Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 10 Players Who Should Be In the Baseball Hall of Fame

Tomorrow afternoon, we will see the results for this year's vote of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many players will be eligible for the first time. Others will get an additional chance.

I've done this exercise before. My answers may be different now, partly because some that I've said should get in have since gotten in, and partly because I've had additional chances to look at these players' statistics and legacies and see them in a new light.

I am not going to count the newly-eligible, such as Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas. This is only for those who have thus far been denied election, even once, for whatever reason. If that reason is performance-enhancing drug use (from this point onward, abbreviated to PEDs), and we know they're guilty, I won't consider them. So you won't see Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro here. And while  no proof of his use has ever been publicly revealed, I'm not going to consider Roger Clemens, either. And since Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose are still on the "permanently ineligible" list, neither will I consider them.

You'll see me cite Baseball Reference's "Hall of Fame Monitor," which is weighted toward peak performance, and for which a score of 100 is considered a "Likely HOFer"; their "Hall of Fame Standards," which is weighted toward career statistics, and for which a score of 50 is considered the "Average HOFer"; and their "Similarity Scores," which shows the 10 most statistically similar players to the player in question, weighted (more or less) toward said player's position.

I'm going to list these men in chronological order. That means I'm going to start with some names you may not recognize. Where do I begin? At the Start.

Top 10 Players Who Should Be In the Baseball Hall of Fame

1. Joe Start. If Harry and George Wright -- the Wright Brothers who invented open professional baseball, rather than the ones who invented the airplane -- are in the Hall of Fame, and so is Al Spalding (albeit more for his pioneering executive role than for his superb pitching), and so is Candy Cummings (who almost certainly was not the first man to throw a curveball in a professional game), why not the man who may have been the best player in the game in the era of transition between amateur and professional?
Born in Manhattan on October 14, 1842, Joseph Start (he appears to have had no middle name) was a 1st baseman, batting and throwing lefthanded. He went across the East River to the then separate city of Brooklyn, and first played in 1860, at age 17, for the Enterprise Club. Having impressed there, the next season he was enticed to join perhaps the best club of the amateur era, the Brooklyn Atlantics. (Like English soccer teams were in the early days, these teams really were "clubs.")
He helped the Atlantics to a Pennant in 1861, and undefeated seasons in 1864 and 1865. (Their league being the National Association of Base Ball Players. Most references to the sport in the 19th Century listed the sport as two words: "Base ball.")

How depleted other teams' rosters were due to the American Civil War may not, as yet, have been seriously studied, and the truth is that, unlike a modern team, they didn't play every day, the streak lasting 36 games over those 2 years, before a team from Irvington, New Jersey stopped it in June 1866. But the Atlantics had a longer winning streak than any professional sports team in North America has ever had, topping the 33 of the 1971-72 Los Angles Lakers, the 26 of the 1916 New York Giants that is the longest in MLB history, the 29 of the 1987 Salt Lake City Trappers which is the longest in minor league history, and even the 35-game unbeaten streak (with 9 ties) of the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers. (If there was a longer streak in Negro League play, I can't find a reference to it.)

Only Harry and George Wright's 1869-70 Cincinnati Red Stockings have had a longer streak, 89 straight wins, before falling on June 14, 1870 -- to Start and the Atlantics. Put together, these facts must say something about their quality. That Cincinnati-Brooklyn game was regarded, well into the 20th Century, as the greatest baseball game ever played. Harry Wright, in spite of being on the losing side, went to his grave believing so.

When the first professional league, the National Association, began play in 1871, Joe signed with the New York Mutuals, which had also been one of the leading clubs of the amateur era. In spite of their name, they played their games first in Hoboken, New Jersey, at the Elysian Fields, where the long-held version of the game's invention says the first game was played in 1846; and later in Brooklyn, at the Union Grounds, the first enclosed ballpark ever built, in 1862.

Start remained with the Mutuals for the rest of their existence, including the first National League season in 1876, when they ran out of money and had to fold. He stayed in Brooklyn for the 1877 season, as Union Grounds owner William Cammeyer, technically the Mutuals' owner, bought the Hartford Dark Blues, and moved the Connecticut club to Brooklyn (yet keeping the name), and put Start on the Blues. In 1878, he finally did what so many Mutuals had done, go west, and played for the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs), and led the NL in hits and total bases.

