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.
Editor’s note: One thing that I love about this blog is that we have a range of viewpoints among the writers here. I personally differ from Joe Guzzardi on how many players should be the Hall of Fame (he’s an exclusionist, I’ve become more welcoming in the last couple years), but I’m glad to share his views.
Barry Larkin is in the Hall of Fame. As opposed to last year’s choice of Bert Blyleven, I guess I’m sort of okay with Larkin, the winner of nine Silver Slugger awards, named to 14 All Star Games and one of the outstanding shortstops of his era. I’d have been okay if Larkin were passed over, too.
According to an analysis by the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner, 33 players over the next five ballots (including Larkin) could make what he calls “a realistic case” for their induction. As Kepner describes it, “They may not have a winning argument, but they belong in the conversation.’
Kepner broke his 33 players into four categories:
1) Virtual locks, barring evidence of steroid use: Larkin (2012); Craig Biggio (2013); Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas (2014); Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz (2015); Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman (2016).
2) Possible, barring evidence of steroid use: Curt Schilling (2013); Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina (2014).
3) Doubtful, based on playing career, voting track record or both: Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker and Bernie Williams.
4) Left out because of performance-enhancing drugs: based on suspicion, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza; based on admission, Mark McGwire; based on evidence, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa; based on admission/evidence/playing career, Juan Gonzalez and Andy Pettitte.
According to Kepner’s projections, by 2016 ten new Hall of Famers will have been elected. Seven reached a significant round number: 300 victories for Glavine, Johnson and Maddux; 3,000 hits for Biggio; 500 home runs for Thomas; 600 home runs for Griffey; 600 saves for Hoffman. Larkin was a most valuable player; Smoltz won a Cy Young Award, and Pedro Martinez won three.
But on my ballot, only Glavine, Johnson, Maddux, Biggio, Thomas Griffey and Martinez would get votes. A single Cy Young season (Smoltz) is more an argument for being passed over than being inducted.
As for Hoffman, the standard for earning a save is so artificial and watered down I can’t see ever putting any relief pitcher (including Mariano Rivera!) in the Hall of Fame. In his 18 year career, Hoffman averaged 60 innings pitched per season (out of about 1,500 team innings played) —simply too insignificant a contribution to merit Hall of Fame status.
As for Kepner’s “possible,” “doubtful,” and “left out” categories, I wouldn’t vote for any of them.
In previous blogs, I’ve noted that most of the ESPN talking heads like Peter Gammons, Buster Olney and Jayson Stark advocate for the steroids’ crowd.
When you hear these guys talk, it’s as if they are obligated to vote for multiple candidates each year. Attention: There’s no such requirement.
It seems lately many members of the Baseball Writers Association of America have been tormented and undecided as to which player should receive their Hall of Fame vote. This not only applies to this year’s ballot but especially in 2013 when the eligible list will be flooded with steroid-aided stars. Should these writers forgive and forget, or wait a few years until those stars are merely a distant memory? Should they refuse to vote for these players at all? Should a player whose career position was mainly that of a DH be eligible? Should a player be voted in because a precedent was set in the years before? Has the idea that only the greatest players should qualify for the Hall ever been followed to the letter?
All good and valid questions and with no clear eligibility standards other than perhaps 500 homeruns, 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts, no clear answers.
Until now that is.
I have always believed that in giving a player immortality, only the best and most upstanding should be honored. But these players must be held to a higher standard than the rest of society. That should go with the territory. That should be part of the payment and understood without explanation. Transgressions should not be forgiven, ignored or excused. If claiming innocence and later, after much questioning and crocodile tears, all is forgiven with a shrug of the shoulders, then Pete Rose should be a charter member of the Hall.
Players who excel at only one or two phases of the game should be passed over. Very good shouldn’t be good enough. Doing so only cheapens the accomplishments of the elite players. It could turn into the farce that is Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Are you really comparing Cary Grant to some actor in a lousy television sitcom? Do we want the Hall of Fame to become as insignificant as putting your hand and foot prints in cement has become? Do we want some disco queen in the rock and roll Hall of Fame or a Joan Jett?
There is no reason to elect a player every year. Not voting for any of the names on the ballot will not negate your voting eligibility. There is also, in most cases, no reason to elect a player after many years of being eligible. His stats didn’t improve after retirement. Not being in the Hall doesn’t require a player to forfeit some or all of the money made during his career. Being an ex major leaguer is noteworthy and special all on its own.
A player who was virtually a full time DH shouldn’t get voted in either. Baseball pre DH was full of players who could hit but couldn’t run or field. They were good at only one of the five tools and regardless of how well they could hit, were not complete players.
A player should not be elected because of who was voted in before him. Ozzie Smith is a member therefore a precedence and an excuse to elect every great fielding shortstop in baseball history has been set. I’m not singling out Smith; he was an electrifying defensive player… I think he was very good, just not elite and not great at any other part of the game.
There are no hard and fast voting rules for election into the Hall of Fame. It would seem so but at the risk of sounding naïve to the ways to the world, I have come up with answers to those very questions.
While the players in the Hall who shouldn’t be can’t be removed, let’s start honoring the Ruths, Aarons, and DiMaggios with elite selections and let’s not dishonor those by voting in the likes of Sosa, Palmeiro, or other players who excelled at only one phase.
We can also expect a few thousand more visitors for the 2011 project over the coming year. We’re leading the search engines for this area, and traffic spikes both when the Hall of Fame voting results for the Baseball Writers Association of America come out in early January and again when players are enshrined in mid-July. I expect comments will keep coming, both positive and negative. Heck, the shanty Top 10 list I did back in 2009 (don’t judge me, but it sucks) still draws the occasional comment.
So what’s to come? I alluded near the end of my project’s results post that I’m already looking forward to next year. I plan to keep the foundation of the project the same, though there should be a few new wrinkles. I want to expand Super Ballot, get BBWAA members and former players voting, and automate the vote counting. I’d also like, if possible, to offer a free Baseball: Past and Present t-shirt to everyone who votes. I’m looking into options on this and am open to suggestions. Maybe anyone who’s done a mass run of t-shirts for their site can steer me in the right direction.
In the meantime, I want to keep improving this website. I’ve reached out to a few more people I’d like to write here, and I’ve started kicking around ideas for new content. If anyone has any ideas for posts or would like to write, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome all feedback, good or bad, laudatory or critical. On a side note, a small project is in the works for the spring. I’ll announce what it is around the beginning of the season.
I want to thank everyone who supports this site, be it by reading, writing, offering comments or emails, or doing anything else to help things run successfully around here. This site has life in part because it seems to connect with people. I hope this continues.
Editor’s note: I’m pleased to present the latest post from regular contributor Alex Putterman. Alex is a high school senior and recently learned he was accepted early-decision to Northwestern. He will study journalism there.
Last week the Veterans Committee announced the Hall of Fame will be enshrining Ron Santo, the sixth best player not in Cooperstown according to this Website’s second annual survey. But while the Santo family can rejoice in 2012, Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and the rest of the “Golden Era” ballot must wait three more years for consideration under the new Veterans Committee format instituted in 2010. An off-shoot of the Committee will next year consider candidates who played their most important years before the beginning of integration in 1947.
The Veterans Committee has considered an all-early century ballot once before, in 2009, under the short-lived former system (That ballot was comprised of anyone who played prior to 1943, whereas the 2012 version will consider those who made “their most important contribution” pre-’47). That election resulted in a plaque for former-Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon and a close call for Allie Reynolds (who was categorized as a Golden Era player under the current system and missed out on election this year.)
Next closest in ’09 was Wes Ferrell, who received six of a possible 12 votes to finish three short of the 75% threshold. Ferrell, whose less-deserving brother Rick is already enshrined in Cooperstown, was a pitcher and pinch-hitter for several teams in the 1930’s. Ferrell was a nice player and a bit of a novelty given his success on the mound and the impressive hitting ability that complemented it. He finished tied for 45th on the list of the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, but only 15 of the 86 voters felt he belonged in the Hall.
Mickey Vernon and Deacon White each received five votes on the ’09 pre-WWII ballot. Vernon was an unspectacular but long-tenured first baseman who played from 1939 to 1960 and is now considered a “Golden Era” player (he was therefore eligible for this year’s ballot but not selected to it). White is one of the best 19th century players yet to make it to Cooperstown and has much support from those who feel baseball’s early days are underrepresented in the Hall.
Given their prior success in Veterans Committee voting, Ferrell and White should get another chance next year, but it’s a pair of players who finished further down the 2009 ballot who deserve a long look from the 2012 Pre-Integration committee. Sherry Magee received only three votes in ’09, but statistics suggest he deserved more support. The outfielder won a batting title, finished among the National League’s top five home run hitters seven times, stole 441 career bases, and finished with an impressive 136 OPS+ and a WAR of 59.1.
Like Magee, Bill Dahlen was named to the 2009 pre-integration ballot and received little support, but the shortstop is viewed by many (including 31 voters in the aforementioned baseballpastandpresent poll) as Hall-worthy. WAR isn’t an end-all measure, but it must mean something that Dahlen ranks behind only Jeff Bagwell in WAR among non-Hall of Famers (yes, ahead of Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose). And a 109 OPS+ and terrific defense is usually more than enough for a shortstop to warrant enshrinement (just ask Ozzie Smith).
