The 10 Most Overrated Hall of Famers

Several months ago, when this site was in its infancy, I wrote a post, “The 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame.” It remains my most popular post, by far, and has lead to other entries. When in doubt, I learned, the Hall of Fame makes for thought-provoking writing.

Today, I offer a new list. Let me preface this. Bill James used mathematical formulas, years ago, to make his own determinations in his book, Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? I submit no such claim and, in fact, am deliberately not including his choices. There’s no sense in trying to compete with James, and I don’t know his methodology, sabermetrics.  It is one of those things I’ve meant to pick up but haven’t, like Spanish, HTML coding and guitar.  I also am putting a few players on in the hopes of stirring debate. I considered including Joe DiMaggio, but thought better of it.

Also, the following players aren’t necessarily the worst in Cooperstown. Some are, but most are simply guys who I feel got in unjustly, for one reason or another. Consider:

Jim Rice: He got in for what others did or, moreover, what he didn’t do. Probably. If it ever comes out that Rice used steroids, Cooperstown will have problems.

Bruce Sutter: After the floodgates opened on letting relievers in, Sutter was inducted. When I think of great relievers, I think Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, and from this generation, Mariano Rivera and maybe Trevor Hoffman. That’s it. I tend to be hard on relievers, just as I am on defensive stars and designated hitters. True Hall of Famers, in my book, are multi-faceted, game-changing players, the kid I’d pick first on the playground, no question.

Rube Waddell: I love reading about Waddell in Ken Burns Baseball, hearing how the child-like star pitcher could be distracted with puppies and lured from the mound by the sound of firetrucks. If there were a Hall of Fame for storied characters in baseball history, Waddell would be a first-ballot inductee. But the facts are that he won 197 games and drank himself out of the big leagues while he was still young. This wasn’t as funny when it happened with Dwight Gooden.

Dizzy Dean: Ditto.

Lou Boudreau: As noted here before, Boudreau was an extremely similar hitter to Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera belongs in no Hall of Fame, not even the Montreal Expos team Hall of Fame (which is probably in an airport restroom somewhere.)

Gaylord Perry: So, yeah, this choice might be controversial. After all, Perry won 314 games and reinvented himself many times. Among his generation, he was one of the very few best pitchers in the game. But he did it in part by cheating, throwing a ball that had more grease on it than an engine. Had Perry played a generation later, he’d have no shot at the Hall of Fame. Just look what’s happening to Roger Clemens.

Rabbit Maranville: When in doubt, Maranville is a name for angry supporters of a player who can’t get in the Hall of Fame, as in: “Why can’t Dale Murphy get in the Hall of Fame, if Rabbit Maranville can?” For good reason, as Maranville hit .258 lifetime. Granted, he was a solid defensive shortstop, but I’m generally against recognizing these sorts of players unless they’re Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel.  Aside from all that, perhaps the biggest injustice is that the year writers voted Maranville in, 1954, they declined to induct DiMaggio.

Phil Rizzuto: As noted before, Rizzuto falls into a class of players I like to call, “If they played for the Washington Senators…” As in, if they had played for the Senators, they’d have no shot at the Hall of Fame. They can mostly be noted for holding down jobs for long stretches on hallowed clubs. Others in this class include Earle Combs, Pee Wee Reese, Tony Lazzeri, Lefty Gomez and Bill Dickey. If Gil Hodges gets in Cooperstown, he can be grouped here too. Rizzuto made his name playing shortstop for great Yankee teams in the 1940s and ’50s, in the same lineup as DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Rizzuto did an able job, seemed like a nice guy, and had a long career as a broadcaster after he retired. But he also hit .273 lifetime.

Dave Bancroft: Bancroft is in an opposite school to Rizzuto, one of those players who can mostly be noted for being the best member on really terrible teams. I don’t like this kind of recognition, just as I don’t think it’s right to have a token All Star from the Pittsburgh Pirates each year.

Tinker to Evers to Chance: I’ll group together these three– Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance– because they were a famed double play combination for the Chicago Cubs in the early twentieth century. Defensively adept though they may have been, none had more than 1,700 hits or hit .300 lifetime. Without each other, none would have made the Hall of Fame.

25 Replies to “The 10 Most Overrated Hall of Famers”

  1. I can’t disagree with a lot that you wrote. Frank Chance would get more consideration from me because of what he did as a manager.
    Gaylord Perry is a Hall of Famer. Did he cheat? Yes. Did he use the spitter for every pitch? No, maybe only a couple times a game. But the threat was always there.
    Being a Yankee fan, I remember dreading when Jim Rice came to bat. I think he is also a Hall of Famer.
    Maranville and Bancroft always made me doubt the validity of the Hall of Fame voting process. Roger Bresnahan is another head shaker.


