The most-deserving players not in the Hall of Fame: Catchers

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A few weeks ago, with the help of the survey website Qualtrics, I asked people to address a common Baseball Hall of Fame argument.

Often, when people talk about candidates, they’ll say that they’re okay with one going in but not before another. Accordingly, I created a survey with 10 players at each position, asking them to rank them from 1 for most-deserving of induction to 10 for least-deserving.

Voting wrapped at midnight on Aug. 1, with 425 responses in. Having debuted results for pitchers yesterday morning, it’s my pleasure to now unveil results for catchers. I will add, before we get into parsing the rankings, that while Thurman Munson didn’t finish top overall, I chose his picture to highlight this post because of the tragic death at 32 of the former New York Yankees’ captain in an airplane accident 40 years ago today.

Q2 – Rank the following catchers, ranging from 1 for most-deserving of Hall of Fame induction to 10 for least-deserving

PlayerAverage ranking
Joe Mauer3.42
Ted Simmons4.15
Yadier Molina4.54
Buster Posey4.54
Thurman Munson4.64
Bill Freehan5.90
Jorge Posada6.11
Elston Howard6.40
Charlie Bennett7.28
Gene Tenace8.02

[From a survey of 425 respondents, fielded via Qualtrics]

Once again, I’m struck by the parity. After Joe Mauer, whose Hall of Fame case looks encouraging based on how he fared here, it’s a four-way battle between two of the best catchers of the 1970s, Ted Simmons and Thurman Munson, and two of the most-celebrated in the game today, Yadier Molina and Buster Posey. It’ll be interesting to see how long this debate persists, depending on how long it takes for Molina and Posey’s enshrinement. Simmons and Munson have long been debated in Cooperstown conversations.

More thorough results for how people ranked each catcher are wild. There’s really no clear consensus here.


Simmons’ results particularly strike me. Simba, the Posey of the ’70s in my book, got the most first-place votes. But he also got the fourth-most ninth place votes and just six fewer than Molina, Posey, Munson, and Mauer combined. Don’t ask me how these things work. The second half of Simmons’ career, when he went from a young standout backstop with the St. Louis Cardinals to an injury-riddled first baseman wasn’t great. But Molina, Posey, Munson, and Mauer all experienced declines after their 30th birthdays as well. And if I’m making an all-time Cardinals team, Simmons is my catcher over Molina any day of the week.

Moving on, I’m struck by the divide thereafter, with Bill Freehan, Jorge Posada, Elston Howard, Charlie Bennett, and Gene Tenace totaling 52 first place votes collectively. To me, it hints that none of the five have great chances for Cooperstown. This isn’t the worst injustice, though cases can be made for each of them. Freehan, in particular, might be one of the more underrated players in baseball history, a wonderful catcher of the 1960s and a linchpin of some superb Detroit Tigers teams. He’s been battling Alzheimer’s disease and in hospice care in recent months. Anything to celebrate the man is a plus in my book.

I’m a little bummed to see that once again, a couple of sabermetric favorite candidates fared poorly here. Yesterday, I was noting the dismal rankings for Rick Reuschel and Wes Ferrell. Today, it appears that word still hasn’t gotten out on Tenace, one of the best offensive catchers in baseball history by OPS+ or Bennett, one of the premier catchers of the 19th century before he lost his legs in a train accident.

That said, I thank everyone for reading so far and will post the results for first basemen on Monday.

The most-deserving players not in the Hall of Fame: Pitchers

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A few weeks ago, I kicked off a challenge here.

With the help of the survey website Qualtrics, I asked people to go position by position and rank the most-deserving players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, ranging from 1 for most-deserving to 10 for least-deserving. I gave a list of 10 players at each position, based primarily on who I thought voters would expect to be in the poll.

That said, after 425 responses, voting has officially wrapped for this poll. I will be presenting the results here of the survey over the next week or so, going position by position. Today, it’s my pleasure to present how people voted on pitchers.

Q1 – Rank the following pitchers, ranging from 1 for most-deserving of Hall of Fame induction to 10 for least-deserving

PlayerAverage ranking
Roger Clemens2.44
Curt Schilling3.50
Kevin Brown5.29
David Cone5.52
CC Sabathia5.55
Tommy John5.56
Luis Tiant5.68
Jim Kaat5.92
Wes Ferrell7.60
Rick Reuschel7.94

[From a survey of 425 respondents, fielded via Qualtrics]

No real surprises at the top, I suppose. Opposition has cooled considerably in recent years toward enshrining Clemens, a brilliant pitcher long before rumors of performance enhancing drug use surfaced. He drew 59.5 percent of the vote in his most recent appearance on the writers’ ballot for Cooperstown. I suspect he will reach the necessary 75 percent sometime in his remaining three years of eligibility. The ballot just isn’t that strong over the next few years.

