Some years ago, I went on a trip with my dad and brother to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Being a baseball-loving group of guys, we walked through the whole place and just took every bit of it in. We saw the plaques of some of the game's most beloved icons and even some that gained induction based on their reputation with the public and their teammates.
These lesser known men were voted into the Hall due to an organization known as the Veteran's Committee, a group of people dedicated to seeing that older players, executives and even umpires get their due recognition.
However, in researching some of the inductees, ones who were elected on the actual HOF ballot by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) as well as players voted in by the VC, I couldn't help but scratch my head.
Some of these men were, to put it bluntly, less than average players and still achieved a milestone that is not only an unbelievable honor but a privilege.
More often than not, one will find hitters with mediocre career offensive stats as well as pitchers whose winning percentages hover around the .500 neighborhood.
Surprisingly, former Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto (pictured) is one Hall of Famer who, while a good player in his time, wasn't exactly what one would call an elite player
That being said, here are 25 Hall of Fame players who, after extensive research, I believe unworthy to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Players ineligible for this countdown include anyone who played in the Negro Leagues along with those who played a majority of their careers in the 19th century.
Now before you all send me some nasty hate mail, let me make it clear that putting Ozzie Smith in this slideshow was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make.
On top of being one of my favorite players growing up, he was one of the best defensive shortstops of his time and is easily one of the most beloved players in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 19 big league seasons with the San Diego Padres and Cardinals, Smith made 15 All-Star teams and won a whopping 13 Gold Gloves. In 1982, he won his only World Series.
Yet, other than defense and speed, Smith was an average player at best. He never hit for power (his career high for home runs was six in 1983) and was never one to blow anybody away with his offense.
In 19 years, Smith only hit above .300 once.
After his retirement in 1996, Smith's career batting average was a modest .262. He was a wonder to watch in the field and an all around good guy, but the rest of his game wasn't really anything to write home about.
To be honest, it appears that his flashy play and positive relationship with the fans and the media is what gained him entry to Cooperstown.
For 18 seasons, Luis Aparicio was one of the most beloved players in all of baseball. Like Ozzie Smith, Aparicio's greatest strength was his defense.
In a career including stints with the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles (with whom he won his first and only World Series ring in 1966) and Boston Red Sox, Aparicio played in 13 All-Star games and won nine Gold Gloves. On top of that, he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1956.
Still, despite his impressive resume, Aparicio does not belong in the Hall of Fame. Let's start with his 13 All-Star berths. Not many people know this, but Major League Baseball used to host two All-Star games a season.
That being said, Aparicio actually played in two All-Star games apiece in 1959, 1960 and 1962.
On top of that, Aparicio was an average hitter. He only batted above .280 once (.313 in 1970) and finished his career with a lifetime mark of .262.
His 2,677 career hits are impressive, but an 18-year career makes that stat look inflated. His defense was phenomenal, but it can be argued that there are far superior defensive players in baseball history who are not enshrined in Cooperstown.
Throw in his lowly 791 career RBI, and Aparicio makes this list as a player who just seems out of place amongst the baseball gods in the Hall of Fame.
Much like Smith, it was very hard for me to include Harmon Killebrew on this list. Throughout his entire life, both during his career and after he retired, he was one of the most charismatic individuals to ever walk this earth.
Killebrew succumbed to cancer earlier this season at age 74, and his loss was felt not only throughout the Minnesota Twins community, but through all of baseball.
In 22 seasons spent with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals, the man known as "Killer" slugged 573 home runs and drove in 1,584 RBI while also making 13 All-Star teams. In 1969, he was named the American League MVP.
Still, and I don't mean to disrespect the man in any way, Killebrew shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. In his 22 seasons, his lifetime batting average was a mediocre .256.
Seriously, if I had to compare Killebrew to an active major leaguer, I would pick Adam Dunn. He hit home runs, drew walks and not much else. Keep in mind, Killebrew never hit .300 once in his career and struck out a total of 1,699 times.
Don't get me wrong, I think the man is great. Yet his game was one-sided and not worthy of a Hall of Fame induction.
It's no secret that for most of the 1950s and '60s, the Philadelphia Phillies were a bad team. Yet for a seven-year stretch, the roster had one bright spot in pitcher Robin Roberts.