    1. Hi Kevin, thanks for reading.

      I almost wish there was a hybrid wing of the Hall of Fame, where players could also be considered for their coaching and/or broadcasting efforts. By that token, I’d have no problem with having Chance in Cooperstown, along with Gil Hodges, Joe Torre, Larry Dierker and maybe even Dusty Baker.

  2. Sutter was better than Fingers, at least in my opinion. Sutter had an ERA+ of 136, and topped 150 three times, all in years he threw 100 innings. Fingers had an ERA+ of 119 and only threw a hundred innings and topped 150 once. Sutter led the league in saves 5 times. Fingers did it three times. Their SV%’s are essentially the same.

  3. You’re so right about Bruce Sutter. They might as well open the flood gates. Most closers are overrated anyway. These recent Hall members are also overrated: Eckersley, Gossage, Nolan Ryan (yes I dare), Don Sutton, Phil Niekro.

    1. I dunno, I like Eckersley, though imagine if he’d sustained his level of dominance for an entire career. It’d be like Mariano Rivera, one of the few closers from this generation I’m really sold on.

  4. I’ve thought for a long time that Lloyd Waner deserves a spot on the all-over-rated HoF team. And you hit the nail on the head with Maranville.

    1. Hi Jerry, thank you.

      It seems like Lloyd Waner needed his brother Paul to make Cooperstown. Looking at his career stats on Baseball-Reference, Lloyd’s 2,459 hits and .316 lifetime batting average jump out at me, though he was essentially done at 32 and only made one All Star appearance.

      My favorite Waner stories concern Paul. I like how when he tried to quit drinking in 1938, his batting average tanked and his manager Pie Traynor escorted him back to the bar. There’s also a great quote in The Glory of Their Times, of Paul finding himself in a depleted Yankee outfield during World War II, a fan asking why he was there, and Paul responding, “Because Joe DiMaggio’s in the army.”

  5. You are wrong about Rizzuto and those “great” Yankee teams, particularly the 1949-1953 World Champions. Those first Stengel teams were made up of damaged oldtimers on the way down(DiMaggio, Mize, Sain, Hopp, Henrich) and flawed rookies who had problems (Mantle, Coleman, Brown, Berra, Collins).There was no regular first baseman; Stengel platooned Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown at third, and Woodling/Bauer in the outfield. If it weren’t for the three veteran journeymen pitchers– Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, and Eddie Lopat–the Yankees would have gone nowhere. They should be in the HofF on one plaque. But, the only steady infielder, miracle bunter, and one-time MVP was Rizzuto, who had no arm, but possessed the fastest hands and release in baseball. At 5′ 6″, he was truly remarkable. The three great shortstops of the era were Rizzuto, Reese, and Marty Marion of the Cardinals: they all belong in the Hall.

    1. “The three great shortstops of the era were Rizzuto, Reese, and Marty Marion of the Cardinals: they all belong in the Hall.” – S.G.

      Ummm, sorry Marty (Marion); absolutely not! However Sol, you neglected to include Luke Appling (HOF), Lou Boudreau (HOF) & Johnny Pesky; incidentally one of the absolute BEST ballplayers (at ANY position) NOT in the HOF (see stats).

  6. I think Bill James makes a good case for Tinker to Evers to Chance in his Baseball Abstract. How else could the Cubs have won so many games from 1906 on without a sterling defensive infield?

  7. Well, not to belabor the point (or maybe to belabor it a little), Lloyd is in the Hall because of the .316 BA and because he is Paul’s brother. If you cover up the BA column, you have a guy who hit nothing but singles, never walked and stole about 4 bases a year. Hell, I could do that. I can’t argue with the pitchers you mentioned, but I would like to also nominate Jesse Haines, Eppa Rixey and Ted Lyons.

  8. Mantle came up in 1951 and broke watercoolers until he was sent down. Berra wasn’t even the starting catcher on Opening Day of the ’49 season. The pitchers didn’t allow him to call the game until half way through that year. He was afraid to call for curve balls. Dickey and the three pitchers formed him. Take another look at those five years. Stacked? Certainly not in 1949 and 1950. Things started coming together in ’51, and that’s when Rizzuto won his MVP. He belongs in Cooperstown. But, so do Allie, Vic, and Eddie.

