It’s that time of the year again. Hall of Fame inductions are right around the corner and the complainers are on cruise control. This year’s Cooperstown HOF snubs list added a couple more names.
First, let’s look at this year’s class of actual Inductees:
Chipper Jones (Braves): 410 votes, 97.2% (1st Ballot)
Vladimir Guerrero (Angels): 392 votes, 92.9% (2nd Ballot)
Jim Thome (Indians): 379 votes, 89.8% (1st Ballot)
Trevor Hoffman (Padres): 337 votes, 79.9% (3rd Ballot)
Near the end of 2017, the Modern Baseball Era Committee convened to elect Jack Morris (Tigers; 14 votes, 87.5%) and Alan Trammell (Tigers; 13 votes, 81.3%) as part of Cooperstown as well, making 2018 class more than five members since 2008.
Before we begin, let’s throw aside the obvious debates of Steroid Era players Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, etc. etc. No Pete Rose debates either, because, it’s too exhausting.
DON MATTINGLY (’82-’95)
.307 BA; 2,153 Hits; 1,099 RBIs; 6x All-Star; ’85 AL MVP; 9x Gold Glove; 3x Silver Slugger; ’84 Batting Champion; ’85 RBI Leader
When I received my first Louisville Slugger bat as a six year-old kid, Mattingly was the wood-burnt signature on the barrel. I never forgot that. He instantly became one of my favorite players. Mattingly was one of a few relevant Yankees in the 1980s and donned captain status from 1991-1995, before Derek Jeter succeeded him. Mattingly was everything a Yankee should be, and everything a ball player could be imagined as. The only thing that holds him back from entering the hall is his lack of World Series wins— especially for a Yankee. In fact, he’s the only Yankee to have his number retired without actually winning one with the team.
LARRY WALKER (’89-’05)
.313 BA; 2,160 Hits; 1,311 RBIs; 5x All-Star, ’97 NL MVP, 7x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, 3x Batting Champion, ’97 HR Leader
Walker’s career has had a lot of twists and turns. He’s played on multiple teams, has had a World Series appearance, had big contracts, moved around in the outfield and played DH. One of the more exciting moments came during his ’97 MVP season, when he and Tony Gwynn battled for Ted Williams’ .406 batting average record set in ’41. A record that stands to this day. Of course this famed summer rivalry would be overshadowed a year later when the historic ’98 season between McGwire and Sosa for 61 homers sparked the world. Walker is a Sabermetrics darling and will most likely see a Hall of Fame nod in the years to come as his stats appeal to a new generation of voters.
EDGAR MARTINEZ (’87-04)
.312 BA; 2,247 Hits; 1,261 RBIs; 7x All-Star, 5x Silver Slugger, 2x Batting Champion, ’00 RBI Leader, ’04 Roberto Clemente Award
A few years ago, I remember talking to Edgar shortly after his latest hall snub. In a very Edgar-esque way he brought no attention to it and was just grateful to even be considered. That’s Edgar Martinez. He’s not flashy. He wasn’t one to complain or make headlines. He knows he’ll get in eventually. Honestly, I think he’s just satisfied that his number is retired in Seattle. The biggest flaw he has was the Roid Era he played in. And let’s not forget, he also played in a time where designated hitters weren’t respected as much as they are now. It’s probably going to take David Ortiz to get voted in first before Martinez gets elected.
MIKE MUSSINA (’91-’08)
270 Wins; 3.68 ERA; 2,813 SO; 5x All-Star, 7x Gold Glove, ’95 Wins Leader
The only pitcher on the list, Mussina was Mr. Reliable in the AL East his entire career, playing for the Orioles then finishing with the Yankees. It’s hard for pitchers to get into the Hall of Fame without having any no-hitters or Cy Young Awards. If Mussina does get in, it will be because of his overlooked stats. The man they call ‘Moose’ has won 15 games in a season 11 times, had one 20-win season in ’08, two 19-win seasons, three 18-win seasons and two 17-win seasons. The guy is a winner through-and-through. He’s was a no-thrills righty with five pitches that he received praise for when making in-game adjustments when his stuff wasn’t great some days. While he most likely will get in the same way Trammell or Morris did, there could be a chance he’ll get elected in the near future as his most current ballots have seen a voting percentage increase.
Gary Sheffield is a tough one not to add here. He’s a 500+ home run hitter, World Series champion and multiple Silver Slugging Award winner. But he’s been suspected a few times for PEDs, which makes his case similar to Bonds and others, without as much proof.
Andruw Jones. He’s a tricky case. Early on in his career there were comparisons to Willie Mays, but over time that fizzled away, leaving him struggling to stay on rosters. This led him to play for Japan’s Nippon League where he became an All-Star and won his first World Series. Jones was a career .254 hitter with 434 home runs and 1,289 RBIs. He’s a 10x Gold Glover and 5x All-Star too. His batting average and below average slash stats are his Achilles’ heel though.
There’s a case for Kenny Lofton, sure. He was one of the best defensive center fielders to have played the game. He’s been a multiple Gold Glove winner and tops stolen bases leader. Aside from his 2,428 hits and 622 stolen bases though, there’s not one stat that’s eye-popping.