Category Archives: Baseball Hall of Fame

An open letter to the Hall of Fame: Consider honoring Robert Creamer this summer

To whom it may concern:

My name is Graham Womack, and I am founder and editor of Baseball: Past and Present. I had the pleasure recently to conduct an interview with founding Sports Illustrated writer and celebrated baseball author Robert Creamer for my site. I couldn’t have asked for a better interview, and it’s had a phenomenal reception.

I’m writing with an idea.

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.

Best wishes,

Graham Womack

To the BBWAA: Focus on the Great, Not the Very Good

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.

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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.

Luckily for Larkin, he’s untainted by steroid charges, an issue that will confront the Baseball Writers Association of America next year.

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.

Here’s Jayson Stark’s 2012 ballot which he posted on the Internet:

Larkin, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker, Jack Morris, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and what he describes as the “Steroid Guys” Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro.

Even if Palmeiro never used steroids, it would be a joke and an insult to the truly great players to include him in a Hall that has Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Stan Musial.

I’m in Bob Costas’ camp: The Hall of Fame is “too big” and should be reserved for the absolutely best, not just the very good. My January 2011 blog on that subject, including Costas’ opinion, is here.

If I had a Hall of Fame vote

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.

Hall of Fame project recap

A week has passed since I posted the results of my second annual project on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame, and things are going well in these parts.

We have a new traffic record here with just north of 7,200 unique visitors for the month as of yesterday. More than 5,000 of these visitors came to read the Hall of Fame project, with it being linked to at the Sweet Spot blog on ESPN.com, Hardball Talk (the NBCSports.com baseball blog), Baseball Think Factory, and elsewhere. There’ve also been two cool original posts it’s inspired: an expanded case for Lip Pike and a list on the 10 best Yankees not in the Hall of Fame. It’s clear there’s an audience for our work and that it resonates with people, and I expect traffic numbers will continue to climb with next year’s project.

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 thewomack@gmail.com. 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.

Justice for Bill Dahlen, Bob Caruthers, and the Hall of Fame

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.

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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.

The 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame, Version 2.0

It is my pleasure, as founder and editor of this site, to present the second-annual list here of the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

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.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

2. Barry Larkin, 75 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 64 yes, 10 no, 1 n/a): Last year, Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar finished first and tied for second, respectively in our project. Both were subsequently voted into Cooperstown by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and next summer, the other second-place finisher last year, Ron Santo, will be enshrined. Will Larkin be the next player to follow the trend here? With a weak ballot this year seemingly absent of any surefire, first-ballot honorees, the former Reds shortstop might be the one player the writers vote in for 2012. One of the voters for this project , former Hall of Fame senior research associate Bill Deane recently told the Cincinnati Enquirer he thinks Larkin will get 79 percent of the vote, which would be enough.

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.

9. Edgar Martinez, 69 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 52 yes, 17 no): I invited my voters to help write player bios this year. This one comes from Alex Putterman, a regular contributor to this blog. Alex writes:

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.

10. Dwight Evans, 65 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 25 yes, 39 no, 1 n/a):  Fellow voter Josh Wilker included an entertaining chapter on Evans in his 2010 memoir, Cardboard Gods (this is the chapter where an 18-year-old Josh has a hopeless stint working for Greenpeace.) I asked Josh to contribute something here, and he obliged. Josh writes:

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.

13. Ted Simmons, 60 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 34 yes, 25 no, 1 n/a): Simmons’ bio comes from fellow voter Bill Deane, former senior research associate at Cooperstown. Bill writes:

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.

14-Tie. Mark McGwire, 59 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 38 yes, 21 no): I asked fellow voter John Perricone to contribute something on Big Mac, and John sent me a reworked, condensed version of something he’s blogged before. I don’t know if I agree, but John makes an interesting case worth sharing here, and I’ve heard others in the baseball research community echo similar sentiments. John writes:

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.

16. Keith Hernandez, 58 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 27 yes, 31 no): Fellow voter Zubin Sumariwalla agreed to contribute Hernandez’s bio. Zubin writes:

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.

17. Larry Walker, 56 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 38 yes, 18 no): When Albert Lang submitted his ballot for this project, he included blurbs on some of the players he voted for. I liked what he had to say on one of his past blog subjects, Walker, and Albert agreed to let me use it. Albert writes:

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.

18. Bobby Grich, 55 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 35 yes, 19 no, 1 n/a): Fellow voter Andrew Martin of The Baseball Historian included a plug for Grich with his ballot. I liked it enough that I asked Andrew if I could share it here, and he obliged. He writes:

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.

19-Tie. Rafael Palmeiro, 54 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 32 yes, 22 no): Fellow voter Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt agreed to contribute Palmeiro’s bio. Jonathan writes:

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 InkHOF 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.

21. Minnie Minoso, 48 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 29 yes, 18 no, 1 n/a): Fellow voter Adam Darowski of Beyond the Box Score contributed the bio for Minoso, writing:

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.

26. Tommy John, 45 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 21 yes, 24 no): Fellow voter Jonathan Wagner contributed the bio on John, writing:

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.’

27-Tie. Ken Boyer, 44 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 16 yes, 28 no): Fellow voter Adam Darowski of Beyond the Box Score also agreed to contribute something about Boyer. Adam writes:

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.)

27-Tie. Jim Kaat, 44 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 19 yes, 24 no, 1 n/a): As fellow voter Jonathan Wagner also wrote about John, it seemed only fair to recruit him to write about Kaat. Like John, Kaat was an ageless wonder with just less than 300 wins. Jonathan writes:

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.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

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.

32-Tie. Darrell Evans, 37 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 21 no, 1 n/a): When Rob Neyer linked to last year’s post on ESPN.com, he remarked, “I would move Bobby Grich up, and Darrell Evans way up.” I admit I still haven’t gotten on the bandwagon, Evans’ .248 career batting average and Keebler Elf visage nothing to call a special election for in my book, though I also know Neyer isn’t alone in his praise. Evans’ boosters like Bill James point out things like his lifetime WAR of 57.3 or his late career peak. It may or may not be enough for Cooperstown at some point, but Evans at least seems underrated. In fact, James called him the most underrated player of all-time.

35. Kevin Brown, 36 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 18 yes, 18 no): For the bio on one of the best pitchers of the late 1990s, I’ll share another blurb from Albert Lang’s ballot. Albert writes:

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.

40. Graig Nettles, 32 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 13 yes, 18 no, 1 n/a): Like Darrell Evans, Nettles was a solid, longtime third baseman from the 1970s and ’80s who hit for power but not not much average. Like Evans and others on this list, Nettles doesn’t appear to have the traditional stats that would support him getting into Cooperstown, though he’s well-regarded by baseball researchers and other fans.

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.

45-Tie. Bob Caruthers, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 23 yes, 5 no): Caruthers joins Bill Dahlen this year as the only other 19th century player in the top 50. For his bio, I’m pleased to present another blurb from Albert Lang’s ballot. Albert writes:

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. Wes Ferrell, 28 votes (Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? 15 yes, 13 no): Ferrell might be among the most underrated players in baseball history. Since his brother Rick was controversially elected by the Veterans Committee in 1987, the critical refrain has been that Rick wasn’t even the best player in his family. And my voters and I forgot Wes Ferrell too last year, neglecting to put him in the top 50. I’m pleased to see him making an appearance this year, and while I don’t actively campaign for players, I wrote in November about how Ferrell was a dual threat, winning 193 games lifetime and hitting 37 home runs as a pitcher, the most in baseball history.

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.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

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);

Players who received 5-9 votes: Babe Adams, 9 (DHB: 3Y, 6N); Kevin Appier, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Dusty Baker, 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N); Don Baylor, 7 (DHB: 0Y, 7N); Charlie Bennett, 6 (DHB: 6Y, 0N); Wally Berger, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 4N, 1N/A); Bob Boone, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 4N, 1NA); Larry Bowa, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Charlie Buffington, 7 (DHB: 3Y, 4N); Brett Butler, 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N); Cesar Cedeno, 9 (DHB: 1Y, 7N, 1N/A); Cupid Childs, 6 (DHB: 4Y, 2N); Vince Coleman, 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N); Gavvy Cravath, 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N); Willie Davis,* 9 (DHB: 3Y, 6N); Mike Donlin, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Larry Doyle,* 5 (DHB: 1Y, 3N, 1N/A); Cecil Fielder, 7 (DHB: 2Y, 5N); George Foster, 9 (DHB: 0Y, 9N); Carl Furillo, 8 (DHB: 0Y, 8N); Ken Griffey Sr., 8 (DHB: 0Y, 8N); Dick Groat,* 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N); Heinie Groh, 7 (DHB: 3Y, 4N); Pedro Guerrero, 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N); Ozzie Guillen, 5 (DHB: 2Y, 3N); Mel Harder, 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N); Tommy Henrich, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Paul Hines, 7 (DHB: 5Y, 2N); Dummy Hoy, 5 (DHB: 4Y, 1N); Bo Jackson, 5 (DHB: 2Y, 3N); Home Run Johnson, 8 (DHB: 8Y, 0N); David Justice, 7 (DHB: 0Y, 7N); Dave Kingman, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N); Harvey Kuenn, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N); Sam Leever, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N); Dick Lundy, 6 (DHB: 6Y, 0N); Pepper Martin, 6 (DHB: 4Y, 2N); Dennis Martinez, 8 (DHB: 1Y, 7N); Tino Martinez, 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Willie McGee, 7 (DHB: 3Y, 4N); Tug McGraw, 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N); Denny McLain, 6 (DHB: 0Y, 6N); Cal McVey, 5 (DHB: 4Y, 1N); Kevin Mitchell,* 5 (DHB: 0Y, 5N); Bobby Murcer, 8 (DHB: 0Y, 8N); Alejandro Oms, 6 (DHB: 5Y, 1N); Deacon Phillippe, 6 (DHB: 1Y, 5N); Spottswood Poles, 5 (DHB: 3Y, 2N); Boog Powell, 8 (DHB: 0Y, 8N); Ted Radcliffe,* 7 (DHB: 5Y, 2N); Jeff Reardon, 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N); Jimmy Ryan, 7 (DHB: 4Y, 3N); Wally Schang,* 5 (DHB: 3Y, 2N); Jimmy Sheckard, 5 (DHB: 1Y, 4N); Ken Singleton, 8 (DHB: 1Y, 6N, 1N/A); Joe Start, 6 (DHB: 4Y, 2N); Ezra Sutton, 8 (DHB: 6Y, 2N); Frank Tanana, 9 (DHB: 2Y, 7N); Gene Tenace,** 5 (DHB: 3Y, 2N); Frank White, 9 (DHB: 1Y, 8N); Matt Williams, 9 (DHB: 0Y, 9N); Wilbur Wood, 7 (DHB: 1Y, 6N)

