The baseball Hall of Fame will announce the 2009 class of inductees on Jan. 12. Headlining that list could be Ricky Henderson, the all-time stolen base leader in MLB history. If elected, Henderson would achieve being enshrined among the greatest to ever play the game in the first year he was eligible to do so.
Other players, however, aren’t always so lucky. Many players have been called “borderline” Hall of Famers, and have had to spend years on the ballot before gaining entrance into Cooperstown.
Some players that many consider deserving of the honor never get the call to make a Hall of Fame speech. Players like Smokey Joe Wood and his career 2.03 career ERA, or Dave Kingman and Jose Canseco with 442 and 462 home runs respectively are left on the outside looking in.
Despite the gaudy numbers those players each put up during their careers, there are a number of other players easily more deserving. The top five HoF snubs are listed next, each accompanied with the reasoning they should be enshrined among the same walls as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Henry Aaron.
5. Joe Torre
Sure, everyone knows of the work he did as a manager in Major League Baseball, and he will undoubtedly be enshrined for his work in that manner some day. Over 4,000 wins, four World Series rings, and two more A.L. pennants, along with two Manager of the Year Awards surely mean Torre will one day get to make an induction speech.
However, before he ever makes that speech as a manager, Joe Torre deserves to be inducted as a player. Torre spent his playing days at three different positions but is best known for his work behind the plate. Not only did Torre win a Gold Glove award in 1965 as a catcher, he also carried with him an incredible batting ability.
He was a nine-time N.L. All-Star. After moving to 3B in 1971, he hit .363-winning the batting title-and laying stake to the MVP award. He posted a career average of .297, drove in almost 1,200 runs while scoring almost 1,000 more. Gary Carter was inducted in 2003 with similar run production numbers but carried an average of just .262. Torre also out hit Hall of Fame catchers Yogi Berra (.285), Johnny Bench (.267), and Carlton Fisk (.269) throughout their big league careers.
4. Bobby Matthews
Matthews is only not in the Hall of Fame because of the time period he pitched in. His career lasted from 1871-1887. Despite pitching in a “deadball” era, Matthews still has numbers that very few in history can match.
His 297 wins are the most all-time of anyone eligible for the Hall of Fame not to be inducted. Critics could easily point to his accompanying 248 losses to keep him from enshrinement, but the other statistics he compiled speak for themselves.
In his baseball career, he made 568 starts and threw complete games in 525 if them. In comparison, Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia lead the majors last season with nine and 10. Matthews also was on the mound for over 4900 innings in his career, and walked only 533 batters.
His near flawless control helped him amass a career earned run average of 2.89, lower than Rollie Fingers, Bob Gibson, and Don Drysdale-all members of baseball’s Hall of Fame.
3. George Van Haltren
Another player lost in baseball’s lengthy history, Van Haltren was a good hitter when good hitters were hard to find. Van Haltren scored over 1600 times, drove in over 1000 baserunners, and stole 583 bases; He did all that while posting a career .316 batting average to accompany his more than 2500 hundred hits.
To put things in perspective his run total ranks ahead of other Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Eddie Murray. Throw in that he has more steals than Ozzie Smith and Hugh Duffy, both also member of the Hall, and an easy case can be made for Van Haltren.
Add in a batting average that ranks ahead of baseball legends Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron, and its more of a travesty that he does not have a plaque in Cooperstown.
2. Bert Blyleven
The best player to ever come out of the Netherlands, Blyleven should also be the country’s first Hall of Famer. Still eligible to be voted in by the Baseball Writers of America, Blyleven was one of the most consistent pitchers of his era. He could always be counted on to do deep into games, and give his team-even if it was bad- a very good chance to win.
Blyleven amassed 242 complete games in his career more than both Nolan Ryan and Jim Palmer. He also worked 4,970 innings in his career, more than Roger Clemens, and ranks 14th on the all-time list.
He posted 287 wins and struck out over 3,700 batters before he was done. During his 22 year career, he put together a career ERA of 3.31 in a time when the league average was 3.90.
1. Jim Rice
Rice was one of the most dominant hitters in baseball during his 16 year career. Six times, he finished in the top five in the American League MVP voting. Eight times, he was an All-Star.
He drove in almost 1,500 runs, while scoring close to 1,300 more. His career batting average finished at .298, and was only under .300 because of three straight less than Rice-esque years to finish his career.
The most telling stat that should guarantee that Rice does indeed deserve to have a spot in Cooperstown is the fact that his career slugging percentage finished over .500.
His mark rates ahead of Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, Roy Campanella, and Ernie Banks-a member of baseball’s illustrious 500 home run club. Rice will be on the voter’s ballot for the last time this season, and needs 75 percent of the vote to gain entrance to the Hall. A year ago, he garnered 72 percent.