In his prime, Roberts was simply amazing. He threw over 300 innings in six consecutive seasons (1950-1955) and made seven straight All-Star teams (1950-1956). From 1952-1955, he led the National League in wins. Simply put, Roberts was unstoppable during that stretch.
However, after seven good years, the legend of Roberts petered out, and he was a reliable yet fairly average pitcher until his retirement after the 1966 season.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976, and to be perfectly honest, he shouldn't be there. Sure, Roberts was dominant for a stretch, but he declined fairly rapidly following his last All-Star season in 1956.
On top of that, he only played in the postseason once, when the Phillies lost to the New York Yankees in the 1950 World Series.
Most important, however, is Roberts' career winning percentage. It's an average .539. Compared to the other pitchers in the Hall of Fame, Roberts is at the bottom of the food chain.
In 2011, Bert Blyleven finally made the Hall of Fame after over a decade of coming up short on the BBWAA ballot. To be honest, his stats on paper make a strong case for enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Despite an average career record of 287-250 (.534 winning percentage), Blyleven finished his 22-season career with an impressive career ERA of 3.31. Adding to his case are his 3,701 career strikeouts, which rank fifth in baseball history.
Throw in a no-hitter, two All-Star berths and two World Series rings, and Bert Blyleven sounds like a Hall of Fame pitcher.
However, Blyleven exhibited one trait throughout his career that, in this writer's eyes, should be heavily considered when considering anyone for the Hall of Fame, regardless of career statistics.
You see, for much of his career, Blyleven was an arrogant player whose negative behavior made him fall out of favor with a number of teams. Actually, let's break down his career.
He burst onto the scene in 1970 as a 19-year-old phenom for the Minnesota Twins. He was very open about his disdain for criticism by writers and fans, so team management traded him to the Texas Rangers midway through the 1976 season.
There, he threw his one and only career no-hitter against the California Angels in 1977.
However, that same season, Blyleven fell out of favor with Rangers management and fans when he was caught giving the finger to the camera during a nationally televised game. That offseason, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and won his first World Series ring with them in 1979.
One year later, Blyleven spontaneously demanded a trade out of Pittsburgh and threatened to retire if his demands were not met.
He was traded to the Cleveland Indians and spent four-and-a-half seasons there before being traded back to the Twins during the 1985 season. He stayed there through 1987, winning another World Series in the process before signing with the California Angels and spending three seasons there before retiring following the 1992 campaign.
That all being said, while Blyleven's statistics are impressive, two factors need to be considered.
First, he pitched for 22 years, and thus his numbers can be considered inflated. More importantly, the attitude he exhibited throughout most of his career was absolutely despicable.
Thus, while Blyleven might have been a Hall of Fame player, he was not a Hall of Fame individual, and that is why he should not be in Cooperstown.
Here, we have the first member of the countdown who was elected to the Hall of Fame through the Veterans Committee.
For 17 years, Jim Bunning was an effective strikeout pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers. He made nine All-Star teams and threw a perfect game in 1964.
After he retired, he went into politics and served his home state of Kentucky for nearly 20 years, spending time in both Congress and the Senate.
In 1996, the Veterans Committee chose to make Bunning a Hall of Famer. In all honesty, his career stats don't impress me enough to say the election was justified.
His career record of 224-184 is respectable but only comes out to an average winning percentage of .549. His 2,855 career strikeouts are impressive, but that's about it. Let's not forget that Bunning never once pitched in the postseason.
It may be that he just pitched on bad teams during his career, but Bunning still just wasn't that great of a pitcher and shouldn't be in Cooperstown.
Early Wynn was not a bad pitcher by any means. I just think that during his generation, there were many who were far superior.
Wynn spent 23 seasons in the majors with the Washington Senators, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox and finished his career with a 300-244 record.
Right away, we know those numbers are inflated because of how long he pitched despite the winning percentage coming out to a respectable .551. In terms of strikeouts, Wynn had 2,334.
He was certainly a dominant pitcher of his generation, making eight All-Star teams and winning the 1959 AL Cy Young Award. Yet, let's remember that there were two yearly All-Star games back then.
