MLB Hall of Fame: Top 10 Players Eligible For, but Not in Cooperstown
With the Veterans ballot featuring players and executives from the "Golden Era" of the 40s, 50s and 60s, being released this week, I figured it would be a good time to look at players who have been eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame and have not yet been enshrined.
Please understand that guys like Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte and Pete Rose who are banned from baseball, and guys like Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux and Craig Biggio who have not been on the ballot yet, are not eligible for this list.
10. Ken Boyer
Ken Boyer, who is on the Veterans Committee ballot this year but unlikely to get voted in, makes the list because he was one of the best of his generation at his position, third base, a position that is greatly under-appreciated in Cooperstown today. (The best 3B of his era isn't even in yet, but we'll get to that in a later slide)
Third base, like the other infield positions, had historically been a defensive position, not quite cranking out the big hitters like it does now with guys like Adrian Beltre, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and David Wright. That being said, Boyer was a very productive hitter as well as a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman.
He was an All-Star in seven different years, won five Gold Gloves and was the National League MVP for the World Series Champion 1964 Cardinals. I'm not sure I would support his induction into the Hall 100 percent, but he's surely better than plenty who are already there.
9. Edgar Martinez
The thing that has kept Edgar out of Cooperstown is the fact that he didn't play the field for the majority of his career, and at the beginning of his career when he did play third base, he was a very mediocre fielder.
But nobody can take away the fact that Edgar was a brilliant offensive player, one of the best of his time, despite putting up average power numbers. He is one of the two best career DHs of all time with Frank Thomas, finishing with a career OBP at an astounding .418 as well as an OPS of .933. He only finished with 2,247 career hits, but this was because he didn't become a full-time player until he was 27 and he walked so darn much, which is as good as a hit.
Edgar will get into the Hall eventually, but it would be nice to see a hitter as good as he was get in sooner rather than later.
8. Mark McGwire
True, he didn't hit for a high average, and true, he had a short, injury-prone career, and true as well, he most likely took some sort of performance-enhancing drugs which helped his power numbers.
But, even taking all that into consideration, you can't argue against the fact that McGwire in his prime could completely change a pitcher's game plan and turn a bad lineup into a good one. Forget the 583 home runs he hit, including 70 in a history-making 1998 season, pitchers were afraid to pitch to the guy because he was so good and he consistently had an OBP over .450.
McGwire was an incredibly unique player, which partially may have been tainted by his alleged steroid use. But the man played in an era where he wasn't the only one and throughout his prime put up silly offensive numbers. He probably won't ever get in, but he should.
7. Rafael Palmeiro
Palmeiro was a fantastic player, both offensively and defensively, for a long stretch of time, and it's unfortunate that the steroid scandal may cost him a spot in Cooperstown.
He's one of only four players in major league history (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, with A-Rod fast approaching) with 3,000 career hits and 500 career home runs, considered the two biggest milestones for an offensive player.
He was always underrated and overlooked, only making three All-Star games, and it's unfortunate that that streak will continue in his chase for the Hall of Fame.
6. Jack Morris
This is where I kind of depart from the Bill James way of thinking for a bit, because the only reason why Jack Morris is on my list is because of how great of a pitcher he was in the postseason.
His regular-season career numbers are very good, but his career ERA was close to 4.00, and he only won 254 career games in comparison to 186 losses.
But what makes Jack a Hall of Famer is the fact that he was the ace on three different World Series teams, and despite a crummy performance for the 1992 Blue Jays, he was brilliant in both the other World Series runs, including a World Series MVP award in 1991 with the Twins.
Of course, good players don't have to win, and winners don't have to be all that great, but it should count for something to have postseason success like Morris.
5. Jeff Bagwell
For a guy who was still widely considered one of baseball's best offensive players throughout the course of his prime, Bagwell is still a vastly underrated player because he didn't put up quite the video game-like power numbers that some of the other sluggers did in the 90s.
His 1994 MVP season was just silly, hitting .361 with 116 RBIs and finishing with an OPS of over 1.20, and a Gold Glove to boot, and he continued that success throughout the rest of the decade.
Another guy who was greatly patient at the plate, Jeff finished with a career OBP of over .400, which may keep him out of Cooperstown for a couple years because again it negatively affects his total hits.
By all means, Xavier High School's finest was a Hall of Fame ball-player, and hopefully he will get in on the second ballot this winter.
