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The “I can’t believe he has a real Hall of Fame case” tier of players

First up: Russell Martin

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Long before the internet was born and long after this series I’m planning is finished, the discussions about the baseball Hall of Fame will remain. There is something special about Cooperstown that generates more discussion about possible members, the cases for and against them, that’s more present in baseball than any other sport. That’s my perception at least.

Looking at the Hall of Fame inductees in recent memory, you can find patterns that in a way can devise players into tiers.

For instance, there is the tier of players with Hall of Fame resumes that gained a lot of momentum after their careers were over through the sabermetric community. This tier includes players like Tim Raines and Larry Walker.

Those players have the necessary pull with the old era that still plays a large and fundamental role in voting, to get to the finish line with the push from the younger generation.

There’s the other side of the spectrum with players like Jack Morris and Harold Baines who received the push from the old era via the Veterans Committee.

Most of these guys have borderline cases and enough credit to get in and there are obviously multiple degrees. I don’t have any doubt that Tim Raines is a Hall of Famer, but that’s not to say he was a shoo-in like the upper echelon of the sport. Your Mickey Mantles and Mike Schmidts of the world.

One debate, in particular, led me to think about a specific tier that doesn’t get a lot of attention but needs to be acknowledged as more than just a really good career even if that player will never get in Cooperstown.

Yadier Molina is getting into Cooperstown and that’s a fact. Molina never hit like Posey and the quantifiable ways to measure a catcher’s impact defensively do not do him justice. We’ve come a long way in that department over the last few years, but especially when you factor in the beginning of Molina’s career, it is one of the aspects that still needs a lot of work.

You often see Russel Martin being brought up when the topic is Molina’s Hall of Fame case. They have very similar career stats

Yadier Molina: .280/.330/.402, 171 HR, 998 RBI, 98 wRC+, 2146 Games, 42.1 bWAR, 55.6 fWAR

Russell Martin: .248/.349/.397, 191 HR, 771 RBI, 104 wRC+, 1693 Games, 38.9 bWAR, 55.1 fWAR

Yadier Molina has all the accolades with nine Gold Gloves to Martin’s one, 10 All-Star games to four, the same number of Platinum Gloves that Yadi has. There are also more advanced metrics that show that Molina was the better defender and that’s well represented by his award superiority.

There are intangible aspects that put Molina ahead, but the point is that this comparison is often made to argue against Molina’s Hall of Fame case because Martin is probably never getting in. Can we take a step back and appreciate Martin’s career and how consistent he was regardless of whether he’s a Hall of Famer?

I’m gonna start a series moving forward with players like Russell Martin that may not be Hall of Famers for one reason or another, but had careers that get close to that borderline threshold for an actual case.