Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Vince Coleman

Claim to fame: I saw Vince Coleman got a few votes in my recent project on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, six votes out of 86 ballots to be precise, and I noticed something interesting. I noticed this thing again in a forum discussion on Monday over at Baseball Think Factory. That thing I noticed goes something like this: A lot of people want to see Tim Raines in the Hall of Fame (including yours truly), and Raines has 808 stolen bases and is fifth on the all-time steals list. Coleman has 752 steals and is sixth. If Raines goes in the Hall of Fame, does Coleman need to also be enshrined? The short answer is no, but let’s explore that question further.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Coleman received 0.6 percent of the vote his only year on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown in 2003. Under the Veterans Committee’s new format of considering players depending on their era, Coleman will first be eligible with the committee in 2019.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? So Vince Coleman has 752 steals. He also led the National League his first six seasons and stole over 100 bases each of his first three years in the majors. He even had pretty good efficiency, being caught stealing just 177 times for an 81 percent success rate. Does this make Coleman a Hall of Famer? Eh, not really.

Coleman’s essentially a one-trick pony. Besides a lot of stolen bases, I’m not sure what else his Hall of Fame case consists of. Coleman hit .264 lifetime and had 1,425 hits in 13 seasons. His lifetime OPS+ of 83 would very nearly be the worst of any position player enshrined, just beating Rabbit Maranville’s 82. Without checking, Coleman’s career Wins Above Replacement of 9.4 would seemingly be the lowest by far of any player in Cooperstown, making Tommy McCarthy and his 19.0 WAR look epic. Cooperstown’s enshrined some lousy candidates before, but Coleman would vault almost instantly to the top of any list of the worst players in the Hall of Fame. There could be a dual ceremony while he was being inducted.

And then there are the extracurricular points against Coleman that my Twitter followers educated me on, such as:

  • As a rookie, Coleman professed to not know who Jackie Robinson was. (credit @lecroy24fan)
  • Coleman threw cherry bombs at kids in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. (credit @Joeneverleft)
  • While warming up on-field, he once got run over by an automatic tarp. Better, it happened in the postseason and knocked Coleman out for the duration while his St. Louis Cardinals went on to lose the World Series. You cannot make this up. (credit @lecroy24fan and @baseballtwit)
I have a hunch Raines will eventually be honored by the Veterans Committee. When that happens, it will be interesting to see if traditional baseball media makes any to-do about Coleman. Raines dwarfs Coleman for stats, with a far better OPS+ rating, about twice as many hits, and nearly seven times as much WAR, but Hall of Fame voters don’t always closely follow sabermetrics. In fact, they rarely do.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger Maris, Ron CeyRon GuidryRon SantoSmoky Joe WoodSteve
,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaWill Clark