With the Hall of Fame's voting occuring yesterday, and some players dropped from the ballot, dashing their hopes of reaching the Hall of Fame unless the Veterans Committee saves them in the future, I have decided that now is as good a time as any to officially induct players who fit the above description into the Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame. I say officially, because both of these players are already included in its somewhat-hallowed virtual halls. They deserve a mention via article though, since the entire point of the RLWHF is to honor those who have not made the Hall of Fame but still deserve to be remembered. Of course, certain players (cough Will Clark cough) actually deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but are not and may not ever get there.
Let's start with Gary Gaetti. Gaetti was drafted 11th overall in the first round in the 1979 (Second Phase says Baseball Reference)by the Minnesota Twins. He played for the Twins, California Angels, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and the Boston Red Sox in his 20 seasons in the majors. Although not Cooperstown worthy, Gaetti finished with some pretty good numbers in some categories. 360 homeruns and 443 doubles is some nice production out of third base, and a .434 career slugging that saw its peak during the power-less 80's is impressive for the corner as well. Baseball Prospectus's Rate2 statistic shows him to be above average defensively for his career, with a Rate2 of 107 and 144 Fielding Runs Above Average. Really the only thing that brings down Gaetti's value is his career line as a whole: .255/.308/.434, with a .254 career Equivalent Average. Here is how he stacks up in the RLWHF.
The above table is ranked according to the JAffe WARP Score (or JAWS) system, developing by none other than Jay Jaffe of Futility Infielder and Baseball Prospectus. His new system takes the seven best seasons of a player's career for their peak WARP rather than just the best five seasons in a row. I like it this way better, since it helps cut out on some of the players who fill the requirements. Gaetti is ranked 19th among the 28 third basemen in the RLWHF. He is the third best defensive third basemen on the list for his career after Buddy Bell and Tim Wallach, which helps give him a great deal of value that his bat is missing. Gaetti was a fine player, and a childhood favorite of mine, so I am glad to see he stacks up well enough to be included. On a more hostile note, it is a problem that Ron Santo and Darrell Evans, the top ranked third basemen in the RLWHF, are not enshrined in the real Hall. I think spite is what is making me write this article at 5 in the morning without sleeping.
Speaking of spite and players who deserve to be in Cooperstown, Will Clark has secured his position in the Lankford Wing of the Hall. Any of you who have read the site for any length of time know how I feel about Clark and that he should be in the Hall where he belongs. Instead, he was dropped off the ballot after an excellent career. Let's take a look at where he stands in the RLWHF:
Clark comes in second behind Keith Hernandez for JAWS, but a great deal of that value difference has to do with the defensive differences between the two, something I'm sure the BBWAA was never going to elect Keith Hernandez for. Keith Hernandez also has a Seinfeld cameo over Clark, but we'll let that one slide for now.
Clark is the second best first basemen not in the Hall of Fame, and if you argue that Hernandez's value is not in the form that the BBWAA would easily recognize, then The Thrill becomes the top first basemen who will not make Cooperstown without some help from the VC. Good luck with that one. Let's see how Clark would stack up against the actual Hall of Fame first basemen:
Clark would be the 8th highest ranked first basemen in Cooperstown according to JAWS if he were elected. 8th -- thats top 10 -- dropped from the ballot on his first go around. If you add the people with higher JAWS scores than Clark at first (which is Hernandez) Clark still ends up 9th best. So my next question...how do you screw up the top 10 at first base twice? Let's remember that Clark retired at age 36 after hitting .318/.418/.546 in his last season in 2000. Assuming he returned for another year or two, he would've reached 300 homeruns, possibly knocked his slugging up over .500 for his career if the power surge was for real (his career line is .303/.384/.497) and could've ended up with 2,400 hits or so. Would this have been enough for the Hall? Of course not, but it would've allowed me to be even angrier when he was knocked off the ballot, and that counts for something. He also most likely would have passed Johnny Mize and possibly even Dan Brouthers (and Keith Hernandez) in JAWS, making him a member of the top 6 or 7 first basemen of all-time. Sadly, I think he still wouldn't make the Hall. Update [2006-1-12 9:26:43 by Marc Normandin]: By the way, Clark and Hernandez are two of the top 10 retired first basemen of all-time. When all is said and done, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Rafael Palmeiro, etc. will be in there, and I believe Mark McGwire already is, although we'll see how the BBWAA treats him in 2007.[END UPDATE]
Since Clark is such an underrated player from the 1980's and early 1990's whose statistics went unnoticed by the BBWAA, I fear for Tim Raines candidacy in 2008. Raines is more visible than Clark, but I never expected Will the Thrill to only get 4.4% of the vote. I think we should all take it upon ourselves to spread the word on Tim Raines and his deserving a placque come 2008 to avoid this problem. Seriously, get on it. And here's hoping that Bert Blyleven's improving to 53.3% of the vote is a sign that he will someday be elected to the Hall. The last thing I want to have to do is have Blyleven and Clark as permanent members of my little toy, as much as I love it.
Update [2006-1-11 11:59:15 by Marc Normandin]: By the way, pitchers inducted into the RLWHF (if any; I need to do the research) will be presented tomorrow with less angst I think.