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

  1. 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.
  2. Bobby Aguilera of Baseball Reality Tour. Director of group sales and marketing for The Tribune Company. Second-year voter.
  3. Tom Andersen of Sphere. Communications and fundraising consultant for non-profits in New York.
  4. Triston Aprill, reader.
  5. Matthew Aschaffenburg, graduate student, University of Delaware.
  6. Brendan Bingham, contributor to this Website, SABR member. Second-year voter.
  7. Charles Beatley of Hawk 4 The Hall. Second-year voter.
  8. Bob Brichetto, member of Baseball Think Factory, voter for the Most Meritorious Player Award for its Hall of Merit. Second-year voter.
  9. Chip Buck of Fire Brand of the American League and It’s About the Money.
  10. Eric Chalek, member of Baseball Think Factory, past Hall of Merit voter.
  11. Justin Ciccotelli, reader.
  12. Michael Clair of Old Time Family Baseball, BBA member. Second-year voter.
  13. Michael Cook, Cleveland-based community organizer.
  14. Ev Cope, SABR member since 1979. Hall of Fame researcher who, at the behest of Cooperstown, put together a list of names for the Veterans Committee to consider in 2008. Second-year voter.
  15. Dennis Corcoran, SABR member, author of the 2010 book, Induction Day at Cooperstown: A History of the Baseball Hall of Fame Ceremony.
  16. Craig Cornell, reader. Second-year voter.
  17. Victor Dadras, reader. Second-year voter.
  18. Adam Darowski, contributor to Beyond the Box Score and this Website; curator of the Hall of wWAR.
  19. Bill Deane, former senior research associate at the Hall of Fame.
  20. Mike Denton, member of the Pacific Coast League Historical Society.
  21. Nick Diunte of Baseball Happenings and Examiner.com, SABR member. Won a free t-shirt here for being the first to note I included every starter from the 1989 San Francisco Giants on Super Ballot.
  22. Lee Domingue, reader.
  23. Paul Dylan of One For Five. Second-year voter.
  24. Ryan Frates, reader.
  25. Theo Gerome of Hot Corner Harbor.
  26. Bill Gilbert, reader.
  27. Daniel Greenia, wrote a “Fixing the Hall of Fame” series for Dugout Central and authored a bi-monthly column for Bill James in the 1980s. Second-year voter.
  28. Joe Guzzardi, SABR member, longtime contributor here. Second-year voter.
  29. Graham H., reader.
  30. George Haloulakos, has contributed papers on Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and Sal Maglie to this Website.
  31. Joel Hammerman, reader.
  32. Rob Harris of BlueBattingHelmet, BBA member.
  33. Paul Hirsch, SABR member and part of its board of directors.
  34. Wayne Horiuchi, avid sports card collector who has one of the most extensive game-used/autograph Hall of Fame collections in America. Second-year voter.
  35. Brad Howerter, reader.
  36. Jason Hunt of MLB Daily Dish and Fake Teams. Second-year voter.
  37. Chris Jensen, SABR member, Seamheads author.
  38. Kevin Johnson, Seamheads author.
  39. George Kurtz, reader, member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
  40. Albert Lang of h2h Corner.
  41. Domenic Lanza of Sliding Into Home and Row Three, law student.
  42. Jimmy Leiderman, SABR member, 19th century photography researcher. Second-year voter.
  43. Patrick Mackin, reader, Cleveland-based attorney.
  44. Ken Marcum of The Baseball Hall of Shame, BBA member.
  45. Andrew Martin of The Baseball Historian.
  46. Michael Martin, reader.
  47. Chris Mascaro, Seamheads author.
  48. Dan McCloskey of Left Field, SABR and BBA member. Second-year voter.
  49. Robert McConnell, reader. Second-year voter.
  50. Ryan McCrystal of Wahoo’s Warriors, SABR member. Second-year voter.
  51. Keith Menges, reader.
  52. Stefano Micolitti of Milan, Italy. Briefly wrote for Italian baseball publication, Tuttobaseball e softball in the 1980s.
  53. Bill Miller of The On Deck Circle. Second-year voter.
  54. Andrew Milner, member of SABR and Baseball Think Factory. Second-year voter.
  55. Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt, BBA member.
  56. Dave Mowers, reader.
  57. Brian Moynahan of Bus Leagues Baseball.
  58. Tim Newey, reader.
  59. Dan O’Connor, past SABR member.
  60. John Perricone of Only Baseball Matters.
  61. Jeff Polman of braggingleague.wordpress.comfunkyball.wordpress.com, and 1924andyouarethere.blogspot.com. SABR and BBA member.
  62. Kevin Porter, reader.
  63. Alex Putterman, contributor to this Website, just admitted early decision as a journalism student at Northwestern.
  64. John Quemere, reader.
  65. Dave Rattigan, reader.
  66. Josh Robbins, set a world record in 2008 by seeing a game in all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in 26 days by car. Contributes to Seamheads and 60ft6in.
  67. Mike Robinson, member of Baseball Think Factory.
  68. Dave Rook, reader.
  69. Marcus Ruiz, reader.
  70. Bob Sawyer, reader. Second-year voter.
  71. Peter Schiller of Baseball Reflections, SABR and BBA member. Second-year voter.
  72. Gabriel Schechter of Never Too Much Baseball. SABR member and contributed an outstanding piece on the eccentric, doomed Charles “Victory” Faust for the Baseball Biography Project.
  73. Bart Silberman, founder and president at Moonlight Graham Records.
  74. Mark Simon, ESPN.com researcher and contributor. Second-year voter.
  75. Louis Smith, family friend of Smoky Joe Wood.
  76. Zubin Sumariwalla, reader.
  77. Tom Thrash of He Knew He Was Right.
  78. Vinnie, heavyweight champion of readers. Second-year voter.
  79. Gregg Volz, working on a screenplay about Smoky Joe Wood.
  80. 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.
  81. Ed White, former sportswriter.
  82. Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods and the 2010 book of the same name (I highly recommend it.) Second-year voter.
  83. Joe Williams, chair of the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project, Nineteenth Century Committee, SABR. Second-year voter.
  84. David Wood, grandson of Smoky Joe Wood.
  85. Jena Yamada, reader. Second-year voter, sole female to participate this year.
  86. Tom Zocco of  The Stats of Zoc, SABR member since 1971.

How people voted

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.”

Looking ahead

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.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0)

Hall of Fame project: T-minus one week

Editor’s note: My weekly Tuesday column “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?” will resume next week.

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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 thewomack@gmail.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.

Hall of Fame Ballot Goes Out Shortly; Which Unqualified Player Will Be Voted In?

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.

Vote: The 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, 2011 edition

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 thewomack@gmail.com. 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.

Rules

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.

Undeserving Hall of Famers

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?

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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:

  1. Those who are unquestionably undeserving
  2. 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.

Halls of different Fame

My friend and occasional contributor here, Rory Paap got his first link from Rob Neyer of ESPN.com on Friday. Neyer had proposed a new addition to Cooperstown he called the Wing of Amazing, “for players who really don’t belong in the Hall of Fame because they weren’t good enough, but did some things that do deserve to be celebrated.” Rory nominated Billy Wagner, writing that he wasn’t sure if the recently-retired closer deserves a regular spot in Cooperstown, but:

What I do know is that a young boy who is born right handed, breaks his arm, learns to throw lefty given the injury, only grows to 5’9″ and yet still manages an average fastball of over 96 miles per hour — from 2002 on, as available from Fangraphs — with incredible control and consistency, is amazing.

For sure. Neyer said he would have to be sure Wagner is “the only pitcher his size who’s ever thrown that hard (and been successful).” That may or may not be true, as 5’6″ 139-pound Bobby Shantz had 152 strikeouts in 1952, and 5’7″ 138-pound Bob Caruthers was one of the top strikeout artists of the American Association of the 1880s. All the same, the general idea got me thinking.

I write about whether people belong in the Hall of Fame every week, and what eight months of doing this has shown me is that there are many more good, if not great players than will probably ever get into Cooperstown. There are also lots of players who made memorable contributions to baseball or are at least worth remembering for some other reason, even if their careers weren’t Hall-worthy.

I like Neyer’s idea, though it’s worth noting: Such a place exists. The Baseball Reliquary in Southern California honors “individuals– from the obscure to the well-known– who have altered the baseball world in ways that supersede statistics.” In fact, stats do not play a role in determining whether a player gets into what Baseball Reliquary calls its Shrine of the Eternals.

Thirty-six people have been en-Shrined thus far, and they range from a one-armed pitcher to a catcher/CIA operative to baseball’s first deaf star, among others. In alphabetical order, the honorees are:

Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Roger Angell, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Bill Buckner, Roberto Clemente, Steve Dalkowski, Rod Dedeaux, Jim Eisenreich, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Roger Maris, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Pete Rose, Casey Stengel, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr., and Kenichi Zenimura.

