As December slowly marches towards to the end, we're in the middle of heated discussions that who belongs in the Hall of Fame and who aren't, with the help of our friend Ryan Thibodaux and his excellent BBHOF Tracker. Some of the names on the ballot are head-scratchers; we can't wait to tell our grandchildren about juggernauts such as Freddy Sanchez and Matt Stairs.
Unfortunately, not all qualified candidates get the chances for a look on the ballot. In my previous post, I wrote how Javier Vazquez was screwed by being left off, and there are a few other players from the past decade who deserve a spot on the ballot. Seriously, if you put Stairs’s and Sanchez's names next to Barry Bonds's and Tim Raines's, why not these guys? Let's take a look at six players below, appreciate their careers, and think what they meant for baseball in the 2000s.
For most people, Counsell had only one thing to be remembered for: his unusual batting stance. True, his career 79 career OPS+ is unremarkable, if not mediocre. But he accomplished a feat no one else in the history of the sport has done: being involved in two walk-off wins in do-or-die World Series games, once scoring the historic run and the other time as a trailing runner. Combining that with 22.3 career bWAR – a higher mark than five players on this year's ballot – the current Brew Crew skipper should have been on the ballot.
The Portland, Oregon native enjoyed a 11-year big-league career, in which he produced a solid 20.8 bWAR, including a pair of five-plus-win campaigns and one All-Star appearance. He was by no means an elite hitter, as his 99 career OPS+ falls a hair short of league average. But boy, was he a spectacular defender in center field, where he made arguably the best catch in Philadelphia sports history. If John Fogerty had written "Centerfield" in late 2000s, Rowand would have been one of the players mentioned in the song.
Everett was another glove-first guy who played an even more premium position and fared better than Rowand. In his 11-year career, Everett racked up 116.2 fielding runs according to Baseball Reference, good for 15th-most among players who played shortstop in at least 70% of their career games. If you look to FanGraphs' UZR metric instead, he ranks second-best among shortstops with at least 5000 career innings since 2002, checking in at a stupendous 15.4 per 150 games. On the flip side of the coin, he couldn't hit. He made everyone on the Bad New Bears look like Babe Ruth at the plate. Everett's 66 career OPS+ ranks 15th-worst among post-WWII players who amassed at least 3000 plate appearances, tied with Gary Disarcina, another light-hitting shortstop. Still, despite his non-existent offense, Everett deserves more attention for his generational glove at the six.
The only pitcher on this list, Davis tossed 1715 2⁄3 innings of 102 ERA+ ball in his 13-year career. Although he was never a dominant force, he ate innings in reliable fashion, topping 200 innings four times and 190 once in a six-year stretch from 2004 to 2009 while posting a combined 109 ERA+. Overall, he produced a solid 21.5 bWAR on the mound.
On the other hand, he couldn't hit better than your grandma. His career OPS+ of -49 – minus forty-nine – ranks dead last among anyone with at least 400 plate appearances, edging Ben Sheets, his colleague in Milwaukee. As usual, the table below is courtesy of the irreplaceable Play Index by Baseball Reference.
However, his most remarkable achievement is neither durability on the mound nor agony at the plate. It's something more meaningful that goes beyond his performance on the baseball diamond.
Three days before Opening Day of 2008, Davis was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Still, he made a pair of starts for the Diamondbacks before undergoing surgery to remove the cancer, and got back on the mound less than two months after the diagnosis. Overcoming such a tough disease in such a short time deserves an honor more than being enshrined in Cooperstown.
No, his résumé is far from that of a Hall of Famer — 9.3 career WAR by Baseball Reference and 7.3 by FanGraphs. If it wasn't for the one plate appearance with the Orioles in 2004, he wouldn't have met the minimum of 10 years played in the big leagues. But boy, was he a stat head's darling, producing the highest TTO% of all time among hitters with at least 2000 career plate appearances, checking in at a robust 53.0%. In other words, Cust had a higher percentage of plate appearances that ended with either a home run, walk, or strikeout than anyone in the history of the game.
How is Cora, he of the 72 career OPS+ and 7.0 career bWAR on this list? Well, he once had this incredible 18-pitch at-bat that ended in a home run, one of the only 35 he hit in the big leagues. Also, any baseball fan can appreciate five-plus minutes of fabulous baseball narrated by the great Vin Scully.
Kazuto Yamazaki is a contributor to Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @Kazuto_Yamazaki.