This weekend, three very deserving former ballplayers will take their place among the greats in Cooperstown.
Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez will make their acceptance speeches in front of the assembled masses, along with former MLB commissioner Bud Selig and former GM John Schuerholz.
It was Raines last year on the ballot and he received the requisite number of votes (380 out of 442, 86 percent) to get in. Bagwell topped the voting with 86.2 percent of the votes and Rodriguez got 76 percent.
Raines, an outfielder for most of his 23-year career, certainly had the numbers (2,605 hits, 808 stolen bases) and accolades (eight All-Star nominations, four stolen base titles, one batting title) to get in.
Bagwell was Rookie of the Year in 1991 and NL MVP in 1994. He was a doubles machine, smacking 488 career two-base hits, along with 449 homers and a .540 slugging percentage.
Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez was one of the best defensive catchers all-time, winning 13 Gold Gloves. He was the AL MVP in 1999 and was also a great hitter, with a lifetime .296 batting average and seven Silver Slugger awards.
While these three are very deserving, there are still quite a few players just as qualified to have their likeness enshrined in the hall. Here are 20 we believe the voters have overlooked for induction.
20. Shoeless Joe Jackson
We have omitted some notorious cheats from this list, because for some we just can’t wrap our heads around PED use allegations or their general sucky demeanor. In Shoeless Joe Jackson’s case, however, major league baseball can’t suck and blow at the same time. Shoeless Joe was one of the greatest hitters ever, in our estimation, having amassed 1,772 hits (.356 batting average) in 13 seasons before being banned. Of particular note, the majority of those hits came in the infamous dead ball era between 1900 and 1919. A speed merchant, Shoeless Joe led the American League in triples three times, including an incredible 26 in 1912. As for his suspension for the “Black Sox” scandal of the 1919 World Series, his numbers bear out that he was innocent of collusion to throw the series, as he hit .375 with a homer and six RBI. Commissioner Rob Manfred denied a bid for Jackson’s reinstatement in 2015, yet around that time the league signed a joint venture agreement with DraftKings. Hmmm.
19. Roger Clemens
Many may argue that his case is tainted by the Mitchell Report, where his former trainer Brian McNamee (who had an ax to grind) alleged Rocket Roger used anabolic steroids late in his career. After much legal wrangling and an indictment for perjury, Clemens was eventually exonerated. Which is why the voters need clear their jaded minds and finally put him in the Hall of Fame. He received 54.1 percent of the vote in his fifth year on the ballot, so there is that. However, he is one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, despite the many controversies. He won the most Cy Young awards, all-time, at seven, at least three of them long before the allegations of PED use surfaced. In his long career he won 20 or more games six times, was ERA leader seven times, and strikeout leader five times. He won 354 games, had 4,672 strikeouts, was MVP in 1986 and won two World Series titles. Long overdue in our opinion.
18. Lou Whitaker
Sweet Lou Whitaker was a slick fielding, good-hitting second baseman who played his entire 19-year career with the Detroit Tigers. Yet, when he was first eligible for induction in 2001, voters were so myopic he didn’t receive enough votes (5 percent is the threshold) just to stay on the ballot, despite having similar numbers to many honored second basemen, like Ryne Sandberg. In fact, Whitaker’s 2,369 career hits are more than those amassed by second base inductees Bobby Doerr, Johnny Evers, Joe Gordon, Billy Herman, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Mazeroski and Jackie Robinson. That aside, Whitaker was also a superior fielder, teaming with SS Alan Trammell to form one of the most formidable middle infield combos ever. Whitaker’s career accomplishments also included a Rookie of the Year award, a World Series triumph, three Gold Gloves, five All-Star nominations and four Silver Slugger awards.
17. Larry Walker
To date, there is but one player born in Canada enshrined in Cooperstown and he would be Ferguson Jenkins. We think it’s high time that there were two. Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., was as a fearsome hitter in his 17-year career, spent mostly with the Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies. He finished with a career .313 batting average, which puts him in a tie with Nomar Garciaparra for 78th all-time. That alone won’t get a guy into the Hall of Fame (though there are many with high batting averages in the Hall), but also consider Walker was a three-time NL batting champ, including an incredible .379 season in 1999. He hit over .350 four times and finished with 2,160 hits, with just 383 homers — so voters should forget all that thin air chatter about Coors Field. Walker also copped a MVP in 1997, as well as seven Gold Glove and three Silver Slugger awards. He got 21.9 percent of the vote in his seventh year on the ballot. Sheesh.
