Graham Wamack of Baseball Past and Present recently released his third annual 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame project. I look forward to this project each year for many reasons:
- I got to vote, and I enjoy having a say in these things.
- I got to contribute to the post, writing segments on Dwight Evans and Wes Ferrell (as well as the “Best of the Rest” segment).
- I enjoy seeing which players rank higher than they do in the system I use. I want to see if I’m missing something obvious.
Eight players appear on Graham’s list who are not inducted into the Hall of Stats. Eight out of fifty really isn’t many. That’s because Graham’s list is definitely taking on a more sabermetric flavor, which makes these eight players even more interesting to me.
Minnie Miñoso (99.7 Hall Rating, #33 on Graham’s list)
Minnie Miñoso comes so close to the Hall of Stats, but given his delayed start because of the color line and what he meant to the Latin community, I’d absolutely put him in. In 2011, I wrote about Miñoso for Graham’s project:
I read a lot about Minnie Miñoso’s age when discussing his Hall of Fame case. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. Miñoso could do it all. He had some power. He had some speed. He won three Gold Gloves. It is his OBP that sets him apart, though. Only ten elgible non-Hall of Famers have an OBP better than his .389. Four of them (McGwire, Bagwell, Martinez, Walker) happen to be deserving candidates on the ballot right now. Without considering Miñoso’s age and his time lost to the Negro Leagues, he is a borderline Hall of Famer. Factor in the time he missed and his role in integrating the Major Leagues, and he belongs.
Jim Kaat (85, #32)
Jim Kaat is close, and there’s one thing I feel kind of bad about. Kaat gets no credit for his defense in WAR. Kaat won 16 Gold Gloves—the same number as Brooks Robinson. That’s a lot. Robinson was worth 293.1 in the field. Does that mean we could conceivably add that many runs to Kaat’s value? Of course not.
Robinson compiled his defensive value in 9165 chances. As a pitcher, Kaat had only 1062 chances. So, let’s say he was as good a defender as Robinson. Because he had essentially 10% of the chances Robinson had, he could only be expected to be worth 30 or so runs. I’d actually estimate that it’s lower—balls hit to third base likely have more potential run value than balls hit back to the pitcher.
That said, defense still creeps Kaat a little bit closer to the borderline—close enough that I wouldn’t throw an enormous fit if he was inducted.
Dale Murphy (85, #35)
Dale Murphy recently fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after 15 tries. He has his ardent supporters, but I’ve always been on the fence with him. While his numbers really do fall short, his brief dominance (with back-to-back MVPs) still makes him a compelling case.
Dale Murphy was also a great guy. In an era when the “character clause” is being used only to exclude people, I wouldn’t have minded seeing voters use it to help Murphy.
Don Mattingly (77, #29)
Don Mattingly’s case is similar to Murphy’s in the respect that both were considered among the very few best players in the game when they played. But for both, it didn’t last. And for Mattingly, it’s because of back injuries.
I really hope Martingly is a successful manager so he gets the extra boost his candidacy needs to be honored by the Veterans Committee.
Dave Parker (76, T-#49)
Like Murphy and Mattingly, Dave Parker looked like a Hall of Famer early on. His career was derailed not just by injuries, but also for a high-profile battle with cocaine. While he was able to briefly find success again in 1985, his Hall of Fame case is largely relegated to just five seasons.
Gil Hodges (75, T-#41)
I struggle with Gil Hodges—the disparity between his legacy and his context-adjusted numbers is rather large. There’s no hiding what area he excelled in—home runs and run production. In fact, when he retired, he had more home runs than any other right-handed hitter in National League history.
He also could walk and defended his position well. So, you would think that Hodges would be a candidate to be underrated.
What likely kept him out of the Hall early on was his low batting average (.273) and his modest career hit total (under 2000). The first is made up for with a .359 OBP, but the second is what holds back his advanced numbers. Specifically, he only had an 11-year stretch where he was a useful player. In those 11 years, he never reached six wins, topping off at 5.9 WAR. In that 11-year peak, he averaged less than 3.7 WAR. It’s really hard to build Hall of Fame numbers that way.
Hodges has a bit more going for him, though. He managed the 1969 Mets to a World Championship. Tragically, Hodges died of a heart attack just a few years later, meaning he had no opportunity to build up a Hall of Fame managerial career. I can’t quite call his managerial career Koufaxian, but I might call it Lyman Bostock-ian. Is the combination of both (and the potential for more) Hall-worthy? Perhaps… that’s why he’s on this list all the time. I didn’t vote for him, however, as I only considered playing careers.
Jack Morris (73, #38)
Way too much ink has been spilled on Jack Morris. I can’t bring myself to write about him. I’m just grateful that in one year we’ll have a reprieve from Morris talk, for better or worse.
Albert Belle (72, T-#49)
When he was inducted into the Hall, I used to say that if Kirby Puckett had Albert Belle’s personality, he would never have gotten into the Hall. And if Belle had Puckett’s personality, he would have coasted in.
Of course, years later we know they Puckett wasn’t quite what we thought and once you context-adjust Belle’s numbers, he doesn’t quite stack up. Puckett had the more Hall-worthy career, no matter how you dice it (though Puckett is still a borderline call).
Good golly could Belle hit. In 12 seasons (10 full) he was worth 343.1 batting runs. two of his top seasons were even strike-shortened, as he posted OPS marks of 1.152 and 1.091 in 1994 and 1995. Other than hitting, he played a weak game, rating below average on the bases and in the field while playing a low-value position.
Plus, he was a dick. And that’s a big deal when it comes to the Hall of Fame, apparently.
Next on the List (and Thoughts)
One thing I noticed about when going through the list above is that Murphy, Mattingly, Parker and Belle were Hall of Famers. They just weren’t Hall of Famers for long enough. But they certainly played like Hall of Famers for a few years. For some people, that’s what they need to see—that the player dominated the game, even for a relatively brief length of time. The same could be said for some players on the extended list, like Oliva and Guidry. Others—like Hodges, Morris, Smith, Garvey, and Baines—simply weren’t as good as they were given credit for. Then there’s Miñoso and Williams, who I would consider the two best players on the list and truly borderline cases.
Then there’s Jim Kaat. He’ll always be in a class of his own. Tommy John Lite, if you will.