The 2011 ballot is out for this, the 13th annual election that will occur in April, with an induction ceremony to follow the third weekend in July in Pasadena, California. The new ballot has 50 people on it, namely:

Eliot Asinof, Frank C. Bancroft, Steve Blass, Chet Brewer, Charlie Brown, Jefferson Burdick, Glenn Burke, Helen Callaghan, Charles M. Conlon, L. Robert Davids, Dizzy Dean, Ed Delahanty, Bucky Dent, Hector Espino, Donald Fehr, Eddie Feigner, Lisa Fernandez, Rube Foster, Ted Giannoulas, Eddie Grant, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Pete Gray, Ernie Harwell, Charlie Hollocher, Bob Hope (a publicity director, not the famed actor), Dr. Frank Jobe, Charles “Pop” Kelchner, Effa Manley, Conrado Marrero, Dr. Mike Marshall, Tug McGraw, Fred Merkle, Manny Mota, Phil Pote, Vic Power, Curtis Pride, Dan Quisenberry, J.R. Richard, Annie Savoy, Rusty Staub, Chuck Stevens, Luis Tiant, Fay Vincent, Rube Waddell, John Montgomery Ward, David Wells, J.L. Wilkinson, Maury Wills, Wilbur Wood, Don Zimmer

I look forward to casting my ballot, and if anyone reading is interested in voting, please feel free to email me. I’ll forward any requests for ballots on to the executive director of Baseball Reliquary, Terry Cannon.

All this being said, my ballot may include some write-ins. As the Shrine of the Eternals is still relatively new, I’m guessing dozens of worthy candidates haven’t been honored. It was this way with the Hall of Fame for about its first 30 years, up through the mid-1960s when the Veterans Committee finally ran out of non-enshrined players with 300 wins or close to 3,000 hits, men like Tim Keefe and Sam Crawford. Here are 10 of their equivalents for Baseball Reliquary to consider:

Jose Canseco: Call him an opportunist, call him a cheat, call him stupid. No matter, Canseco’s Juiced stands as the most important expose of the Steroid Era next to Game of Shadows and easily the most entertaining. It helped spur Congressional hearings and landmark reforms in baseball. Canseco would be a hit at the induction ceremony, too.

Jim Creighton: Baseball’s first superstar, Creighton shined briefly before he swung so hard in a game in 1862 that he ruptured his appendix and died a few days later at 21.

Charles Victory Faust: Faust arrived at a road game for the New York Giants 100 years ago this spring and announced he would pitch the team to the pennant. It remains one of the oddest stories in baseball history. A fortune teller told Faust he would star for the Giants, and while his play in an informal tryout with John McGraw was laughable, McGraw kept Faust on as a mascot out of superstition. Faust even played in two games. The Giants won the pennant in 1911 but lost in the World Series, and Faust was let go after the season and later institutionalized. He died in an asylum in 1915 at 34. There’s never been anyone else like him in baseball.

Charlie Finley: If Bill Veeck is in this shrine, Finley should be too. Both were innovative owners who built championship clubs in small markets and were master showmen. Where Veeck had exploding scoreboards, midget pinch hitters, and the ambitious but ill-fated Disco Demolition Night, Finley let 59-year-old Satchel Paige pitch in 1965, had his shortstop Bert Campaneris play all nine positions in a game that same year, and offered his players bonuses to grow mustaches. This honor could mean more for the late Finley. Unlike Veeck, Finley isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis: Baseball’s first commissioner, Landis is remembered today as the former federal judge who gave lifetime bans to the eight members of the Chicago White Sox who threw the 1919 World Series. Landis also banned a number of other players and effectively vanquished gambling, a major problem in baseball in the first two decades of the 20th century. He served as commissioner until his death in 1944, and none of the men who’ve had the job since have impacted baseball nearly as much.

Hideo Nomo: Major League Baseball’s first Japanese star, Nomo retired from playing in Japan in the mid-1990s so he could come to the US. His hurricane windup baffled hitters stateside and made Nomo a hit with the Dodgers his first few years before hitters caught on. There’d be no Ichiro Suzuki or Hideki Matsui or Daisuke Matsuzaka in the majors today had Nomo not paved the way. And even in decline, Nomo remained popular in Japan. I covered one of Nomo’s rehab starts in Triple-A in 2004. I sat near three Japanese reporters in the press box, and they all left shortly after Nomo’s two innings were up.

Lefty O’Doul: Just as there would have been no Ichiro without Nomo, neither man would have had a start in professional Japanese ball if O’Doul hadn’t helped launch it in the 1930s. He went so far as naming the Tokyo Giants and also was an instructor in Japan before and after World War II. I believe O’Doul, like Buck O’Neil, belongs in the Hall of Fame as an ambassador to baseball. And if O’Neil has a spot in the Shrine of the Eternals, O’Doul should too.

Branch Rickey: There’s never been a more important baseball executive than Branch Rickey. The general manager for the St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates, Rickey invented the farm system for teams to develop their own players, signed the first black player in the modern era, and laid the foundation for success with all three teams he worked for. Bobby Bragan said in his autobiography, “To me, he was one of the greatest baseball minds ever, and I don’t think you’d be wrong if you took out the word ‘baseball.'”

Lawrence Ritter: Spurred by the death of Ty Cobb in 1961, Ritter decided to write a book comprised of interviews with old-time players. Five years and 75,000 miles on his car later, Ritter had The Glory of Their Times, quite possibly the best baseball book anyone’s written and certainly one of my favorites. It could also be the most influential, as four of the interviewed players got into the Hall of Fame in the years following the book’s publication in 1966: Rube Marquard, Stan Coveleski, Harry Hooper, and Goose Goslin.

Ernest Lawrence Thayer: Thayer received $5 in 1888 to write a poem for his college friend William Randolph Hearst and his newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner. Thayer wasn’t proud of the poem, and it had a small effect, if any at first. Years later, a vaudeville actor incorporated Casey at the Bat into his act, and the rest is history. A century after its original publication, the poem remains popular, and a baseball-themed episode of The Simpsons in 1992 even bore the title, “Homer at the Bat.”

The zero votes Hall of Fame dream lineup– revisted

With the Baseball Writers Association of America announcing the results of its latest round of Hall of Fame voting, one of my favorite traditions occurred. If the revelation of who’s getting into Cooperstown is like Christmas, seeing who doesn’t receive any votes each year has got to at least be like Cranberry Sauce. I think it’s secretly the best thing about this most wonderful time of the baseball year. Six more players can now be added to the list of solid, if far from great, veterans who got zero votes their only time on the BBWAA ballot: Carlos Baerga, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Raul Mondesi, and Kirk Rueter,

Months ago, I created a line-up of some of the best players to not receive any Hall of Fame votes from the writers. One of the regulars here emailed me today, suggesting I do an update to the post, considering Baerga, Johnson, and Mondesi might boost the talent level. I’m happy to oblige. To anyone reading, please feel free to request a story, either by leaving a comment or emailing me. It helps me out a lot, since coming up with original content here four times a week can be challenging.

To make things interesting, I’m adding a different wrinkle to my new roster. Rather than simply revise my old lineup, I’ll offer a second one comprised of Baerga, Johnson, and Mondesi, as well as many players I missed the first time around. No one who appeared on the first lineup is on this one.

Anyhow, here goes:

P – Earl Wilson: One of the first successful black pitchers, Wilson went 121-109 with just nine full seasons and was 22-11 for the Tigers in 1967. Had Wilson not stayed in the minors for much of the 1950s with the Boston Red Sox, who did not field a black player until 1959, he may have had Hall of Fame numbers.

C – Charles Johnson: It’s no surprise Johnson failed to dent the rather deep Cooperstown ballot this year, since his .245 career batting average and OPS+ of 97 would rank him near the bottom of Hall of Fame hitters. Nevertheless, in his prime, Johnson was perhaps the best defensive catcher in baseball, winning four Gold Gloves.

1B – Hal Trosky: The 1930s was a time for hulking first basemen in the American League, with Jimmie Foxx in Boston, Hank Greenberg in Detroit, and Trosky in Cleveland. Trosky topped 100 RBI his first six full seasons, had 136 home runs by his 25th birthday, and hit .302 lifetime. Had he sustained the pace for a full career and not began to decline in his late 20s, who knows what might have been.

2B – Carlos Baerga: Same story, same city even. But after Baerga’s All Star-level career flat-lined, he resurrected himself as a mediocre journeyman. I give him points for trying. Call it the Ruben Sierra Award.

3B – Harlond Clift: Clift played 12 years in the majors and was an All Star in 1937. Mostly, though, his career is about what might have been. Playing his prime years with the St. Louis Browns probably lowered his numbers some, and he suffered a horseback riding injury and case of the mumps in the early ’40s, never the same player thereafter.

SS – Vern Stephens: Here’s proof a few hundred Hall of Fame voters can be wrong. Of any man here, Stephens deserved at least one vote. A seven-time All Star, he offered impressive power for his position, leading the American League in RBI three times and home runs once. It makes little sense his contemporary and teammate Bobby Doerr is in Cooperstown and Stephens isn’t.

OF – Raul Mondesi: Early in his career, Mondesi looked on-track for Cooperstown, a Gold Glove-winning right fielder who could hit for average and power and was the best thing going offensively in Chavez Ravine besides Mike Piazza. After Mondesi’s batting average dipped in 1999, Los Angeles unloaded him to Toronto for Shawn Green, and his career went south, taking him to five other teams. I’m no Dodger fan but I once booed Mondesi at a Yankee-Red Sox game. It’s not one of my prouder moments.

OF – Debs Garms: I came across Garms yesterday in researching my post on Harry Walker, and the name alone makes Garms worthy for here. He sounds more like a soap opera character or a rodeo star or a woman than a former National League batting champion. Of course, his .293 lifetime batting average and .355 clip that NL-leading 1940 season helps, too.

OF – Hal McRae: He’s here for hijacking George Brett’s bat following the Pine Tar Incident, racing down a stadium tunnel, and doing his best to keep opposing manager Billy Martin from stealing a game based on an obscure rule. McRae hit .290 lifetime and had an OPS+ of 122, and while his defense wasn’t much to speak of, he’d be the kind of bat and teammate I’d want around.

Fredrico’s starting lineup of players not in Cooperstown

I got a Christmas Day email from a reader, Fredrico Brilhart regarding a post from September, Clash of the titans. I had offered a starting lineup of some of the best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame to compete against a lineup created by Bobby Aguilera for Seamheads.com.

I assumed my lineup would reign supreme, since Aguilera mostly picked players with high career WAR totals while I opted for big names who had shorter careers but, I figured, better peak value. Michael Lynch, the founder of Seamheads.com input the lineups Aguilera and I created into a run generator and determined Aguilera might have the advantage.