If there’s any justice in the world (or at least in the Veterans Committee), Bob Caruthers will find his way onto next year’s ballot for a deserved opportunity to be elected to Cooperstown. The 19th century star finished his 10-year with a better ERA+ than Bob Feller and a better OPS+ than Tony Gwynn. Ferrell nearly reached the Hall three years ago thanks to his uniquely well-rounded skill set, but Caruthers is almost unquestionably the best two-way player of all-time.
Yet, as the still-eligible player with the highest ’09 vote total, Ferrell appears to be the candidate most likely to reach the Hall next summer, although White has had success with the Committee before and could garner support. Or maybe voters will wake up to the credentials of Magee, Dahlen and Caruthers and put one or two of them in Cooperstown. But as there’s no stand-out candidate with a history of Veterans Committee support, it’s likely that any 2012 Hall of Fame inductee will have to come from the baseball writers ballot.
I debuted the first version of this project in December 2010 and based it around a simple idea. Rather than have rankings be based on some all-powerful stat or my opinion, I sought votes from fellow baseball writers, researchers, and anyone else interested. Sixty-three of us voted in all including yours truly, thousands more read our work, and it was an easy decision to make this an annual thing. Truth be told, I’ve spent much of the year looking forward to this.
The results of the second year of this project follow momentarily. First, a few things. I kept the core foundation of this project the same, with every non-enshrined player who hasn’t played in five years eligible to make the Top 50 here and rankings still determined by total number of votes. There are a few new features for this year’s project. I asked voters to signify whether each of their 50 picks belonged in the Hall of Fame. I also asked for help from my fellow voters in writing some of the player bios and for providing a section near the bottom of our post detailing different methodologies for voting.
Eighty-six people in all voted this year, all but three by the original deadline of December 1, and I’m pleased with how everything came out. Without further adieu, here are the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame:
1. Joe Jackson, 76 votes out of 86 (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 59 yes, 17 no):Shoeless Joe finishing first is the essence of this year’s project. A man may be considered the best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame even if close to a quarter of the people who consider him as such also noted that they don’t want him enshrined. Of course, on sheer talent alone, one can hardly argue with Jackson being a baseball legend. Even his nickname connotes mystique, and he had a swing good enough for a .356 lifetime batting average and to serve as inspiration for a young Babe Ruth. Had Jackson and seven other Chicago White Sox teammates not been banned in the wake of the 1919 World Series, one can only wonder what might have been.
3. Jeff Bagwell, 74 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 62 yes, 11 no, 1 n/a):With scant competition on the writers ballot this year, Bagwell could see a big boost from the 41.7 percent of the vote he debuted with last year. Whether he makes it all the way to the required 75 percent is another story. Ryne Sandberg debuted at 49 percent of the vote in 2003 and was inducted two years later. On the other hand, Steve Garvey started off at 41 percent and never did much better. Helping Bagwell are his 449 home runs and the fact he retired just shy of a .300 batting average to go with a .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging clip, no common feat. His 79.9 WAR is tops for eligible players not in Cooperstown. It’s worth noting too that Bagwell accomplished much in the offensively-barren Astrodome. Had he not been a slugger during the Steroid Era, he’d have nothing to worry about.
4. Dick Allen, 73 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 46 yes, 26 no, 1 n/a): Some call Allen the best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame. He was definitely the best player not on this year’s Veterans Committee ballot. While it’s nice to see Ron Santo finally get honored, it’s a shame that consideration couldn’t also be given to another hitter whose numbers were affected playing in the pitcher-friendly 1960s. In fact, Allen might be the most underrated hitter of that era, with him closing the 1969 season with a career batting average, to that point, of .300 and an OPS+ of 163. And while injuries slowed him later on and shortened his career, he still retired in 1977 with a .292 clip and OPS+ of 156 to go with 351 home runs. A reputation, perhaps unfounded, as a clubhouse malcontent may have hurt his Cooperstown bid.
5. Tim Raines, 72 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 62 yes, 9 no, 1 n/a): Raines is a favorite son of the baseball research community, underrated in many ways. While his 808 career stolen bases are perhaps common knowledge, given that they rank fifth-best in baseball history, it’s Raines’ success rate that’s equally impressive: nearly 85 percent, with him being caught stealing just 146 times. His 1,571 runs and 64.6 WAR are also among the best for eligible players without a plaque. Three things, perhaps, hurt his candidacy: 1) Being part of baseball’s cocaine scandal in the 1980s; 2) Being relegated to journeyman status in the latter half of his career; 3) His role as stolen base specialist which, like being a relief pitcher, catcher, or first baseman, is no easy way to get to Cooperstown.
6-Tie. Pete Rose, 70 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 54 yes, 16 no):Like Jackson, Rose may have benefited from the addition of the “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” feature to the ballot this year. I wanted to make clear to voters that they could tab Rose as one of the best players not in Cooperstown even if they wouldn’t want him anywhere near the museum. I’ll admit that much as my new feature was meant as a quality control against 12-man ballots being emailed in from the small-Hall crowd, I’m glad it may have helped push Jackson up in the rankings from fifth to first and Rose from tenth to sixth. At least for playing ability and stats, all-time hits king Rose can’t be any worse than second out of all the men here.
6-Tie. Ron Santo, 70 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 60 yes, 10 no): Santo doesn’t have much longer in our group. The Hall of Fame announced on December 5 that the Veterans Committee had voted in the Chicago Cubs third baseman, and he’ll be enshrined on July 22, 2012. He was something of a cause célèbre for non-enshrined players, going the full 15 years on the writers ballot and then waiting another decade after exhausting his eligibility with them in 1998. His critics say Santo was a very good player, just not Hall of Fame-caliber, though his WAR of 66.3 is among the best for eligible players. Whatever the case, Santo was an easy choice for the Veterans Committee this year, being named on 15 of 16 ballots among its members. It’s too bad he didn’t live to see induction, dying in December 2010.
6-Tie. Alan Trammell, 70 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 54 yes, 15 no, 1 n/a):With Santo due to be enshrined next summer, I have a hunch that Trammell could be the new version of him for Cooperstown voters. The two men seem to be following similar trajectories. Like Santo, longtime Detroit Tigers shortstop Trammell was a very good, if not legendary player with a .285 lifetime batting average over 20 seasons. Like Santo, Trammell’s been on the BBWAA ballot for several years now, but with a peak of 24.3 percent of the vote after 10 years, he looks like a long shot to be inducted by the writers. Like Santo, the Veterans Committee could be Trammell’s ticket into the Hall of Fame.
The principle argument against Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame candidacy is his position and lack thereof; no player has ever been inducted into the Hall with more than half his career games played at DH, where Martinez was stationed in about 68% of his appearances. But the former-Mariner is 40th all-time with a career 147 OPS+, and his WAR of 67.2 puts him among Hall of Fame company. At the end of the day, Edgar’s offensive production makes up for the lack of defensive value and warrants a Cooperstown plaque.
Dwight Evans snuck up on greatness so quietly that many people missed his arrival at that destination. After being overshadowed on the star-studded 1970s Red Sox, Evans bloomed in the 1980s, growing a magnificent Selleckian mustache and junking his upright batting stance for a devout and precarious-looking Lau/Hriniak prostration. The new approach worked wonders for Evans, whose hitting rose to the level of his sublime cannon-armed fielding. In all, he won eight Gold Gloves and authored career hitting numbers equal to those of many already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. When he was in his strange crouch with the game on the line I chanted his nickname, Dewey, and believed.
11. Joe Torre, 62 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 43 yes, 18 no, 1N/A): Torre may illustrate one of the flaws in the new “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” feature for this project. As a manager, there’s little doubt Torre will soon have a place in Cooperstown. His 2,326 wins are fifth-best all-time, and his four World Series titles are tied for fourth-best. I didn’t make it clear if voters here should take this into account or say if Torre belongs strictly for what he did as a player. But Torre wouldn’t be the worst choice on that front either, as the catcher and first baseman hit .297 over 18 seasons. In fact, his lifetime OPS+ of 128 is better than that of Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, or Roy Campanella.
12. Lou Whitaker, 61 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 44 yes, 16 no, 1 n/a):When people mention Trammell, they also mention his double play partner with the Detroit Tigers, Sweet Lou, saying they should be enshrined together and their plaques hung adjacent. Whitaker at least deserved more consideration than he got from the BBWAA. Despite hitting .276 over 19 seasons with 244 home runs, fine power for a second baseman, Whitaker was a one-and-done candidate for the Hall of Fame, an afterthought with just 2.9 percent of the vote in 2001.
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.
Simba was unjustly regarded as a poor defensive catcher, played mostly in media-Siberias, and was overshadowed by two contemporary HOF catchers, but consider their average HR-RBI-AVG stats from 1971-80: Johnny Bench (27-93-.263), Carlton Fisk (16-57-.285), Simmons (17-90-.301).
Simmons was one of the ten best catchers in baseball history. He deserves serious consideration for Cooperstown.
14-Tie. Will Clark, 59 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 43 no, 1 n/a):Were it up to me or fellow voter Jena Yamada, Will the Thrill would have his place in Cooperstown. Were it not for injuries and a career he chose to end early, perhaps other people might feel similarly about our all-time favorite player. In his prime in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the San Francisco Giants first baseman was one of the best players in the National League, finishing in the top five in MVP voting three times in four years. His career was just 15 seasons altogether, though his 57.6 WAR approaches an All Star average lifetime, and his .303 career batting average, 137 OPS+ and 284 home runs aren’t bad, either.