Though he turned 36 at the end of that season, Joe was just getting warmed up. From 1879 until the team folded in 1885, he played for the Providence Grays, helping them win the 1879 and 1884 NL Pennants -- the latter being the year when Charlie "Old Hoss" Radbourn won 60 (or 59) games, a pitching record that, under today's conditions, means nearly 4 years' work for even today's aces. As late as 1882, Start batted .329; as late as 1885, when he was closing in on his 43rd birthday, he had an OPS+ of 121 -- not that anybody had heard of that stat back then. (Hell, even in 1985, most people hadn't heard of OPS+.) He played one more season, with the first club to be named the Washington Nationals, and packed it in.

When Joe Start played his first game at what was then the highest level of baseball available, James Buchanan was President, the Civil War hadn't yet begun, the transcontinental railroad was still just an idea, there were no telephones or light bulbs, Italy was newly unified, Germany wouldn't be for more than a decade, and Brooklyn was known for its ferry into Manhattan, with a bridge not being seriously considered or even, by many, thought possible; and there were people in their 40s who had grown up without ever having seen, let alone played, baseball. When he played his last pro game, Grover Cleveland was President, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty had debuted, the automobile and the motion picture camera were being invented, and it seemed like just about anything was possible if a man like Thomas Edison put his mind to it.
The numbers we have on Start are woefully incomplete, since the NAABP's stats simply haven't survived the last century and a half. And context is needed: In his prime, a "full season" was about 60 games. Only in his next-to-last year, 1885, despite his age, did he play more than 100 games in a year. So it makes no sense for me to post the Baseball Reference numbers for him.

The batting average we have for the years 1871 to 1886 is .299, meaning that he was likely well over .300 for his career if we count his Atlantics seasons. He hit 15 home runs in the 1871 to 1886 period, but then, hardly anybody hit home runs then. So know that, on September 6, 1869, playing for the Atlantics against another Brooklyn club, Eckford, he became the first player known to have hit 4 home runs in any game, amateur or professional. Clearly, he had some power. We have an NA and NL record of 1,417 hits, over the course of 1,070 games. Prorate that to 2,500 games (not unreasonable, that's about 100 fewer than Derek Jeter has already played), and we get 3,311 hits (again, comparable to Jeter).

Charlie Comiskey, the greedy owner of the Chicago White Sox who helped found the American League, had previously been a player, and is cited by many as the first man to play away from the bag at 1st base, thus "inventing the position as we know it today." But this is apparently untrue, as there are surviving accounts of Start doing it 20 years earlier. And, unlike Comiskey, who played with a glove that was barely more than a mitten, Start did it with no glove at all. So he wasn't just the greatest 1st baseman ever for a long time, perhaps into the 20th Century, he was the first great 1st baseman. As well as a great hitter.

He stayed in Providence long after the Grays folded, running a hotel, and died there on March 27, 1927, at the age of 84. He not only outlived most of baseball's other pioneers (although not George Wright, who survived until 1937, the last remaining Red Stocking), he lived long enough to see the entire careers of Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson, nearly all of Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson, and the rise of Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby.
But he did not live long enough to see the establishment of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Which is too bad, because he deserves election. This fall, players from "the Pre-Integration Era," 1871 to 1946, will be considered by the Hall's Committee on Veterans. There is time to convince committee members of the worthiness of Joe Start, and other pioneers of the game, such as his Atlantics teammate Dickey Pearce, his Mutuals teammate Bob Ferguson, and a star of the original Philadelphia Athletics, the first Jewish baseball player of any renown, Lip Pike.

2. Gil Hodges. If the Hall's voters were allowed to combine playing and managing achievements, Gil would be an easy choice, because managing the 1969 Met "Miracle" would put him over the top. Unfortunately for Gil, it just doesn't work that way. It shouldn't have to.

Gilbert Raymond Hodges was born on April 4, 1924 in Princeton, Indiana, and grew up in nearby Petersburg. He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and got a single-game callup at the end of the 1943 season, before enlisting in the Marines and serving in World War II. He was seasoned in the minors in 1946, and from 1947 to 1961, including the move to Los Angeles in 1957-58, he was a Dodger mainstay, helping them win Pennants in 1947, '49, '52, '53, '55, '56 and '59, including the 1955 and 1959 World Series. He closed his career with the Mets in their first 2 seasons, 1962 and '63.

