10 MLB Hall of Fame Hopefuls Who Will Never Be Voted in

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2012

10 MLB Hall of Fame Hopefuls Who Will Never Be Voted in

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    This year's Hall of Fame ballot promises to be an interesting one, as the likes of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Craig Biggio are all eligible for the first time.

    Obviously the biggest storyline will be how the voters deal with Clemens and Bonds, two of the most prolific producers to ever set foot on the field.

    Will they be punished the same as everyone else suspected of using PEDs, or will they be rewarded for the Hall of Fame careers they put up prior to their alleged PED use?

    Personally I think both will find their way into Cooperstown sometime down the road, though it will likely take some waiting on their part.

    Looking at the rest of the eligible class on the ballot, here is my take on the 10 guys with Hall of Fame aspirations who will never be voted in.

    Just to clarify, only players on this year's ballot and with a legitimate case for enshrinement were considered.

Kenny Lofton

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    Lofton was the premier leadoff hitter of the 1990s, serving as the catalyst for some terrific Indians lineups throughout the decade.

    He led the league in steals five straight seasons on his way to 622 career thefts, good for 15th-best of all time.

    In total, he hit .299 with 2,428 hits over his 17-year career and he certainly ranks as one of the best leadoff hitters in the history of the game.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    Lofton would be a first-ballot selection for the Hall of Really Good, but in the end he just lacks the offensive milestones for Cooperstown.

    His first eight seasons in the league were stellar, as he made the All-Star team six times on his way to a .311/.387/.432 slash line.

    He dropped out of that upper echelon after that though, and while he remained a solid player for several years, he was not able to sustain his early career greatness long enough.

Dale Murphy

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    Murphy was among the premier offensive players of the 1980s, as he slugged 308 home runs for the decade and captured back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983.

    He was also a five-time Gold Glove winner in center field, an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that he began his career as a catcher.

    When all was said and done, Murphy had 398 home runs, 1,266 RBI and 2,111 hits over his 18-year playing career that was spent almost entirely in Atlanta.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    Murphy passes the test of comparison to his peers, as there is no denying he was one of the greatest players of his era. However, he does not stack up as favorably in comparison to current Hall of Famers.

    His .265 career average hurts him, and the fact the he is unable to offset it with the gaudy home run and RBI totals one looks for in a Hall of Fame slugger will be what keeps him out in what will be his final year on the ballot.

Don Mattingly

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    "Donnie Baseball" was the face of the Yankees during the 1980s, and he turned in some terrific seasons for the Bombers.

    He won the batting title in 1984 with a .343 mark, and followed that up with AL MVP honors in 1985 when he hit .323 BA, 35 HR, 145 RBI.

    He finished up his 14-year career with a .307 BA, 222 HR, 1,099 RBI line, and he complemented those offensive skills with nine Gold Glove awards at first base.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    Back problems limited Mattingly's production following the 1987 season, and while he'd play through 1995 he was never the same player he was during the first few years of his career.

    His peak wasn't long enough to give him Ralph Kiner-like treatment and simply enshrine him for his dominance over a short period of time, and while he has his place in Yankees history, he'll never be a Hall of Famer.

Lee Smith

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    When Smith retired following the 1997 season, his 478 career saves ranked as the highest total of all time. While he's since been passed by a pair of future Hall of Famers in Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, he still stands at third on that list.

    He topped the 20-save mark, which was still an achievement during the first half of his career, an impressive 13 different times and led the league in that category four times. He also scored a trio of top-five finishes in Cy Young voting during his career.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    The Hall of Fame has been very strict about letting relievers in, with some exceptions being Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and the underwhelming Bruce Sutter. While Smith topped 50 percent of the vote for the first time last year, he has just five more years on the ballot.

    He was consistent over an 18-year span, but he was never quite the lights-out closer that guys like the aforementioned Hoffman and Rivera were. 

    His 71-92 record and 3.03 ERA are far from dominant numbers, and at the end of the day, now that he is no longer the all-time saves leader he has even less of a case.

Alan Trammell

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    A strong case can be made that Trammell is among the greatest shortstops to ever play the game, and I ranked him as No. 13 when I compiled my 50 greatest of all time at the position.

    His .285 BA, 185 HR, 1,003 RBI career line is impressive since the position was largely defensive-oriented during his playing days; those numbers stack up to almost anyone at the position.

    He and Lou Whitaker formed the longest-tenured double play combination of all time, and the duo helped the Tigers to the 1984 World Series, for which Trammell won MVP honors.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    I personally think Trammell is Hall of Fame-worthy, but to this point he has gotten no higher than the 36.8 percent he received last year in 11 years on the ballot.

