Saturday, April 23, 2011

Greatest Player Not in the Hall of Fame for Each Team

A while back, I was going to produce a list of the top 25 players who are not in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion. I still haven't gotten around to that, but instead I decided to pick one player for each franchise who, to me, is their greatest non-Hall of Famer.

Of course, I limited this to players who are eligible for election, which means no Pete Rose, Joe Jackson or Eddie Cicotte. It also means this is limited to players who retired in 2005 or earlier.

I considered each player for the team whose hat would most likely be depicted on his plaque, if he were elected to the Hall of Fame. In most cases, this is the team he played the most years or the most games with, but in other cases, it has more to do with impact.

Let me make one thing clear. Back when I was looking at each team's greatest living retired player, I was only concerned with the portion of their career that they played for the team in question. In this exercise, since I'm interested in their Hall of Fame credentials, I looked at each player's entire career, but considered him only for the one team I felt he was most associated him with.

There are a couple teams who aren't represented here, basically because there wasn't a single player who fit the criteria. If you can name someone eligible for the Hall of Fame who played more years or more games—or produced more WAR—with the Arizona Diamondbacks* or Tampa Bay Rays, I'll award you with some kind of prize. But, addition to the team-specific criterion, to be eligible for the Hall of Fame, a player has to have played 10 seasons and retired before 2006.

*OK, I will admit I was able to identify one Diamondback who fits the criteria, but he falls way short of the type of player I'm looking to honor here. So, this gives me an opportunity to use him as a trivia question. Anyone out there in internet land care to venture a guess as to who I'm talking about? Here's a couple hints: he was roughly a .500 pitcher over his 10+ years in the majors, was worth less than one WAR per season, but had some pretty good postseason numbers, including one ALCS and one NLCS win.

There are also some potentially Hall of Fame worthy players not mentioned here as well, because they played in the 19th century for teams that no longer exist, and I'm only covering the 30 existing franchises here.

Atlanta/Milwaukee/Boston Braves - Joe Torre is my selection here, but I also considered Darrell Evans and Dale Murphy.

Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Browns - It's a St. Louis Brown, Urban Shocker, who gets the nod here, over fellow Brown Vern Stephens and Mount Vernon, New York's Ken Singleton.

Boston Red Sox - I bet Dwight Evans and Luis Tiant would be the more popular picks, but I think Reggie Smith is quite under-rated and he's the man who gets my vote.

Chicago Cubs - I'm going with Ron Santo, but it was a tougher decision than one would realize, taking him over turn of the century shortstop Bill Dahlen. Also considered were 19th century standout George Gore, and another one of history's many unheralded Cubs, Rick Reuschel.

Chicago White Sox - There's some stiff competition on the south side of Chicago as well. Minnie Minoso, though, is my man, with Billy Pierce and Robin Ventura the runners-up.

Cincinnati Reds - Barry Larkin is an easy call, but assuming he gets elected next year—as I hope he will—it's going to be tough deciding between Vada Pinson, Heinie Groh, George Foster and 19th century pitcher Tony Mullane to take his place. Dave Concepcion, you say? I don't think so.

Cleveland Indians - Not a lot of tremendous choices here, but I'm going with Albert Belle, over Rocky Colavito and Wes Ferrell.

Colorado Rockies - Larry Walker may just be worthy of being Colorado's first Hall of Fame inductee, in my opinion.

Detroit Tigers - This was definitely one of the toughest decisions of this exercise, but I'll take Alan Trammell by a nose over Lou Whitaker.

Florida Marlins - Charles Johnson is far from Hall of Fame worthy, but he won four Gold Gloves—as a catcher—and did appear on the ballot this year, although he received zero votes. So, to me, he's good enough to be considered for this distinction.

Houston Astros/Colt .45's - Well, this one might be just as easy as my Rockies pick. Jeff Bagwell, without a doubt. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, I'll be faced with the decision of who to replace him with. If Craig Biggio hasn't yet been passed over at that point, then we'll likely be looking at Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno or Jose Cruz.