Looking at the names below, Curt Schilling is probably moving toward enshrinement. I’m struck by the parity between Kevin Brown and Jim Kaat. I’m a little bummed to see Wes Ferrell and Rick Reuschel anchoring the list, though it’s not stunning. I put Ferrell and Reuschel in the survey partly in tribute to my friend and fellow baseball researcher Adam Darowski, who has advocated heavily for their induction in recent years, though each has a nuanced case that could be overlooked in a quick survey. That said, if I field this again in the future, I’ll probably sub in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer for Ferrell and Reuschel.

I should add that unlike most of the other positions in this survey, it was difficult to get the list of pitchers down to 10 names. I contemplated going 15 names just for pitchers, but thought it would look too out of sync with the rest of the survey. That said, here are some names I wanted to put in but didn’t have space for this time: Verlander, Johan Santana, Dave Stieb, Andy Pettitte, Orel Hershiser, and Dwight Gooden.

For anyone who cares, here’s a more detailed breakdown of the votes each pitcher received for each ranking.


Qualtrics allows more sophisticated functionality. While I was limited through my free account to 10 questions and thus chose to forgo demographic questions to get the maximum amount of data, it is possible to use filters to show how certain voters voted. I’ll be diving into the filters more as I post about the results of other positions, but for now, here are a few fun ones:

  • The 41 voters who ranked Schilling first ranked Clemens eighth-worst among the field, ahead of only Wes Ferrell and Rick Reuschel, with an average ranking for Clemens of 7.00.
  • The 38 voters who gave Roger Clemens a ranking of 10 ranked Curt Schilling top, at 3.63 on average, followed by Tommy John at 4.18, and Luis Tiant at 4.24. I’m struck again by the level of parity in this survey after Clemens. Were there a clear consensus, someone would be closer to 1 here.
  • The 43 voters who ranked Tommy John, Jim Kaat, or Luis Tiant top overall gave Clemens an average ranking of 6.74, again ahead of only Ferrell and Reuschel.

I’ll get into comparisons for Clemens with some of the other controversial candidates in this survey (Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Pete Rose) as I get to those results posts. There are some interesting findings to highlight along these lines as we get there.

That said, look for the results for catchers tomorrow. I’ll add in hyperlinks for each subsequent post, allowing anyone who happens upon this post later to easily be able to navigate between the different positions.

Vote: The most-deserving players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame at each position

Back in 2010, I started a semi-annual exercise here. Four times over the course of four years, I had people vote on the 50 best players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a fun exercise, though I eventually stopped doing it for a few reasons. Mostly, the effort seemed like it was starting to run its course creatively and in terms of research value for the amount of work involved.

Lately, though, I’ve been getting the urge to run another poll. Accordingly, I’ve created a survey which draws on my past efforts, but asks a slightly different question.

Essentially, when people talk about Cooperstown and the players not enshrined, they’ll sometimes say that one player should be enshrined but not before another. The following survey goes position by position and asks people to rank 10 players from most-deserving to least-deserving of induction. As with previous polls I’ve done, banned players Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose are here; so are some active and recently-retired folks.

For anyone interested, a link to the poll is here, via the survey website Qualtrics.

I’ll keep the survey open through the end of the month and look to publish results in early August. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback via Have fun voting!

A glut of articles

It’s Tuesday, and I have two new articles out today. I also realized I’ve neglected to post a few other links here.

Let’s go down the list:

  • First off, today’s the 37th anniversary of Thurman Munson’s death in a plane crash. For Sporting News, I took another look at his Hall of Fame case;
  • For The National Pastime Museum, I wrote about Johnny Frederick, a crack hitter from the early 1930s who couldn’t last in the majors. I’m doing a live chat about this article tomorrow at noon PST. I’d love if anyone free could come out. It should be fun;
  • Last week at Sporting News, I evaluated a series of recent Hall of Fame rule changes and what they could mean for players like Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, and Buck O’Neil;
  •  Finally, over the past month, I’ve started contributing at another baseball history website, Dugout Legends. I’m doing shorter, quicker articles for them, the kind of stuff I used to do a lot here but have gotten away from. It’s nice to have an excuse to be doing these kinds of articles again. Anyhow, I’ve written four articles so far for them and am contributing weekly.

