Future Hall of Famers, as judged in 1986

I’ve been reading Zev Chafets’ book Cooperstown Confidential and just happened across a bit on Steve Garvey which talks about him being named as a future Hall ofFamer in a 1986 poll of major league managers in The Sporting News. As a SABR member, I have access to full archives for The Sporting News free of charge so I decided to take a look at the full poll.

These kinds of polls or predictions generally interest me. I enjoyed reading Bill James’ forecasts for 25 years of inductions in The Politics of Glory, and I made my own predictions here last year. I think it’s interesting to see how many of these pan out.

Here’s what the poll, printed May 26, 1986, looked like:

“Which players in your league– if they retired tomorrow– have already done enough to merit selection to the Hall of Fame?”

  1. Players listed who are now enshrined (16): Reggie Jackson, Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver, George Brett, Don Sutton, Eddie Murray, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Robin Yount, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Nolan Ryan, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Gary Carter, Tony Perez
  2. Players listed who aren’t enshrined (4): Ron Guidry, Pete Rose, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy

“Which players in your league have a chance to make the Hall of Fame if they continue to play at the level they are currently demonstrating?”

  1. Players listed who are now enshrined (4): Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Ryne Sandberg
  2. Players listed who aren’t enshrined (6): Harold Baines, Kent Hrbek, Fernando Valenzuela, Willie McGee, Mike Marshall, Tim Raines

“Which players in your league with four years experience or less have demonstrated the potential to someday qualify for the Hall of Fame?”

  1. Players listed who are now enshrined (1): Tony Gwynn
  2. Players listed who aren’t enshrined (9): Don Mattingly, Tony Fernandez, Bret Saberhagen, Jose Canseco, George Bell, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Vince Coleman, Orel Hershiser

Don’t be surprised if some of the players here, particularly from the first group, arefuture Veterans Committee selections. The committee, after all, is comprised largely of the baseball establishment. I doubt their thinking on Hall of Fame worthiness has changed that much since 1986.

9 Replies to “Future Hall of Famers, as judged in 1986”

  1. Most revealing. A case can be made for most of those who did not make the grade. But Vince Coleman(!) as a future Hall of Famer?? It shows how “insider baseball” overvalued the stolen base. Hrbek was an interesting player; one can understand why he looked like a possible future inductee. Slow, yet agile around the bag and with soft hands. He had impressive offensive skills. He had more walks than strikeouts.

  2. I believe Garvey should be in the HOF ,and maybe the Veterans Committee will put him in one day . Garvey ‘ s ability to perform at a higher level in the post-season ,against the very best competition sets him apart.Fair or unfair to some ,maybe more emphasis should be placed on your post-season performance.

    1. There is no Veterans Committee per se. Garvey’s candidacy would be taken up by the Expansion Era Committee. I understand why some believe Garvey meets the “eye test” for the Hall of Fame: He played on five NL pennant winners, was MVP in 1974, and had six 200-hit seasons. But John Olerud was a better player. Garvey has 37.7 WAR; Olerud has 58.0. The average Hall of Fame first baseman has 65.9 WAR. Neither Garvey nor Olerud are Hall-worthy, I think.

  3. Sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story. Garvey was the face of those great Dodger teams and one of the preeminent stars of the National League in that era . He did hit .338 in the post-season, including 5 World Series.

    1. Graham, I mentioned the name of the committee because there is confusion among some casual fans about which players are eligible for the three committees that will consider players who are no longer subject to election by the BBWAA. Garvey’s rather weak statistical case, combined with the scandals that have dogged him since he retired from the game, make him an unlikely candidate for the Hall. Tim Raines (if he does not earn election his last year on the BBWAA ballot) is much worthier. Dale Murphy is also a better choice than Garvey, I think (and scandal-free). Yet, I don’t think Murphy will earn election.

  4. Chris d., let’s put Gene Tenace in the hall of fame!

    I wrote about Garvey somewhere on these pages, but can’t find it. He’s not a hall of famer. Know how you can tell? When his supporters start coming up with pathetic “proof,” in the form of fairy tales.

    RE; Steve Garvey. One person actually wrote, with a straight face presumably, that we should judge him by his five best seasons (really? excuse me while I go barf). Another said his superb post season play should get him in. For the record, his post season play was merely very good, but certainly not spectacular. 11 home runs in 222 at bats, and a .338 average. “Throw” in the fact that he can’t throw, well……………..

    I don’t dislike these “almost made it” guys, but when someone has to start making arguments that seem very fairy tale-like, it’s a real sign that the player doesn’t belong.

    So, people, keep the fairy tales coming, while I look at what the player actually did.

  5. Marc, the post season numbers you cite for Garvey are actually quite good. And his team never lost a National League playoff series (or All Star Game for that matter).

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