As I discussed last time, through my Hall of wWAR research I've come up with a long list of players who I believe (at one level or another) are Hall of Fame-worthy. However, if I'm going to make any progress with advocating for overlooked players, I should whittle down my list something realistic and manageable. As a result, I'm making a list of the players I feel have no flaws in their Hall of Fame case that should reasonably keep them out. These are the guys I want to fight for.
When covering the 19th century, I identified three players I wholeheartedly support without reservation—Bill Dahlen, Deacon White, and Bob Caruthers. Today, I want to cover the holdovers from the most recent BBWAA ballot.
Earlier this year, Barry Larkin was inducted to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA. And that's great. If he had missed induction, he would have been a part of this series. Thirteen players will return to the ballot next year—Jack Morris (66.7% of last year's vote), Jeff Bagwell (56.0%), Lee Smith (50.6%), Tim Raines (48.7%), Edgar Martinez (36.5%), Alan Trammell (36.8%), Fred McGriff (23.9%), Larry Walker (22.9%), Mark McGwire (19.5%), Don Mattingly (17.8%), Dale Murphy (14.5%), Rafael Palmeiro (12.6%), and Bernie Williams (9.6%). I've made up my mind to fight for four of them.
Why he should be in: Quite simply, Jeff Bagwell is the best eligible player not in the Hall of Fame. He tops the list by wWAR (132.6) and WAR (79.9). His career OPS+ is 149. In a 15-year career, he had 2314 hits, 488 doubles, 449 homers, 1529 RBI, 1517 runs scored, 202 steals, 1401 walks, and a .297/.408/.540 slash line. He is one of 26 players in history with 600 or more WAR batting runs. He is one of 12 to also provide positive baserunning and defensive ability (and one of just six to provide 25+ runs in each, along with Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins).
He is 37th all time in position player WAR and 57th if you include pitchers. His OPS is 22nd all time while his OPS+ ranks 38th. He is 28th all time in walks and 35th in home runs. Even his traditional defensive numbers agree with his impressive Total Zone numbers (+31 runs)—he is second all time in assists by a first baseman and owns a .993 fielding percentage (64th).
What has kept him out of the Hall of Fame so far is the whispers. He played in the 1990s and 2000s and had big muscles. Therefore, a shockingly large percentage of the voting population assumes he did steroids and left him off their ballot. It's ridiculous. Bagwell's name has never been associated with PEDs. Only now (that he's on the Hall of Fame ballot) are these concerns surfaced. The worst part is that this comes after his retirement, so he has no way to clear his name.
It bothers me that steroids were part of the game. I'm still not 100% sure what to do about guys who admitted use or tested positive. But the thing is, Bagwell has denied use and has never tested positive. He didn't come up on the Mitchell Report. His name hasn't been leaked in any other way. I'm an "innocent until proven guilty" guy. Bagwell should be in. It's already overdue—he should have gone in on the first ballot.
Why he should be in: There are people who believe that a DH should never be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I'm assuming those people (a) don't support the induction of Paul Molitor (he "played" at DH more than anywhere else!) or (b) any American League pitchers who played after 1973 (they didn't hit!). Personally, I believe that anyone who made a career out of DHing should only be in Hall discussions if his offense more than outweighed his lack of defensive contribution. Paul Molitor did that.
So did Edgar.
Edgar's 559 WAR batting runs are 34th all time. His 67.2 WAR places him 70th among position players and an even 100th when you include all players in history. His OPS is 34th all time while his OPS+ is 43rd. He has one of the most gorgeous slash lines of all time—.312/.418/.515. We're talking about a Top 50 offensive performer (easily) and a Top 100 player. There are over 200 players in the Hall of Fame. This guy should be in.
The DH is part of baseball. Yes, Edgar should take a serious hit for spending so much time off the field. But he more than made up for it. Plus, it's not like he was made a DH because he was a weak defender.
Why he should be in: When writing about Bill Dahlen, I mentioned that Alan Trammell is a Top 10 shortstop. I'm sorry, but the Top 10 at any position needs to be in.
Trammell suffers from what many overlooked players do—versatility. He was good at everything. He didn't excel in an particular area, but he was very good at everything. That adds up. He played one of the two most demanding positions (and he played it for a long time). He had 124 WAR batting runs. He was also worth 21 runs on the bases, 19 in avoiding double plays, and even 21 in reaching on errors. In the field, his Total Zone rating was 77 runs (which looks really nice with his positional adjustment of 118 runs). Add it all up and you have a 66.9 WAR player.