Fredrico went another direction. His lineup brims with names probably familiar to supporters of the Hall of Merit on BaseballThinkFactory.org, but obscure if not completely foreign to most fans. In fact, I hadn’t heard of most of them until I became aware of the Hall of Merit earlier this year, and I still don’t know much beyond names. Fredrico’s email begs the question: Could a team of veritable unknowns, at least to me, annihilate my squad? Might I be wrong again?

Fredrico writes:

I am only using one player that appears on either of those teams and that is Spottswood Poles, whom I have ranked in my listings as the 2nd most qualified for the Hall of Fame, not in the Hall of Fame, that is eligible. A personal favorite of mine….

For a team of this nature, I will value peak value over career value and therefore some might have earned the right for induction into the Hall of Fame in my thinking, before some on my peak value team that is listed here. I have tried to keep position integrity intact, but will make some logical shifts to make the team stronger.

I think this team would crush either the Aguilera or Womack teams in a seven game series or in a 162 game season.

Fredrico’s batting order
1- Spottswood Poles – CF B-L
2- Dick Lundy – SS B-B [ he is Ozzie & Aparicio with a 60 to 80 + higher BA ] King Richard is my choice for the greatest plaer not in the HOF that is eligible
3- Dobie Moore – 2B [ he was a SS, but is moved to get him in the line up ]
4- John Beckwith – 3B [ can also play SS, 1B & would be the 3rd string C ]
5- platoon at DH > Lefty O’ Doul B-L vs RHP … Frank Howard vs LHP
6- platoon in RF > Chino Smith B-L vs RHP … Rocky Colavito vs LHP
7- Mark McGwire – 1B ( steroid use should void him from going into the HOF )
8- platoon in LF > Tony Oliva [ he was a RF, but is moved ] B-L vs RHP … Minnie Minoso vs LHP
[ Joe Jackson would most likely be considered for the top choice here, but Womack had already taken him ]
9- Katsuya Nomura – C
I have not crunched the numbers, but my guess is that this team is a seven, eight or nine + runs a game offense.

The pitchers
1- John Donaldson – LHP
2- Dick Redding
3- Hippo Vaughn – LHP
4- Smokey Joe Wood
5- Spud Chandler
closer – Will Jackman ( submarine flame thrower )
RP- Webster McDonald ( submarine junk ball artist )
RP- Harry Brecheen – LHP

Bench
Alejandro Oms – OF B-L
Bill Monroe – 2B – 3B – SS
Max Bishop – 2B B-L
Omar Linares – 3B
Elston Howard – C

LET THE GAMES BEGIN !!!!!!

Fredrico seems highly knowledgeable about Negro League and other non-big league ball, and he was the person who prompted me back in June to write a post on Donaldson. I appreciate him speaking up here and encourage anyone who’s interested to do likewise.

Is it time to revamp HOF voting procedures?

I’m pleased to present a guest post written by Matthew Warburg. Matthew contacted me after reading my recent post, The 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame. Thus, it’s not surprising that Matthew’s debut post here is about Cooperstown.

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First of all, as this is my first contribution to this Web site, let me introduce myself. My name is Matthew Warburg, I’m 41 years old, born and raised in San Francisco, currently living in Beijing, and a life-long Giants fan. Let it be noted that the only thing worse than having to wait umpteen years for your team to finally win the World Series, is having them finally do it when you are living halfway across the world.

But I’m not writing today about the Giants, but rather, another of my passions: the Hall of Fame. Let me start by saying I think it’s too easy to get in there. I don’t think players should have fifteen shots at being voted in. I also think getting in with only one ballot of 75 percent is too low a barrier. And I don’t think the Veteran’s Committee should enshrine players. For me, the Hall of Fame should be reserved for the true greats of the game, not the merely very good. Therefore, I think it’s time to revamp the HOF voting process. I believe it should be more difficult to get in, though still fair.

I’ll begin by making a simple assertion: We know, for the most part, which players are HOF-worthy and which are not the minute they retire. Among the recently retired, for example, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza are without question HOF-worthy. We don’t even need to look at the numbers. We just know in our guts. On the other hand, there are players like Mike Mussina and Rafael Palmeiro who despite having gaudy numbers are not worthy, at least in my eyes. I just know it. Truth be told, there just aren’t many players who fall into the gray area of requiring serious debate. Most players are either one of the greats of their era (i.e someone who made opponents shiver in their spikes) or not. No discussion necessary. Thus, I think giving candidates fifteen shots at making their case rather ludicrous.

Therefore, my first suggested revamp would be to reduce the number of times a player is on the ballot to six: in the 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 20th years after their retirement. This would still allow candidates to be in front of the voters for the same 15-year period between their 5th and 20th seasons of retirement as the current system, but it would make it much more difficult for them to get in through endless years of campaigning in that they would only appear on the ballot every third year.

My second suggested revamp would be to raise the thresholds for both remaining on the ballot and for gaining entrance. Nobody should be able to stay eligible after three years under 20 percent and six years under 30 percent like Bert Blyleven has or gain entrance like Jim Rice did by sneaking over the line with just over 75 percent on his last shot after fourteen rejections. So my first suggestion would be to raise the threshold for remaining on the ballot to 25 percent and to add a three strikes provision stipulating that if you receive less than 50 percent on three separate ballots you lose your eligibility. On the other side of the coin I would make enshrinement tougher by forcing candidates to earn either 75 percent of the vote three times, 80 percent twice, or 90 percent once. Definite HOFers would still get in just as easily with more than 90 percent on their first ballot, but the good but not great players whom I feel are diluting the overall quality of the Hall of Fame would have a higher hurdle to overcome.

If you want an idea of how things would have turned out over the last five years had this system been in place, note the following. Using just the new voting thresholds, only three returning players would be on the 2011 ballot: Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, and Edgar Martinez. Bert Blyleven would have lost his eligibility in 1998 after receiving only 17.4 percent of the vote, Jack Morris in 2000 after receiving 22.2 percent of the vote, and Lee Smith in 2005 after his third ballot with less than 50 percent, and Tim Raines in 2008 after receiving only 24.3 percent on his first ballot.

Among the recently elected, Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn, and Cal Ripken, would still have been first ballot electees, Bruce Sutter would have lost his eligibility in 1994 after receiving 23.9 percent of the vote on his first ballot, Jim Rice would having lost his eligibility in 1997 after his third ballot with less than 50 percent, Goose Gossage would have lost his eligibility in 2002 after his third ballot with less than 50 percent, and Andre Dawson would still be eligible, needing two more ballots of more than 75 percent to get elected.

Note that if players were only on the ballot every third year instead of every year, as I have suggested, Gossage would still be eligible, needing one more ballot of 80 percent, and Rice would have remained eligible for all fifteen years without being elected. The bar for the good but not great players would be a little higher, but not insurmountable.

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This was a guest post written by Matthew Warburg. Email him at mattwarburg@hotmail.com

Hall of Fame project follow-up

It’s been an incredible week around here. For anyone just happening by, on Monday evening, I posted a voter-determined list of the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame. Since then, ESPN.com and Baseball Think Factory have linked to the story, and I’ve been deluged with comments and emails. I’m stoked to see the project having such an impact, and I want to thank everyone who voted and everyone who’s had a kind word to say.

I want to do a brief follow-up to address some questions that have arisen since publication. After that, I’ll offer a brief look at where I see this thing going in 2011. As mentioned before, there will definitely be another one of these projects.

First, the questions:

Why aren’t there any old-timers here? A few people have commented about the near total absence of 19th century ballplayers, save for Bill Dahlen. Pete Browning was involved in a four-way tie for 49th place with Dave Concepcion, David Cone, and Billy Pierce, though Concepcion and Cone won out in a run-off. I have mixed feelings. While I was bummed to see Browning fall, he was one of the few pre-1900 ballplayers I had on my personal ballot save for Dahlen, Bobby Mathews, Deacon Phillippe, George Van Haltren, and Deacon White. I simply didn’t think the skill level was as high back then. I also think a lot of us voted based on our personal biases, on the players we’d seen and the ones closest to our hearts. I don’t think that’s egregious for a Hall of Fame-related vote.

Why wasn’t there a ranking system? It would have complicated an already intense project. Originally, I was going to ask for 100 players, but I cut it down to 50, partly because I needed votes in under two weeks, and I felt 100 was asking too much. I also thought it was too much to ask people to determine rankings. I’d also say that a ranking system creates inequity, since a 50-point vote, say for first place, could counteract a ton of lower scores. I like all votes counting equally.

Players not on the ballot: The list of notables now stands at Eric Davis, Bob Johnson, Darryl Kile, Kevin Mitchell, Camilo Pascual, Vic Power, Double Duty Radcliffe, and J.R. Richard, plus all the write-in players. I invite anyone to tell me who else I missed.

Where do we go from here? I think this was an awesome debut for this project, but clearly, there’s plenty to improve on. First off, I plan to start the 2011 voting a lot sooner. I have this crazy idea to kick things off at the upcoming Society for American Baseball Research convention, in Los Angeles next July and stump for votes all weekend. We’ll still shoot for a December results post, but my idea is to allow more time for a stronger return rate on ballots and to get more people voting. The more people that vote, the fewer the ties, the better the rankings. Also, I’d like to get former players voting. If anyone has ideas on how to go about this, I’m game.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

The 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame

Major League Baseball may have the most elite Hall of Fame in sports. More than 17,000 men have played professional baseball dating back to the 19th century, but in 75 years of elections, just 292 people have been enshrined in Cooperstown. The list of great players passed over time and again continues to grow, and with Hall of Fame voting season once more upon us, I figured it a good time to ask: Just who are the best players not in Cooperstown?

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0 and Version 2.0)

Rather than base this on my opinion or some all-powerful stat, I decided to go a different direction– I sought votes from fellow baseball writers, researchers, and anyone else interested. I created a 300-player super ballot and began sending it out on November 22. In all, 63 people voted between the 22nd and December 4, including yours truly. The only rules were to vote for 50 players and to not pick anyone who’d played in the last five years. There wasn’t any ranking system required. Total number of votes received determined a player’s place on the list.

What follows is our list of the 50 best players not enshrined– not 50 players who need a plaque tomorrow, just the 50 best not there, whether they belong in Cooperstown or not. I’ll voice my opinion as I discuss these players. I invite anyone to make their own determinations. I’m also listing the 250 other players who received at least one vote and 34 who appeared on the ballot but got no votes.