Batting average .273, OPS+ 120. He hit 370 home runs. That doesn't sound like much now, but it was 11th all-time when he retired, and it's more than Joe DiMaggio. In 6 seasons, he hit 30 or more homers; 7 seasons in a row, he had more than 100 RBIs. He made 8 All-Star Teams. He was considered the greatest defensive 1st baseman of his time: The Gold Gloves were established in 1957, and he won the first 3 in the NL for his position. Had they been in place when his career began, he might have won 8 or 9 more.

HOF Monitor: 83. HOF Standards: 32. 10 Most Similar: Norm Cash, George Foster, Tino Martinez, Jack Clark, Boog Powell, Rocky Colavito, Joe Adcock (who, like Gil, once hit 4 home runs in a game), Lee May, Willie Horton and Derrek Lee -- none of whom will ever get into the Hall. All of this suggests that he shouldn't get in, and doesn't even come particularly close. To hell with that: His defense should more than make up the gap.

Perhaps Gil's biggest problem is that he was unable to speak on his own behalf, due to his death from a heart attack on April 2, 1972, while still the Mets' manager, not quite 48 years old. Even if he had lived (he'd now be 88, unlikely with his bad heart having already failed him once before that,but theoretically possible), he wouldn't have tooted his own horn. He was known as The Quiet Man for a reason. But his bat, his glove and his character spoke volumes, and they all say he should be in.

3. Dick Allen. First, let's put it out of the way: There is not one teammate of Allen's that has ever publicly called him a bad teammate. And he certainly can't be held responsible for the fact that the Philadelphia Phillies didn't win the 1964 Pennant, or that the Chicago White Sox didn't win the 1972 AL Western Division title, or that the Phillies lost the 1976 NL Championship Series. Whatever was wrong with his head, teammates ranging from Johnny Callison to Mike Schmidt swore by him, not at him. And the one man who had cause to say he was a bad teammate, Frank Thomas (not the one who might get elected tomorrow)? He was a racist bastard, and I don't give a damn about his thoughts.

Richard Anthony Allen -- don't call him "Richie," he hated that -- was born on March 8, 1942 in Wampum, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh. He was a Phillie from 1963 to 1969, a St. Louis Cardinal in 1970, a Los Angeles Dodger in 1971, and a White Sock from 1972 to 1974. He's the only man ever to lead 4 different teams in home runs in 4 years. It wasn't his teammates that had issues with him, or even his managers; it was the front office, who didn't like that he was a black man doing his own thing and standing out from the crowd. He returned to the Phils in '75 and '76, before closing it down with the Oakland Athletics in 1977, just 35, with bad knees and problems with drinking and gambling. He eventually got straightened out, and has spent the last 20 years working in the Phillies' front office.

Allen, right, with Bob Boone on a Phillies Alumni Night (their version of Old-Timers' Day).

In that tumultuous 1964 season, he was NL Rookie of the Year, leading in runs, triples and total bases. In 1972, he was AL MVP, setting what was then a White Sox record with 37 home runs. He led the AL in home runs in 1972 and 1974. He made 7 All-Star Teams.

Batting average .292, OPS+ an stunning 156. He hit 351 home runs, more than Hank Greenberg, and nearly as many as Joe DiMaggio, despite playing only 12 full seasons' worth of games, with none of his home games in hitter-friendly parks. (Comiskey was very pitcher-friendly, and Connie Mack Stadium also was unless you pulled the ball straight down either line.)

It wasn't just that he hit home runs, but how far. Like Jimmie Foxx of the then-Philadelphia A's before him (the park was then known as Shibe Park), he cleared the long double-decked bleachers at Connie Mack Stadium a few times, leading Hall-of-Famer Willie Stargell to say, "Now I know why they boo Richie all the time. When he hits a home run, there's no souvenir." He was also one of the few players ever to hit one over the left-field roof at Chicago's Comiskey Park.

The big knock on him, as far as his actual playing goes, is his defense. Like Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins, he started at 3rd base, but his defense was so atrocious, they had to move him to 1st base, because that was the position on the field where he could do the least amount of damage. (No designated hitter then, and still not in the NL. When the AL added it in 1973, he DH'ed a lot.)

