MLB Hall of Fame 2011: A Starting Lineup of Snubs Who Deserve Enshrinement
On Sunday, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York finally inducted two all-time greats, Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar.
Alomar of course, only had to wait one year. That was one year too many though for one of the game's top five all-time second basemen, and all because of some loose saliva.
Blyleven waited 14 years despite ranking fifth all-time in strikeouts, 27th in wins, 14th in innings pitched, ninth in shutouts, and 13th in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for pitchers. Almost every single objective measurement of Blyleven's abilities showed him as one of the top 10-20 pitchers of all-time.
Regardless, these gentlemen are justly in, and now it's time for knowledgeable fans everywhere to focus on righting other wrongs made by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. To that end, here is a starting lineup of people who the BBWAA and others have overlooked.
Catcher: Ted Simmons (1968-1988)
The Case: Ted Simmons holds the following ranks among MLB catchers: runs scored (fifth), hits (second), doubles (second), home runs (10th), RBI (second), walks (sixth), and WAR (ninth). And yet, he was one-and-done on the ballot.
Why he’s out: Catchers have been historically underestimated because of the underwhelming numbers they tend to put up compared to their teammates. Something about squatting for 90 minutes in a game tends to dampen their numbers. Indeed, only eight catchers have been successful in getting voted in by the BBWAA and three of them had careers that overlapped with Simmons’.
First Base: Dick Allen (1963-1977)
The Case: Dick Allen was one of the most dominant hitters in baseball during his 15-year career, leading the league in on-base percentage twice, slugging percentage three times, and OPS+ three times.
The winner of the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year Award, Allen’s best season was his MVP season of 1972, when he hit .308/.420/.603 for the Chicago White Sox while also leading the league in home runs, RBI, and walks. His career 156 OPS+ ranks 19th all-time, just ahead of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, and Mel Ott.
Why he’s out: Allen had a very poor relationship with sportswriters, developing a bad reputation. While Allen may not have been completely innocent, his perception was most likely a byproduct of the racism that was so prevalent in that era, especially in Philadelphia where he played most of his career.
He also had a shorter career than most greats, causing his counting stats to come up short. His rate stats, while outstanding, don’t reflect his dominance since they were put up during a pitcher-friendly era. Finally, and an actually legitimate concern, Allen’s defense was very poor.
Second Base: Pete Rose (1963-1986)
The Case: Pete Rose, who began his career at second base, holds the all-time record for hits, and ranks second in doubles, seventh in total bases, and 14th in walks. He’s a historically great and significant ballplayer. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum of baseball history. This is just something that needs to happen.
Why he’s out: I’m certainly not breaking any new ground here. Pete Rose bet on the game of baseball, including his own team, and lied relentlessly about it. He was banned from baseball and thereby declared ineligible for the Hall of Fame. Bud Selig is absolutely right to keep Rose banned. Rose should remain banned from participating in Major League Baseball for his crimes, end of discussion.
It makes no sense, however, to attach his lifelong ban from the game of baseball to his eligibility for the Hall of Fame. The BBWAA should revise its policy on eligible players and elect Rose, regardless of his eligibility to compete.
Third Base: Ron Santo (1960-1974)
The Case: Ron Santo was among the game’s very best in the 1960’s; you will be hard-pressed to find a top-10 list of third basemen that doesn’t include him. Ron Santo was an elite talent at getting on base during a pitcher-friendly era, leading the league in times on base three times and walks four times.
The era distorts his career numbers; Santo’s OPS adjusted to league average ranks seventh all-time among third basemen. The six men ahead of him? Mike Schmidt, Eddie Matthews, Chipper Jones, George Brett, and Frank "Home Run" Baker and Wade Boggs; five Hall-of-Famers and a surefire first ballot guy. Of those gentlemen, only Schmidt rates better than Santo defensively.
Why he’s out: Voters have been even worse to third basemen than they have been to catchers. The BBWAA has elected just six third basemen, with another five obtaining enshrinement via the Veteran’s committee. With the Veteran’s Committee demonstrating inaction time and time again, Santo died before he could attain baseball immortality in person.
Shortstop: Alan Trammell (1977-1996)
The Case: Alan Trammell was an outstanding all-around shortstop who excelled at all aspects of the game. For 20 years, he played a demanding defensive position where little offense is expected. And yet, he produced. Only six shortstops have ever had more .300 seasons than Trammell’s six; five are in the Hall of Fame and another recently achieved a milestone of sorts in the Bronx.
Trammell also should have had a MVP to his name in 1987, when he hit .343/.402/.553 with 28 homers, 21 stolen bases, 34 doubles, and 205 hits. With that MVP, but without changing an at-bat in his career, Trammell’s résumé receives a huge boost.