Trammell is one of just nine shortstops with 100 WAR batting runs and 50 Total Zone runs. Among them, Trammell ranks fifth in WAR. All but Dahlen, Trammell, and Jack Glasscock are Hall of Famers. I happen to believe all three should be (but rank Glasscock behind the other two).
Trammell rates right behind Edgar Martinez in WAR, 101st among all players and 71st among position players. They're very close in wWAR, too, with Edgar coming in at 100.5 and Trammell at 99.3. I've read quite often lately that Barry Larkin's induction could clear the way for Trammell's eventual induction because they were "clones". wWAR agrees with this sentiment, with the two separated by just 0.9 wWAR.
It is so frustrating to see Jack Morris come do close to the Hall while Alan Trammell and (spoiler alert) Lou Whitaker remain so far away.
Why he should be in: I'm not sure how this next Hall of Fame ballot is going to affect things, but I don't think Tim Raines will be a non-Hall of Famer much longer. The saber crew seems to have latched onto him as their #1 cause now that Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo are enshrined. And that's good. He deserves it. He was no Jeff Bagwell, but he should be in.
With 306 batting runs and 121 baserunning runs, he and Rickey Henderson are the only 300/100 players in history (in fact, they're the only 100/100 players and two of just eleven 75/75 players). That's how unique Raines is. Sadly, he is constantly compared to Henderson. Yes, Henderson was better. But that's no reason to keep Raines out. I didn't see Jim Rice's Hall of Fame bid rejected because "he wasn't as good as Carl Yastrzemski".
He rates lower than Bagwell, Edgar, and Trammell by WAR and wWAR, but still well within the Hall of Fame range. He is 82nd in position player WAR (with 64.6) and 117th overall. His wWAR puts him among the top 140 eligible players. Again, there are over 200 players in the Hall of Fame, so this is most definitely good enough.
Raines is 58th all time in plate appearances. He ranks 46th all time in times on base (famously ahead of Tony Gwynn) and just 73rd in outs made. He's fifth all time in stolen bases (and the best ever, percentage-wise). He ranks 51st in runs scored and 56th in runs created. I'm telling you nothing you already know. Raines belongs.
There are quite a few players I have supported before (and still do), but are not listed here. Why? Remember, this list is only for players with bulletproof cases. While I support several other players, I feel they have flaws that opponents can latch on to. In some cases, nothing I can write will change their minds. In others, I'm not well-versed enough in the underlying statistics to completely refute their assumptions.
Larry Walker was the toughest omission. I'll admit that his overall value originally surprised me. But the more I look at him, the more I realize he's a Hall of Fame player. But there's the Coors Field effect. Walker seems to be treated like Edgar Martinez by some. The key difference is that instead of disregarding him for being a DH, they disregard him for playing well in Coors Field. Like Edgar, however, I feel Walker was so good that he offsets any deduction you give him.
I am not well-versed in the science of park factors and could not intelligently argue about how much of an effect they have on a player's total value. This is the only reason Larry Walker is not on this list. I'm ready for an article that definitely shows that Walker rose above the Coors Effect and performed at a Hall of Fame level. Please, someone write it.
Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro each posted Hall of Fame numbers—there's little debate there. One admitted to steroid use while the other tested positive. There is nothing I can do to convince the anti-steroid camp that McGwire and Palmeiro belong. Quite frankly, the fact that they are confirmed users pisses me off enough to not want to fight for them (though I still believe they belong). Instead, I will take all my effort I would have put into McGwire and Palmeiro and put it behind Bagwell and the others.
And that's it. I don't support any other players from the ballot for the Hall of Fame. I'd be fine with Fred McGriff making it and I admit that I would secretly be happy if Dale Murphy was ever inducted. I'm a kinder to Lee Smith than most saber geeks, though he's no John Hiller. While I don't feel Jack Morris belongs, I would not die a slow painful death if he was indcucted.
That brings my list to:
- Jeff Bagwell
- Bob Caruthers
- Bill Dahlen
- Edgar Martinez
- Tim Raines
- Alan Trammell
- Deacon White
In the third and final installment of this series, I'll look at the 20th century players who are no longer on the ballot.