16. Roger Maris
If Larry Walker can’t make it into the Hall of Fame, there isn’t much hope for two-time American League MVP Roger Maris. In the days when the only substances major leaguers used were beer and cigarettes, Maris famously broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record of 60 by swatting 61 for the Yankees in 1961. He hit 39 the year previous, when he won his first of back-to-back MVPs. Many argue that his career was too brief and that even though he played two seasons at Hall of Fame caliber, his overall stats didn’t merit induction. Fair enough, but the media of the day resented the fact that Maris wasn’t a good quote and liked his privacy. What is most galling is that there are many outfielders in the Hall of Fame who never won two MVP awards and never hit more than 60 homers in a season. Baseball could still get it right with the Golden Era Committee, but to this point the late Maris is still being overlooked.
15. Mike Mussina
We are quite perplexed that on his fourth year on the ballot, Mike Mussina still only got 51.8 percent of the vote. Though he never won a Cy Young (he was top 5 in voting six times) or a World Series title, Mussina is currently in a tie for 33rd with Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes for most wins all-time at 270. There are many pitchers who had less wins than Mussina in the Hall, including notables Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, Carl Hubbell, Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford. Mussina also holds the American League record for most consecutive seasons (17) with at least 11 wins. Consistency, then, must not be a criteria on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballots. In addition to being a solid winner (.638 winning percentage) and five time All-Star, Mussina is also 33rd in games started (536, including 57 complete games and 23 shutouts), 66th in innings pitched (3,562.2) and 19th in strikeouts (2,813). There has to be room for Mussina in Cooperstown.
14. Ted Simmons
The list of Hall of Fame catchers is woefully short at just 18, with Mike Piazza being the 17th in 2016 and Pudge Rodriguez going in as the 18th this year. So, there has to be room for at least a couple more, including Ted Simmons. The eight-time All-Star played 2,456 games in the major leagues over 21 seasons, the majority behind the plate. Statistically, at least, his overall numbers should have gotten him in. He had more hits (2,472) and a higher lifetime batting average (.285) than inducted greats Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. Only Rodriguez had more career hits than Simmons, who also hit over .300 seven times. Defensively, Simmons was also very good, logging a career .987 fielding percentage behind the plate.
13. Fred McGriff
Sitting tied for 28th on the all-time home run list with the great Lou Gehrig is Fred McGriff, at 493 homers. And in his eighth year on the ballot, he still only got 96 votes (21.7 percent) which in our estimation is an egregious oversight. Consistency — again, not something BBWAA voters recognize a lot — was McGriff’s hallmark, as he hit 30 or more homers in a season 10 times. He was tops in homers in both leagues, with Toronto in 1989 (36) and then with the San Diego Padres in 1992 (35). The five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger award winner also hit .303 in 50 playoff games and another 10 dingers, including two in Atlanta’s World Series victory over Cleveland in the 1995 World Series. All but nine players ahead of McGriff on the career home run list are in the Hall of Fame. He should be there too.
12. Keith Hernandez
First base, like catcher, doesn’t seem to get a lot of love from BBWAA writers either. Just 25 first basemen have been voted in, the latest being Jeff Bagwell. For 17 seasons, Keith Hernandez was one of the best first basemen in baseball, offensively and defensively. Consider that Hernandez won 11 straight Gold Gloves from 1978 to 1988 (the most by any first baseman in history) and in the same time Ozzie Smith won 12 straight (1980-82) and he got into the hall on the first ballot. In addition to being a fine fielder, Hernandez batted over .300 seven times in his career, and led the National League in runs scored (1979 and 1980), doubles (1979), on-base percentage (1980) and walks (1986) throughout his career. He may not have been the power-hitting prototype so often voted in, like Lou Gehrig, Willie McCovey and Eddie Murray, but 1979 MVP Hernandez overall numbers merit enshrinement.