That said, happy reading!

The 25 worst Baseball Hall of Fame selections

Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is a few days away, with near-unanimous selection Ken Griffey Jr., as well as Mike Piazza, set to join Cooperstown. By stats, each ranks close to being an inner circle Hall of Famer.

Not every selection in Hall of Fame history has been stellar, though. ForSporting News, I have a new piece ranking the 25 worst Baseball Hall of Fame selections ever.

I went one step further than many people go with these lists. First, I included managers, umpires, and executives. I also suggested alternative selections who were eligible at the time.

I’ve resisted doing one of these lists for several years, as it’s a little more negative than I typically like to go.  As my friend Adam Darowski just tweeted:

Right there with you, Adam. That said, I admit I enjoyed writing this list more than I expected to.

Two new columns, Curt Flood and Andrew McCutchen

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted here, which means a couple new Sporting News columns from me.

First, one that’s fairly innocuous. I wrote about Andrew McCutchen’s budding Hall of Fame case and if a trade might help it.

Second, I wrote about Curt Flood’s Hall of Fame case. Specifically, I think it’s a little overrated because of the historical misconceptions about Flood’s contributions to baseball’s labor movement, misconceptions that persist to this day.

Flood’s son has been pummeling me on Twitter since the story went live, accusing me of being paid to write a hit piece. I’d of course never take money from anywhere but a publication to write a journalistic story. But I’m curious to hear if anyone here agrees with the rest of what Flood’s son said.

Two interesting Hall of Fame cases: Ichiro Suzuki and Joey Votto

It’s Tuesday, which means my latest edition of “Cooperstown Chances” is out for Sporting News. I also realize I forgot to share last week’s column here, so I’m going to drop two links.

First, I wrote about Ichiro Suzuki, who isn’t the “real” hit king now but will be an easy Hall of Famer five years after he retires. I didn’t spend too much time focusing on this in my piece. The real thrust of what I wrote about: a few better players will be lucky to draw 1/10th the votes that Ichiro does.

Meanwhile, I wrote last week about Joey Votto, who ranks as one of the better first basemen in baseball history through his first nine seasons. However, it’s critical Votto continue to rebound from his slump this season if he wants to keep his Hall of Fame hopes alive.

As always, feedback’s welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Two tragic figures: Billy Martin and Benny Kauff

I have two new articles out today, and while I didn’t plan the scheduling, they correspond a little. I wrote about two of the more tragic figures in baseball history, even if the tragedy in each case might have been partly of their doing.

First, for Sporting News, I wrote about Billy Martin’s Hall of Fame case. It’s been 26 years since Martin died in a friend’s drunk driving accident, and I explored if his Hall of Fame window might be closing. The thought: Martin, who’s been a candidate at least six times, might still have a shot, but he’s going to have competition yet again this fall with Jim Leyland newly eligible.

Then for The National Pastime Museum, I wrote about Benny Kauff. Many baseball history fans might know the story of Kauff’s banning, how Kenesaw Mountain Landis made an example of him after his 1921 acquittal for allegedly participating in a car theft ring. What might not be as well known: Kauff’s life after banning, which included numerous arrests, a short playing career, and, finally, redemption. I had fun researching this one.

As always, thanks for reading.

A month’s worth of columns– and why I haven’t been updating

My apologies.

I’ve been busy with various writing obligations and just realized I’ve neglected to post here since April 26. It’s sometimes hard to prioritize this site since, to be blunt, I don’t make any money at it and couldn’t earn anywhere close to a living even if I allowed advertising and pulled out all the stops. There simply isn’t enough interest in baseball history.

If I had a day job or was retired or financially dependent on another person, I might write frequently here. I think most baseball history bloggers fall into one of those three categories. But I’ve been making a living since October as a freelance writer and editor, which has meant focusing on paid work. I know in a given week how much money I need to make and what work I’ll need to do to make it. Most weeks, it’s a hustle.

At some point, I’d like to carve out an hour or two a day to write regularly here. I’m not there yet, though.

That said, here’s a month worth of Sporting News columns:

Again, my apologies. I’ll try to get back to posting links to my columns as I write them.