The 10 Best MLB Players Who Aren't in the Hall of Fame

Bryan Shaffer@Bryan_ShafferFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

The 10 Best MLB Players Who Aren't in the Hall of Fame

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    When perusing the Hall of Fame plaques in Cooperstown, you run across countless legends—Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, to name a few.

    Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the enthrallment and forget the very worthy players who do not share a Cooperstown residence with their more popular compeers.

    Sure, most of the snubs don't have the pedigree of Hank Aaron or Ty Cobb (but really, who does?), but they are players more than worthy of induction to the most prestigious Hall of Fame in North American sports. And that is not even when comparing them to the other players in the Hall; they stand on their own merits.

    Before we proceed, I should mention that for this list, I used only Hall of Fame-eligible players. That means that great players who have not been on the ballot yet, such as Chipper Jones, are not on this list. Also, guys who have been banned from baseball, such as Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, were omitted.

10. Dwight Evans, RF

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    Dwight Evans is one of the best all-around players not in the Hall of Fame.

    Evans took home eight Gold Gloves for his excellent play in right field over his 20-year career. He added to his trophy case with a pair of Silver Slugger awards over the course of his career.

    Evans had some nice pop in his bat, clobbering 385 home runs in his career, 22 of which came in 1981, when he led the league during a strike-shortened season. He didn't post the highest batting average, with a .272 lifetime average, and only one season above .300, but he sure knew how to get on base. He led the league in walks for three seasons, and that kind of plate-discipline contributed to his fine .370 career on-base percentage. He also led the league in slugging during the 1981 and 1984 seasons.

    He put together some other nice career numbers, including 2,446 hits, 1,470 runs, 483 doubles and 1,384 RBI. He was also an important part of two Red Sox pennant-winning teams.

    It is a shame that his abated candidacy lasted just three years, and never saw him collect more than 10.4 percent of the votes. He is certainly more than worthy of having a plaque in Cooperstown.

9. Ted Simmons, C

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    In 1994, Ted Simmons, the then all-time leader in hits for a catcher, was on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

    He received less than five percent of the votes and was promptly dropped from the ballot.

    This is one of the most inexplicable Hall of Fame voting blunders ever. Simmons is one of the 10 best offensive catchers of all-time, and deserves a plaque. 

    At the time of his retirement in 1988, Simmons had not only collected the most hits by a catcher, but also the most doubles and the second-most RBI for players at his position. Ivan Rodriguez has since passed him and taken the top spot in both all-time singles and doubles, but there's certainly no shame in losing your record to a guy like that.

    The .292 batting average with which he finished his career is better than such Cooperstown catchers as Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Roy Campanella and Johnny Bench. Granted, all those guys had better home run totals (save Campanella), but Simmons was no stiff in that area. He managed to accumulate a solid 248 home runs in his career, which ranks him eleventh all time.

    Simmons was also a masterful switch hitter. His splits are some of the most consistent ever. As a lefty, he batted .287, smashed 146 home runs and hit 327 doubles. As a righty, those numbers were .281, 102 and 156, respectively. The ability to be so effective against all pitchers is invaluable.

    His fielding is one of the reasons for his exclusion from Cooperstown, but there is little statistical evidence to back that up. Over his career, he racked up 4.6 defensive wins over replacement, which, while not fantastic, is still above the league average. His arm was not terrible either, as he threw out 34 percent of base-stealers. 

8. Edgar Martinez, DH

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    Edgar Martinez was one of the best hitters in the 1990s. And there is only one reason he is not in the Hall of Fame:

    His position, designated hitter.

    Some baseball purists feel that a player who only contributes on one side of the field are somehow less qualified to be in the Hall of Fame. It seems odd that players get credit for playing a defensive position, even if they field it terribly, while guys like Martinez, who are brilliant hitters, are hindered by not playing one.

    His percentage of votes have been stagnant since entering the Hall of Fame ballot in 2010; he has received between 32.9 and 36.5 percent of the votes each of those four seasons.

    It's a shame that the voters are snubbing a guy who really was one of the finest hitters of his era. Until 2003, in each of the 10 seasons in which Martinez played in at least 100 games, his batting average was above .300. That time frame covered two batting titles and a runner-up season. He also led the league in on-base percentage three times, doubles twice and RBI and runs once.

    It is strange that a player's candidacy is hindered because of the rules of the game. The American League adopted the designated hitter rule in 1973. It's about time that one of them gets some recognition from Cooperstown, and there is no better guy to fill that void than Edgar Martinez.

7. Tim Raines, LF

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    Tim Raines is one of the most underrated players of all time. The switch-hitting speedster was among the greatest players of the 1980s, and a great player in the 1990s.