Kansas City Royals - I really wanted to say Dan Quisenberry, because I truly believe the very best relievers are under-appreciated by modern statistical analysis. But, that's a discussion for another day, and the fact of the matter is Quiz's career started late and faded early. So, I'm going with Bret Saberhagen, over Quisenberry and Kevin Appier.

Los Angeles/Anaheim/California Angels - Bobby Grich is the obvious choice, although Chuck Finley and Frank Tanana deserve a mention.

Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers - There are quite a few good candidates, including Willie Davis, Tommy John (who I'm not really sure whether to consider as a Dodger, Yankee, or White Sox), Orel Hershiser, Ron Cey, Gil Hodges, and Steve Garvey, but Kevin Brown—who played more years in Texas, but played his best for the Dodgers—is the closest to Hall of Fame caliber, as far as I'm concerned.

Milwaukee Brewers - Not a lot to choose from here. Their Hall of Fame worthy players have already been so honored. I'll take Cecil Cooper, with an honorable mention to Don Money.

Minnesota Twins/Washington Senators - I think his Hall of Fame case is over-rated by many, but my choice here is Tony Oliva over Jim Kaat.

New York Mets - Most people probably think of David Cone as a Yankee, but he pitched almost 300 more innings for the Mets. I'm not certain that means he would go into the Hall as a Met, but I'm taking him over Jerry Koosman.

New York Yankees - There are a lot of Yankee greats in the Hall of Fame, and there are also a number of borderline candidates who aren't, so this was a tough choice. But, to me, Thurman Munson is the best, with Graig Nettles and Willie Randolph not far behind. Don Mattingly? Back injury or not, he just didn't sustain it long enough. Pretty much the same goes for Ron Guidry.

Oakland/Kansas City/Philadelphia Athletics - As is usually the case with these types of exercises, I'm not passing judgment with regard to confirmed, alleged and suspected steroids users, so Mark McGwire gets the nod, with Sal Bando the runner-up.

Philadelphia Phillies -Gotta go with Dick Allen, although Sherry Magee deserves some recognition as well.

Pittsburgh Pirates - Dave Parker is really the only choice.

St. Louis Cardinals - I was torn on this one, so I informally polled the Cardinals bloggers I follow on Twitter, but their varied responses only confirmed how difficult a decision this is. Pitchers Hit Eighth was adamant in their support of Ken Boyer, and Ted Simmons also received a couple mentions, but I still find myself in the corner of Keith Hernandez.

San Diego Padres - There are only a few players who qualify for this distinction. Terry Kennedy is one. He appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1997 and received one vote. But—to me—Andy Benes, while far from a Hall of Famer, is better. Yet, for some reason, his name never made it on the ballot, which is kind of hard to believe.

San Francisco/New York Giants - I'll take Will Clark, over Bobby Bonds.

Seattle Mariners - Edgar Martinez. Is there anybody else?

Texas Rangers/Washington Senators - Man, I hate what a dilemma these steroid questions have created. Imagine having to actually be a Hall of Fame voter? To remain consistent, I'll go with Rafael Palmeiro, over Buddy Bell.

Toronto Blue Jays - This is a tough call, but I'm going to take Dave Stieb over John Olerud and Fred McGriff.

Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos - Tim Raines, of course.

I'll be the first to admit that many of these are debatable, and, of course, that's what made this exercise so fun. If you have any thoughts on any of these—particularly if there are any players I overlooked—I'd love to hear them.


  1. I agree on many of these choices, especially Cecil Cooper, Tim Raines, Urban Shocker.

    Rocky Colavito was (and is, for that matter) my hero, so I'll have to check his stats against Albert Belle and mull it over.

    Fun post!

  2. *Brian Anderson

    word verification: prowsens

  3. @ballcapsblog - It was a tough choice between Colavito and Belle. You'll probably want to give Colavito bonus points for how you remember him, and I don't blame you. Certainly glad someone is on board for Urban Shocker. What a great baseball name.

    @Lee - Brian Anderson is correct. Nice job.

  4. Agree with Dick Allen. He was always deserving, in my opinion. Good post.