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This is where I start to differ from my normal tiers. Usually, Tier 3 is for players that are still young enough that they could move into Tier 1 or 2. However, enough time has passed since 2000 that it doesn’t make sense to have a separate tier.
Instead, this tier is the players who are closer to borderline enshrinement. They need something to put them over the edge. It may be more prolific seasons. It may be a change in public perception. Whatever it is, you can argue for all of these players to get in this very second and you wouldn’t be watering down the Hall much, if at all.
36. Larry Walker
Basically, he needs voters to learn about park adjustments, rather than just throw out all numbers from Coors Field.
37. Sammy Sosa
38. Gary Sheffield
39. Vladimir Guerrero
All three were more than solid corner outfielders who are firmly on fence. More or less, public perception of them will determine their cases.
40. Kenny Lofton
Lofton was an above average hitter, a great fielder and baserunner, and a center fielder, all of which should add up to a solid Hall player. I’ve covered his case here. Again, it’s just a matter of the Hall voters sitting up and taking notice.
41. Andruw Jones
Again, Jones was an above-average hitter for a long time. But I don’t think people realize just how good of a fielder he was. That’s a key part of his candidacy.
42. Carlos Beltran
43. Adrian Beltre
Both of these players look like they can add significantly to their Hall cases in the next few years. Beltre has a good shot at 3,000 hits to go with his glove. Beltran is another historically great all-around center fielder, definitely worthy of the current standards. It’ll just come down to whether voters take notice.
44. Todd Helton
45. Lance Berkman
46. John Olerud
Three first basemen with similar cases, which hurts them to stand out. This will take people realizing that players can be good hitters without 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, high batting averages, or gaudy RBI totals. Things like hitting doubles or getting on base a lot (or, in Olerud’s case, playing solid defense).
47. Bobby Abreu
Abreu’s kind of like the last three, but with more walks and fewer home runs. A lot of people have been pointing out lately how Tim Raines has been on base 22 more times than Tony Gwynn despite fewer hits to help his case. Well, in a slightly shorter career than either, Abreu has been on base 37 times fewer than Gwynn.
This isn’t to say that Abreu is better than either, but Gwynn was a no-doubt, first ballot pick, and people are starting to realize how Raines has been snubbed. Unless you think someone like Gwynn is already a borderline pick, then there’s probably plenty of the room in the Hall for Abreu.
48. Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown is a player who needs the Hall to move away from pitcher wins and start to recognize context. He was a good player on some bad teams in an era dominated by hitters. Even though he had a 3.28 ERA, his ERA-plus is 127, the same as Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver. His 2,397 strikeouts place him 39th all-time. His strikeouts per nine IP (6.62) is even better, placing him fifteenth among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings. His 2.66 strikeouts-to-walks ratio is 16th all-time among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings.
Fangraphs credits him with 77.2 wins above replacement, while Baseball-Reference’s version puts him at 64.2. Both are well above Hall standards. With Bert Blyleven’s induction, Brown may be the best eligible pitcher not in the Hall. His case isn’t as overwhelming as Maddux’s or Clemens’ or Johnson’s, but few are—Brown is still worthy.
Note that we passed the 3.5 percent cutoff (43) and we’re close to the 4 percent cutoff (49). As a big Hall person, I don’t think any player I’ve covered yet would make a bad inductee. I would also bet that inducting every one of these players raises Cooperstown’s standards.