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if Allie Reynolds is a Veterans Committee pick in the not-too-distant future. He has some of the most Hall of Fame votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America of any player not in the Cooperstown. In 1968, for instance, Reynolds got more votes than nine future Hall of Famers, while no one who’s yet to be enshrined finished in front of him.

      Eddie Lopat and Vic Raschi don’t seem as likely to make it. They got less support from the writers and won fewer games. I’d probably employ the same argument with them that I use with Rizzuto: Had they played for a team like the Senators rather than the Yankees, they’d essentially be forgotten.

      One other thing. To offer a factual point, Rizzuto was MVP in 1950, Berra in 1951.

      Anyhow, thanks for commenting. I appreciate you taking the time to offer thoughtful, constructive criticism rather than a quick “You suck.”

  9. The three pitchers are a study in synergy:when the whole is greater than the individual parts, just like Tinker/Evers/Chance, who should not be in as individuals. Look at the their records. It was together that they did something extraordinary.What Reynolds, Raschi, and Lopat did is never to be repeated; it’s Hall of Fame. No one remembers Raschi’s three consecutive 21 victory seasons. Neither he nor Lopat had a Hall of Fame career as individuals; but these three men did something inconceivable. Too bad Cooperstown doesn’t get it…and I am still a big Rizzuto fan. Nice talking.Maybe Trammell and Whitaker should go in together…

    1. I hadn’t thought of it that way– perhaps if Raschi/Reynolds/Lopat had poetry written about them, they’d be in Cooperstown.

      My guess is that Whitaker is a Veterans Committee pick waiting to happen, since he inexplicably was a one-and-done candidate. I suppose by the time Whitaker becomes eligible for the committee, Trammell may be enshrined. Perhaps their plaques can hang together.

      1. Whitaker really doesn’t have the numbers, but Alan Trammell having to wait for the veterans committee when they voted no-hit Ozzie Smith in on the first ballot is a crime. .

  10. Well, I agree with some of this, and disagree with some of it. Boudreau is the 17th best SS in the history of the game according to bWAR, and has 56 WAR. He was an above average defensive SS with great offense for the position. I think he deserves to be there. 17th best at SS is equivalent to Killebrew at 1B, and I can’t imagine anyone putting Harmon in the most overrated category.
    Boudreau, Bancroft, Tinker, Rizzuto are all better than Vizquel, both offensively and defensively. Tinker is 19th at SS in WAR, Bancroft 21st.
    Rizzuto has lower cumulative stats, but he also lost 3 years to WWII, and you have mentioned supporting Dom DiMaggio with credit for his three lost years, yet he put up 10 WAR less in his career than Scooter. Give Scooter 3 WAR/Year (conservative based on where he was in his career and how he performed in the surrounding years), that puts him over 50 WAR, and 18th all time at SS.
    Chance is the only real egregious choice out of the Cubs trio. Tinker was 19th at SS, Evers was 18th at 2B, but chance was 29th at 1B, although about the same as Tony Perez (another not so great choice).
    And Gaylord was good whether he greased the ball (which was rarely) or not.

  11. Realize this’ is and old post and may get no reply, however, to quote a portion of your response to Bruce Sutter you say “I tend to be hard on relievers, just as I am on defensive stars and designated hitters.”

    If you are truly hard on defensive stars how can you not include Ozzie Smith on your list?

  12. Dizzy Dean definitely belongs on this list. He only played a handful of seasons, but was no Christy Mathewson. Add Jack Morris to that list, too. And Mariano Rivera had the EASIEST gig to get into the Hall of Fame. This guy only pitched one or two innings, never batted, and was basically didn’t get many chances fielding baseballs. I hereby proclaim that Rivera is the most overrated baseball player to be in the Hall of Fame.

  13. The 1921-1924 Giants won four pennants with eight hall of famers. George Kelly, Bill Terry, Frankie Frisch, Dave Bancroft, Travis Jackson, Fred Lindstrom, Ross Youngs , and Hack Wilson are all enshrined. I would argue that Frisch and Terry definitely belong, Wilson is marginal and Bancroft, Jackson, Kelly, Lindstrom and Young’s in no way belong. They had some fine offensive stats but so did everyone else in this era. Wilson had five amazing years and then drank his way out of baseball.
    Tommy McCarthy is also a joke.

  14. Bo’ Sox Johnny Pesky was better than ’em all … and wrongfully NOT in the HOF … See stats … .305 lifetime BA …

  15. Did Manny do roids?…his offensive stats measure up to anybody’s
    how about Maz getting kicked out? great defensively but c’mon a lifetime .299 OBP

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