Virtually every athlete strives to be the best. Some athletes will push the envelope only so far, while others would risk their lives if it made the difference between winning and losing. This is not only asked of athletes, it’s demanded. Coaches demand it, teammates demand it, fans demand it. Be the best, win at all costs, do whatever it takes.
In the five years prior to 1997, McGwire played 139, 27, 47, 104, and 130 games. Did steroids allow him to play 156, 155 and 153 over the next three years, hitting 58, 70, and 65 home runs? During those five injury-riddled seasons, he hit a home run every 9.44 AB’s. In the next three, he hit a home run every 8.17 at bats, not a tremendous difference. If steroids helped him stay healthy enough to break Roger Maris’ record, how was that wrong? Why shouldn’t McGwire do whatever he can to help his body heal itself and stay strong enough to endure the rigors of baseball, his chosen profession? If there are risks involved, why shouldn’t he be the one to decide if they are worth it?
I think Mark McGwire deserves somebody somewhere to stand up and say enough. He doesn’t deserve what he’s been put through. He deserves someone to say what he cannot.
With 11 Gold Glove awards, a record for first basemen, Keith Hernandez is among the best fielding first basemen ever. He had great range, good hands, and a strong accurate throwing arm. Baseball-Reference ranks his 13.2 defensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) 36th all time and the highest total among first basemen. While widely remembered for his defense, Hernandez was also a potent offensive player with two Silver Slugger awards and an MVP award which he shared with Willie Stargell in 1979.
While his on-field talents aren’t disputed, Hernandez’s reputation as a clubhouse leader and teammate is mixed. Because of his cocaine abuse, Cardinal’s manager Whitey Herzog labeled Hernandez a “clubhouse cancer” and traded him to Mets in 1983. However, in New York Hernandez recovered from his drug abuse and emerged as a leader and eventually captain in 1987. Injuries ended his career a few years later.
Larry Walker is one of the greatest left-handed hitters in the history of baseball. Walker is tied for the 38th best average by a left-handed batter in history at .313. He has the 46th-highest OBP in MLB history and the 15th-best slugging percentage all-time at .565 slugging percentage, which combines to give him the 17th-best OPS at .965. That number is higher than Alex Rodriguez, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, and on and on. Sure it was helpful to Walker to have played his home games at Coors Field during his relative prime, but kudos to him for taking full advantage.
Playing in an era when a good second baseman might hit .250 with 10 home runs, Grich was both an excellent hitter and a superb player. For those into advanced stats, Grich compiled a career WAR of 67.6, which places in the top 75 of all time among position players. Since retiring he has been criminally overlooked, but was as complete a player as you’ll find.
Rafael Palmeiro is one of only four player with at least 3000 hits and 500 homeruns, and while his Black Ink is below HOF means his Gray Ink, HOF Monitor, and HOF Standards are all well above HOF means. He ranks in the top 25 all-time in hits (25th), homeruns (12th), doubles (16th), Runs Created (18th), and extra-base hits (6th). The 73.4 fWAR looks good, too. The cloud of a career-ending, positive steroid test follows his every move but I find it hard to ignore his accomplishments when there is no proof of drugs aiding his performance. I believe he belongs.
19-Tie. Luis Tiant, 54 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 24 yes, 29 no, 1 n/a): With last year’s top finisher now enshrined, Tiant is the top-ranked pitcher this year. Is he the new Bert Blyleven? Some researchers I know would sooner bestow that honor on Rick Reuschel since his 66.3 lifetime WAR is now best for non-enshrined pitchers. Tiant was a fine pitcher regardless, going 229-172 with four 20-win seasons, the best arm the Red Sox had in the mid-1970s.
I read a lot about Minnie Minoso’s age when discussing his Hall of Fame case. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. Minoso could do it all. He had some power. He had some speed. He won three Gold Gloves. It is his OBP that sets him apart, though. Only ten elgible non-Hall of Famers have an OBP better than his .389. Four of them (McGwire, Bagwell, Martinez, Walker) happen to be deserving candidates on the ballot right now. Without considering Minoso’s age and his time lost to the Negro Leagues, he is a borderline Hall of Famer. Factor in the time he missed and his role in integrating the Major Leagues, and he belongs.
22-Tie. Bobby Bonds, 47 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 9 yes, 37 no, 1 n/a): Bonds made a dramatic rise in our rankings after missing the top 50 last year, benefits of a largely-new crop of voters, I suppose. I’m curious to see what happens next year when Bonds’ son joins him on the ballot. Even if Barry isn’t enshrined next year, the name Bonds should at least be before Hall of Fame voters for a long time to come, and I wonder if this will help the Veterans Committee case for Bobby. While alcohol abuse and injuries curtailed his career, the elder Bonds was a perennial threat for 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in his prime and retired with 332 homers and 461 steals lifetime.
22-Tie. Don Mattingly, 47 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 13 yes, 34 no):There’s a common theme for several of the first basemen in the top 50 this year. Like Will Clark, Mark McGwire, or Gil Hodges, Mattingly struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Early on, though, he was one of the best in baseball, winning American League Most Valuable player in 1985 when he had 35 home runs and 145 RBI and posting a .323 career batting average through age 28. Mattingly had just two seasons with at least 150 games after 1989, however and retired at 34, finishing with a .307 lifetime batting average and nine Gold Gloves.
22-Tie. Fred McGriff, 47 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 31 no, 1 n/a): Quietly, McGriff may have been one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball history, contributing at least 80 RBI in 15 of his 19 seasons. He never hit 40 home runs in a season, though he led his league twice in the early part of his career and was good enough, long enough to finish with 493 homers lifetime. For the course his career took and his affable, unassuming attitude, McGriff perhaps rates as a poor man’s Hank Aaron.
25. Gil Hodges, 46 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 26 yes, 20 no):Another famously overlooked candidate, Hodges didn’t fare as well as Ron Santo with the Veterans Committee this year, with the iconic Brooklyn Dodger getting nine votes, three less than what he needed for enshrinement. For the time being at least, Hodges simply has a legacy as one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball history as well as a great early power hitter, his 370 career home runs fourth-best when he retired in 1963. He also managed the New York Mets to their first World Series championship in 1969 and still had a playoff-caliber club when he died suddenly of a heart attack less than three years later.
Thomas Edward John was a crafty sinker baller. In 1974, in the midst of a banner year (13-3, 2.59 ERA) John permanently damaged the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He underwent an experimental operation, designed by Dr. Frank Jobe, that replaced the ligament in the elbow of his pitching arm with a tendon from his right forearm. John came back in ’76 with a revamped delivery (courtesy of teammate Mike Marshall) and pitched for thirteen more seasons, winning 164 more games.
Overall, John was a three-time 20 game winner, two-time Cy Young runner-up, and pitched for three pennant winners in Los Angeles and New York. His 288 wins is the most by any eligible live-ball pitcher not in the Hall of Fame, and his 59 WAR is fourth, behind Rick Reuschel, Kevin Brown and Luis Tiant. The experimental ligament replacement surgery has now become common, and is simply known as ‘Tommy John surgery.’
With Ron Santo getting in the Hall of Fame, Ken Boyer suddenly is in the conversation for best third baseman not in the Hall of Fame. Boyer played in an offensively depressed era, so his .287/.349/.462 slash line (2143 hits and 282 home runs) doesn’t look at that impressive. But once that is park and era adjusted, he was worth 148 batting runs, good for 26th all time among third basemen. How many of the 25 players in front of him could match Boyer’s 74 fielding runs above average? Just three (Scott Rolen, Mike Schmidt, and Wade Boggs.)
Jim Kaat started playing major league ball when Ike was in the White House, and continued until we all knew how to do The Safety Dance. He was a crafty control artist known for his shocking consistency, winning double digits in games for fifteen consecutive years. He was also known for being quick to the plate saying, “Because if the game goes over two hours, my fastball turns into a pumpkin.”
Altogether he won 283 games, winning 20 games three times, and garnered a record sixteen Gold Gloves at pitcher. He won a pennant with the Minnesota Twins in 1965 and a ring pitching in relief for the ’82 Cardinals. After briefly serving as pitching coach for Pete Rose in Cincy, he began a 22 year broadcasting career with the Yankees and the Twins, winning seven Emmys for excellence in sports broadcasting. Kaat placed second in this year’s Veteran’s Committee election, finishing two votes shy of induction.
27-Tie. Dale Murphy, 44 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 19 yes, 25 no):Through much of my childhood, I lived on a quiet street in Sacramento, and my Dad and I used to have these epic wiffle ball games in our front driveway. My Dad had this whole slew of players he impersonated, and one that sticks out in my memory almost 20 years later is his power hitter, Mail Murphy. That to me is the essence of the former Atlanta centerfielder’s charm. Sure, he has 398 lifetime home runs, back-to-back NL MVP awards from the early ’80s, and was respected enough with his defense to win five consecutive Gold Gloves. More than that, though, he was the kind of genial, All American player who could inspire fans. I doubt my Dad and I were the only ones.
30. Tony Oliva, 42 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 20 yes, 21 no, 1 n/a): Oliva might have been the American League’s answer to Roberto Clemente during the 1960s, a superb bat in an era where there weren’t many. Or perhaps Oliva was another Dick Allen, a fellow bright, young player who got off to a quick start before injuries limited his playing time and ultimately ended his career prematurely. Whatever the case, Oliva hit .304 lifetime, winning three American League batting titles and leading the circuit in hits five times in seven years.