Why he’s out: Alan Trammell did everything well but he didn’t do any one thing spectacularly like Ozzie Smith with defense or Jim Rice with power-hitting. Because his skills were extremely diverse (good bat, good legs, decent power, great glove) nothing popped out at you on a baseball card (except perhaps for that crazy ’87 season) or necessarily in the highlight reels.
A player who helps his team immensely in one aspect but detracts somewhere else is overrated compared to someone who does everything well.
Left Field: Tim Raines (1979-2002)
The Case: One of the game’s all-time best leadoff hitters, Tim Raines reached base at a .385 clip for his career and was arguably the game’s most successful base stealer, swiping 808 bases (fifth all-time) at an 85 percent clip.
Labor issues cost him a chance at 3,000 hits; neutralized for park and era, Tim Raines attains the magical (and incredibly arbitrary) 3,000 hit barrier. His patient approach at the plate helped him attain the 46th most times on base, just ahead of Tony Gwynn and Nap Lajoie.
Why he’s not in: For a decade, Tim Raines was a dominant leadoff-hitter for a small market Canadian team. Towards the end of his career, he served as a role player for the New York Yankees in the biggest media market in the world. So, how is he remembered? As a role player…since half the U.S. sports media doesn’t ever hear about a ballplayer until he becomes a Yankee.
Center Field: Jim Wynn (1963-1977)
The Case: On the surface, Jim Wynn’s numbers don’t look too outstanding. It’s when you consider that he played in the most pitcher-friendly conditions imaginable (the Astrodome in the 1960’s) that his achievements become that much more noteworthy.
When he moved to Dodger Stadium, it actually represented an improvement in offensive conditions for Wynn. Indeed, he should have won the 1974 MVP which was awarded instead to his vastly overrated teammate Steve Garvey. If he had instead played his home games at the Minute Maid Park for his career, he may very well have had multiple 40 home run seasons and retired with a career on-base percentage above .400.
Why he’s not in: An over-reliance on batting average compared to on-base percentage on the part of the voters, along with the distortion of his statistics due to ballpark and era led to Jim Wynn receiving zero votes for the Hall of Fame.
Right Field: Shoeless Joe Jackson (1908-1920)
The Case: One of the greatest hitters of the deadball era, Shoeless Joe Jackson career .356 batting average ranks third all-time behind only Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby. His .423 on-base percentage ranked 16th all-time and his OPS+ ranks ninth, just behind Albert Pujols and just ahead of Cobb. Finally, Babe Ruth modeled his swing off Jackson's. If that's not a rousing endorsement, I don't know what is.
Why he’s out: Jackson was banned from baseball by Kenesaw Mountain Landis for supposedly throwing the 1919 World Series. The same logic behind Pete Rose’s banishment holds true for Joe Jackson (not that lifting his lifetime ban would even matter at this point).
Jackson was probably innocent. The poor guy couldn’t read or write and most likely had no idea what he was agreeing to. If he did throw the World Series, he did a lousy job of it, hitting .375 with the only home run of the series.
Hall of Fame Right Fielders Who are Less Deserving: Pretty much anyone not named Ruth, Aaron, Robinson, or Musial.
Pitcher: Orel Hershiser (1983-2000)
The Case: It’s hard to blame the BBWAA for not voting for a man with a career 204-150 record, 3.48 ERA, and zero dominant seasons after the age of 30 to be in the Hall of Fame. Overall, his career numbers come up short.
But, Orel Hershiser should really be in the Hall of Fame anyway – on the basis that he earned three straight Cy Young awards. In actuality, he won just once for his historic 1988 season when he shutout opponents for 59 consecutive innings (and probably should have been MVP). But Hershiser was also the National League’s best pitcher in both 1987 and 1989.
In both those seasons, Hershiser led the league in Wins Above Replacement and innings pitched, putting up ERA’s of 3.06 and 2.31 respectively. In both seasons, his Win-Loss percentage was only .500, due to poor performance by teammates. Also in both seasons, he saw his award given to closers who pitched under 100 innings.
If he receives those well-deserved Cy Youngs, Hershiser goes from “solid pitcher with dominant shutout record” to “3-time Cy Young winner.” Only Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson have ever won as many as three consecutive Cy Young awards.
Why he’s out: Hershiser missed out on those extra two Cy Young awards because of his largely team-dependent win-loss record. Without the three straight Cy Youngs, Hershiser is a very good, but not Hall-worthy pitcher. He’s still a better candidate than Jack Morris though.