    His support has slowly climbed, but the chances of him reaching the necessary 75 percent seem remote at this point. He could potentially have a shot with the Veterans Committee down the road, but it looks like he'll ride out the next four years on the ballot falling short.

Fred McGriff

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    A driving force in the middle of one of the best teams of the 1990s, McGriff was a model of consistency during his 19 seasons in the big leagues.

    He had 10 seasons with at least 30 home runs and eight with at least 100 RBI as he was annually among the game's best run producers.

    The "Crime Dog" finished his career with 493 home runs and 1,550 RBI, and his .886 OPS ranks 80th best of all time.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    While he was solid throughout his career, McGriff was never the best player at his position as he played alongside guys like Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Mark McGwire among others.

    He fell just short of the once-magical 500 HR threshold, and while he was an important part of the Braves' success during the 1990s he was never the face of the team.

Larry Walker

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    A three-time batting title winner who finished his career with a .313/.400/.565 slash line, Walker was the face of the Rockies during the late '90s and early '00s, and despite battling injuries he put up some monster numbers.

    He won NL MVP honors in 1997 with a .366 BA, 49 HR, 130 RBI line and that is accompanied in his trophy case by six Gold Gloves as he had one of the strongest arms of all time from right field.

    Skeptics will point to the Coors Field effect, but his 141 OPS+ is a pretty good counter argument, and it's really hard to overlook his .965 career OPS which ranks 16th of all time.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    While his peripheral numbers are terrific, nagging injuries kept Walker's career counting numbers from reaching Hall of Fame levels as he finished his career with 383 home runs and 1,311 RBI.

    When he was on the field, Walker played like a Hall of Famer, but at the end of the day he just wasn't on the field enough to make him a serious candidate. He'll likely stick around on the ballot for a while, but his chances aren't great.

Rafael Palmeiro

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    Looking strictly at the numbers, Palmeiro had a phenomenal career, as he is one of only four players with 3,000 hits and 500 HR in his career.

    He hit just .288 for his career, but that is easily offset by 569 home runs and 1,835 RBI as he ranks as one of the most prolific power hitters to ever play the game.

    From 1995-2003, Palmeiro had at least 38 home runs and 104 RBI each season as he was a consistent offensive force for the Rangers and Orioles.

     

    Why He Won't Make It

    The lasting image of Palmeiro's career is not anything he did on the field, but him wagging his finger at Congress and proclaiming he never used steroids, only to test positive shortly thereafter.

    He's received 11.0 and 12.6 percent of the vote his first two years on the ballot, and that's not likely to change anytime soon as he is a prime example of someone whose numbers were bloated by their PED use.

Sammy Sosa

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    Sosa captured the attention of the nation along with Mark McGwire as the duo chased Roger Maris' historic single-season home run mark in 1998.

    That chase is largely credited for bringing baseball all the way back from the 1994 strike, and in hitting 66 home runs that season Sosa captured NL MVP honors and led the Cubs to the postseason for the first time since 1989.

    He went on to finish his career with 609 home runs and 1,667 RBI, and even though he struck out a ton he still finished with a solid .273 average.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    When Sosa joined the Cubs in 1992, he was a slim 30/30 threat who was as much an athlete as he was a slugger.

    In the years to come, he ballooned up in the same way guys like McGwire and Barry Bonds did, and while he's never been formally linked to steroids there is little doubt in most people's minds. That will be enough to keep him out of the Hall.

Mark McGwire

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    His Case For Enshrinement

    McGwire has a bit more interesting case than the previous two guys on this list for a number of reasons, though he still has an uphill battle.

    First off, McGwire has come clean and admitted to using steroids and has since been welcomed back to the baseball world with open arms as a hitting coach. If nothing else, he can be respected for finally facing the music like a man, unlike a number of his peers.

    McGwire was an absolute beast from the moment he broke into the league, setting a rookie record with 49 home runs back in 1987. He certainly benefited from his PED use, but he likely would have hit a good deal of the 583 long balls he launched even without help.

     

    Why He Won't Get In

    McGwire has actually seen his support for the Hall drop since he first appeared on the ballot in 2007, as he got his lowest total yet at 19.5 percent last season.

    His admitted steroid use leaves no doubt in the voters' minds, and for the time being no one seems ready to do anything but exclude the Steroid Era from Cooperstown—so that means no dice for Big Mac.