Claim to fame: Gonzalez was one of the best power hitters of the 1990s, smacking 339 of his 434 home runs in the decade. He didn’t have the most homers in the ’90s, thanks to Mark McGwire who had 405, though Gonzalez topped 40 homers five seasons, led the American League in dingers twice, and also drove in runs at a machine-like pace, averaging better than one RBI per game in 1996 and again in 1998. Compiling these numbers in an earlier era, Gonzalez would be a cinch for induction. As it stands, he looks like a long shot. In fact, he could be one of the best one-and-done candidates.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Having last played in 2005, Gonzalez joins Jeff Bagwell, Larry Walker, and Kevin Brown as a first time candidate this year on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown. Gonzalez needs 75 percent of the vote to be enshrined and will be disqualified from future writers ballots if he gets less than 5 percent of the vote. Crazier things have happened. Just ask Will Clark, Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker and so many other solid players overlooked by the writers their only time on the ballot.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? No, of course not, though I suspect people will be grouping Gonzalez in the “I wouldn’t enshrine him, but he deserved a little more consideration” camp of players before too long.
He already has some supporters. Gonzalez recently tied for 61st place out of more than 300 players in a poll I conducted to determine the 50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame. After I published the results of that project, one person went so far as to publicly shame us for not ranking Gonzalez higher. I was a bit of an ass in my response to his comment, though I don’t like being condescended to, and I believe we were more than fair in our voting. Frankly, I think Gonzalez got a much higher percentage of the vote with us, 23.8 percent, than he’ll get with the writers. I’ll be astonished if Gonzalez tops 20 percent with them.
Why am I against enshrining Gonzalez? Simple. I, like a lot of other fans, writers, and baseball folk (such as Gonzalez’s owner, Tom Hicks and his teammate Jose Canseco) think he used steroids. I’m willing to excuse Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and any other elite player who may have juiced, since I believe they would have put up Hall of Fame numbers clean; Gonzalez on the other hand, not so much. Throw in the fact that Gonzalez played his best years in Texas, was effectively done at 32, and would have one of the worst career defensive WAR ratings at -8.8 of any enshrined position player and honoring him starts to seem a little crazy.
If we’re going to do crazy, let’s do crazy right. Let’s induct Canseco, whose Hall of Fame speech I would pay to see.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Jack Morris, Joe Carter, John Smoltz, Keith Hernandez, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark