managerial careers significantly before that.
As players, Cap Anson and Fred Clarke led the way, but Clark Griffith, Hughie Jennings, John McGraw and Frank Chance all had considerable MLB careers. In reality, Wilbert Robinson and Ned Hanlon were merely average players for their respective careers and Harry Wright was the only suboptimal player. This group averaged nearly 40 WAR as players.
Surprisingly the 900 wins or more managers don’t skew a ton to baseball’s infancy, but are evenly spread out over the first 70 or so years. However, it seems clear that the better players who became 900 win or more managers started their careers in the early days.
Players who became managers and started their career between 1871 and 1919 accumulated 619.2 WAR. Meanwhile players who began their careers between 1925 and 1947 accumulated 234.2 WAR, players who began their careers between 1950 and 1969 accumulated 342.1 WAR and players who began their careers after 1973 accumulated 90.4 WAR. In total, players who started their careers before 1920 and went on to win 900 games as managers accounted for 619.2 WAR, while the rest accounted for 666.7 WAR.
In addition, 22 of the 57 managers with 900+ wins were player-managers at one point. However, 17 of those 22 began their playing careers before 1920. With players having the chance to play and manage at the same time, it’s apparent that the managers with the most wins in MLB history who were also Hall of Fame type players skewed mightily toward the early parts of baseball history.
Have you noticed what’s been happening recently? The Hall of Fame has been getting smaller, at least in relative size.
In one way, the HOF is like the Roach Motel. Players check in but they don’t check out. In absolute terms, the HOF can only get bigger. But I prefer a different view. For HOF players, as with any group, understanding who the outsiders are (and how many of them there are) is essential to defining the insiders.
The size of the HOF is best considered in relative terms. With slightly more than 200 MLB players enshrined in Cooperstown out of about 17,000 who have played at the major league level, about 1.2% of players have received the game’s highest honor. A metric that can be calculated is something I will call the enshrinement rate: the number of inductees, expressed as a percentage of the number of players who left the game five years earlier (allowing for the five-year lag between a player’s retirement and his becoming eligible for election). Because both quantities making up this rate can vary from one year to another, let’s consider enshrinement rates on a longer time scale, say, ten years. For example, for the 1960s (the years 1961 to 1970), 29 MLB players were enshrined. Newly eligible for enshrinement during this ten-year period were the 991 players whose careers ended in the years 1956 through 1965. Therefore, the enshrinement rate for the ‘60s was 2.9%. It does not mean that 2.9% of the ’56-’65 retirees were enshrined, since the Veterans Committee honorees in the ‘60s were players who had retired in earlier decades.
The ‘60s and ‘70s (also at 2.9%) were the high water mark for enshrinement rate. These were the years that, for better or worse, saw the most VC picks enter the Hall. In contrast, the enshrinement rate was 1.8% in the ‘50s, 2.2% in the ‘80s, and 2.1% in the ‘90s. More recently, we have seen a dramatic drop in the enshrinement rate, to 1.0% during the decade of the 2000s; 19 players were enshrined while 1887 players became eligible. This calculation does not include the Negro League honorees who entered by special election in 2006 and who played few, if any, games in the major leagues. While the HOF continues to grow in absolute numbers, it is now seeing a modest reduction in relative size.
I do not foresee a return to the enshrinement rates of the ‘60s and ‘70s. With 30 MLB teams, about 200 players end their major league careers each year. These days, even a 2.5% enshrinement rate would mean five players getting elected annually. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a year in which that many new players have gone to Cooperstown.
A significant elevation in enshrinement rate can probably happen only if the selection rules change. Giving the writers the opportunity to vote for more players will probably not make much difference, though, since even under the current system, many writers cast fewer than their allotted ten votes. Perhaps some elevation in enshrinement rate could come about if there were changes promoting greater activity from the VC. However, even if the induction rate were to rise to 1.5 or 2% (3 or 4 players a year) we would see only very slow growth from the current relative size of the HOF.