HOF Monitor: 99, getting him just under the magic number. HOF Standards: 39, putting him well underneath. 10 Most Similar: Lance Berkman, Reggie Smith, Ellis Burks, Brian Giles, Jermaine Dye, George Foster, Fred Lynn, Tim Salmon, Shawn Green and Rocky Colavito. (Funny that Colavito should be one: He hit more homers than Dick, 374, but the thing most people remember about him was his great defense.) None of those guys is in.

But then, except for Foster, briefly when he hit 52 home runs in 1977 (the only 50-homer season in the NL between 1962 and 1998), none of those guys had anywhere near the presence that Dick had. There's an old expression in baseball: "Hot dog and Coke hitter." The kind of guy who, when he comes to the plate, you know you're not going to miss anything, so you might as well get up and get a hot dog and a soda. Nobody got up and went to the concession stand when Dick Allen came to the plate. Like the Babe, like Mickey Mantle, like Reggie Jackson, like McGwire and Bonds, when he came up, you had to watch, because you didn't want to miss the kind of home run he could hit.

He's a member of the Phillies Wall of Fame and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. But not, as yet the Baseball Hall of Fame. He even had a minor hit record, singing "Echoes of November" -- and November is now the month in which the Hall's Veterans Committee meets. Who knows...

4. Ted Simmons. If you think Mike Piazza is the best catcher not in the Hall, you may want to look at Simba. I know he gets hyped by Cardinal fans, because they think they're the best baseball fans in the country. But, in this case, they know what they're talking about.

Ted Lyle Simmons (not "Theodore") was born on August 9, 1949 in the Detroit suburb of Highland Park, Michigan, and grew up in nearby Southfield. He reached the Cardinals in 1968, too late to qualify for their World Series roster, and stayed with them through the 1980 season. Like Keith Hernandez (who won't be on this list), he feuded with Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog, and was traded, to the Milwaukee Brewers, and played with them from 1981 to 1985 -- including in the 1982 World Series, the only one the Brewers have ever reached, losing to... the Cardinals. He wrapped up his career with the Atlanta Braves from 1986 to 1988.

Batting average .285, OPS+ 118, 2,472 hits including 483 doubles and 248 home runs. He had 3 100-RBI seasons and nearly had 3 more. Was so respected as a hitter than he led the NL in intentional walks in 1976 and '77, and made 8 All-Star Games. He never won a Gold Glove, because he played in the NL at the same time as Johnny Bench and Gary Carter, and then in the AL at the same time as Carlton Fisk, Rick Dempsey and Jim Sundberg. But he was an excellent defender behind the plate.

HOF Monitor: 124, suggesting he should definitely be in. HOF Standards: 44, suggesting that he falls short. 10 Most Similar: Miguel Tejada, Trammell, Joe Torre, Fisk, Carter, Whitaker, Barry Larkin, Joe Cronin, Yogi Berra and Ryne Sandberg. Fisk, Carter, Larkin, Cronin, Berra and Sandberg are in. So is Torre, but as a manager; as a player he, like Trammell and Whitaker, falls a little short. Tejada is PED-tainted.
But these numbers suggest that Simmons deserves very serious consideration. He would have had a better chance had the Cardinals reached the postseason while he was there (they had near misses for the NL East in 1973 and '74), or if the Brewers had won just 1 more game to take the '82 Series. He is now working in the Seattle Mariners' front office.

5. Al Oliver. If you are under the age of 30, he may be the greatest living baseball player that you've never heard of. Which wouldn't be the case if he were, in fact, in the Hall. But playing the bulk of his career in the Seventies and the early Eighties, away from cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and (except for half a season) Los Angeles meant that he's almost forgotten now.

Albert Oliver Jr. (no middle name) was born on October 14, 1946 in Portsmouth, Ohio, and grew up there. He reached the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1968, when they were building Three Rivers Stadium and would soon be known, for their heavy hitting, as the Lumber Company. He stayed with them through the 1977 season, helping them win the NL Eastern Division in 1970, '71, '72, '74 and '75, and nearly in '73. This included winning the 1971 World Series.

He didn't stick around to become a member of the "Family" that won the 1979 Series, however: After the '77 season, a wild 4-team trade that also involved Bert Blyleven (who, until recently, would have been on this list, but is now in the Hall), John Milner and Willie Montanez led to him joining the Texas Rangers. Previously wearing Number 16, he asked to be assigned the number zero -- so the 0 could be seen as an O for Oliver. O for odd? Not when you consider he gave the Rangers 4 solid seasons. He bounced around a bit after that, spending 1982 and '83 with the Montreal Expos, dividing '84 with the San Francisco Giants and the Phillies, and finishing up in '85 with the Dodgers and the Toronto Blue Jays, reaching one more postseason as the Jays won the AL East. All those teams let him wear the zero. He's probably the greatest player to have played for both of the Canadian teams.