31. Albert Belle, 38 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 12 yes, 25 no, 1 n/a):Belle’s case for Cooperstown may have suffered with the BBWAA due to his famously hostile attitude, relative short career, and the fact that he played during the Steroid Era. But his robust offensive numbers hint that he may have been unfairly overlooked from his .933 OPS to his 143 OPS+ to his 162-game averages of 40 home runs and 130 RBI. Had he not retired at 33 or compiled more than 381 home runs lifetime, he’d surely have stayed on the Hall of Fame ballot longer than two years.
32-Tie. David Cone, 37 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 9 yes, 28 no):Cone played just 13 full seasons in the majors, though in his limited capacity he may have been among the best pitchers of his generation. Going 194-126 lifetime with a 3.46 ERA and 2,668 strikeouts, more than Bob Feller, Lefty Grove, or Juan Marichal, Cone was a steady, dominating force in his prime. He won 20 games twice and was on his way to doing so in 1994 as well when the strike ended his year at 16-5 with a 2.94 ERA. It wasn’t all for naught, however, as Cone earned that year’s American League Cy Young Award.
32-Tie. Bill Dahlen, 37 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 31 yes, 6 no):Fellow voter and Hall of Fame researcher Ev Cope was asked to prepare a list of pre-World War II candidates for the Veterans Committee to consider ahead of its 2009 election. Cope included Dahlen among his nominees, and though the committee essentially ignored them in favor of Joe Gordon (who might not have made our top 50 were he still a candidate), I know Cope isn’t Dahlen’s only supporter. I asked Cope to contribute something on the Deadball Era great, and he obliged. Cope writes for us:
How ironic it would have been had the Veterans Committee announced last Monday that it was honoring Bill Dahlen along with Ron Santo. Dahlen died exactly 61 years before on December 5, 1950. However, he continues to suffer the fate of several of his contemporaries seemingly forgotten by Cooperstown despite careers that compare favorably with various honorees. How unfair it is to the memory of those players, and to their surviving relatives, that their Hall of Fame bids are overlooked for want of research diligence.
Such effort (and it is easy today with the tools available) will show Dahlen’s worthiness. Ninety-eight years after his retirement, he still ranks in the top 100 all-time in: games, plate appearances, at-bats, runs, hits, singles, triples, times on-base, hit-by-pitch, walks and stolen bases. His work at shortstop places him 11th all-time in games at that position, second in putouts and fourth in assists. The new Range Factor statistic ranks Dahlen sixth all-time among shortstops.
I strongly advocate comparing players with their peers. In doing so, we are comparing performances that are accomplished under the same rules, equipment, field conditions, sports medicine (or lack thereof), and economic factors. It would seem that if we could return to 1911, when Dahlen finished his playing career, and bring our knowledge that a Hall of Fame was less than 30 years from launching, surely he wouldn’t again be forgotten.
For his career, Brown amassed roughly 65 wins above your average replacement player. That is more than Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, Jim Bunning, Dennis Eckersley, Mordecai Brown, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Red Ruffing, Bob Lemon, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dizzy Dean, and a ton of other players who aren’t Hall of Famers like those gentlemen mentioned above. Compare Brown to Don Drysdale. Drysdale pitched just 200 more innings than Brown and struck out just 89 more batters. I think Drysdale was a better pitcher than Kevin Brown. I don’t think he was a much better pitcher– certainly not enough that Drysdale is a surefire HOFer and Brown was one and done.
36. Dave Parker, 35 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 11 yes, 23 no, 1 n/a): Parker may fall into the Albert Belle and Dick Allen category of having possible Hall of Fame talent but a polarizing reputation. Like others here, he got caught up in baseball’s cocaine scandal of the 1980s, though at his peak, he was well-thought of enough as a player to be named one of the 100 best all-time by writers Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig. Despite a pronounced decline over the second half of his career, Parker still finished with comparable offensive numbers to Hall of Famers from his era like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson.
37-Tie. Thurman Munson, 33 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 10 yes, 23 no): Had it not been for his death in a plane crash at 32 in August 1979, perhaps Munson would have done enough for Cooperstown. Or maybe playing in a decade without so many other iconic catchers would have helped his cause. At his best, though, Munson was the heart and captain of the Bronx Zoo Yankees, winning the 1976 MVP award and hitting .292 for his career.
37-Tie. Jim Wynn, 33 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 17 no, 1 n/a): It’s an esoteric feat, but Wynn might rank as the best player of all-time to appear on the writers ballot for Cooperstown and get zero votes. In 15 seasons, he was good for 291 home runs, hitting at least 30 home runs three times and nearly winning the 1967 crown for it. One can only wonder what might have been for Wynn’s offensive numbers had he played his best years sometime other than the 1960s or somewhere besides the Astrodome. That place wrecked more Hall of Fame careers than all the gambling scandals combined.
37-Tie. Bernie Williams,* 33 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 11 yes, 22 no):Out a weak crop of new additions to the writers ballot for the Hall of Fame, Williams might be the best of the bunch. The longtime Yankee centerfielder did a lot of things well with a .297 lifetime batting average, 287 home runs, and 147 stolen bases, among other things. He was also well-regarded winning five Gold Gloves despite the fact that contemporary research shows his lifetime defensive WAR was -12.0. This could all be helpful for eventually getting him into Cooperstown.
41-Tie. Ron Guidry, 30 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 9 yes, 21 no): Count me as one of the nine people who would enshrine Guidry if possible. While he only played 14 seasons, all for the Yankees, Guidry made the most of those years, posting 162-game averages of a 17-9 record, 3.29 ERA and 175 strikeouts. His 1978 season where he went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA and helped New York to the World Series ranks among the best seasons by a pitcher in recent decades and he also topped 20 wins in 1985. Overall, Guidry was 170-91 with a 3.29 ERA.
41-Tie. Steve Garvey, 30 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 12 yes, 18 no):There’s essentially a subgroup here of players who looked like Hall of Famers the first half of their careers before falling off, in some cases more dramatically than others. Garvey may be the prime example of this. Through the 1980 season, Garvey had a .304 lifetime batting average with 185 home runs and an OPS+ of 125. But he hit just 87 home runs his remaining seven seasons and his batting average dropped to .294, his OPS+ to 116. Even his defense declined, with Garvey going from being a Gold Glove first baseman in the early part of his career to an afterthought in the voting for that award.
43-Tie. Orel Hershiser, 29 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 6 yes, 23 no):When people tout Jack Morris’s candidacy, a central point often revolves around his heroics in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. It’s interesting similar cases aren’t made for Guidry or Hershiser, who were both superb in the postseason as well. Hershiser may have had as much to do as Kirk Gibson with the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the 1988 World Series, going 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA between that and the National League Championship Series. It was part of a storybook season, the best of his career, where Hershiser went 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA, eight shutouts, and a unanimous Cy Young Award. While injuries later got the best of him, Hershiser lasted another 12 seasons, finishing 204-150 with a 3.48 ERA.
43-Tie. Reggie Smith 29 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 7 yes, 22 no):Smith is a new addition to the Top 50 this year though his stats have long painted him as an under-appreciated player. A 17-year vet who made All Star teams with the Red Sox, Cardinals, and Dodgers, Smith racked up 63.4 WAR to go with an OPS+ of 137, 314 home runs, and a .287 lifetime batting average. Like many of the other modern players on this list, he’s a long shot to make the Hall of Fame, but in the Hall of Very Good, he’s pretty much a charter member.
45-Tie. Harold Baines, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 5 yes, 26 no):Guys like Baines illustrated an interesting point for this year’s project, earning far more votes by and large than many of the 19th century greats on the ballot, but with a much lower percentage of their voters saying they belonged in the Hall of Fame. Certainly, I doubt too many people will cry foul about this over Baines, a very good designated hitter for much of his career but no immortal. His 2,886 hits, 384 home runs, and .289 batting average are all respectful but they don’t demand a plaque.
If you don’t know Parisian Bob, you don’t know jack! Before there was Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan, there was Caruthers, a star pitcher and right fielder for the St. Louis Browns and Brooklyn Bridegrooms from 1884-1892. While he only played in nine seasons, he ended up with the 160th most innings in MLB history. Twice winning 40 games in a season, Parisian Bob finished with a 218-99 record. His 123 ERA+, 1.15 WHIP and 2.83 ERA all sparkle. He was by no means a one-trick pony. Caruthers had 2,906 plate appearances and a .282/.391/.400 line. In 1886, he won 30 games and led the league in OBP, OPS and OPS+.
45-Tie. Dave Concepcion, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 8 yes, 19 no, 1 n/a): Once again, Concepcion slipped into the top 50, and I’ll admit I was bummed last year when he and David Cone knocked out Billy Pierce and Pete Browning in a tiebreaker. Sure, Concepcion controlled shortstop for the Big Red Machine, won five Gold Gloves, and made eight straight All Star teams. It’s just hard to get excited about a man with a .267 batting average, lifetime OPS+ of 88, or 33.6 WAR. There’s another side of this, though, one that could help Concepcion’s case for Cooperstown. Proponents of Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto, two honorees by the Veterans Committee in recent decades, say they were the glue for dynasties in Brooklyn and New York, respectively, leaders of their teams. With 19 seasons in Cincinnati, perhaps Concepcion was that for the Reds.
