by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
July 23, 2012
Ron Santo and Barry Larkin have now officially joined Cooperstown's hallowed
ranks. Larkin's induction speech spent a lot of time discussing Pete Rose,
who managed the spectacular shortstop in his rookie season, without openly
lobbying for his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. While Rose, Shoeless Joe
Jackson, Greg Maddux, and Alex Rodriguez all rank among the greatest players who
have not been enshrined, none of them are currently eligible for admission.
So, then, who are the top eligible players who have not gotten the call to
I feel the timing for an article such as this is perfect. Recent
inductees Bert Blyleven, Ron Santo, and Barry Larkin would have featured
prominently on this list two years ago. The 2013 class that includes Barry
Bonds, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, and Curt Schilling
will likely dominate this list for the remainder of the decade.
fifteen players are all clearly deserving of enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Many of them are already footnotes in baseball history, and the rest are in
danger of becoming such after more prominent players appear on writers' ballots.
15. Bill Dahlen SS
Dahlen has the 75th-most Wins Above Replacement of
all time, and Jeff Bagwell and Lou Whitaker are the only Hall-eligible players not enshrined who
have more. So why doesn't Bad Bill rank higher on this list?
Basically, he played at a high level for a very long time, but never ranked
among the very top players in his league at a time when there weren't an awful
lot of players in his league. Still, next to Honus Wagner, Dahlen was the
best all-around shortstop of his era, albeit a ridiculously distant second.
14. Minnie Minoso OF
It's always surprising that Minoso gets passed over, since he was the first
great Cuban player in the big leagues and is the only major leaguer to play in
five different decades. The Cuban Comet was a legitimate five-tool player,
which typically generates support as well. His .298 batting average
combines with eleven seasons of double-digit home run totals, three times having
led the AL in steals, and three Gold Glove Awards to make Minoso a true
all-around threat. You can even argue that he lost time at the beginning
of his career due to the color of his skin, as he batted .339 with 70 extra base
hits, 30 steals, and 115 RBI as a 24-year-old in the PCL. Cleveland's
everyday left fielder that year, Dale Mitchell, failed to slug .400, so it isn't
clear what exactly was blocking Minoso's ascent to the majors if not bigotry.
13. Joe Torre 3B/C/1B
Long before Joe Torre was an overrated manager, he was an underrated player.
He hit like a first baseman his entire career, but only played a third of his
career games there. He was good enough at catcher to win a Gold Glove at
that position and throw out over 40% of possible basestealers. His
offensive numbers are certainly there, but Torre does not have the postseason
resume that some voters look for. I don't know whether the Veteran's
Committee is allowed to consider Torre's accomplishments as a manager alongside
those as a player, but he frankly deserves to be inducted on the laurels of
either vocation alone.
12. Rafael Palmeiro 1B
It's easy to focus on the finger-wagging and the sham Gold Glove Award, but
this man is 12th on the career home runs list, 10th in total bases,, 25th in
hits, and 16th in RBI. Even if you were to assume that he would have hit
65 fewer home runs (or 11% fewer) had he not used performance enhancers, he'd
still rank among the top 25 home run hitters ever and have the 500-plus home
runs that used to guarantee you induction into the Hall of Fame. He'd be
tied with Eddie Murray at 504, in fact, which is fitting since Palmeiro is
basically Murray with a lighter complexion born eight years later. Each
played for multiple teams, won three Gold Gloves, and were consistently among
the best hitters in their league but never the very best. Murray got
elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
11. Kevin Brown SP
Cooperstown tends to have looser standards for pitchers than they do for
position players. That is why Bert Blyleven's exclusion was so
slam-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating for so long. Kevin Brown's
candidacy isn't quite as obvious, so I've
outlined it here.
What probably hurts his chances more than anything is that he played for a half
dozen teams. The only team with which he spent more than five seasons is
the Rangers, and his seasons in Texas were far from his best. BBWAA voters
have consistently shown more support for players that can be identified with one
10. Alan Trammell SS
Unless, of course, you're a Detroit Tiger. Lifelong Tigers who are
borderline Hall of Famers such as Dizzy Trout, Tommy Bridges, Norm Cash, Bill
Freehan, and Bobby Veach receive no support for Cooperstown. The same goes
for slam dunk Hall of Famers Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. Trammell is
probably the 12th-best shortstop of all time and ranks 91st in career
WAR, tied with none other than Barry Larkin and just ahead of Ron Santo. He deserved to win the AL MVP Award in 1987,
which at the time was easily the best season
authored by a shortstop since the 1950s.