Despite those factors, what really stands out to me regarding why Wynn shouldn't be a Hall of Famer is his postseason performance. He pitched in two World Series (1954 with Cleveland, 1959 with Chicago) and went 1-2 with a 4.95 ERA.
If Wynn was as dominant as the BBWAA deemed him to be when they elected him in 1972, then I think those numbers would look much different.
Sure, he had a few good seasons. Yet, he was small potatoes compared to the Koufaxes and Fords of his generation.
I'll level with you here, folks. The career of Phil Niekro flat out blows me away. He made his debut at age 25 in 1964 and pitched his final game in 1987 at age 48. His 24-season long tenure in the major leagues can be attributed to his being a knuckleballer and not a pitcher who threw particularly hard.
Naturally, Niekro's career statistics are inflated. In a career spent with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, he amassed a career record of 318-274 (an average winning percentage of .537) with a 3.35 ERA and 3,342 strikeouts. He made five All Star teams and threw a no-hitter in 1973.
Yet, Niekro played most of his career on bad teams, and while he regularly performed well, he only pitched in the postseason twice. There, he amassed an 0-1 record with a respectable 3.86 ERA. In 1997, the BBWAA voted him into Cooperstown.
I'm not trying to poo-poo Niekro's career statistics. Like I said, it blows me away that he was able to be effective for so long. Yet, it's very hard for me to take knuckleballers' career stats seriously because since they throw the ball so softly, their careers last much longer than those of more conventional pitchers.
Thus, while impressive for many years, Niekro just seems out of place in the Hall of Fame.
For most New York Yankees fans of my generation, "Scooter" Phil Rizzuto was the beloved play-by-play man we heard whenever we tuned into the games on the weekend. The Brooklyn native was amazing in the booth, showing a true passion and love for the team as well as being drop-dead hysterical.
Yet, before he was winning the fans over in the booth, Rizzuto was the Yankees' star shortstop.
Simply put, the diminutive Rizzuto made a huge impact in his 13 seasons with the team. He won seven World Series rings, made five All-Star games and was the AL MVP in 1950.
However, despite his charisma, Rizzuto was an average player at best. His career batting average was a respectable .273, but he only amassed 1,588 career hits to go with 563 RBI. I could understand him being in the Hall of Fame were he an elite leadoff man, but that was not the case.
The Veterans Committee gave Rizzuto the call in 1994, and while he is easily one of the most beloved people in baseball history, his playing career just isn't enough to warrant a plaque. Sorry, Scooter.
Lou Boudreau was a shortstop who spent 15 seasons in the majors with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox. Over that span, he developed a reputation as a reliable hitter and retired with a very respectable career mark of .295. In 1970, the BBWAA elected him to the Hall of Fame.
However, Boudreau does not deserve his spot in Cooperstown. Let me tell you why.
First off, despite his career batting average, Boudreau only had one season that could be considered great. In 1948, he hit .355 with 18 home runs and 106 RBI as he helped lead the Indians to a World Series championship. That same season, he was named AL MVP.
Yet, Boudreau was never what one would call a real offensive threat during his career. He would get on base, but that's about it. He was not one to steal bases and finished his career with 1,779 hits and a lowly 789 RBI.
Don't get me wrong, he was a good hitter. Still, there is just something missing from his resume. All in all, it does not justify giving him a spot in Cooperstown.
Right now, we're about to get away from the decent players who sort of have a place in Cooperstown. It is time to get into those who just plain shouldn't be there. Let's start off with famed Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop, Harold "Pee Wee" Reese.
Reese spent his entire 16 season career in Dodger Blue and was a fan favorite. A speedy fielder with an average bat, he made 10 All-Star games and won two World Series rings (1955, 1959). In 1984, the Veterans Committee chose to give him a plaque in Cooperstown.
While I understand that Reese was one of the most popular players among Dodger fans, not to mention a decent broadcaster for some time following his retirement, his career numbers just aren't that impressive.
The career batting average stands at a respectable .269, but the 885 RBI are just unacceptable considering the 2,170 hits.
Let me put it this way. The most impressive accomplishment on Red Faber's career resume is that he once threw 352 innings in a season. Besides that, he was a valuable contributor to the Chicago White Sox pitching staff for 20 seasons (1914-1933) and won a World Series with them in 1917.