45-Tie. Roger Maris, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 11 yes, 17 no):It’s been 50 years now since Roger Maris hit 61 home runs, and there are those who still consider him the single-season champion. This and his back-to-back MVPs for his 1960 and star-crossed 1961 seasons are the main things he has going for his Hall of Fame candidacy. Given that the museum rarely enshrines players on the strength of short-lived brilliance from Smoky Joe Wood to Lefty O’Doul to Denny McLain and many others, Maris’s chances don’t look great, though he’ll surely live on in the hearts of fans regardless if he ever has a plaque.
45-Tie. John Olerud, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 5 yes, 23 no):Olerud might be Keith Hernandez minus the mustache and the cocaine and with a batting helmet that he wore in the field. Both men were slick fielders and good contact hitters in their prime, and Olerud even got the attention of Ted Williams. “Olerud hits more straightaway than I ever did,” Williams wrote in his 1995 book with Jim Prime, Ted Williams’ Hit List. “He gets the bat on the ball very well. He has a great attitude and always waits for a good ball to hit. But he may lack one key ingredient to make a legitimate run at .400: speed.” Williams was right.
New to the Top 50 this year: Bobby Bonds, Bob Caruthers, Wes Ferrell, John Olerud, Reggie Smith, Bernie Williams.
Players who were in the Top 50 last year, but aren’t this year: Bert Blyleven (No. 1 in our 2010 project, now in the HOF); Roberto Alomar (tied for No. 2 with Ron Santo in 2010, now in the HOF); Jack Morris (tied for No. 36 in 2010); Dan Quisenberry (tied for No. 38 in 2010); Buck O’Neil (tied for No. 44 in 2010); Bill Freehan (No. 48 in 2010.)
Players who received at least 20 votes this year, in alphabetical order with “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” totals in parentheses: Sal Bando, 20 (DHB: 8Y, 11N, 1N/A); Eddie Cicotte, 23 (DHB: 7Y, 16N); Rocky Colavito, 21 (DHB: 1Y, 20N); Dom DiMaggio, 20 (DHB: 5Y, 15N); Curt Flood, 25 (DHB: 13Y, 12N); Bill Freehan, 22 (DHB: 9Y, 11N, 2N/A); Jack Glasscock, 25 (DHB: 14Y, 11N); Dwight Gooden, 22 (DHB: 2Y, 19N, 1N/A); Stan Hack, 20 (DHB: 9Y, 10N, 1N/A); Fred Lynn, 22 (DHB: 2Y, 19N, 1N/A); Sherry Magee, 25 (DHB: 15Y, 10N); Jack Morris, 26 (DHB: 13Y, 13N); Tony Mullane, 22 (DHB: 15Y, 7N); Buck O’Neil, 22 (DHB: 19Y, 2N, 1N/A); Billy Pierce, 21 (DHB: 5Y, 15N, 1N/A); Dan Quisenberry, 24 (DHB: 7Y, 16N, 1N/A); Willie Randolph, 26 (DHB: 10Y, 15N, 1N/A); Rick Reuschel, 26 (DHB: 7Y, 19N); Bret Saberhagen, 24 (DHB: 5Y, 18N, 1N/A); Lee Smith, 27 (DHB: 16Y, 11N); Deacon White, 20 (DHB: 17Y, 3N); Smoky Joe Wood, 20 (DHB: 10Y, 10N)
Players who received 10-19 votes: Ross Barnes, 13 (DHB: 11Y, 2N); John Beckwith, 13 (DHB: 10Y, 3N); Buddy Bell, 15 (DHB: 5Y, 10N), Vida Blue, 15 (DHB: 3Y, 12N); Pete Browning, 16 (DHB: 12Y, 4N); Bill Buckner, 10 (DHB: 1Y, 9N); Jose Canseco, 12 (DHB: 1Y, 11N); Joe Carter, 18 (DHB: 6Y, 12N); Norm Cash, 15 (DHB: 3Y, 11N, 1N/A); Ron Cey, 13 (DHB: 1Y, 11N, 1N/A); Jack Clark, 15 (DHB: 5Y, 10N); Eric Davis,* 12 (DHB: 0Y, 12N); John Franco, 10 (DHB: 3Y, 7N); Andres Galarraga, 15 (DHB: 2Y, 13N); Kirk Gibson, 10 (DHB: 2Y, 8N); Juan Gonzalez, 17 (DHB: 0Y, 17N); George Gore, 10 (DHB: 6Y, 4N); Mark Grace, 13 (DHB: 0Y, 13N); Babe Herman, 13 (DHB: 3Y, 10N); Frank Howard, 16 (DHB: 1Y, 14N, 1N/A); Elston Howard, 12 (DHB: 4Y, 8N); Indian Bob Johnson,* 15 (DHB: 6Y, 9N); Charlie Keller, 10 (DHB: 4Y, 6N); Ted Kluszewski, 12 (DHB: 0Y, 12N); Jerry Koosman, 11 (DHB: 5Y, 6N); Mickey Lolich, 16 (DHB: 1Y, 15N); Sparky Lyle, 14 (DHB: 3Y, 11N); Bill Madlock, 15 (DHB: 2Y, 13N); Carl Mays, 17 (DHB: 9Y, 8N); Jim McCormick, 13 (DHB: 8Y, 5N); Don Newcombe, 15 (DHB: 4Y, 11N); Lefty O’Doul, 17 (DHB: 6Y, 11N); Al Oliver, 18 (DHB: 6Y, 12N); Vada Pinson, 17 (DHB: 3Y, 14N); Allie Reynolds, 15 (DHB: 5Y, 10N); Al Rosen, 11 (DHB: 2Y, 8N, 1N/A); Urban Shocker, 11 (DHB: 2Y, 9N); Rusty Staub, 13 (DHB: 2Y, 11N); Vern Stephens, 13 (DHB: 4Y, 8N, 1N/A); Dave Stieb, 19 (DHB: 7Y, 12N); Harry Stovey, 15 (DHB: 11Y, 4N); Darryl Strawberry, 16 (DHB: 1Y, 15N); Fernando Valenzuela, 13 (DHB: 4Y, 9N); George Van Haltren, 10 (DHB: 8Y, 2N); Robin Ventura, 16 (DHB: 4Y, 12N); Maury Wills, 17 (DHB: 6Y, 11N);
Everyone else who received at least one vote: Joe Adcock, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Edgardo Alfonzo,* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Matty Alou, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Buzz Arlett,* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Dick Bartell, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Hank Bauer, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Mark Belanger, 2 0Y, 2N); William Bell Sr., ** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Joe Black, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Tommy Bond, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bret Boone, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Lyman Bostock,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Tommy Bridges,** 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Lew Burdette, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Ellis Burks, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); George J Burns, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jeff Burroughs, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Dolph Camilli, 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Vinny Castilla,* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Phil Cavarretta, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Ben Chapman, 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Hal Chase, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Harlond Clift, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N. Editor’s note: Clift appeared on the ballot as “Harold Clift”); Cecil Cooper, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Wilbur Cooper, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Walker Cooper, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Jim Creighton, 4 (DHB: 3Y, 1N); Lave Cross, 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N); Jose Cruz Sr., 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Mike Cuellar, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Al Dark, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jake Daubert, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Bingo DeMoss,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); John Donaldson, 4 (DHB: 3Y, 1N); Patsy Donovan, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Brian Downing, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Luke Easter,* 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Bob Elliott, 4 (DHB: 3Y, 1N. Editor’s note: Elliott appeared on the ballot as “Bob Elliot”); Del Ennis, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Carl Everett,* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Ferris Fain,* 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Chuck Finley, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Freddie Fitzsimmons, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Jack Fournier,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Dave Foutz,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Bud Fowler,* 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Ned Garver,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Mike Griffin,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Charlie Grimm, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Marquis Grissom, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Guy Hecker, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Ken Henderson,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Tom Henke, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); John Hiller,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Tommy Holmes,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Ken Holtzman, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Willie Horton,* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Larry Jackson, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Charley Jones, 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N); Sad Sam Jones, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Brian Jordan,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Wally Joyner, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Terry Kennedy,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jimmy Key, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Darryl Kile,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Silver King,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Johnny Kling, 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N); Mark Langston,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Don Larsen, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Vern Law** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Tommy Leach, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Bill Lee,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Al Leiter, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Duffy Lewis, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jose Lima,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Herman Long, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Davey Lopes, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 2N, 1N/A); Javy Lopez,* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Dolf Luque,* 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Greg Luzinski, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Sal Maglie, 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N); Firpo Marberry,* 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N); Oliver Marcelle,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Marty Marion, 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N); Mike Matheny,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bobby Mathews, 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Dick McBride,* 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Frank McCormick, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Gil McDougald,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Sam McDowell,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Stuffy McInnis, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Ed McKean, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Dave McNally, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Hal McRae, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Bob Meusel, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Clyde Milan, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Bill Monroe,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Dobie Moore, 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Terry Mulholland,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Buddy Myer, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Robb Nen, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Bill Nicholson, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Joe Niekro, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Tip O’Neill, 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N); Paul O’Neill,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jesse Orosco,* 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Dave Orr, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Amos Otis, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Joe Page,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Lance Parrish,* 4 (DHB: 0Y, 3N, 1N/A); Dickey Pearce, 3 (DHB: 2Y, 1N); Jim Perry, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bruce Petway,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Lip Pike, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Johnny Podres,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jack Powell, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Vic