11. Lee Smith
There are currently 77 pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and just five of them were primarily relievers. The last one inducted was Goose Gossage, who saved 310 games over his 22-season career. Way ahead of him in that category is Lee Smith, how is third all-time in saves with 478 (which also gives him more than any reliever currently enshrined). For 18 seasons, Smith was one of the most consistent closers in baseball, three times leading the National League in saves and 11 times logging 30 or more saves. Smith finished his illustrious career, too, with a 3.03 ERA and 1,251 strikeouts. The only reason we see that the BBWAA overlooked him was the fact he was a closer in a transitional era when stoppers were expected to pitch just an inning or less to record a save. Otherwise, he should be in.
10. Dick Allen
If there was a category in Cooperstown for “Utility Men” Dick Allen would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. Even without the ability to play the six different positions that Allen manned at one time or another, he should be in the Hall of Fame. Allen was the best hitter on the five teams he played with in 15 seasons in the second “dead ball” era. The 1964 Rookie of the Year and 1972 American League MVP twice topped the AL in homers with the Chicago White Sox and at separate times he was first in runs, triples, RBI, walks, on base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. While his time in the major leagues was relatively short (just 1,749 games), Allen still amassed 1,848 hits, 1,099 runs and 1,119 RBI. His exclusion from enshrinement seems particularly curious, especially with the Golden Era committee’s involvement for passed over players.
9. Jeff Kent
Unfortunately for five-time All-Star and 2000 NL MVP Jeff Kent, he is tainted by the knuckleheads in his era who partook of PEDs. The second baseman again received a low tally in his fourth year on the ballot, garnering just 74 votes, despite being one of the better offensive second sackers in the history of the game. Like Sweet Lou Whitaker, Kent had superior numbers to many honored second basemen. His 2,461 hits are better than 10 of the 20 in the hall and his 377 homers are 76 better than next highest man in that category, Rogers Hornsby. Kent also drove in 1,518 runs, which puts him third behind Nap Lajoie and Hornsby. Included in his prodigious production were eight seasons of 100 or more RBI, which is remarkable for a middle infielder. It’s a shame, really.
8. Graig Nettles
Just like catchers, third baseman are quite under-represented in Cooperstown. To date, only 16 are enshrined, the last being Deacon White in the Golden Era category in 2013. Nettles, who played 2,700 games in the big leagues over 22 seasons and collected 2,225 hits and 1,314 RBI, should be there too. He won two World Series at the hot corner with the Yankees in the 1970s, as well as going to six All-Star games and winning two Gold Gloves. Third base is looked upon by writers as a “power position” so it bears explaining why a guy who hit 390 taters hasn’t been included among the greats. Only Eddie Matthews and Mike Schmidt hit more round-trippers than Nettles and they are in.
7. Edgar Martinez
When looking at the BBHOF website and searching for players, there is a function to try and find “designated hitters” in a “position” query. Our exploration came up zero. Now, it is strictly an American League spot, but we see a great first candidate in Edgar Martinez. Originally a third baseman, Martinez sample size at the hot corner is too small to merit induction into Cooperstown. However, he did appear in 1,403 games as the DH in Seattle, for who he played all of his Hall-worthy career. This year, his eighth on the ballot, he fell short of getting in, with 259 votes (58.6 percent). We’re not quite certain what the BBWAA voters are waiting for, considering Martinez’s offensive prowess. A seven-time All-Star, Martinez won two batting titles and finished with a career average of .312, which is tied for 91st best all-time. He hit for power too, twice leading the AL in doubles and finishing with 514 career. Martinez also drove in 1,261 runs in 2,055 games, leading the AL in that category with 145 in 2000.
6. Trevor Hoffman
Alone in second on the closer leaderboard with 601 saves is Trevor Hoffman, who for 18 years in the bigs was the NL counterpart to Mariano Rivera over in the AL with the Yankees. BBWAA voters, though, have an aversion to putting closers in the Hall (see Lee Smith, above), even if they were lights out most of their career. Hoffman, who played 16 of his 18 seasons in San Diego was as near automatic as they come. Blown saves weren’t recorded until 2002, but from that point on, the seven-time All-Star converted on 287 of 322 opportunities. He was top closer in 1998 with 53 saves and again in 2006 with 46. Hoffman logged a career ERA of 2.87 in 1,035 games and struck out 1,133 batters in 1,089.1 innings pitched. He shouldn’t have to wait long, as he narrowly missed out on the 75 percent threshold for induction, getting 327 votes (74 percent) in his second year on the ballot.
