Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Juan Gonzalez

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 OliverAlbert BelleBert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil TravisChipper JonesDan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Jack MorrisJoe CarterJohn SmoltzKeith HernandezLarry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark

11 Replies to “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Juan Gonzalez”

  1. Gonzalez ALWAYS put up huge numbers even from the time he was in the low minors, whereas Barry Bonds put up shafty numbers until he started bulking up–go back and look how crappy Bonds’ numbers were early in his career. And don’t even talk about stolen bases, who cares…. Also, Eddie Murray NEVER hit 40 home runs ONCE, and I would rather have Mr. “effectively done at 32” Gonzalez than some old man that managed to hump his way to the numbers. Look at how young Koufax was when he left the game. The longevity argument is the argument you use when you’ve got little to go on.

    1. I agree. Juan Gonzalez could rake. How he is not getting credit for his natural ability like some of the others has always amazed me. Maybe his defense was worse than I realised but don’t remember anyone ever talking about it.

  2. There is no proof of him using steroids. Only here-say from Jose conseco. He belongs in the hof. He amassed great numbers quickly in his short career. Much faster than many of the so called “hof” already inducted

  3. He is a hall of famer. 3 time MVP and a career OPS 3 points less than Griffey. Never tested positive. He was a monster.

  4. Well Juan Gonzalez does not belong in the hall of fame. I have it on good authority that he is a major supporter of Unum a rotten disability claims outfit. He probably did steroids and loves seeing peoples claims denied to boot. He is a all around bad guy! Juan if you are reading this you know what you did!

    1. Ivan you are not doubt a shameless Unum lover and apologist like your hero Juan Gonzalez. Maybe you should shoot up some steroids then go write ten denial letters to people who are injured or sick denying their disability benefits because that is type of person you are. Unum would probably give you a job and Juan a pat on the back.

      If Jose Canseco is not in the Hall neither is Juan they are that caliber of player. Good but not great, this is not the Hall of Okay players, right.

      1. The HOF has nothing to do with how well someone did their job after baseball but how well they played the game. This is what they are judged on. If a voter has a grudge against players to be voted on, they should consider giving their spot to someone else who can be more objective IMO.

  5. Mark,

    You do not belong commenting on this Hall of Fame board. No doubt next to your Unum poster is one of Juan “The Cheater” Gonzalez you kiss every night. Juan was a chemical creation and a terrible teammate to boot. I think he was fortunate to win 2 MVPs and like Dale Murphy another 2-time MVP is not hall of fame caliber player.

    Why don’t you get a job at Unum write some adverse decision letters so I can bash you and arch enemy Unum on my website.

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