Although the 1% enshrinement rate of the past decade presents a fairly robust Small Hall scenario, if you’re a Small Hall guy you might be wishing for even lower enshrinement rates in the future. But how much lower can we go? I find it hard to imagine that between the writers and the VC we won’t average at least one new player in the HOF per year, or an enshrinement rate of at least 0.5%. This would reduce the relative size of the HOF, but slowly.
My best guess is that we will see enshrinement rates hovering somewhere between 1 and 1.5% in the decades ahead, which would have the HOF remaining nearly static in relative size. Even if we do see changes in the enshrinement rate, the ensuing change in the relative size of the HOF will be slow. The bottom line: if you’re unhappy with the current size of the Hall of Fame, you will probably carry that unhappiness with you the rest of your days.
Part of the reason the Creamer interview went as well as it did was that he was wonderfully introspective in his answers, taking more than two weeks to reply to my 10 questions and offering almost 5,000 words worth of answers. He spoke of many things, such as going to his first game in 1931, the changes he’s seen over the years, and who he considered the greatest player that he covered (“Willie Mays. Period.”) I asked Creamer about his favorite baseball memories and he told me, among other things:
Seeing Babe Ruth hit home runs; I saw Babe play at least one game in 1932, 1933 and 1934, his last three seasons with the Yankees, and each time I saw him he hit a home run (a couple of times it was a doubleheader and he hit a homer in one of the games, but he hit one.) In short I have the thrill of remembering what a Ruthian homer looked like up close – simply gorgeous. That beautiful swing and Ruth’s big face looking up watching it go as he starts to run. And the ball, already enormously high in the air as it floated past the infield. I mean, I saw Babe Ruth hit home runs.
I can’t even begin to describe how cool it was to get to do this interview.
As I mentioned, the interview got an overwhelmingly positive response from readers. It’s been linked to on a few major baseball sites. Major League Baseball official historian John Thorn tweeted, “Just the best thing I can recall reading.” And even if Creamer hadn’t given such an outstanding interview, I sense there still would have been an outpouring of support for him. The man seems universally loved by baseball fans, rightfully so. At 89, he’s a treasure, and I hope he lives and writes many more years.
Which gets me to my idea.
Robert Creamer will turn 90 on July 14 of this year. The annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will take place about a week later. What better present to offer Creamer (and baseball) than an award? As a writer, Creamer can’t be enshrined in Cooperstown, and he’s not even currently eligible for the “Scribes and Mikemen” exhibit, since it only honors newspaper reporters and broadcasters. I have something in mind to remedy this.
I suggest the creation of the Robert W. Creamer Award, to be presented annually to any non-newspaper writer who’s fostered greater love or appreciation of baseball. I’ll even offer an inaugural class: Roger Angell, Roger Kahn, Bill James, Lawrence Ritter, and Creamer. It’s a travesty none of these men have been honored simply because they didn’t write for a newspaper (frankly, keeping the award tied to one seems arcane in the 21st century.) I could nominate Creamer for the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, but that goes out only once every three years and seems insufficient to honor the great backlog of writers. I suggest the Creamer Award winners be featured in the press exhibit, next to the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winners for newspapermen and the Ford C. Frick Award winners for broadcasters.
I am admittedly a geek for this kind of thing. I went through college thinking I would be a sportswriter, and I’ve read the work of a fair number of men in the writers exhibit. I’ll probably take a look at it the next time I go to Cooperstown, though I wouldn’t subject anyone else to it. But I’d want to tell my son or daughter, if I had one, about Creamer, the man who helped found the greatest sports magazine ever, wrote two of the finest baseball books around, and selflessly showed kindness to me, some random, young blogger. I imagine he’s quietly been helping people for decades.
Creamer deserves more than I can possibly give. But it’d be nice to see the Hall of Fame join me in saying thank you.