His career ERA is impressive at 3.15, but one would think his lifetime record would be better than an average 254-213 considering how the White Sox were a decent team back then. On top of that, he only struck out 1,471 batters in 4,086.2 innings of work.
Was Faber a bad pitcher? No. Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Not at all.
Elmer Flick just barely makes the cut here, as his career began in 1898 and lasted through 1910.
In those 13 seasons spent with the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics and Cleveland Bronchos/Naps, Flick batted a very respectable .313. However, he only drove in 756 runs with his 1,752 career hits.
I won't nitpick his 48 home runs or 330 steals, as he played in a different era. Yet, the fact that Flick never played in one postseason makes me wonder why the Veterans Committee chose to elect him to the Hall of Fame in 1963.
Was he a good player? Sure. However, the Hall of Fame should be reserved for great players, and Flick just wasn't that.
Lefty Gomez pitched in the major leagues for 14 seasons and spent all but one of them with the New York Yankees. In that time, he made seven consecutive All-Star games and earned five World Series rings. In 1972, the ever-present Veterans Committee voted to give him a spot in Cooperstown.
Simply put, Gomez should not be there. Despite having the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on his team, he only posted a career record of 189-102 with a 3.34 ERA and 1,468 strikeouts.
On top of that, Gomez's only season that could be called "great" occurred in 1934, when he went 26-5 with a 2.33 ERA.
I don't mean to sound harsh, but Gomez should have been a much better pitcher given the teams he played on. Overall, he was an average pitcher and shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame.
Tony Lazzeri spent 14 seasons in the major leagues, 12 of which were with the New York Yankees.
While with them, he made one All-Star team and won five World Series championships. The Veterans Committee gave him a spot in the Hall of Fame in 1991, 45 years after his death.
As big a Yankee fan as I am and as beloved as Lazzeri was, he isn't worthy of that honor. Besides having a good career batting average of .292, his stats just aren't there.
His 1,840 hits, 178 homers and 1,191 RBI are impressive but just aren't on the level necessary to warrant induction.
Mickey Cochrane played 13 seasons for the Philadelphia Athletics and Detroit Tigers and to be honest, his career resume is impressive. He won two AL MVP awards, made two All-Star teams, and won three World Series. He finished his career with a .320 average and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947.
While he was a good player, Cochrane still doesn't have enough to be in Cooperstown. In his 13 seasons, he only amassed 832 RBI. That is simply unacceptable considering how he played on some great teams.
On top of that, despite being on three World Series-winning teams, Cochrane's playoff performance was less than average. In 31 games, he hit .245 with two home runs and seven RBI.
Thus, Cochrane kicks off the top 10.
Roger Bresnahan first came to the majors in 1897 for a cup of coffee with the Washington Senators. He appeared in six games and was sent back to the minors before resurfacing in 1900 with the Chicago Orphans.
He stayed in the majors until 1915, playing with the Baltimore Orioles, New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.
For his 17-season career, Bresnahan hit .279 with 26 home runs and 530 RBI. His only major accomplishment was winning a World Series in 1905.
Now despite those far-below average numbers, the Veterans Committee elected Bresnahan in 1945. Looking at his numbers, I simply cannot figure out why.
I simply cannot figure out why Ted Lyons is in the Hall of Fame, let alone why the BBWAA elected him. He was an average pitcher for the Chicago White Sox for 21 seasons, posting a 260-230 record with a 3.67 ERA and 1,073 strikeouts.
His greatest accomplishment? He made an All-Star team in 1939.
Simply put, those aren't Hall of Fame credentials.
Rabbit Maranville spent 23 seasons in the big leagues playing for five different teams. He was a decent base stealer but not much else. He finished his career with an average batting mark of .258 with 28 home runs and 884 RBI.
His greatest accomplishment was winning the 1914 World Series with the Boston Braves, but his resume contains little else besides that. Still, the BBWAA chose to give him a spot in Cooperstown in 1954.
