The great Hall of Fame debate, part 1: borderline players


Johnny Damon is rounding third, but it doesn't look like he's headed home when it comes to the Hall of Fame. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

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)
Team: Yankees
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!

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  1. Vizquel – probably. I didn’t really “think” of him as a HoFer but you make some good points and I wouldn’t have any issue with him getting in.

    The rest of these players – No. I don’t even think most of them are borderline – in my opinion.

    Damon – No way – Even if he gets 3000 hits. If he gets the 3K they’ll put him in but he’s Not a HoF by any measure IMO. I don’t think he’ll get the 3K but even if he does – I say no. Has there ever been an OUTFIELDER w/ a .286 lifetime average and less than 250 HR’s that made the Hall? Can’t be too many? He’s a gamer and a winning player that would have helped your team if you had him but is not a HoF player. No black ink and not enough “gray ink.”

    Jorge – No – He is not even borderline IMO. He’s had a very nice career but has not even close. He has a higher lifetime BA than Lance Parrish but was he a better overall player? I say no – they are about even. Lance kicked as* in the 80’s (I’m not a Tigers fan) but was off the ballot in 1 year w/ less than 2% of the vote. Joe Torre split his time bt C, 1B and 3B but had a much better playing career and was never close to being voted in as a player.

  2. “He was also a huge influence in the Latino community…”

    Maybe Dale Murphy backers, (another player considered borderline) should tout his influence in the Mormon community. It could put him over the top.

    I echo Mlbfan, thankfully you don’t get a vote.

  3. Omar is a Hall of Famer. Damon needs to get 3,000 hits, Pettitte, Posada, & Tejada have no shot. There’s going to be at least three of the four 300 game winners on the list, plus Mussina, holding up Pettitte. Catchers are rarely elected, and Piazza and Rodriguez should go first, leaving Jorge out. Tejada doesn’t have enough hits, and he he’ll going up against Vizquel.then Jeter.
    There’s not enough votes for any of them other than Vizquel.

  4. This is why I dragged Tim Raines into this…..

    .294 2605 H 430 2B 113 3B 170 HR 980 RBI .385/ .425/ .810
    .286 2704 H 513 2B 106 3B 229 HR 1108 RBI .353/ .436/ .789

    I would say those numbers are pretty damn similar. And actually, OBP is something that gets me very excited, which is another reason I brought up Raines. His is .032 points higher and he ranks 5th all time is stolen bases (808). He was better than Damon is every aspect except for a little less power. So, again, if he isn’t in, Damon isn’t.

    I’ll agree with you that I jumped the gun a little by saying Vizquel was as good as Ozzie. He may not have had the range of the Wiz, but you could write down 6-3 or 6-4-3 down on your scorecard with ink as soon as the ball hit the bat.

    And again with the blindness on overall numbers. Sure Posada had a distinct advantage in OBP .374-.337, but for playing the same position, the overall numbers are close.

    Lopez .287 1527 H 260 HR 864 RBI .337/ .491/ .828
    Posada .274 1658 H 273 HR 1060 RBI .374/ .474/ .848

    Baseball is a numbers game, and not just the SABR numbers. I did say Posada would probably get in, I just wouldn’t put him in. And I have no ill feelings towards the Yankees.

    I’ll look for you in my next column called, ‘Bill James is the Anti-Christ’

    We should do a weekly debate topic.

  5. Clearly, you are not an OBP enthusiast, so I’ll temper my thoughts.

    Damon- Agree, but why drag Raines into this? They have similar counting stats, but look at the OBP. Yikes.

    Vizquel- Agree he gets in. Disagree he deserves it. Also, there’s a typo. It says he was as good defensively as Ozzie Smith.

    Posada- Disagree. I hate the Yankees, but his career numbers put him in. I’m not sure what numbers of Javy Lopez are similar except maybe height and weight.

    Petitte/Tejada- Agreed. Nether of them will come close.

  6. Damon is not a Hall of Famer. His stats have to be better than that in this era. Maybe if he put those numbers up back in the 60’s.

  7. You’ve never seen a Damon jersey because you never leave Chicago. Who’e heard of Dan Kirby, I only read your article because you mentioned the hall of fame, thankfully you don’t have a vote. Johnny’s going to the hall of fame, your MVP, All Star nonsense is worth nothing in a steroid filled era.

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