Power,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jack Quinn, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Dick Redding,** 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); J.R. Richard,* 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Hardy Richardson, 3 (DHB: 3Y, 0N); Dave Righetti, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Red Rolfe, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Schoolboy Rowe, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Joe Rudi, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Pete Runnels,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Johnny Sain, 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N); Tim Salmon,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Manny Sanguillen, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Herb Score, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Mike Scott, 3 (DHB: 0Y, 3N); Cy Seymour, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Roy Sievers, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Germany Smith, (DHB: 1 0Y, 1N); Chino Smith,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Al Spalding,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N. Editor’s note: Spalding is in the Hall of Fame as a pioneer/executive, though my voter suggested he should also be there as a player); Riggs Stephenson, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Jack Stivetts,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Jesse Tannehill,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Kent Tekulve,* 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Frank Thomas (’62 Mets),* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Roy Thomas,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Robby Thompson,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bobby Thomson, 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Luis Tiant Sr.,* 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Cecil Travis, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 1N, 1N/A); Hal Trosky, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Quincy Trouppe, 4 (DHB: 4Y, 0N); Jose Uribe,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Johnny Vander Meer, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Mo Vaughn, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Hippo Vaughn,* 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Bobby Veach, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Mickey Vernon, 4 (DHB: 2Y, 2N); Fleet Walker, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Dixie Walker, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Bucky Walters, 4 (DHB: 1Y, 3N); Lon Warneke, 2 (DHB: 1Y, 1N); Ed Wesley, 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Gus Weyhing, 2 (DHB: 2Y, 0N. Editor’s note: Weyhing appeared on the ballot as Guy Weyhing); Roy White, 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Ken Williams, 4 (DHB: 0Y, 4N); Cy Williams, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Ned Williamson,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Willie Wilson,** 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N); Nip Winters,** 1 (DHB: 1Y, 0N); Todd Worrell, 2 (DHB: 0Y, 2N); Rudy York, 3 (DHB: 1Y, 2N); Eric Young,* 1 (DHB: 0Y, 1N)
Appeared on the ballot, didn’t receive any votes: Dale Alexander, Bobby Avila*, Jeromy Burnitz*, George H Burns, Ollie Carnegie*, Jack Coombs, Roy Cullenbine*, Jim Davenport, Paul Derringer, Kelly Downs*, Mark Eichhorn*, Scott Erickson*, Carl Erskine, Jeff Fassero*, Bob Friend, Scott Garrelts*, Jim Gentile, Hank Gowdy, Danny Graves*, Rick Helling*, Pete Hughes*, Sam Jackson*, Sam Jethroe, Smead Jolley*, Davy Jones*, Doug Jones*, Bill Joyce, Joe Judge, Benny Kauff*, Ken Keltner, Mike LaCoss*, Carney Lansford, Matt Lawton*, Bob Locker*, Elliot Maddox, Candy Maldonado*, Sadie McMahon*, Irish Meusel, Wally Moon, Wally Moses, Bill Mueller*, Jeff Nelson*, Phil Nevin*, Mel Parnell, Larry Parrish*, Camilo Pascual*, Brad Radke, Joe Randa, Mike Remlinger*, Ernie Riles*, Don Robinson*, Felix Rodriguez*, Ruben Sierra*, George Stone, Dizzy Trout, Vic Wertz, Will White, Tony Womack*, Tim Worrell*
* is used to denote who was new to my ballot this year
** is used to denote who was a write-in
Editor’s note: I hand counted all ballots and made a few judgment calls as editor. First, I corrected for misspellings on some ballots. Also, some voters put Y’s for the “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” feature or made clear who they wanted to vote for it but neglected to put N’s. I inferred they meant to have N’s in those cases. I also allowed a couple of 49-player ballots, since I didn’t want to disallow hard work by voters simply due to a minor mistake.
People who voted
Myself. Founder and editor of this site, delivery driver, content writer for San Francisco SEO company KickStartSearch.com. Member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA.) Second-year voter.
Bobby Aguilera of Baseball Reality Tour. Director of group sales and marketing for The Tribune Company. Second-year voter.
Tom Andersen of Sphere. Communications and fundraising consultant for non-profits in New York.
Triston Aprill, reader.
Matthew Aschaffenburg, graduate student, University of Delaware.
Brendan Bingham, contributor to this Website, SABR member. Second-year voter.
Vinnie, heavyweight champion of readers. Second-year voter.
Gregg Volz, working on a screenplay about Smoky Joe Wood.
Jonathan Wagner, reader. Self-described “Strat-O-Matic freak with too much free time.” Once sponsored Terry Mulholland’s Baseball-Reference.com page under a pseudonym. Somehow wasn’t responsible for Mulholland’s one vote here.
I launched this project last year in part because I was unsatisfied that posts on the best players not in the Hall of Fame often rely on the opinion of whoever wrote them or some all-powerful stat like Wins Above Replacement. Neither approach is infallible, though that’s not always apparent from reading the posts or forum discussions they spawn. I wanted something more inclusive that would yield fresh results. What resulted here last year was a project that offered a hybrid of the opinion and WAR-based approaches, with some healthy doses of irrationality thrown in.
We had a range of different voters in the first iteration of the project, and this year was more of the same. To my knowledge, our oldest voter is 73, while our youngest is a senior in high school. We have voters who relied on metrics like WAR or Career Win Shares, others who favored overlooked 19th century players, and still plenty more voters who went in their own directions with picks (Vida Blue, yes, Jeff Bagwell, no, that sort of thing.) Me, I used a little of all three approaches, and I have no problem with people voting however they like. I think it’s more engaging to feature a range of opinions, and I believe that so long as enough people vote and do so independently, stuff gets evened out in the end.
To show our diversity, I asked a few of my voters to share how they voted. I’ll let them take it from here:
Adam Darowski: “I’ve always been interested in combining my love of the Hall of Fame and my love of statistics, so over the last year or so I’ve been building a formula that attempts to rank players by how good their Hall of Fame cases are. It is based on the version of WAR available on Baseball-Reference.com. I call it Weighted WAR, or wWAR. It takes a player’s career WAR and adjusts it for season length (which aids 19th century players), peak performance (which aids a player like Sandy Koufax while hurting someone like Tommy John), and postseason performance (based on a weighted version of Win Probability Added). I’ve created a site for the Hall of wWAR where you can see who gets in, see who gets bumped from the Hall, or read more about the methodology.”
George Haloulakos: “Regarding the process I used for my selection of great players in your survey/poll, here were the criteria: (1) Positive role model for how the game should be played, (2) Helping the team win, (3) Playing well in ‘big’ games and/or having impact on pennant races, (4) Dominating presence in the era in which played. Essentially, it was a blend of qualitative and quantitative thought.”
Mike Robinson: “A couple of things. I tend to look for a combination of career + peak but if it comes down to it, I favor career. I also tend to favor positions generally underrepresented in the real Hall. It is easier for a catcher to get on my ballot than a first baseman. The standards, particularly with the bat, are just higher at first and the OF positions. Also, I did not pick any of the Negro League players. Obviously some of them would be in the top 50 but I simply don’t know much at all about them. If I picked any, I would just be guessing. So, unfortunately, I choose not to consider them.”
Ed White: “This was not an easy task, as I tried to use not only statistical analysis but also subjective analysis of players’ skills from watching them live or on TV. In some cases, there were probably some players with better statistics whom I did not include because I thought others were better overall players and had a bigger impact on the game at the time they played than others who might have had better statistics. The best example of this is probably Jim Rice, who was probably the most feared hitter in the AL for many years, but who did not get in to the HOF for many years because of his ill-advised comments that he deserved to be in.”
“There are a few players whom I absouletely loved to watch play and who were very good but sadly were not HOF players when you consider others. My favorite player as a kid was Roy White, the only major leaguer with the same last name as mine at the time and a very good player for my favorite team, the New York Yankees. But although he was a solid player, he is not a Hall of Famer when you consider the other players whose statistics and skills were better than his. While I would love to see Roy and my other favorite players make the Hall, I reserve my votes for the absolute best of the game, no matter what kind of people they were.”
Daniel Greenia, second-year voter: “My big difference with the consensus last year was in my support of 19th century players. In my opinion, the ‘National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’ needs to start taking that last word seriously. They have never made a serious attempt to identify and enshrine all of the greats from the first generation of professional ball players, 1865-89. Along with four inaugural HoMers (Hall of Merit members), players I voted for from this era are Charlie Bennett, Pete Browning, Bob Caruthers, Jack Glasscock, Cal McVey, Hardy Richardson, Joe Start, Harry Stovey and Ezra Sutton.”
Bob Brichetto: “My list is heavily Hall of Merit influenced. I am not a voter for the Hall of Merit but I’ve been following it for several years now and think it’s pretty damn awesome… I have left off players who are in the Hall of Merit in favor of some that I think should be in the Hall of Merit… but not very many!”
“As for the yes or no to whether I think they should be in the Hall of Fame, I’m going to have to say yes to all 50. For real. I presume that is an extreme stance for your project so I feel like I should briefly explain. Again, this is largely due to my following the Hall of Merit functioning on the assumption that the size of the Hall of Fame is a given and therefore trying to fill it with the best “X” players there are. So I’m not presuming that the worst player at each position is the baseline (if I did that I don’t even want to think how big it would be). What I want would be for the Hall of Fame to be broken up into tiers of greatness… and not permanently. Meaning that someone could move between 2nd and 3rd tier depending on whatever source of the tiers votes in whatever year.”