4. Minnie Miñoso
Minnie is one of three Cubans who will appear on this year's veterans committee ballot, and a valid argument can be made for all three's inclusion into Cooperstown. Despite being one of the most talented baseball nations in the world, only one Cuban has been inducted as a Major Leaguer in the Hall of Fame (Tony Perez), despite the brilliant careers of guys like Palmeiro, Minoso, Luis Tiant and Tony Oliva.
If he had come up ten years later, Minoso would most likely have been a big league star at age 20, but instead was stuck in the minor leagues full-time until age 25 before becoming one of the first black players in the American League.
He went on to still have a brilliant career with the White Sox, with the ability to be a five-tool player and a great patient eye at the plate. He won three Gold Glove awards, made it to seven All-Star games and had an uncanny Biggio-like ability to get hit by a pitch.
Not only was a great player, but Minnie was a lover of the game who couldn't give it up even at age 60, and innovated the game for Cuban-born players. It's a shame he's not been inducted yet, but it would be great if he could get in while the 85-year-old is still alive and kicking.
3. Barry Larkin
Larkin will almost definitely be inducted into the Hall of Fame on his third ballot in the class of 2012, but for now he is still stuck on this list.
In an era of shortstops somewhat overwhelmed by the big power-hitting types like Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, Larkin was more of a throwback with the ability to hit for power when he needed to (33 HRs in 1996, an MVP year), but showing more of a brilliance in the ability to play defense and get on base.
A true mark of consistency, Larkin played in 12 All-Star games and also won three Gold Gloves at a defensively dominant position. According to the Silver Slugger award, he was the best hitter at his position for nine years and also stole 379 bases.
2. Ron Santo
There's no question Ron Santo is a Hall-of-Fame player and will be inducted into Cooperstown possibly as early as this summer.
But it's a crying shame that the best third baseman in the Golden Age of baseball (yes, he was better than Brooks Robinson, feel free to argue in the comments section), and a man who obviously lived, breathed, and died baseball, will not be able to physically see his own induction.
As I said before, Santo was the best third baseman in his era and probably one of the top five of all-time as well. He was a brick wall defensively, winning four Gold Gloves, and while he may not have been as magnificent in that category as the third baseman in Baltimore, he was a considerably better offensive player.
Santo finished with a career OPS of .826, as well as 342 HRs and 2254 hits in an era that was pitching-dominated, at a position that was limited offensively and despite a career shortened by illness.
In comparison, the guy who was widely considered a no-brainer Hall of Fame choice, Brooks Robinson, had a lousy .723 career OPS.
Santo should get in on the Vet. Committee ballot this year if anyone does. But it will be too late for the Writers and Veterans Committee to have gotten it right. He deserved to see his own enshrinement.
Who's No. 1?
In case you're trying to guess who it is, I'll first tell you who it's not. I guess you could call these guys honorable mention.
- Larry Walker
- Gil Hodges
- Alan Trammell
- Tony Oliva
- Luis Tiant
- Tommy John
- Jim Kaat
- Bobby Grich
- Fred McGriff
- Lee Smith
- Dave Concepcion
- Dave Parker
- Dale Murphy
...I could go on and on with solid but not Hall-of-Fame caliber players. Figured it out yet?
1. Rock Raines
Let me start off by comparing a few stats with you.
A: .293 BA, .343 OBP, .753 OPS, 3023 Hits, 149 HRs, 938 SBs, 1610 R, 39.1 Career WAR
B: .294 BA, .385 OBP, .810 OPS, 2605 Hits, 170 HRs, 808 SBs, 1571 R, 64.6 Career WAR
Then, let me tell you that Player A was a first-ballot Hall of Famer (maybe the worst all time, I might add), while player B has consistently been in the 30-percent region throughout his time on the ballot.
Yes, Tim Raines was a considerably better player than Lou Brock. It's really not even close. Raines was the second best lead-off hitter of all time, behind Rickey Henderson who is one of the Top 10 players of all time.
Since he didn't play for a World Series team and wasn't given the opportunity to be the hero that Brock was, he is not in Cooperstown. Also, finishing with less than 3,000 hits will keep him away, but the only reason Brock had so many more hits was because he played a bit longer and was much less patient.
Rock is slowly gaining momentum with the Writers thanks to the sabermetricians who have ousted this catastrophe, and I am optimistic he will soon see his day of induction. But until then, he will most likely stay atop this list.
At least until Bonds and Clemens get rejected their first time on...