The top 50 players are as follows, with their vote totals in parentheses:

1. Bert Blyleven (56 votes out of 63): A 287-game winner in his 22-year career, Blyleven has appeared on the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) ballot for the Hall of Fame 13 times and fell just shy of induction last year. He was never a high-profile pitcher in his era, like Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, or Steve Carlton, but the more Blyleven’s stats are looked at, from his 90.1 WAR to his 60 shutouts to his 3,701 strikeouts, the more he seems like a clear choice for Cooperstown. He shouldn’t be long for this list.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0 and Version 2.0)

2-Tie. Roberto Alomar (55): Like Blyleven, Alomar may get the call for Cooperstown from the writers next month, but it’s not as certain, due to some messy personal issues. Nevertheless, in his prime, Alomar was perhaps the game’s best second baseman.

2-Tie. Ron Santo (55): Santo was a lock for the top 10 here even before his death from cancer on Friday, being named on 52 of the 59 ballots cast before the day he died. A nine-time All Star and five-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman, Santo ranked with Billy Williams and Ernie Banks as a cornerstone of the Chicago Cubs in the 1960s. He’s gone, but never forgotten.

4. Alan Trammell (54): Trammell was never spectacular, save for 1987 when he hit .343 with 28 home runs and 1o5 runs batted in, good for a runner-up finish in American League Most Valuable Player voting. Otherwise, he was the quietly consistent shortstop for the Detroit Tigers for the better part of 20 years. With 2,365 hits and a .285 lifetime batting average, he was also one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball history.

5-Tie. Jeff Bagwell (53): Bagwell might not have been the best first baseman of his generation, but he couldn’t have been far off hitting 449 home runs with a .297 lifetime batting average. More impressively, he played a good chunk of his career in the cavernous Astrodome and thrived. During his National League MVP season in strike-shortened 1994, he hit .373 at home with 23 home runs and 58 RBI in just 56 games.

5-Tie. Shoeless Joe Jackson (53): Jackson would have been in the Hall of Fame 70 years ago had he not been banished for helping throw the 1919 World Series. As it stands, Jackson hit .356 lifetime, had a swing Babe Ruth copied, and put up his best power numbers in his final season before being banned, 1920. Had Jackson played out his career, I could have seen him mirroring Tris Speaker, another sweet-swinging Deadball Era outfielder who increased his slugging numbers in the ’20s and was one of the first players in Cooperstown.

7. Tim Raines (50): I consider Raines a poor man’s Rickey Henderson and were it not for a well-documented cocaine problem early in his career or a platoon role with various teams in the latter part, Raines might also be in the Hall of Fame. Even so, he led the National League in stolen bases from 1981 through 1984 and finished with 808 steals for his career, good for fifth best all-time. Aside from that, he had 2,605 hits, 1,517 runs and a .294 career batting average.

8. Barry Larkin (49): Similar to Trammell, Larkin was a quiet, consistent shortstop who played his entire career for one team, the Cincinnati Reds. He may have boasted greater star power, winning the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1995 and belting 33 home runs the following year, though he never became a superstar.

9. Edgar Martinez (48): Martinez redefined the value of having an excellent designated hitter, as he became a vital part of the Seattle Mariners success in the mid-1990s. During the 1995 season when Seattle went on its run to the American League Championship Series with Ken Griffey Jr. mostly out of commission and Alex Rodriguez a young non-factor, Martinez may have been the team’s most important player, hitting a league-leading .356 with 29 home runs, 103 RBI, and a 1.107 OPS.

10. Pete Rose (47): Were this my list, I’d have Rose and Shoeless Joe first and second, no question. Both would have been easy selections to Cooperstown had they not been banned for gambling-related issues. Rose owns the all-time hits record, 4,256 and had a wonderfully, hyper-competitive style of play, rightfully earning the nickname “Charlie Hustle.” Still, I think some voters here assumed every pick needed to be someone they would vote in the Hall of Fame. I wanted people to make their picks on playing merit, and if this project runs again, I’ll make my approach clear from the outset. I’ll be curious to see if Rose and Jackson rise in the standings.

11. Dick Allen (46): A 2002 book on the 100 best players not enshrined ranked Allen first, and while that’s higher than I would personally tab him, Allen surely belongs somewhere near the top. As a young ballplayer in the 1960s, Allen was one of the premier hitters in baseball, and he bounced back from a mid-career lull to win the 1972 American League MVP. He retired with 351 home runs and a .292 career batting average, and had he not had such a famously surly personality, I suspect Allen would have had his place in Cooperstown 20 years ago.

12. Dwight Evans (45): Evans was the highest-ranked pick that I didn’t have on my personal ballot, and I found myself wondering while I was counting votes why I took Dom DiMaggio and not Evans. While both were superb outfielders for the Boston Red Sox, if I had the pick of either in their prime, I’d take Evans, no question. He offers the better all-around game, particularly with his power.

13. Ted Simmons (44): Simmons has long been a favorite in the baseball research community, ranked by Bill James as the 10th-best catcher all-time. Simmons was an afterthought on the Veterans Committee ballot this year, though we ranked him highest of any player he was up against there. In fact, we gave him more than twice as many votes as the player the Vets voted for most, Dave Concepcion.

14. Lou Whitaker (43): It’s fitting Whitaker would be on this list with his double play partner and Detroit Tigers teammate Trammell. Perhaps if they both get into Cooperstown, their plaques can hang beside one another. That will hinge on the Veterans Committee, which has a stated task to find players overlooked by the BBWAA but often opts for players who garnered significant support with the writers. Whitaker received 2.9 percent of the vote his only time on the writers ballot, despite ranking among the best second basemen of his generation.

15. Larry Walker (42): Walker is Chuck Klein or Lefty O’Doul for a newer generation, another player who put up gaudy numbers in a hitter’s era in a ballpark clearly favoring batters. Seeing as Klein needed almost 30 years after his career ended to make the Hall of Fame, and O’Doul isn’t enshrined, I think there’s a chance Walker might not get in, at least for awhile. That would be unfortunate since Walker also played outstanding defense early in his career, with an arm that could throw out slow runners at first base from his perch in right field. The fact Walker played at the height of the Steroid Era doesn’t help his chances either.

16. Fred McGriff (38): This is another pick I personally flubbed. For some reason, I chose the wrong Mc, going with Tug McGraw when I’d have been better suited to honor All Star first baseman McGriff. How does one take a relief pitcher, even a fine one, over a player with 492 home runs? Luckily, enough fellow voters recognized McGriff’s value to negate my gaffe. That’s one benefit of doing this sort of project via committee.

17-Tie. Will Clark (37): Call me cheesy, but I’m Thrilled about this pick. I grew up in Northern California when Clark was starring for the San Francisco Giants, and to this day, he remains my all-time favorite player. I made a case for his induction after the Giants won the World Series last month. I’ll say here briefly that Clark hit .303 lifetime, offered good power, and provided underrated defense at first base. He finished a distant 17th his only year on the Cooperstown ballot in 2006, receiving 4.4 percent of the vote. At the very least, he deserved more consideration.

17-Tie. Dale Murphy (37): Like Clark, Murphy is another fan favorite. When I included him in a now-outdated list from May 2009 of the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame, I wrote: “If character counts, Murphy should have been a first-ballot inductee. The Atlanta Braves outfielder and devout Mormon deserves a spot on the All-Time Nice Guy squad, being a throw-back player who never drank and instead did things like answer children’s questions in a regular newspaper column. He also hit 398 home runs and won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards.” I’d add that Murphy was the best player on some abysmal Braves teams and had comparable numbers to several Hall of Fame outfielders, including Duke Snider.

17-Tie. Luis Tiant (37): If Blyleven gets voted into the Hall of Fame in January as expected, the hunt may be on to find the next underrated pitcher researchers can get behind and promote for Cooperstown. My vote is Tiant, who went 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA and was one of the best pitchers of the 1970s. During his 19-year career, Tiant won 20 games four times and at various points, led the league in ERA, shutouts, WHIP and SO/9 innings.

20-Tie. Mark McGwire (36): I was happy to include all the openly-acknowledged black sheep of the Steroid Era who’ve been retired longer than five years, even if I want them nowhere near Cooperstown. Most of these guys enjoyed a good day at the polls here. Even Jose Canseco got 10 votes, four more than he received his only year on the BBWAA ballot. McGwire fared best with his 583 home runs and former single season record. I’m not sure if it was considered by voters here, but McGwire also has a career OPS+ of 162, tied for 12th all-time.

20-Tie. Joe Torre (36): Torre will almost certainly be one of the first men from this list to receive a Hall of Fame plaque, courtesy of his recently-ended managerial career, one of the best in baseball history, I think. 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 when considered his career spanned 1960-1977, largely a time ruled by pitchers. In another era, he may have hit .320.

22-Tie. Bobby Grich (34): One of our voters, Josh Wilker included Grich in his memoir, Cardboard Gods. Wilker wrote of Grich, “As far as I know, Grich never tangled with Galactus or Modok or the Red Skull; he did once scream at Earl Weaver for pinch hitting for him too often when he was a rookie, but no blows were thrown by either man. Mostly, Grich quietly went about his job, over the course of his career creating a body of work bettered by only a few second basemen in major league history.” Among this body of work: 224 home runs, six All Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and a career WAR of 67.6.

22-Tie. Keith Hernandez (34): This list is loaded with first basemen, perhaps because there are so many good ones not enshrined. Hernandez isn’t the only former MVP first baseman or perhaps not even the best defender at his position, though he’s certainly one of the top three or five. Hernandez was simply a very good player for the majority of his career, save for a rapid decline at the end.

24. Gil Hodges (33): Hodges may be the original sentimental favorite among non-enshrined players. Perhaps the best defensive first baseman in big league history, with 370 home runs to boot, Hodges fostered his image as a core member of the iconic Boys of Summer Brooklyn Dodgers and became a tragic figure with his death at 48 in 1972. Since then, he’s had unsuccessful try after posthumous try at Cooperstown. Hodges may not be the best player outside the Hall of Fame, but together with Santo, I suspect he might be the most revered.