A center fielder who later moved to 1st base, he nearly won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1969. In 1970, he hit the last home run at the Pirates' Forbes Field, and had the 1st RBI at Three Rivers. Surprising for a player whose best years were away from big markets, he made 7 All-Star Teams.

Batting average .303, including 11 .300+ seasons, including .331 to lead the NL in 1982. That was also one of 2 100-RBI seasons for him, and he led the NL with 109. He also led the NL in hits, doubles and total bases that year. 2,743 hits -- the only eligible & untainted players not yet in who have more are Craig Biggio, Harold Baines and Vada Pinson. He hit only 219 homers, but 529 doubles. OPS+ 121. Andre Dawson, himself a victim of the mid-1980s "collusion," has gone on record saying Al was forced out by that collusion, denying him a legitimate shot at 3,000 hits. Could he have made it? I don't think so: He was about to turn 39, and his OPS+ had fallen from 103 to 75 in just 1 year.

HOF Monitor: 116, suggesting he should be in. HOF Standards: 40, suggesting he shouldn't. 10 Most Similar: Steve Garvey, Garret Anderson, Bill Buckner, Pinson, his former Pirate teammate Dave Parker, Zack Wheat, Joe Medwick, his former Pirate teammate Roberto Clemente, Mickey Vernon and Enos Slaughter. Wheat, Medwick, Clemente and Slaughter are in. Cases can be made for Pinson, Parker and Vernon. And the other 3 aren't that far behind.

Al is now the official ambassador for his hometown of Portsmouth.

6. Tim Raines. Timothy Raines (no middle name) was born on September 16, 1959 in Sanford, Florida, and grew up there. Montreal Expos 1979-90. Chicago White Sox 1991-95. Yankees 1996-98. Oakland Athletics 1999. Expos and Baltimore Orioles 2001. Florida Marlins 2002. He is now a coach for the Toronto Blue Jays.

You often hear that Rickey Henderson was the greatest leadoff man in history. What Henderson then was in the American League, Raines was in the National League, only he wasn't a braggart about it. He made 7 All-Star teams. He led the NL in stolen bases 4 times, runs twice, doubles once, and in 1986 won the battle title. Although he was unable to help the Expos win a Pennant, he helped the Yankees win 2 World Series.

Lifetime batting average .294, OPS+ 123, hits 2,605, including 430 doubles (but only 170 homers). He stole 808 bases in his career. Think about that: Eight hundred and eight. Do you know how many guys have topped that? Four: Henderson, the aforementioned Ty Cobb, Billy Hamilton and Lou Brock. They're all in the Hall. (The active leader is Juan Pierre, with 614. I don't think he's going to make it to 808.) The Expos retired his Number 30, although it was put back in use when they moved to become the Washington Nationals.

Playing most of his career in Montreal probably hurt him: It took a while for his teammates Gary Carter and Andre Dawson to get their deserved elections to the Hall. It may also be that Raines' cocaine use, during his Montreal days, has caused some people to vote against him. (This is also cited as a reason why Keith Hernandez isn't in, and why it took so long for Orlando Cepeda and Fergie Jenkins to get in.) Well, they need to get over it: He belongs. This piece calls him the best player not in the Hall.  Hopefully, that's true only for another few hours.

7. Craig Biggio. Craig Alan Biggio was born on December 14, 1965, in Smithtown, on New York's Long Island, and grew up in nearby Kings Point. He played his entire career, 1988 to 2007, for the Houston Astros -- and if you don't think playing in what has become a huge city but remains an under-reported market hasn't hurt him, think again.

He was 7 times an All-Star, and 4 times a Gold Glove. Of his 3,060 hits, 668 were doubles -- a figure topped in history only by Cobb, Rose, Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, meaning that he is the leader among human beings born after 1941. He helped the Astros to their last 6 postseasons, including their one and only Pennant in 2005.

He hit 291 homers and stole 414 bases. Of all players with more steals, only Henderson, Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds had more homers. While this stat doesn't help him, I think it is worth knowing: He was hit with 285 pitches. Only Hugh Jennings, who straddled the turn of the 20th Century and was hit 287 times, was hit more.