Paul Dylan: “I’m a super-big hall guy, and I believe the BBWAA should be willing to elect players to the HoF who contributed to the game uniquely but weren’t necessarily one of the greatest baseball players – kind of like the Baseball Reliquary, only not so gimmicky. Curt Flood, Dummy Hoy, and Buck O’Neill deserve plaques for their contributions as trailblazers and ambassadors for the game. Bo Jackson, I believe, deserves a plaque in the Hall of Fame for athletic prowess second to none (outside of Jim Thorpe, maybe), and, as for Don Larsen, I think that if you throw a perfect game in the World Series you should get a free pass into Cooperstown. What greater achievement could there be? Maybe to throw 2 perfect games in the World Series, I guess.”
“The point is, I don’t think one should have to be one of the ‘best players’ per se to be elected into the Hall of Fame. I think whether or not someone is one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame is a very different question than should this player be in the Hall of Fame.”
As the second year of this annual project draws to a close, I’m already looking ahead to next year. Certain core things in place with our setup seem to work, and I doubt they’ll change as long as I’m running things. I like the project being about 50 players. I think it’s important all votes keep counting equally, with no ranking system ever that could allow a few people to game it and push a player up the list. I want to stick to my policy of not lobbying for people to vote for anyone. And I always want my project to be free and easy to participate in and online.
All this being said, I’m looking at a few tweaks for next year. First and foremost, I’d like to automate as much of the voting process as possible, since I estimate it took about 45 hours to count ballots this year. I’d like to be able to focus more on writing and have a quicker turnaround time once voting closes. To that end, I’m considering a couple of online survey sites, and if anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I don’t know if all voting would be done strictly via the Web. I’d like to get Major League Baseball vets and BBWAA members involved and am considering offering paper ballots for them or anyone with a disability.
Otherwise though, I’m pleased with how things came out and want to thank everyone who voted or even just offered interest or support. This project wouldn’t be half as fun or interesting or have a life of its own if I was flying solo. Having other people involved makes this thing what it is. I hope everyone returns next year, and if anyone reading would like to vote as well, please, join us. I already see two big reasons to vote next year: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be on the ballot.
Editor’s note: My weekly Tuesday column “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” will resume next week.
It’s a little shy of midnight as I write these words. My cat’s curled up on my couch next to me, I’m flopped out myself, and for the last couple of hours, I’ve gotten very little done. In a little less than one week exactly, this year’s edition of my project on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame will go live. We’re getting into crunch time, and I have a lot of work ahead of me in the next week. I’m already a little stressed, and my current procrastination is the byproduct.
So far, 161 people have requested ballots to vote in this year’s project, and without checking, I estimate close to half have voted. About 95 people asked for ballots last year, with 63 people voting, and if the completion rate holds steady this time around, we should have over 10o voters. This is a good thing, as more votes leads to truer, better-separated rankings. But it’s also nerve-wracking, as I count every ballot by hand for quality control purposes, and last year, they took about 20 minutes a piece on average. I estimate I’ll need to tally at least 20 ballots a day the rest of this week to have enough time to write the results post and avoid pulling another all-nighter before my project goes live, like I did last year. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if another sleepless night is in my near future.
To everyone who’s voted so far: Thank you! To everyone else: Votes are due by Thursday at 9 p.m. PST, and I’m happy to answer any questions between now and then. Please feel free to comment or email me at email@example.com. After the deadline passes, my plan is to have something up by the evening of next Monday, December 5, after the Veterans Committee announces whether it will be enshrining anyone next summer. Hopefully, folks will take notice of our work. Last year’s project got linked to on ESPN.com and received so much traffic my server crashed. So far, this year’s project is looking bigger and better. I’ve even created the first-ever t-shirt in the history of this Website for it, a t-shirt won by voter Nick Diunte, I’ll add, for identifying I put every starter from the 1989 San Francisco Giants on my ballot.
All things considered, I suppose a word of warning to my tech guys may be in order.
Later this month, the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot will be released. For traditionalists like me who think the HOF is already overcrowded with marginal players, next year’s offerings are slim pickings and, hopefully, will not produce any new inductees.
The popular Jack Morris’ 254 wins are overshadowed by his 3.90 ERA and his 206 career wild pitches. Despite being at best a slightly above average pitcher, Morris’ support has steadily increased to 52 percent of voters last year. Morris has been on the ballot since 2000. One of the biggest flaws in Hall voting is that so-so candidates like Morris stick around for way too long.
Relief pitcher Lee Smith has also been around forever. In 17 years (1980-1997), Smith pitched a mere 1,300 innings and never more than 75 after 1990. Smith is third on the career saves list(478) but that statistic was manufactured (by sportswriter and later MLB historian Jerome Holtzman) and hyped out of proportion by the media. If you are impressed by save totals, let me remind you that in 2007 when the Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles 30-3 reliever Wes Littleton earned a save.
Regular readers know my position on the Hall. Way too many undeserving players have been inducted. As a result, the Hall has lost credibility. And during the next few years, as steroid era players gradually gain admission, the Hall will become a joke. For readers who think that the BBWAA won’t put them in, they haven’t been listening to members Buster Olney, Peter Gammons and others who have said publicly that it’s “probable” they will vote for Barry Bonds, etc with the excuse that those players were representative “of their era” and should be judged accordingly.
I take my cue from Rogers Hornsby who once said: “The big trouble is not really who isn’t in the Hall of Fame but who is. It was established for a select few.”
Hornsby, who also said that he felt sorry for pitchers when he was at bat, is unlikely to have voted for Morris, Smith or dozens of other previous inductees except (probably) Ted Williams.
In 1995, Williams drew up his “20 Greatest Hitters of All Time” list. Eventually, Williams expanded his original list into his Hitters Hall of Fame as part of his Florida-based Ted Williams Museum.
Williams’ inductees are what the Hall of Fame should be: a consensus among players and historians that those included are without argument the greatest ever.
Here’s Williams’ list: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Tris Speaker, Al Simmons, Johnny Mize, Mel Ott, Harry Heilmann, Ralph Kiner, Frank Robinson, Mike Schmidt, and Hornsby.
Hornsby and Williams are credible voices on Hall of Fame credentials; the BBWAA isn’t.
With the 2011 baseball officially in the books, it is my pleasure to announce the second year of my project on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame.
I debuted this project last year (here’s how it came out) with a simple goal. Rather than have my rankings based on some all-powerful stat or my opinion, I decided to go in a different direction and determine the picks through votes from other baseball writers, fans, and anyone interested. Sixty three people voted on about two week’s notice, including yours truly, and the project was a rousing success. Making it an annual thing here was an easy decision.
I have Super Ballot 2011 ready to send out to anyone who leaves a comment here or emails me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I invite anyone and everyone to vote, and I’ll link out in the results post to any baseball blogger who participates.
All this being said, please take a second to read the rules for this project. I can’t count any ballot that doesn’t adhere to them.
You must vote for 50 players: This was the biggest issue last year, so as we head into the second round of this project, let me reiterate. The point here isn’t to name 50 players who need to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame tomorrow or, conversely, to send in a 12-player ballot boldly proclaiming that only that many players belong. This project is about identifiying the 50 best players not in Cooperstown, whether they’re Hall-worthy or not. So please vote for 50 players. I will not count any final ballot with less (or more) than 50 players selected.
Please do not vote for anyone who’s played since the end of the 2006 season: We go with the same five-year waiting period that the Baseball Writers Association of America observes in its Hall of Fame voting each year. Other than that, any player in baseball history is fair game, with no restrictions on number of seasons played, whether the player is banned, or even if he made it to the majors.
Write-ins welcome: I’ve included nearly 400 players on this year’s ballot. That being said, roughly another 17,000 men have played in the majors and are not in the Hall of Fame. Please feel free to write in any player who hasn’t played in the last five years.
All votes due by December 1, 9 p.m. PST: No exceptions on this one. I will be rolling out the results after the Veterans Committee announces at the winter meetings in early December whether it will be enshrining anyone in 2012, and I need time to count votes and get the post ready.
I will not campaign for any player: I’d like for the results of this project to be as organic and independently-determined as possible. Thus, I will not advocate for any player being in the top 50. I also encourage anyone who votes to make their selections any way they please. Whether it’s relying on career stats, favoring peak value, looking toward members of particular eras, or going with some other method, it’s no worry to me how people vote. Definitions of what constituted a top 50 player varied among different voters last year, and I think it made for a more interesting final project.
New for this year’s project
“Does he belong in the HOF?” tab: Next to each of the 50 players selected, please put a Y or N (for “Yes” or “No”) signifying whether each player belongs in the Hall of Fame. I will list how this comes out in the results post.
Super Ballot 2011, bigger and better: Last year’s ballot featured 300 players, and some voters encouraged me to exclude players this year who’d gotten little or no votes. However, one voter quit in a huff last year because I neglected to include Vic Power, and I don’t want a repeat of that scene. Thus, this year’s ballot has close to 400 players. I brought back everyone from last year’s ballot, save for Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven who were enshrined this past summer. I also added in guys who last played in 2006, a few prominent omissions from last year’s ballot, every eligible write-in from last year, and every starter from a certain pennant winning team. I’ll give a free Baseball: Past and Present t-shirt to the first person who identifies the team.
Help me write about the players: I’d invite anyone interested to contribute 50 to 100 words on any player they vote for. I’ll select the best blurbs for inclusion with the post, with full credit for the respective writers, of course.
Anyhow, I look forward to seeing how this goes and thank everyone in advance who participates.