5. Vladimir Guerrero
We think the BBWAA whiffed on Vlady in his first year on the ballot. He narrowly missed being enshrined when he collected 317 votes, falling 3.3 percent below the threshold (75 percent). The five-tool outfielder should have been a slam dunk and will probably make it in. Consider that in 2,147 games he had 2,590 hits, 449 homers, 1,496 RBI, a career .318 batting average and 181 stolen bases. He was the American League MVP in 2004, with a league leading 124 runs, 206 hits, 39 HR, 126 RBI and a .337 average. He won eight Silver Slugger awards and eight times he had 30+homers and 100+ RBI. His batting average in 44 playoff games wasn’t as robust at .263, even still he had 45 hits and 20 RBI in 171 at bats.
4. Gary Sheffield
The Mitchell Report sure tainted a lot of players from the “juiced up” era. Gary Sheffield, to his detriment, was named in that report. We think, though, that the report as a whole was a bit of a hearsay witch hunt and it’s author George Mitchell was in a conflict of interest, as he was a director with the Boston Red Sox and no prime Red Sox players were named. A look at Sheffield’s stats in 22 seasons may cause some to raise an eyebrow or two, but he did most of his best work long before allegations of his PED use surfaced in 2003. Over his career, Sheffield recorded 2,689 hits, including 509 homers. He drove in 1,676 runs and also stole 253 bases. He was the NL batting champion with San Diego in 1992 and finished his 2,576-game career with a .292 batting average. BBWAA voters have no doubt allowed the Mitchell Report to cast a pall over voting, as deserving honoree Sheffield got just 59 votes for his third year on the ballot.
3. Jack Morris
Hall of Fame voters sure like the “W” and Cy Young awards when putting pitchers’ names down on the ballot. That’s the only reason we can see that Morris never collected enough votes during his eligibility and now must wait and see if the Veterans Committee can get him in. Morris did win 254 games in 527 starts over 18 seasons. The BBWAA though, should take a little closer inspection of Morris’ numbers, because he also threw 175 complete games, of which 28 were shutouts. Not the prettiest pitcher during his time in the bigs, Morris just plain got the job done. He had an AL leading six shutouts during the 1986 season and topped the loop in complete games with 11 in 1990 (his high was 20 in 1983 when he didn’t best the category). He was a fiery and durable competitor who threw for over 200 innings in a season 11 times. His playoff performances, too, were off the charts. He was 2-0 with two complete games as his Detroit Tigers beat San Diego in the 1984 World Series. In 1991, he also went 2-0 with champion Minnesota, garnering the MVP award in the process.
2. Alan Trammell
Lou Whitaker would not have been quite as “sweet” had he not teamed with infield battery mate Alan Trammell all those years in Detroit. For 18 seasons between 1978 and 1995, Whitaker and Trammell were near inseperable as a tandem. Like Whitaker, Trammell played his whole 20-season career in Detroit and while he was by no means the greatest hitting shortstop of all-time, he certainly provided enough pop in his bat to rap out 2,365 in 2,293 games (.285 average) and drive in 1,003 runs. He did collect three Silver Slugger awards and six All-Star nominations, but he was best known for his defence, what with four Gold Gloves and a .977 fielding percentage to his name. He also knew when to rise to the occasion, as witnessed by his MVP performance in the 1984 World Series. He went 9-for-20, with two homers and six RBI as Detroit bested the San Diego Padres in five games.
1. Thurman Munson
Again, the catchers. And we are putting this one on the Veterans Committee for not immediately having Thurman Munson’s bust adorning the halls in Cooperstown. Before his untimely death in 1979, Munson was one the best catchers the game has known and was AL MVP in 1976. In just 1,423 games, all with the Yankees, Munson had 1,558 hits, a .292 batting average, 113 homers and 701 RBI. Put it this way, his homer total is better than four players currently enshrined and his batting average was higher than that of eight inductees, including fellow former Yankee Yogi Berra. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Munson threw out 44 percent of baserunners trying to steal on him, including an AL leading 50 percent in 1975. He wasn’t just good in the regular season either. Munson had a .357 batting average in the playoffs and registered a .320 average (16-for-50) in two Yankees World Series wins in 1977 and 1978 against the Dodgers.