Like Lefty Gomez, Herb Pennock was an average pitcher who just happened to be on the right teams at the right time. He began his career with the dominant Philadelphia Athletics, then joined the Boston Red Sox in their heyday before joining the New York Yankees just in time for the Murderers Row years.
In 22 seasons, he went 241-162 with a 3.60 ERA and 1,227 strikeouts.
I'm sorry, but those stats are just average considering how long he pitched. Besides seven World Series rings, the only accomplishment that could justify Pennock being in the Hall of Fame is his 5-0 career postseason record.
If that is the case, the BBWAA needs to rethink their criteria. Election to Cooperstown should be based on someone's entire career performance, not on a small portion of it.
It is elections like that of Ray Schalk that make me feel the Veterans Committee should just be disbanded. Here is a catcher who played 18 seasons and hit just .253 with 1,354 hits and 594 RBI.
Yet, experts put Schalk on a pedestal just because of his turning the catching position into a truly defensive one, making the player there more involved than just catching the pitches.
OK, I can understand that, but it's not as though Schalk was the greatest catcher of his generation. He was an average player who didn't do much except play great defense.
He won a World Series with the White Sox in 1917, but his career doesn't have much else to write home about besides that.
Freddie Lindstrom was yet another decent player who failed to produce great numbers over the years. In 13 seasons, he hit .311 with 103 home runs and just 779 RBI before retiring at age 30.
The infamous Veterans Committee decided to vote him into the Hall of Fame in 1976, and it was once again a case of a good defensive player being put on a pedestal despite being average in every other department.
On top of that, Lindstrom never won a World Series nor did he play in any All-Star games.
We have another knuckleballer, ladies and gentlemen. Hoyt Wilhelm is considered to be the first to regularly use the pitch, and his 21 seasons show it.
Primarily a reliever, Wilhelm spent time with nine different teams in his career. He played in eight All-Star games and won a World Series with the New York Giants in 1954.
Yet, I hate to be a nitpicker, but Wilhelm's career stats are inflated. His 143-122 record, 2.52 ERA, 1,610 strikeouts and 227 saves are impressive, but he wasn't your typical everyday pitcher in his prime.
The knuckleball extended his career and as a result, he is a regular pitcher whose stats look pretty.
On top of that, we can't even consider him one of the game's best closers seeing as how saves weren't a significant stat back then. Don't get me wrong, he revolutionized the use of the knuckleball, but his overall career isn't exactly one to write home about.
Bill Mazeroski was a great defensive second baseman who spent 17 years in the majors, all for the Pittsburgh Pirates. With them, he won two World Series (1960, 1971), eight Gold Gloves and made 10 All-Star teams.
When he retired, he had a .260 career batting average with 138 home runs and 853 RBI. Overall, not what one would call a Hall of Fame caliber career.
Yet, in 2001, the infernal Veterans Committee chose to enshrine Mazeroski in Cooperstown. Sure, he was great in the field, but let's be honest.
Bill Mazeroski is remembered for one short moment of his career, and it was said moment that earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
It was Game 7 of the 1960 World Series and the score was tied 9-9 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Mazeroski came up to bat and drilled a home run over the left field fence to give the Pirates a World Series win over the heavily favored New York Yankees.
For those interested, the immortal home run may be viewed here.
OK, so I'm cheating a little bit with the No. 1 spot. I said at the very beginning that I wouldn't include any players who were in their prime during the 19th century. However, this was just too ridiculous to not include.
William Arthur "Candy" Cummings only played in the major leagues for two seasons, 1876 and 1877. Over that span, he went 21-22 with a 2.78 ERA.
You all are probably thinking, "Wait a minute, Josh. This guy only pitched in the major leagues for two years, put up numbers like that and is still in the Hall of Fame? Why????"
Well, folks, we have none other than that damn Veterans Committee to thank for this one. In 1939, they voted to elect Cummings to Cooperstown for one reason: apparently, this man invented the curveball.
Seriously? I can KIND OF understand electing guys like Hoyt Wilhelm and Ray Schalk for how they changed the game, but they at least played in the majors for over 10 years. Cummings spent two seasons on the major league level and just flat out disappeared after that.
His signature pitch may have set the tone for the future of baseball, but the fact that his major league career was so brief makes it hard to accept Cummings as a Hall of Famer.