Four members of the 3,000 Hit Club are not in the Hall. Rose has been banned from baseball, and therefore is ineligible. Derek Jeter is still active, and therefore is ineligible. Rafael Palmeiro was caught using steroids, so while he is eligible, it's highly unlikely that he'll ever get in. The other is Biggio, and there is no good reason to keep him out -- not last year, his first time on the ballot, and not this year.

HOF Monitor: 169, meaning he should easily be in. HOF Standards: 57, meaning he should definitely be in. 10 Most Similar: Robin Yount, Jeter, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Cal Ripken, Johnny Damon, Brooks Robinson, Lou Whitaker and George Brett. It doesn't look like Damon or Whitaker will ever get in; but Jeter will, and the other 7 already have.

8. Jeff Bagwell. For 15 years, 1991 to 2005, Biggio and Bagwell were teammates in Houston, each what English soccer fans would call a "one-club man," and were often combined with others (most notably Derek Bell) to be called the Killer B's.

(Biggio, left, and Bagwell.)

Jeffrey Robert Bagwell was born on May 27, 1968 -- the same day as Frank Thomas, who is newly eligible -- in Boston. His hometown Red Sox drafted him, and foolishly let him go before he could reach the majors, trading him to the Astros for relief pitcher Larry Andersen in 1990. In fairness, the Sox needed Andersen to win the AL Eastern Division that year. But Bagwell, like Biggio, helped the Astros to 6 postseasons, and might well have made the difference for the Red Sox in their 1995, 1999 and 2003 postseasons, before they finally won it all in 2004. (Yes, they did pretty well with Mo Vaughn at 1st base. No, Mo was not better than Bags.)

Batting average .294, OPS+ a whopping 149. 2,314 hits, including 488 doubles and a club-record 449 home runs. (Yes, he played the 2nd half of his career at Minute Maid Park, formerly Enron Field, a.k.a. Ten Run Field; but he played the 1st half of his career at the Astrodome, so that cancels that out.) Had 100 or more RBIs in 8 seasons, nearly 10. An All-Star 4 times and a Gold Glove 1. 1991 NL Rookie of the Year, 1994 NL MVP. Surprisingly, considering how he looked, a good baserunner, stealing 202 bases, twice reaching 30, and led the NL in runs scored 3 times. He's one of only 12 players with at least 400 homers and at least 200 steals. 1,529 RBIs: Of all players from 1991 to 2005, only Barry Bonds had more.

HOF Monitor: 150, meaning he should easily be in. HOF Standards: 59, meaning he should definitely be in. 10 Most Similar: Carlos Delgado (not yet eligible and a borderline case anyway), Frank Thomas (newly eligible and will get in, if not this time then within a couple of years), Fred McGriff (not in but should be), Vladimir Guerrero (not yet eligible and a borderline case), Todd Helton (not yet eligible and a borderline case), Jason Giambi (not yet eligible and not getting in), David Ortiz (not yet eligible and a borderline case even if he wasn't a lying cheating bastard), Albert Pujols (not yet eligible but probably getting in), Andres Galarraga (not in and not getting in), Willie Stargell (deservedly in). So, 1 in, 2 who probably will be, 1 who should be, 4 who could get in, and 2 who won't.

He's already been denied 3 times. Why? Some people think he used PEDs. No evidence of this has ever been publicly revealed. He belongs.

Because Biggio and Bagwell are so closely linked, I'm going to purposely futz up the chronology a little, and next mention a player who debuted between them.

9. Curt Schilling. I hate his guts. So do a lot of people, which probably cost him last year, in his first year of eligibility. And, despite some of his behavior, after October 2004 we have to admit that he does have quite a bit of guts to hate. Remember, this isn't about personality, only performance.

Curtis Montague Schilling -- even his name is annoying -- was born on November 14, 1966 in Anchorage, Alaska, and is easily the greatest player ever born in the 49th State. However, he (for want of a better phrase) grew up in Phoenix. Baltimore Orioles 1988 to 1990, Astros 1991, Phillies 1992 to 2000, his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks 2000 to 2003, Red Sox 2004 to 2007.

