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Top 15 Not in Cooperstown
The fifteen best Hall-eligible players not enshrined
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 Cooperstown?

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. 

The following 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 particular team.

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

Tony once 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 Fame.

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 14.1.

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 keith@baseballevolution.com.

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