    He ranks fifth in career stolen bases, with an amazing 808 thefts. That number is partly due to his wonderful ability to get on base; he batted .294 and had an on-base percentage of .385 in his career.

    He led the league in runs twice, stolen bases four times, and batting average and on-base percentage once each. While he was not a power hitter, Raines did a lot more than hit singles. He only hit 170 home runs in his 23-year career, but he added 430 doubles and 113 triples to give him some solid extra-base numbers.

    Since baseball is a ultimately about scoring runs, Raines was a master. He scored 1,571 runs in his career, which ranks him 53rd all-time in that category. Of the players ahead of him who are Hall of Fame eligible, the only ones not yet enshrined are Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

    The only knock against Raines might be his defense. While he collected 65.7 offensive WAR in his career, he also had a minus-9.5 defensive WAR. For the kind of player Raines was, that should not keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

    Raines has been on the ballot for six years, and during that time his vote percentage has gone from 24.3 in 2008 to 52.2 percent in 2013. If that trend continues, Raines might be ineligible for this list in a couple years.

6. Joe Torre, C

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    Everyone nowadays recognizes Joe Torre's name as one that belongs on a Cooperstown shrine. As a manager, that is.

    But when his managerial excellence with the New York Yankees was beginning, his hopes for enshrinement were ending. In 1997, he grabbed just 22.2 percent of the BBWAA's vote and was scratched from the ballot.

    A case can be made for Torre as a top 10 catcher of all time. His .297 batting average is the sixth highest ever by a catcher, only trailing five bona fide Hall of Famers. He also posted a .365 on-base percentage, which puts him at ninth all-time.

    He put up some respectable power numbers, with 252 home runs and 344 doubles. Those might not seem overwhelming, but remember, he was a catcher. At that position, those numbers rank ninth and 10th, respectively.

    He put up some amazing seasons throughout his career. In the both the 1970 and 1971 seasons, he added over 200 hits, batted over .320 and drove in 100 or more runs. His 1971 season was the best of his career (and one of the best a catcher has ever had). During this MVP campaign, he won the batting crown with a .363 average, smashed 24 home runs, drove in a league leading 137 runs and got an astounding 230 hits.

    Torre will see the Hall of Fame as a manager some day, but it would be nice for him to get some recognition as the great catcher that he was.

5. Jeff Bagwell, 1B

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    At first glance, Jeff Bagwell looks like a borderline Hall of Fame case. His 449 home runs and .297 batting average are very good, but compared to his contemporaries, they are not necessarily amazing.

    Bagwell had a wonderful eye, an attribute which helped him on his way to seven consecutive seasons with 100 or more walks, and a total of 1,401 walks throughout his career. All those helped him toward a .408 on-base percentage for his career.

    He finished his career with 488 doubles, which, along with his home runs, contributed to his .540 career slugging percentage. He is one of just 32 players to have collected over 1,500 RBI and scored over 1,500 runs in his career. Only two of the other 32 are eligible for the Hall of Fame and not in it.

    His cumulative numbers are fantastic, but they are even more impressive when the fact that he only played 15 seasons is taken into consideration. While that is not an incredibly short career, it did hinder his ability to move higher on some of those lists. Most of the guys who put up gaudy numbers for their career play for 20 or more seasons.

    Bagwell had several seasons in which he was just a force of nature. During the strike-shortened 1994 season, he won the NL MVP award with one of the best seasons ever. Though he played in just 110 games, due to the strike, he hit 39 home runs, drove in 116 runs and scored 104 more. He batted an insane .368 that year to go along with a .451 on-base percentage and a league-best .750 slugging percentage. To put the icing on the cake, he won the Gold Glove award at first base that season. His 116 RBI, projected over a full season, is 170. Now that is the mark of a Hall of Fame player.

    Bagwell has only been on the ballot for three years, and his voting percentage has gone up from 41.7 percent to 59.6 percent during that span. It seems likely that he will get into the Hall of Fame over the next couple seasons. Hopefully the BBWAA will get it right and he can be scratched from this list.

4. Mike Piazza, C

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    How Mike Piazza got only 57.8 percent of the votes his first year on the ballot, I'll never understand. I guess it has to do with the tainted era he played in, but regardless of that, Piazza is undeniably one of the best catchers to play the game.

    Piazza finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of his first five seasons in the league. This included his 1993 Rookie of the Year season, when he hit 35 home runs, drove in 112 runs and batted .318 as a 24-year-old.

    No catcher has hit more than Piazza's 427 home runs. His .308 average ranks him third at the position, and his 1,335 RBI rank him fourth.