Editor’s note: Please welcome Alex Putterman to the site. At 17, Alex is the youngest person to ever post here, though that wouldn’t be apparent from his fine writing. Alex tackles a topic a few others have suggested to me in the past but I’ve shied away from writing about. I’ve devoted a lot of space to the best players not in the Hall of Fame. Today, Alex takes on another question: Who are the worst?
The National Baseball Hall of Fame has always prided itself on exclusivity. Enshrinement in Cooperstown is considered the most prestigious honor a ballplayer can attain, an assurance of his permanent standing among the all-time greats. To be a Hall of Famer is to claim the same distinction as Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson and all the greatest baseball players.
Sharing in that honor, however, are a whole cast of undeserving and under-qualified others. I took to sorting through the 221 players (excluding Negro Leaguers) currently honored in Cooperstown and was unnerved by the inconsistency and injustice of so many Hall of Fame selections. Earl Averill? Rabbit Maranville? Ray Schalk? These so-called “greats” make Tim Raines looks like Willie Mays.
Guided by Wins Above Replacement (WAR), as calculated by baseball-reference.com, I created two categories of unqualified Hall of Famers:
Those who are unquestionably undeserving
Those whose merit is uncertain but worth discussing.
Having seen few of these guys play, I relied primarily on statistics to analyze their qualifications. OPS+ and ERA+ are very helpful in reconciling era and ballpark differences, and WAR gives a great general idea of a player’s worth. I also considered the given player’s level of dominance over his peers, looking favorably upon impressive peaks and giving credit for leading the league in important categories and contending for major awards.
I’ll further explain specific cases as we go on, but first, here’s list one, the players who I resolutely believe do not deserve a spot in Cooperstown, with career WAR totals included for reference:
Hughie Jennings- 46.4
Roger Bresnahan- 41.6
Tommy McCarthy- 19.0
Joe Tinker- 49.2
Clark Griffith- 52.8
Johnny Evers- 48.4
Jack Chesbro- 32.5
Frank Chance- 49.5
Herb Pennock- 38
Dizzy Dean- 41.8
Chief Bender- 41.9
Rabbit Maranville- 38.2
Ray Schalk- 22.6
Eppa Rixey- 48.4
Heinie Manush- 44.1
Burleigh Grimes- 42.8
Lloyd Waner- 24.3
Waite Hoyt- 45.1
Jesse Haines- 30.5
Earle Combs- 43.7
Rube Marquard- 24.2
Harry Hooper- 52.5
Chick Hafey- 29.5
Dave Bancroft- 46.4
Ross Youngs- 36.2
Lefty Gomez- 38.2
George Kelly- 24.3
Jim Bottomley- 32.4
Earl Averill- 45
Freddie Lindstrom- 29.2
Hack Wilson- 39.1
Chuck Klein- 39.2
Travis Jackson- 43.3
George Kell- 33.6
Rick Ferrell- 22.9
Catfish Hunter- 32.5
Red Schoendienst- 40.4
Phil Rizzuto- 30.8
Vic Willis- 50.4
Rollie Fingers- 24.3
Tony Perez- 50.5
Bill Mazeroski- 26.9
Bruce Sutter- 24.3
Goose Gossage- 39.5
Jim Rice- 45.1
Various factors have led to unjust Hall of Fame inductions. Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance were solid players; both anecdotal and statistical evidence suggests all were excellent defenders at their positions. But each of this trio owes his Cooperstown plaque to the famous 1910 poem describing their double-play combination. None of the three owns a WAR above 50 and none of the three ever led his league in any Triple Crown category (Chance’s 1905 on-base percentage crown is the only slash-line title among the three of them).
Bill Mazeroski has deservedly enjoyed recognition for his walk-off home run to end the 1960 World Series, but his 26.9 WAR suggest he was far from Hall-worthy (Raul Mondesi, for context, compiled a career WAR of 27.2). Despite being a fine defensive second baseman, Maz was no offensive star, posting a career OPS+ of only 83. Phil Rizzuto, another well-remembered middle infielder, posted similarly meager offensive stats, and his induction too seems questionable.
Dizzy Dean was, for three years, among the most dominant starters in the National League, but his prime was short-lived and his career on the whole not Hall-caliber. Dean isn’t the only player to make the Hall of Fame on the basis of short-term success. Chuck Klein, Jim Rice and Catfish Hunter are other big names whose lack of production before and after their short peaks make them unworthy HOF inductees. And Hack Wilson’s historic 191 RBI in 1930 belie his extreme lack of longevity; Wilson played only 1,348 career games and almost his entire career’s productivity came from one four-year stretch.
Several players owe their Cooperstown plaques to friends in high places. As chairman of the Hall of Fame’s Committee on Baseball Veterans, Hall of Fame second baseman Frankie Frisch successfully lobbied for the induction of a handful of undeserving former teammates, namely Jesse Haines, Dave Bancroft, Chick Hafey, Rube Marquard, Ross Youngs and George Kelly, all of whom occupy a spot on my list of undeniably under-qualified Hall of Famers. Put together, the career WAR of these six, 191.4, is only slightly higher than that of Babe Ruth alone.
Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage are among the few on my list of unworthy Hall of Famers whom some baseball people would consider legitimate inductees. To me, however, a closer pitching 100 innings a season, as these three did, can rarely impact a team more than a starting pitcher who hurls 250 innings per year. The trio’s respective WARs (an identical 24.3 for Fingers and Sutter and 39.5 for Gossage) back up my assumptions of a closer’s limited value. The guy pitching the ninth inning may be important, but he’s not more important than the guy who pitched the first seven.
The next list should be more debatable than the last, intended as thought-provoking rather than conclusive. These are the guys whose Hall of Fame inductions may not be travesties but whose resumes are nonetheless iffy, career WARs again included:
King Kelly- 47.5
Hugh Duffy- 49.6
Clark Griffith- 52.8
Pie Traynor- 37.1
Max Carey- 50.6
Edd Roush- 46.5
Sam Rice- 51.1
Red Faber- 51.3
Kiki Cuyler- 49.6
Stan Coveleski- 48.5
Lou Boudreau- 56
Joe Kelley- 55.5
Sam Thompson- 46.7
Ralph Kiner- 45.9
Bob Lemon- 51
Joe Sewell- 48.4
Amos Rusie- 62.1
Addie Joss- 37.9
Luis Aparicio- 49.9
Hoyt Wilhelm- 37.9
Lou Brock- 39.1
Ernie Lombardi- 39
Bobby Doerr- 47.7
Tony Lazzeri- 48.3
Hal Newhouser- 57.5
Nellie Fox- 44.4
Orlando Cepeda- 46.8
Kirby Puckett- 44.8
Dennis Eckersley- 58.3
Every once in a while a career WAR total seems completely counterintuitive. This list features both players whose WAR is surprisingly high and players whose WAR is surprisingly low. Amos Rusie is statistically one of the most baffling players in Cooperstown. Rusie, both standout pitcher and mediocre outfielder in the late 19th century, was alternately impressive and underwhelming throughout a ten-season career on the mound. So how does his WAR stand at a respectable 62.1? I’m not entirely sure. Evaluating pre-modern era players with advanced stats (or any stats for that matter) can get confusing, and Amos Rusie’s career represents the difficulty in drawing conclusions about 19th century stars, a recurring complication in assessing Hall of Fame worthiness.
The two most surprising WAR numbers came from a pair of players highly regarded during and after their careers. Lou Brock is 2nd all-time in stolen bases, a member of the 3,000 hit club and a 1st-ballot Hall of Famer. Pie Traynor was, in 1969, chosen as the third baseman on baseball’s “Centennial Team” and in 1999 named the 70th best player of all-time by Sporting News. Yet both Brock and Traynor have WARs in the 30s and are, if you trust advanced statistics, unqualified for distinction in Cooperstown. Closer inspection reveals that Brock’s times caught stealing diminish the value of his stolen bases, that Traynor rarely walked, that neither had much power, and that both lose points for defense in the WAR formula. While those who saw and were impressed by Brock and Traynor deserve some benefit of the doubt, it’s hard to completely ignore the modern statistical evidence that appears to, in this case, contradict popular opinion.
Addie Joss and Kirby Puckett are interesting cases. Both were terrific players, had careers shortened by disease (meningitis for Joss, glaucoma for Puckett), finished with numbers short of typical Hall standards and were enshrined anyway. Voters were forced to consider whether to grant these stars a pass for their short careers given the extenuating medical circumstances. They did, opting not to punish Puckett and Joss for abbreviated careers.
On the other end of the career-length spectrum is Dennis Eckersley and his 24-year stint in the bigs. Eck is most remembered as a star closer, but his time in the rotation actually produced significantly more wins above replacement than did his closing years. We’ve already addressed the argument against closers in Cooperstown (side note: Hoyt Wilhelm is another tricky case because relievers in his time had very different roles than modern-day closers), and Eck wasn’t a Hall of Fame-caliber starter, but the combination of 12 years of a starter’s production and the longevity allowed by low inning-totals in the bullpen give him a WAR of 58.3, right in the company of borderline Hall of Famers.
I’ve only addressed a few players on these lists, but hopefully I have, through examples, conveyed the type of thinking I applied to determining the merits of each Hall of Famer. Consensus is near impossible with this sort of analysis, so I’m sure many will disagree with some of my categorizations, but I’m satisfied with having sorted through Cooperstown and, in my mind if not in reality, having narrowed the Hall of Fame to those truly deserving.