Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Greatest (Eligible) Left Fielder Not in the Hall of Fame

When I named this blog Left Field, it wasn't because of some unusual fascination with that particular position on a baseball diamond. It was mainly because I thought it would be a cool name for a site with a heavy baseball emphasis, and it also would reflect the fact that sometimes my content, while not completely "out there," would seem like it was coming from out of left field.

But, in the past year or so, I've sort of developed an unusual fascination with the position of left field. Last year, around this time, I posted The All-Left Field Team and the Top 20 Left Fielders of All-Time. I also named one particular left fielder the most over-rated player in baseball history.

Which leads me to my point...well, sort of. I started thinking recently about who is the greatest left fielder not currently in the Hall of Fame. Of course, the first names to come to mind are Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, assuming you choose to classify Rose as a left fielder. Honestly, I've spent way too much time trying to decide that one.

But, both of those players are ineligible for the Hall of Fame, and I've got an ulterior motive I'll get to in a moment, so I really want to consider only eligible players for this distinction. That also leaves out players who haven't been retired for five years and, therefore, haven't even been voted on yet.

Of course, a year from now, if a certain player with a huge cloud hovering over his head is shunned by the BBWAA, he'll take over the mantle. But, we're not there yet, so we can still ignore him.

So, who is the greatest left fielder eligible for the Hall of Fame but not currently enshrined? I thought about doing a survey, but instead I'm going to take a look at a few projects that have an interest in determining the Hall-worthiness of Hall of Fame and non-Hall of Fame players alike, as well as my own top 20 list referenced above.

My first source is actually a survey performed by Graham Womack's excellent Baseball: Past and Present blog.

Close to 100 baseball bloggers (including myself) and readers of the site submitted their opinions on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame, and Graham spent countless hours compiling and publishing the results.

Based on the number of votes received by each candidate, the top nine (you'll see why I chose that number in a minute) left fielders not in the Hall according to BPP's survey would be:
  1. Joe Jackson
  2. Tim Raines
  3. Pete Rose
  4. Minnie Minoso
  5. Albert Belle
  6. Sherry Magee
  7. Rocky Colavito
  8. Joe Carter
  9. Lefty O'Doul
As I said, I'm more interested in Hall-eligible players, so that leaves Raines, Minoso, Magee, Colavito, Carter and O'Doul.

My second source is the Hall of wWAR, a tremendous purely statistical project conceived by Adam Darowski of Beyond the Boxscore.

According to Adam, "Weighted Wins Above Replacement (wWAR) aims to identify the best candidates for the Hall of Fame not just by total value, but also by peak value, postseason value, and other adjustments."

Based on wWAR, the top left fielders not enshrined in Cooperstown are:
  1. Pete Rose
  2. Joe Jackson
  3. Tim Raines
  4. Sherry Magee
  5. Minnie Minoso
  6. Harry Stovey
  7. Jimmy Sheckard
  8. Bob Johnson
  9. Charlie Keller
Once again, ruling the ineligible Rose and Jackson out leaves Raines, Magee, Minoso, Stovey, Sheckard, Johnson and Keller.

Last, but certainly not least, I looked at Baseball Think Factory's Hall of Merit, an internet group of baseball enthusiasts who, almost a decade ago, created their own alternative to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Although players are not actually ranked in any particular order, there are nine left fielders in the Hall of Merit who are not in the Hall of Fame (in alphabetical order): Joe Jackson, Charley Jones, Charlie Keller, Sherry Magee, Minnie Minoso, Tim Raines, Pete Rose, Jimmy Sheckard and Harry Stovey.

Besides Rose and Jackson, the names that show up on all three lists are Raines, Minoso and Magee, so it's pretty clear they're the three greatest Hall-eligible left fielders on the outside looking in. My own list confirms this, as I ranked Raines #13, Magee #14 and Minoso #20 on my all-time list of left fielders.

Since Raines ranks ahead of Magee and Minoso on my list, as well as by wWAR, and the BPP voters ranked him behind only Jackson, I feel pretty confident making the claim that Tim Raines is the greatest eligible left fielder not in the Hall of Fame.

But, I've already written plenty on the subject of how I feel about Raines's Hall of Fame candidacy. So, if you've been reading here for any length of time, you're pretty well aware of that. All of which begs the question, where am I going with this, other than to repeat myself?

I've decided to launch a grassroots campaign with the goal of trying to improve Tim Raines's chances of eventually being elected to the Hall of Fame. In his five years on the ballot, his vote total has doubled, from 24.3% in 2008 to 48.7% in 2012. If he continues to gain support at that pace, it should take about six more years for him to make it, so he may not actually need my help.

But, there are no guarantees, and considering the glut of new candidates who are about to reach the ballot in the next few years, he could probably use all the help he can get.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear, though. I have virtually no idea how to embark on a grassroots campaign, but I'm going to give it a shot, and I'm pretty certain I'll have fun trying.

So, if you agree with me that Tim "Rock" Raines is worthy of the Hall of Fame, you can begin to help me out by following @RockInTheHall on Twitter. Hopefully, I can reach at least several hundred followers, some of whom may be willing to help me spread the word, by the end of baseball season.

In the meantime, I'll be trying to collect the names of writers who've failed to vote for Raines. At that point, I can begin the campaign in earnest by reaching out to those folks and appealing to whatever side of them has caused their complete swing-and-miss on this one.

Or, something like that. I'm probably completely out of my mind, but I welcome any and all advice and assistance regarding how to proceed with my efforts.


  1. wWAR is a cold bastard, so it actually takes a crack at listing the actual Hall of Famers that Raines ranks ahead of. That list:

    Joe Kelley
    Joe Medwick
    Willie Stargell
    Billy Williams
    Zack Wheat
    Ralph Kiner
    Heinie Manush
    Jim Rice
    Lou Brock
    Chick Hafey

    More than a couple.

  2. Thanks Adam. Pretty safe to say, even though about half those guys probably don't even belong in the Hall, that this is a pretty good case for Raines's inclusion.

  3. Very cool methodology, thanks for including my project in it!