25-Tie. Tommy John (32): He played 26 seasons and won 288 games despite needing a year off in the middle for ligament surgery so monumental it was later named after him. More impressive, he won 20 games three times after returning to play.

25-Tie. Tony Oliva (32): Oliva won three batting titles and led the American League in hits five times in seven years between 1964 and 1970 before injuries hampered his career. Together with Matty Alou, teammate Rod Carew, Roberto Clemente, and Pete Rose, Oliva was one of the best hitters of the pitcher-dominated 1960s.

27. Don Mattingly (31): Had Donnie Baseball sustained the pace from early in his career, 1984 through 1989 when he won a batting title and an MVP and perennially hit .300, he’d have made Cooperstown, no question. But Mattingly is another fine player whose career permanently shifted course after injury problems. That’s kind of the norm among first basemen on this list.

28-Tie. Jim Kaat (30): In 25 seasons that spanned five decades, from the waning days of the Eisenhower Administration to the Reagan Years and five presidents in between, Kaat won 283 games and 16 straight Gold Gloves.

28-Tie. Rafael Palmeiro (30): I recently chronicled Palmeiro’s troubled bid for the Hall of Fame. Barring a last-minute change of heart from the BBWAA, Palmeiro looks to be the first member of the 3,000 hit club since 1952 to not be inducted into Cooperstown on his first ballot. Even with 500 home runs as well, Palmeiro appears doomed, at least with the writers, for his positive steroid test in August 2005 and his vehement denials before Congress just months prior that he’d ever used.

28-Tie. Dave Parker (30): Another supremely talented player whose career was seriously affected by drug abuse, Parker made my May 2009 list. I wrote then, “This guy’s a Veteran’s Committee pick waiting to happen. If Jim Rice and Orlando Cepeda can get into the Hall, Parker should too. He had better career numbers than those players for hits, doubles, runs batted in, runs scored, and stolen bases.”

31-Tie. Albert Belle (29): Belle got little support the two years he appeared on the writers ballot for the Hall of Fame, consequences of his boorish behavior, his peaking during the Steroid Era, and his early retirement due to injuries. He still might have been the fourth best hitter in baseball for the full decade of the 1990s, after Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas. His defense was something awful, the reason he has a defensive WAR for his career of -6.6, but in his prime, Belle was generally good for 30-50 home runs a year, north of 100 RBI, and a .300 batting average or better.

31-Tie. Ron Guidry (29): Guidry had a relatively short career, 14 seasons, but he made the most of his time, going 170-91 lifetime and posting one of the best pitching seasons ever, 1978, when he went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, nine shutouts, and 248 strikeouts.

31-Tie. Minnie Minoso (29): Minoso did a little bit of everything well, batting above .300 eight full seasons, hitting 198 home runs, stealing 205 bases, and winning three Gold Gloves, among other things. With the help of two promotional stunts years after he retired, Minoso also managed to come to the plate in five different decades.

34. Steve Garvey (28): There are a lot of similarities between Garvey and Mattingly. Like Mattingly, Garvey looked like a sure bet for Cooperstown in his early seasons, winning the 1974 National League MVP, his first full season and taking home the Gold Glove at first base that year and the three that followed. But around 1980, his career took a sharp turn

35. Ken Boyer (27): A seven-time All Star, five-time Gold Glove-winner, and the 1964 NL MVP as he helped carry his St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title, Boyer may have been the best third baseman of his generation aside from Brooks Robinson. Lifetime, he posted 282 home runs, a .287 career batting average, and a 58.4 WAR ranking.

36-Tie. Jack Morris (26): One of the better pitchers of the 1980s and early ’90s, Morris went 254-186 lifetime with a 3.90 ERA and is best remembered for his 10-inning, 1-0 shutout victory for the Minnesota Twins over the Atlanta Braves in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series.

36-Tie. Lee Smith (26): At one point, Smith’s 478 saves were the big league record, though it’s long since been eclipsed. But with the vote totals Smith has posted in Hall of Fame voting the last few years, consistently receiving at least 40 percent of the vote with six more years of eligibility after this one, it appears he could be the next closer in Cooperstown.

38-Tie. Kevin Brown (25): Brown’s name surfaced a few years back in the Mitchell Report as a possible user of performance enhancing drugs. That, and his less-than-endearing personality might smother his chance of staying on the Hall of Fame ballot beyond this year, despite his 211-144 career record and string of dominance in the late 1990s.

38-Tie. Dan Quisenberry (25): Like Smith, another great closer, only one who received far less support on the Hall of Fame ballot his only year eligible. Quisenberry’s relatively short 12-year career and 244 saves may have relegated him to 3.8 percent of the vote in 1996, and he died of brain cancer two years later. Nevertheless, he remains a popular figure in the baseball research community.

40-Tie. Bill Dahlen (24): Aside from Shoeless Joe, Dahlen was the only Deadball Era player to crack the top 50. And if there’s any eligible player from the early days of baseball who could best represent it, Dahlen may be the one. A longtime shortstop in a time where players were generally done in their early 30s, Dahlen hit .272 lifetime with 2,461 hits. Modern research shows he has one of the highest WAR rankings of non-enshrined players at 75.9.

40-Tie. Darrell Evans (24): Evans definitely isn’t the most appealing pick at first, from his .248 lifetime batting average to his modest defensive credentials to the fact he generally played for poor teams. But Evans had phenomenal longevity, hitting at least 10 home runs in 19 of his 21 seasons, belting 34 dingers at age 40, and finishing with 414 homers lifetime. He also walked a lot before it was popular and racked up a respectable WAR rating of 57.3.

40-Tie. Roger Maris (24): In 1978, Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote, “The baseball writers are sometimes loathe to reward a guy for a single, incandescent, virtuoso performance over one season. They prefer a guy who keeps doing a predictable thing over and over again. Hank Aaron, who piled up 755 home runs, 30 to 40 at a time over 20 years, will go in the hall by acclamation. Roger Maris, who hit 61 one season, more than anyone ever hit in one season, will never make it.” But what a season it was, 1961. Maris won the American League MVP the previous year as well. Much as I respect Murray, I have no problem voting on the basis of one great year or two. I included Smoky Joe Wood in my top 50 largely for this reason.

43. Orel Hershiser (23): Hershiser won 204 games lifetime, but did his best work early on, going 19-3  with a 2.03 ERA in 1985 and then reaching his pinnacle in 1988. Among his accomplishments that year: a 23-8 record, 2.26 ERA, 58 scoreless inning streak, MVP awards for the NLCS and World Series, and, of course, the National League Cy Young. Hershiser struggled with injuries over the next few years and was never again as dominant.

44-Tie. Graig Nettles (22): Very similar to another third baseman of the 1970s and ’80s, Darrell Evans, Nettles offered good power and not much average, with 390 home runs and a .248 lifetime batting line. In contrast to Evans, though, Nettles won a few Gold Gloves, played on markedly better teams, and managed a slightly superior WAR ranking of 61.6.

44-Tie. Buck O’Neil (22): In September, I interviewed Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski who spent a year traveling the country with O’Neil near the end of his life. Posnanski later wrote a book, The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America. I asked Posnanski if he considered O’Neil the best Negro League player not enshrined. While I didn’t excerpt it in the interview I published in September, I’ll relay it here. Posnanski told me:

I don’t think he’s the best player. I think he’s the singular spokesman for the Negro Leagues and the voice of the Negro Leagues. I mean, he was a very, very good player, and he was a very, very good manager, and he was a very, very good scout, and he was a very, very good coach, you know the first black coach. I think his case for the Hall of Fame– which I thought was an absolute slam dunk case– revolved around a lifetime in baseball. He was a good player. He won a batting title, almost won another one. He was definitely a good player, but it was not his playing that made him this sort of slam dunk Hall of Fame person. I think it’s the fact that he lived this extraordinary baseball life and contributed to the game on so many different levels. I really don’t know if you could find anybody, certainly not many people in the history of the game who contributed to baseball so many different ways as Buck O’Neil did.

44-Tie. Jimmy Wynn (22): Someone commented here about a year ago, listing Wynn as one of the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame. I took a look at his stats, noted his .250 batting average, and thought to myself it was crazy talk. But the more I’ve come to understand about how Wynn’s numbers were stunted playing home games in the Astrodome during the 1960s, the more I’ve respected how much he might have thrived in a different era. I don’t know if I could vote Wynn into Cooperstown on the basis of hypothetical projections, but I think it’s a shame he received no votes his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot, 1983.

47. Thurman Munson (21): A seven-time All Star, three-time Gold Glove-winning catcher, and American League MVP in 1976 when he led his New York Yankees to the World Series, Munson appeared on-track for Cooperstown until his death in a small plane crash on August 2, 1979 at 32. The customary five-year waiting period was waved so Munson could appear on the ballot in 1981, the only person I know of besides Roberto Clemente and Darryl Kile to get this exemption since the custom was adopted in 1954. Surprisingly, Munson received just 15.5 percent of the vote, and though he went the full 15 years of eligibility with the writers, his candidacy never again got as much support.

48. Bill Freehan (20): Like Simmons, Freehan was one of the best catchers in baseball, only he played outside a major media market and in an era when back stoppers like Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, and Munson commanded the spotlight. Quietly, Freehan put together a fine career. Playing solely with the Tigers, he won five Gold Gloves and was an All Star 11 of his 15 seasons.

49-Tie. Dave Concepcion (19): The starting shortstop for the Big Red Machine in the 1970s, Concepcion played all 19 years of his career in Cincinnati, making nine All Star teams, winning five Gold Gloves, and even finishing fourth in NL MVP voting in 1981 when he led the Reds to a first-place finish.

49-Tie. David Cone (19): At 194-126, Cone boasted a .606 career win-loss percentage and a beefy lifetime SO/9 rate of 8.3. He also won 20 games twice and took home the 1992 AL Cy Young Award.

(Editor’s note: There was a four-way tie at 49th place between Pete Browning, Billy Pierce, Concepcion, and Cone, with each player receiving 19 votes. In a tiebreaker runoff held late Sunday night and much of today, voters selected Concepcion and Cone for the final two spots.)