    Piazza is not known for his defense, which may have hurt him in the voter's eyes. While it is true he was not good at throwing out base runners, he was good at other aspects of catching. When Piazza was behind the plate, his pitchers had a 3.80 ERA, but with other catchers, those pitchers had a 4.34 ERA. Quite a large jump. Piazza was certainly doing something to help limit the opposing offense.

    The fathomable reason for Piazza not honored as a first ballot Hall of Famer is the era he played in. Regardless of whether he used performance-enhancing drugs, the shadow is still cast over any players from the 1990s and 2000s. Based on the support he got during his first season on the ballot, though, he might yet make it to Cooperstown one day.

3. Craig Biggio, 2B

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    In 2013, Craig Biggio joined his longtime teammate Jeff Bagwell in being snubbed by the BBWAA. As great as Bagwell was, Biggio's snub was outrageous.

    Over the course of his 20 years, all with Houston, he reached the exclusive 3,000 hit club. That alone is not enough to merit a Hall of Fame residence, but he did so much more than that.

    His 291 home runs were pretty good for a player who spent a good deal of his career playing second base, but his 668 career doubles are unreal. That amount of doubles places him fifth in the all-time rankings. Fifth. The guys ahead of him? Tris Speaker, Pete Rose, Stan Musial and Ty Cobb. Pretty good company right there.

    He scored 1,844 runs in his career and walked 1,160 times. He also stole a very solid 414 bases during his time in the big leagues.

    He was a superb fielder as well, winning four Gold Glove awards during his time manning second base.

    An often unstated part of the game is durability. Baseball is a marathon, and the players who can take the field every day are of tremendous value. Biggio played in fewer than 140 games just three times in his 20-year career, excluding his rookie season.

2. Roger Clemens, RHP

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    It's insane that Roger Clemens was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And this is coming from a Red Sox fan who would hardly consider himself in Clemens' corner.

    The numbers that Clemens accumulated over his 24-year career are absolutely mind-blowing.

    For most of the duration of his career, it could be argued that Clemens was the best pitcher in the game. The right-hander won his first Cy Young award with the Red Sox in 1986, and his seventh (and final) Cy Young award with the Astros in 2004.

    He won 354 of the games he started, against just 184 losses, calculating out to a .658 winning percentage. Those 354 wins rank him ninth all time. Other than Greg Maddux, not a single one of the those above him pitched after 1965. He was just a beast from another era.

    Though he spent most of his career in the American League, he finished it with a 3.12 ERA, and a 143 ERA plus. He was an overpowering pitcher as well, leading the league in strikeouts on five occasions and finishing his career with 4,672 punch-outs.

    He even was one of those rare pitchers to win an MVP award, when in 1986 he and his 24-4 record led the Red Sox to the AL Championship.

    Without the steroid allegations, Clemens, like so many others, would have been a no-brainer Hall of Famer. Instead, he garnered an insulting 37.6 percent of the votes during 2013, his first year on the ballot. Hopefully the members of the BBWAA come to their senses, because Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame if only five pitchers were allowed to enter it.

1. Barry Bonds

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    We all know why Barry Bonds did not make it into Cooperstown on his first try: Steroid allegations.

    Whether or not those allegations are true, Bonds should have been a no-brainer first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    Perhaps the most monumental accolades in baseball are the single-season home run record and the career home run record. Bonds holds both of these, with 73 and 762, respectively.

    With Bonds, those numbers just begin to scratch the surface. He finished his career with an all-time most 2,558 walks. The incredible 12 seasons when he led the league in that category went a long way to building that record.

    He collected 2,935 hits in his career, and that included all those home runs and another 601 doubles. He created plenty of runs in his career, scoring 2,227 and driving in 1,996.

    His two batting titles are pretty impressive. What's even more impressive is the 10 times he led the league in on-base percentage. Or maybe the seven seasons he tops in slugging percentage. Any way you break down this guy's numbers, they are amazing.

    He added to his value with his incredible speed and high-quality defense. He won eight Gold Glove awards in the outfield and stole 514 bases in his career. That last number, along with his cumulative home runs, makes him the only player in league history in the 500-500 club.

    One thing I could not get away with was ignoring Bonds' greatest season. Many people might assume that means the season when he hit 73 home runs, but surprisingly, he topped that. In 2004, Bonds took home his seventh and final MVP award, when he took home the NL batting crown with a .362 average. Also, he walked an incredible 232 times that season, helping him to a .609 on-base percentage. His 45 home runs and 27 doubles helped him toward the .812 slugging percentage that he posted during that season.

    Regardless of the veracity of the PED allegations which taint his records, the numbers Bonds compiled are just too spectacular to be ignored. He played during an era when many of the players were using some sort of performance-enhancer, and he was head and shoulders above the field. The measure of quality in sports players has always been how he stands up against his peers, and Bonds stands head and shoulders above most of his.