The great Hall of Fame debate, part 1: borderline players
Debating Hall of Fame candidacy is always a hot topic in baseball. More than any other sport, baseball is ruled by numbers, and in the past, certain benchmarks were considered a lock for one’s entrance. Part 1 focuses on current players (or players still considered active because of contracts) who are at the twilight of their careers and thought to be borderline candidates by most people.
Johnny Damon, OF (1995- 2011)
Teams: Royals, A’s, Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Rays
2401 G .286 AVG 2704 H 1631 R 513 2B 106 3B 229 HR 1108 RBI 398 SB .353/.436/.789
Pros: 62nd all time in hits, 38th in runs scored. Won a World Series with Red Sox in ’04 and Yankees in ’09. “The Caveman” was one of the premier leadoff men in the game for over a decade, averaging .290/111 R/30 SB from 1998-2007.
Cons: Only two All-Star appearances. No top-10 MVP finishes. No Gold Gloves. Ranks 231st all time in WAR (For all the SABR nerds out there.)
In or Out?: Out. Damon can visit the Hall, but will never get to enjoy that awkward moment staring at a bust that resembles another ballplayer. Damon is a classic case for “numbers aren’t enough.” Even if he sticks around to reach 3000 hits, once considered a lock for entrance, voters should look the other way.
What team is he on right now? Exactly. Damon is the kind of player no one even notices, and I’ve never seen a Damon jersey anywhere in my life. Tim Raines put up eerily similar stats, plus double the stolen bases, and if he isn’t in, Damon has no shot.
Omar Vizquel, SS (1989-2011)
Teams: Mariners, Indians, Giants, Rangers, White Sox
2905 G .272 AVG 2838 H 1431 R 450 2B 76 3B 80 HR 944 RBI 401 SB .337/.353/.690
Pros: 11 Gold Gloves. Second all-time in fielding percentage at SS (.985). Third in assists at SS (7656). All-time leader in games played at SS (2699). 46th all time in hits. Played in two World Series with Indians in 1995 and 1997.
Cons: Only three All-Star appearances. Not considered an offensive threat, .690 career OPS would rank among the lowest of all inductees.
In or Out?: In. The only reason I put Vizquel on the borderline list is because some people have a problem with players who lack offensive firepower. But if Bill Mazerozki is in the Hall, Vizquel definitely deserves to be in. Defense is 50% of the game and Vizquel was just as good defensively as Ozzie Smith, just not as flashy. He was also a huge influence in the Latino community and a great ambassador for the game.
Jorge Posada, C (1995-2011)
1816 G .274 1658 H 897 R 379 2B 10 3B 273 HR 1060 RBI 20 SB .374/.474/.848
Pros: Five All-Star appearances. Five Silver Slugger awards. Five World Series titles. Two top-10 MVP finishes. Eighth all-time in home runs by catcher.
Cons: No Gold Gloves. Overall numbers don’t pop out at you, especially the 1658 hits.
In or Out?: Out. He will probably get in, but for me, just being a Yankee shouldn’t get you in. The numbers are there for a catcher, and the resume is solid, but I just don’t see Hall of Famer preceding the name Jorge Posada. Javy Lopez had a similar career, minus the team success, and no one will ever mention him as a candidate. An all time Yankee great, yes, but not Hall worthy. Call me stingy.
Andy Pettitte, LHP (1995-2010)
Teams: Yankees, Astros
3055.1 IP 240-138 3.88 ERA 1.36 WHIP .270 BAA 2251K/962 BB
Pros: Three All-Star appearances. Two 20-win seasons. 2001 ALCS MVP. 19-10 in postseason. Eight World Series appearances, including five rings. His 203 wins ranks third on Yankees all-time list.
Cons: No Cy Young awards and 3.88 career ERA is considered average, as well as 1.36 WHIP.
In or Out?: Out. Another Yankee who could get in if you take his postseason efforts into account. But a 3.83 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 42 postseason starts isn’t exactly dominating. Kevin Brown was a better pitcher, but he won’t get in either. Voters will forgive and forget the admittance of using HGH, mostly because he didn’t mess with any historical records or deny it in front of Congress. Still, Pettitte falls a little short when thinking about the greatest of his generation.
Miguel Tejada, SS (1997-2011)
Teams: A’s, Orioles, Astros, Padres, Giants
2118 G .285 AVG 2362 H 1215 R 463 2B 23 3B 304 HR 1282 RBI 84 SB .336/.457/.793
Pros: 2002 AL MVP. Six All-Star appearances. Two Silver Slugger awards. Averaged .296/30 HR/116 RBI over seven seasons from 2000-2006. Ranks 22nd in games played by SS (1946).
Cons: Linked to steroids. Sub-par fielder (.972 fielding percentage ranks 61st all-time). Rapid decline in offense in later years.
In or Out?: Out. Tejada is an interesting case because, for his position, his numbers rank among the best. He is third all-time in home runs by a shortstop and seventh in RBI. His 2002 MVP stat line of .311/203 H/107 R/40 2B/34 HR/150 RBI is one of the best offensive seasons ever for a shortstop, but the steroid issue will always be in the back of people’s minds, especially how his power has declined in recent years. Voters may forget the stain of the drug on his resume, but what they won’t forget is that Tejada doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know!