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0 and Version 2.0)

Players who received at least 10 votes, in alphabetical order: Harold Baines (18), Ross Barnes (13), Buddy Bell (12), Vida Blue (15), Bobby Bonds (17), Pete Browning (19), Jose Canseco (10), Joe Carter (10), Bob Caruthers (14), Norm Cash (13), Eddie Cicotte (15), Rocky Colavito (12), Gavvy Cravath (13), Dom DiMaggio (13), Wes Ferrell (11), Curt Flood (17), Jack Glasscock (12), Juan Gonzalez (15), Dwight Gooden (15), Heinie Groh (10), Stan Hack (17), Babe Herman (12), Paul Hines (10), Frank Howard (14), Charlie Keller (10), Fred Lynn (12), Sherry Magee (14), Carl Mays (10), Tony Mullane (13), Don Newcombe (14), Lefty O’Doul (12), John Olerud (13), Al Oliver (17), Billy Pierce (19), Vada Pinson (17), Willie Randolph (14), Bret Saberhagen (11), Reggie Smith (17), Rusty Staub (10), Vern Stephens (11), Riggs Stephenson (10), Dave Stieb (14), Fernando Valenzuela (13), George Van Haltren (10), Deacon White (13),  Maury Wills (14), Smoky Joe Wood (17)

Everyone else who received at least one vote: Babe Adams (7), Joe Adcock (5), Matty Alou (1), Kevin Appier (3), Buzz Arlett** (1), Dusty Baker (3), Sal Bando (6), Hank Bauer (2), Don Baylor (6), John Beckwith (7), Mark Belanger (1), Charlie Bennett (7), Wally Berger (4), Joe Black (1), Tommy Bond (3), Bob Boone (2), Larry Bowa (1), Bill Buckner (5), Charlie Buffington (2), Lew Burdette (5), Ellis Burks (2), Brett Butler (5), Dolph Camilli (3), Phil Cavarretta (5), Cesar Cedeno (6), Ron Cey (7), Hal Chase (3), Cupid Childs (1), Jack Clark (6), Harold Clift (3), Vince Coleman (4), Jack Coombs (1), Cecil Cooper (4), Walker Cooper (1), Wilbur Cooper (7), Jim Creighton (3), Lave Cross (1), Jose Cruz Sr. (6), Mike Cuellar (2), Roy Cullenbine** (1), Al Dark (2), Jake Daubert (1), Willie Davis** (1), Paul Derringer (1), John Donaldson (1), Mike Donlin (2), Brian Downing (2), Larry Doyle** (1), Luke Easter** (1), Mark Eichhorn** (1), Bob Elliott (3), Del Ennis (3), Carl Erskine (2), Ferris Fain** (1), Cecil Fielder (4), Chuck Finley (1), Freddie Fitzsimmons (4), George Foster (6), Jack Fournier** (1), Bud Fowler** (1), John Franco (9), Bob Friend (1), Carl Furillo (4), Andres Galarraga (7), Ned Garver** (1), Kirk Gibson (8), George Gore (8), Mark Grace (6), Ken Griffey Sr. (1), Mike Griffin** (1), Charlie Grimm (1), Marquis Grissom (1), Dick Groat** (1), Pedro Guerrero (4), Mel Harder (3), Tom Henke (3), Tommy Henrich (4), Tommy Holmes** (1), Ken Holtzman (1), Willie Horton** (1), Elston Howard (9), Dummy Hoy (1), Bo Jackson (5), Sam Jackson** (1), Home Run Johnson (7), Bob Johnson** (5), Sad Sam Jones (2), Doug Jones** (1), Bill Joyce (1), Wally Joyner (2), Joe Judge (1), David Justice (1), Benny Kauff** (1), Ken Keltner (2), Jimmy Key (2), Johnny Kling (2), Ted Kluszewski (6), Jerry Koosman (4), Harvey Kuenn (6), Mark Langston** (1), Don Larsen (4), Tommy Leach (2), Sam Leever (5), Al Leiter (2), Duffy Lewis (2), Bob Locker ** (1), Kenny Lofton** (1- Editor’s note: Lofton was not eligible because he’s been retired less than five years, but someone wrote him in), Mickey Lolich (7), Herman Long (1), Davey Lopes (3), Dick Lundy (4), Dolf Luque** (1), Sparky Lyle (7), Bill Madlock (9), Sal Maglie (3), Firpo Marberry** (1), Marty Marion (2), Pepper Martin (4), Dennis Martinez (5), Bobby Mathews (2), Dick McBride** (2), Jim McCormick (5), Willie McGee (2), Tug McGraw (4), Stuffy McInnis (1), Ed McKean (1), Denny McLain (5), Sadie McMahon** (1), Dave McNally (2), Hal McRae (2), Cal McVey (7), Bob Meusel (4), Wally Moon (1), Dobie Moore (2), Bobby Murcer (4), Buddy Myer (1), Robb Nen (1), Bill Nicholson (1), Joe Niekro (1), Alejandro Oms (5), Tip O’Neill (3), Jesse Orosco** (1), Dave Orr (2), Amos Otis (2), Mel Parnell (2), Lance Parrish** (3), Dickey Pearce (6), Jim Perry (1), Deacon Phillippe (6), Lip Pike (3), Spottswood Poles (7), Boog Powell (2), Jack Quinn (1), Rick Reuschel (7), Allie Reynolds (5), Hardy Richardson (4), Dave Righetti (3), Red Rolfe (2), Al Rosen (6), Schoolboy Rowe (3), Jimmy Ryan (4), Johnny Sain (2), Wally Schang** (1), Herb Score (3), Jimmy Sheckard (5), Urban Shocker (3), Roy Sievers (2), Ken Singleton (5), Joe Start (6), George Stone (1), Harry Stovey (6), Darryl Strawberry (5), Ezra Sutton (6), Frank Tanana (2), Kent Tekulve** (1), Roy Thomas** (2), Bobby Thomson (4), Luis Tiant Sr.** (1), Cecil Travis (5), Hal Trosky (5), Quincy Trouppe (1), Dizzy Trout (1), Jesse Tunnehill** (1), Johnny Vander Meer (4), Mo Vaughn (2), Hippo Vaughn** (1), Bobby Veach (4), Robin Ventura (6), Mickey Vernon (6), Dixie Walker (2), Fleet Walker (2), Bucky Walters (7), Lon Warneke (1), Guy Weyhing (1), Frank White (4), Roy White (1), Will White (1), Bernie Williams** (1- Editor’s note: Williams was not eligible because he’s been retired less than five years, but someone wrote him in), Cy Williams (2), Ken Williams (2), Matt Williams (2), Wilbur Wood (2), Rudy York (1)
(** = Write-in candidate)

Appeared on the ballot, didn’t receive any votes: Dale Alexander, Dick Bartell, Bret Boone, George J Burns, George H Burns, Jeff Burroughs, Ben Chapman, Jim Davenport, Patsy Donovan, Jim Gentile, Hank Gowdy, Ozzie Guillen, Guy Hecker, Larry Jackson, Sam Jethroe, Charley Jones, Dave Kingman, Carney Lansford, Greg Luzinski, Elliott Maddox, Tino Martinez, Frank McCormick, Irish Meusel, Clyde Milan, Wally Moses, Jack Powell, Jeff Reardon, Joe Rudi, Manny Sanguillen, Mike Scott, Cy Seymour, Germany Smith, Vic Wertz, Todd Worrell

People who voted

  1. Myself
  2. Bobby Aguilera of Baseball Reality Tour
  3. Brendan Bingham, reader
  4. Doug Bird, a Sunday contributor on this Web site
  5. Charles Beatley of Hawk 4 The Hall
  6. Bill Bell, reader
  7. Tom Bradley, member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and Retrosheet New York
  8. Bob Brichetto, reader
  9. Zach C., reader
  10. Michael Clair of Old Time Family Baseball
  11. Ev Cope, put together a list of names for the Veterans Committee to consider in 2008
  12. Craig Cornell, reader
  13. Jennifer Cosey of Old English D, member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA)
  14. Victor Dadras, reader
  15. Paul Dylan, reader
  16. Charles Faber, reader
  17. Eugene Freedman, SABR member, Baseball Think Factory contributing author
  18. Gerry Garte, SABR member, contributes articles every other Friday here
  19. Daniel Greenia, who wrote a “Fixing the Hall of Fame” series for Dugout Central and who authored a bi-monthly column for Bill James in the 1980s
  20. Hank Greenwald, former San Francisco Giants announcer, SABR member
  21. Joe Guzzardi, SABR member, Wednesday and Saturday contributor here
  22. Wayne Horiuchi, avid sports card collector who has one of the most extensive game-used/autograph Hall of Fame collections in America
  23. Tom Hanrahan, reader
  24. Douglas Heeren, reader
  25. Jason Hunt of Jason’s Baseball Blog, BBA member
  26. Dave Lackie, reader
  27. Jimmy Leiderman, 19th century photography researcher
  28. Bruce Markusen of The Hardball Times, freelance writer living in Cooperstown.
  29. Dan McCloskey of Pickin’ Splinters
  30. Robert McConnell, reader
  31. Ryan McCrystal of Wahoo’s Warriors
  32. Bill Miller of The On Deck Circle
  33. Andrew Milner, member of SABR and Baseball Think Factory
  34. Cyril Morong of Cybermetrics, SABR member
  35. Rory Paap of PaapFly.com, occasional contributor here
  36. David Pinto of Baseball Musings, member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA)
  37. Gary Plunkitt, reader
  38. Repoz
  39. John Robertson, SABR member
  40. Bob Sawyer, reader
  41. Peter Schiller of Baseball Reflections
  42. John Sharp of johnsbigleaguebaseballblog
  43. Steven Sheehan, Ph.D., associate professor of history, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
  44. Daniel Shoptaw of C70 At The Bat, founder of the BBA
  45. Christopher Short, “Brooklyn Dodger fan for their existence”
  46. Scott Simkus of Outsider Baseball Bulletin
  47. Mark Simon, ESPN.com researcher and contributor
  48. Gary B. Smith of FoxNews.com and a writer for Sports Illustrated from 1995 to 1997 (not to be confused with longtime SI writer Gary Smith)
  49. Sean Smith of Baseball Projection
  50. Aaron Somers of Blogging From The Bleachers, BBA member
  51. John Swol of Twins Trivia, member of SABR, the BBA and MLB Hall of Fame
  52. Dan Szymborski, contributing author to Baseball Think Factory and ESPN.com
  53. Brad Templemann of Baseball In-Depth
  54. Jacob Thompson, reader
  55. Alex Vila, reader
  56. Vinnie, reader
  57. Shawn Weaver of Cincinnati Reds Blog, BBA member
  58. Gregg Weiss, reader
  59. Matt Welch, Editor in Chief, Reason (magazine), www.reason.com
  60. Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods
  61. Joe Williams, chair of the Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project, Nineteenth Century Committee, SABR
  62. Jena Yamada, reader
  63. Devon Young of My First Cards, IBWAA member

Thanks to everyone who voted and helped this project. To anyone who missed it, don’t fret– I may make this an annual thing.