9. Lou Whitaker 2B
Why does Whitaker rank slightly more deserving than Trammell despite lacking
that MVP-caliber season? Apart from having better career value
despite having lost more quality time to player strikes, Whitaker ranks second
in career home runs among AL second basemen and fourth all-time in games played
at second base. His longtime double-play partner had better peak value,
but was inconsistent while Whitaker was among the AL's best second baseman for
15 straight years.
8. Bobby Grich 2B
Another glaring middle infield omission, Bobby Grich had a very comparable
career to Lou Whitaker's. Grich walked more and played somewhat better
defensively, giving him an edge despite Sweet Lou's advantage in batting average
and longevity. Neither player's playoff record helps them here, but
Grich's is particularly inept. In 98 postseason plate appearances, Grich
batted .188 with a .566 OPS and just five runs scored. His teams have lost
all five of the playoff series that he's participated in, and Grich certainly
deserves a portion of the blame for that.
7. Lee Smith RP
There are more valuable players than Lee Arthur Smith who are not yet
enshrined in Cooperstown, but perhaps there isn't anyone so obviously
deserving. Lou Brock got elected into the Hall of Fame in his first year of
eligibility, having held the all-time career stolen bases record for eight
seasons. Brock retired with just 2.3% more career steals than Billy
Hamilton, whose record stood for 80 years. Smith has been eligible for a
decade, and his all-time saves record stood for 13 years. When he
retired, Smith had 22.9% more saves than his nearest competitor, Dennis
Eckersley. Both Brock and Smith have some shortcomings beyond their
trademark records (Brock more so than Smith), but Brock's have been overlooked
while Smith's have not.
6. Stan Hack 3B
addressed the question of why there's was so much clamor for one Cubs third
baseman to get into the Hall while another comparably good one is a name 99% of
Cubs fans are unfamiliar with. I don't have much to add, really, other
than how odd it is that the third baseman who played on worse teams is the one
with greater notoriety. And that Hack batted .348 in 18 World Series
games. And that he walked more than twice as frequently as he struck out.
OK, you got me. I could go on about Stan Hack all day.
5. Dick Allen 1B/OF/3B
Triple whammy for the Dickster: he played in a pitcher's era, he doesn't
identify at a single position, and he was by all accounts a dick. No
matter where he played, Allen was a poor defender, but that doesn't take away
from his recording some of the best offensive seasons ever at third base.
It's hard to justify keeping anyone who led the league in OPS four times out of
the Hall of Fame, even if he did not have much postseason experience and rarely
played a full season. Allen was one of the very best hitters of his era
and deserves to be remembered as such.
4. Edgar Martinez DH/3B
Some underrate him due to his playing in an offensive-minded era, some
because he spent over 70% of his career as a designated hitter, some because he
only reached the 30 home run plateau on one occasion. Still, his .418
career on-base percentage puts him 14th among Hall-eligible players and his 569
adjusted batting runs ranks 30th all-time. You can quibble over where
exactly Edgar Martinez should rank among the top 100 players ever to his rather
unique career, but there should be no doubt that this man belongs in the Hall of
3. Mark McGwire 1B
McGwire is one of a select few players who admitted to steroid use without
there being a shred of hard evidence against him. Obviously, that is not
how he will be remembered. Big Mac will forever be known as the man who
did not want to talk about the past. Maybe someday he will overcome that
stigma on the strength of his having the best home run per at-bat ratio of all
time. By a lot. It averaged Babe Ruth more than a full at-bat to hit
his next home run than it did McGwire, and it took Barry Bonds more than two.
The closest right-handed hitter to Macman's 10.6 AB/HR rate is Ralph Kiner at
2. Tim Raines OF
Raines gets ranked ahead of McGwire and Martinez because his skill set was so
much rarer. Cooperstown is littered with Big Macian all-or-nothing
sluggers and Edgarian pure hitters. But only Rickey Henderson and Billy
Hamilton can claim to have been clearly better leadoff men in the history of the
game. There also isn't as much intrigue surrounding how much of Raines'
career was boosted by performance-enhancing drugs as for those other two.
1. Jeff Bagwell 1B
Bagwell falls just short of McGwire in the power department, just shy of
Martinez in hitting, and stole more than 200 bases in his career. He was a
good defender who was extremely durable, and his 152 runs scored in 2000 still
marks the only time in which a major leaguer has scored 150 or more runs in a
season since the 1930s.
Jeff Bagwell's career WAR of 76.7 ties him for 59th on the all-time list with
none other than Pete Rose. So next time you hear someone lamenting Rose's
exclusion from the Hall, feel free to mention that there's a comparably valuable
player who is actually eligible for induction.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.