For a guy who appeared in 20 different MLB seasons, 216 wins isn't much, but against only 146 losses, that's a .597 winning percentage. He is a member of the 3,000 Strikeout Club, with 3,116. Of all eligible pitchers with more, only Clemens isn't in the Hall. His career ERA is 3.46, not especially impressive, but his ERA+ is a neat 127. His WHIP is 1.137. He was 3 times a 20-game winner, 4 times a League leader in complete games, and 6 times an All-Star. He never won the Cy Young Award, but finished 2nd 3 times.

It was in the postseason that he was most impressive. With the 1993 Phillies "Macho Row," he was the MVP of the NLCS, and nearly saved their bacon with a shutout in Game 5 of the World Series. In 2001, he and Randy Johnson were named World Series co-MVPs for the D-backs. And then there was the bloody sock that led the Red Sox past the Yankees and then the Cardinals en route to the 2004 title. He helped them win another title in 2007. In both '04 and '07, he won a game in every postseason round. His career postseason won-lost record is a sizzling 11-2, his ERA 2.23, his WHIP 0.968.

HOF Monitor: 137, meaning he should definitely be in. HOF Standards: 46, meaning he doesn't quite make it. 10 Most Similar: Kevin Brown, Bob Welch, Orel Hershiser, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Milt Pappas, John Smoltz, Don Drysdale, Dazzy Vance, Jim Perry and his former Sox teammate Pedro Martinez. Drysdale and Vance are in. Smoltz will be. Pedro, also a 3,000 Strikeout Club member, probably will get in (he becomes eligible next year at this time). The rest won't make it, although Hershiser comes close. (Perry's brother Gaylord made it.)

The big question mark is whether Schilling used PEDs. I've said many times, we have the blood on the sock, let's test it. Don't bet on that ever happening. Still, Schilling was as much a Clemens acolyte as Andy Pettitte. Is it really so hard to believe Schilling used PEDs? If it ever comes out that he has, and he's not in yet, he'll have no chance thereafter. But without proof, he should be in. The bastard.

Speaking of guys who wouldn't make it if I were basing it on whether I liked them personally...

10. Mike Piazza. I've already done a piece on whether I think he belongs, and concluded that he does. The evidence of his PED use is flimsy, and I can't say I'm convinced. Barring proof or a confession, he belongs on this list.
Michael Joseph Piazza was born on September 4, 1968, in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, Pennsylvania.  Los Angeles Dodgers 1992 to 1998, briefly a Marlin in 1998, a Met 1998 to 2005, a San Diego Padre in 2006, and an Oakland Athletic in 2007.

The fact that he was a Met and a Dodger, and the feelings I have for those teams, are irrelevant. Even if he was also a Red Sock, I wouldn't keep him out based on teams alone. (The same would go for Pedro Martinez, as far as I know the only player either in the Hall or worthy of consideration who put up big numbers for all 3 teams.)

Batting average .308, OPS+ an exceptional 143. 427 home runs, including a record 396 of them at the position of catcher. 12 times an All-Star, although, as you won't be surprised to know, never a Gold Glove. 1992 NL Rookie of the Year. Reached the postseason with the Dodgers in 1995 and '96 (and probably would have in '94 if the strike hadn't happened), and with the Mets in 1999 and 2000, but only won 1 Pennant, in 2000, and didn't win the World Series. (That he made the final out of the Series shouldn't be held against him: Babe Ruth made the last out of the '26 Series, Willie McCovey did so in '62, and Carl Yastrzemski made the last outs of the '75 Series and the Bucky Dent Game in '78, and they each got in on the first try.)

HOF Monitor: 202, meaning he's an easy choice. HOF Standards: 62, also making him an easy choice. 10 Most Similar: Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, the aforementioned Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Gabby Hartnett, Bill Dickey, Jorge Posada, Duke Snider, Juan Gonzalez and Lance Parrish. Posada doesn't have the stats to get in, Parris probably doesn't either, and even if Gonzalez was innocent of PED use, he'd be a borderline case. The other 7 are all deservedly in. So Piazza, at the least, compares well to catchers already in the Hall.


Others I considered for my Top 10: Pioneers Dickey Pearce and Lip Pike; 1920s-30s slugger Lefty O'Doul; Tiger double-play duo Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker; Red Sox right fielder Dwight Evans; White Sox right fielder Harold Baines; Mariner DH Edgar Martinez; and Expos & Rockies right fielder Larry Walker.


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premier players said...

very informative blog about the league baseball. have you any idea about top-10 players of world for all times.