UPDATE, 1/6/2014: VERSION 4.0 OF THIS PROJECT IS OUT (and here’s Version 3.0 and Version 2.0)

Hall of Fame project results post will be Monday

My apologies.

If there’s one thing conducting a Hall of Fame group project for the first time has taught me, it’s that there was a lot I didn’t know going in. Yesterday, I got my latest lesson: Count votes as they come in. I waited until yesterday evening to start going through the 60-odd ballots, and I realized I needed more time than expected. A lot more time. I’m going through ballots by hand, and I got through 12 in a little over three hours.

The good news is that there’s a strong variation in picks already, a core of consensus choices and dozens of outlying players with a few votes at most. The bad news is that I can’t share the results today, as I had promised.

I have decided to publish the voting results Monday afternoon, sometime after the Veterans Committee pick or picks are announced (if there are any.) I figure this should still be topical until the Baseball Writers Association of America announces in January who it will enshrine and will hopefully have long life on search engines. I also think it will be interesting to see if any of our top 50 will be formally inducted into Cooperstown in the summer of 2011.

Don”t worry if any of the Vets picks are in the top 50. My understanding is that no new picks will be in the Hall of Fame until the induction ceremony next summer. I will make this as clear as I can in the post.

Hall of Fame project FAQs

The Hall of Fame project I announced this week is going outstandingly. More than 60 people have said they’ll vote, and as I write these words on Friday evening, 12 people have already gone to the virtual polls including Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods (the first person to vote– two hours after I sent out the ballot), David Pinto of Baseball Musings, and Mark Simon, a researcher for ESPN New York. I’m excited to see where this thing goes, and I invite anyone who’s interested to email me for a ballot. Anyone is eligible to participate. For more information, go here.

I wanted to take a minute and address some questions. A few people have voiced common themes, and I wanted to offer clarification for any like-minded individuals who haven’t spoken up. I think it’s better to deal with these things sooner rather than later.

Here are some FAQs:

I don’t believe there are 50 players who belong in the Hall of Fame. Can I vote for 12? Please vote for 50. This isn’t going to be a list of 50 players who deserve induction, simply the 50 best who aren’t enshrined. If we wind up with 25 players who have no business near Cooperstown, so be it. I actually think it makes for more interesting writing.

Can I vote for current players? No. Please only vote for anyone who hasn’t played past 2005. We’re going with the same five-year waiting period the Baseball Writers Association of America observes for its Hall of Fame voting. Feel free, though, to vote for anyone who’s played before then. There are many 19th century ballplayers and obscure greats on my 300-player super ballot.

You didn’t include (so-and-so) on the ballot. May I vote for him? Absolutely, write-ins are welcome. So far, it’s been pointed out I forgot Tony Taylor, J.R. Richard, and Vic Power, and some of the submitted ballots have included other write-ins. It makes sense. More than 17,000 men have played in the majors and about 300 are in Cooperstown. I almost certainly forgot several deserving players.

Do players need to have played a certain number of years to qualify? No. While Cooperstown generally requires players to have at least 10 years service time for induction, there are no such constraints here. Bo Jackson, eat your heart out.

When do you need this by? Right now, the deadline is December 1 at 9 p.m. PST, but I’m considering extending voting by one week for an awesome reason I can’t disclose yet. But trust me, if it comes through, our project will get even better. More to follow.

Vote on the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame

Anyone who reads this Web site regularly may know that I write about the Hall of Fame fairly often, at least on a weekly basis and that my first post on the subject was a list in May 2009 of the 10 best players not in Cooperstown. Since I wrote that post, I’ve found many, many more deserving players, and now, I’d like to expand to something bigger.

I want a list of the 50 greatest players who aren’t enshrined, and rather than simply base this on my opinion or career WAR rankings (or some other trendy stat that will be outdated in a few years), I want to try something different: I’d like this to be based on the votes of people who frequent this Web site and other baseball writers.

I’ll keep a master tally of all the votes and base rankings off of which players get the most votes. I want at least 50-100 people to vote. The more votes and the broader the range of voters, the better the players will be separated in the rankings. Anyone is eligible to vote, and I would be happy to link in the post to any fellow baseball writer who participates.

So here’s how this will work: I’m compiling a super ballot of 300 non-enshrined players that I intend to send out this evening  (write-in candidates welcome, too.) Voting will last until December 1 at 9 p.m. PST. I’ll post the results on December 3, ahead of the Veterans Committee’s announcement on December 6 of who it will be inducting in 2011 and the Baseball Writers Association of America’s announcement in January of its picks.

If anyone reading would like to participate, please send me an email at thewomack@gmail.com or leave a comment here and I will email a ballot this evening. And if anyone happens to read this after today, please feel free to reach out to me. As long as it’s before December 1, I have no problem providing a ballot.

Should the Hall of Fame honor teams?

One of my regular readers emailed me and another blogger earlier week. The reader wrote:

Gentlemen,

We know the HOF honors indivdual players, but has anyone thought about having a way to honor great teams? Maybe select no more than one or two teams per decade from each league perhaps? If there aren’t any teams that measure up in any decade, then you don’t have to enshrine any.

I like the idea. While much of the rest of the blogosphere is writing about the playoffs (and expect something here on Monday about the Giants and Phillies– I’m just waiting for first blood) I thought I’d offer some thoughts on teams that could be enshrined in Cooperstown.

The following is purely subjective, as my posts about the Hall of Fame often are. This is merely a starting point, and I invite others to expand upon it.

Here are my picks:

1901-1910: Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Giants: What a difference a century makes. The Bucs won at least 90 games eight out of the first ten years of the 20th century and appeared in two World Series, winning in 1909. The Giants were perhaps baseball’s worst team at the start of the decade but transformed into contenders after John McGraw became manager in 1903. Interestingly, both these teams got great raiding others: Pittsburgh plucked Honus Wagner and others from the Louisville Colonels and McGraw brought much of the old Baltimore Orioles roster with him when he joined the Giants. Nefarious perhaps, but it worked brilliantly.

1911-1920: Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox: Connie Mack’s first dynasty produced three World Series appearances and two titles in the first four years of the decade, led by players like Hall of Fame pitcher Chief Bender. The Red Sox are here because they won four World Series in the decade (including three times with young ace Babe Ruth) and because the last title was followed by an 86-year championship drought.

1921-1930: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Athletics: Some people regard the Murderers Row Yankees as the best team in baseball history, though Sports Illustrated put out a cover story some years back suggesting they were rivaled by Mack’s second dynasty that gelled at the end of the ’20s.

1931-1940: St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees: The Gashouse Gang produced two World Series championships, 1931 and 1934. It marked the triumph of St. Louis general manager Branch Rickey and his brainchild: the farm system. Meanwhile, the Yankees in the ’30s had, at different times, an aging Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio turning in productive years. It helped for a staggering five World Series titles between 1931 and 1940, with no worse than a third place finish any year of the decade. Four times in club history, the Yankees have scored more than 1,000 runs in a season. These years were 1930, 1931, 1932, and 1936.

1941-1950: St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers: Stan Musial missed most of World War II, and it helped the Cardinals become a dominant team once more, winning three World Series between 1942 and 1946. The Dodgers would be on here even if they were a terrible team in those years (they weren’t) as they broke baseball’s color barrier with Jackie Robinson in 1947, another Branch Rickey idea.

1951-1960: New York Yankees, New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers: New York was again baseball’s capital in the 1950s, with every World Series between 1951 and 1958 featuring a New York team. So many of baseball’s icons played at least a year in New York in the ’50s from Robinson and Duke Snider on the Boys of Summer Dodgers to DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle on the Yankees to Willie Mays on the Giants.

1961-1970: St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers: Baseball was all about pitching in the 1960s, and these two teams exemplified this. The Cardinals were a machine led by Hall of Fame hurler Bob Gibson, who delivered Game Seven victories in the 1964 and 1967 World Series and then amassed a modern era-record 1.12 ERA in 1968, only to fall to the Tigers in the World Series. The Dodgers also won two World Series and made it to another behind ace Sandy Koufax.

1971-1980: Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds: Two of baseball’s more colorful clubs, the Mustache Gang A’s and Big Red Machine accounted for every World Series title between 1972 and 1976. Perhaps no two teams in the same decade were so filled with characters– and talent. Oakland and Cincinnati also signified another thing in baseball in the ’70s: the abrogation of the Reserve Clause which led to both clubs losing core players.

1981-1990: No one: Perhaps the Dodgers deserve recognition, seeing as they won the World Series in 1981 and again in 1988. But compared to most of the other teams written of here, these LA clubs seem nowhere near as memorable. In general, this was a decade defined by teams I don’t care to celebrate: the steroid-addled A’s, the coked-out Mets. Why should Cooperstown lionize that?

1991-2000: New York Yankees: The Yankees resurrected themselves from a decade-long slump in the mid-1990s and became a powerhouse once more, winning the World Series in 1996, and again in 1998, 1999, and 2000. The ’96 club was even somewhat likable, a collection of non-superstars like Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams, led by everyman manager (everymanager?) Joe Torre.

2001-2010: Boston Red Sox: What’s the best way to shake off close to a century without a World Series title? By hiring a crack young general manager, assembling a contender, and winning everything twice in four years. In a decade where eight teams have won the World Series, Boston is the only club with multiple titles.