Friday, September 20, 2013

Personal Hall of Fame, Part 5: Designated Hitter Era

This is the fifth in a series of six posts where I'm revealing my personal Hall of Fame one era at a time.

I've determined era based on when each player's star shined the brightest—although in marginal cases, I've assigned some players based on where they fit best due to the all-era teams format—but their entire careers provide the basis for selection, rather than just time spent in a  specific era.

My personal Hall consists exclusively of players (no managers, executives, pioneers or umpires) based on their careers in Major League Baseball only.

For a more complete explanation of this series, and for my 19th Century inductees, please see Part 1. For my Deadball era inductees, please see Part 2. For my Live Ball era inductees, check out Part 3. For my Post-Integration era inductees, Part 4.

An * denotes an actual Hall of Famer.

All-Designated Hitter Era Team/Personal Hall Inductees


C - Johnny Bench* (1967-1983)
1B (2B) - Rod Carew* (1967-1985)
2B - Joe Morgan* (1963-1984)
SS - Cal Ripken* (1981-2001)
3B - Mike Schmidt* (1972-1989)
LF - Rickey Henderson* (1979-2003)
CF (RF) - Andre Dawson* (1976-1996)
RF - Reggie Jackson* (1967-1987)
DH (3B/2B) - Paul Molitor* (1978-1998)
SP - Tom Seaver* (1967-1986)
SP - Steve Carlton* (1965-1988)
SP - Phil Niekro* (1964-1987)
SP - Bert Blyleven* (1970-1990, 1992)
SP - Jim Palmer* (1965-1967, 1969-1984)

C - Gary Carter* (1974-1992)
C - Carlton Fisk* (1969, 1971-1993)
C - Ted Simmons (1968-1988)
C - Thurman Munson (1969-1979)
1B - Eddie Murray* (1977-1997)
1B - Keith Hernandez (1974-1990)
2B - Ryne Sandberg* (1981-1994, 1996-1997)
2B - Bobby Grich (1970-1986)
2B - Lou Whitaker (1977-1995)
SS - Ozzie Smith* (1978-1996)
SS/CF - Robin Yount* (1974-1993)
SS - Alan Trammell (1977-1996)
3B - Wade Boggs* (1982-1999)
3B - George Brett* (1973-1993)
3B - Graig Nettles (1967-1988)
3B - Buddy Bell (1972-1989)
LF/1B - Willie Stargell* (1962-1982)
LF - Tim Raines (1979-1999, 2001-2002)
CF - Kirby Puckett* (1984-1995)
RF/CF - Reggie Smith (1966-1982)
RF - Tony Gwynn* (1982-2001)
RF - Dave Winfield* (1973-1995)
RF - Dwight Evans (1972-1991)
SP - Nolan Ryan* (1966, 1968-1993) 78/20
SP - Don Sutton* (1966-1998)
SP - Rick Reuschel (1972-1981, 1983-1991)
SP - David Cone (1986-2001, 2003)
SP - Luis Tiant (1964-1982)
SP - Bret Saberhagen (1984-1995, 1997-1999, 2001)
SP - Dave Stieb (1979-1993, 1998)
SP/RP - Dennis Eckersley* (1975-1998)
RP - Rich Gossage* (1972-1989, 1991-1994)

Continuing the trend that integrated eras are more highly represented, the 46 players here from a period spanning 21 years (2.19/year) is the highest concentration so far. 

Also of note, there are 15 non-Hall of Famers added to my personal Hall here, almost doubling the previous high for an era. My best guess as to why is voters have failed to properly adjust for the game's continuously evolving playing environment and continue to hold players to standards established in the game's so-called heyday. This is especially true with pitchers. 

Either that or I've chosen too many players. 

Among the 15, I'll add Ted Simmons and Thurman Munson to the list of catchers underrated by Hall voters. 

Simmons' defensive skills were never highly rated, so I suppose his status as one of his era's best offensive catchers wasn't considered enough. It is for me, though, not to mention his rank as the 11th best catcher of all-time according to Hall Rating. 

Munson's career ended prematurely and tragically, of course. I've always assumed talk of his skills declining at a young age is the reason he never received the Kirby Puckett treatment. Just as we can't project his would-have-been statistics in a positive way, we can't be certain a brief downward trend would have continued. Despite the shortened career, only six catchers produced more 4-WAR seasons than Munson did (min. 75% games caught per season): Johnny Bench, Mickey Cochrane, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Yogi Berra.

With apologies to Don Mattingly, Keith Hernandez was the greatest defensive first baseman of all-time. Although it's a position where defense is relatively unimportant, rating as the best certainly helps Hernandez's case. His offense was also tremendously underrated since he didn't hit a lot of homers and fell short of the magic .300 lifetime batting average. However, thanks to a .384 career OBP and a lot of doubles, Hernandez's 128 OPS+ is better than I suspect most folks realize, and is comparable to Jim Rice, a player from this era who's in the Hall entirely for his offensive ability. 

A lot has been written about the voting travesty that allowed Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker to fall off the ballot after only one year. They're perhaps two of the most underrated players of all-time. They should be Hall of Famers. It's just that simple. 

Ditto for Alan Trammell, who's still on the ballot but stands little chance of getting inducted in his remaining three years. 

My dad would argue Clete Boyer just as I'm going to say Graig Nettles is maybe the second best defensive third baseman in history. I know there's some personal bias there, but so be it. Nettles also hit 390 home runs and is ranked 9th all-time at the position based on Hall Rating, but didn't get much consideration because of a .248 career batting average. 

As evidence not supporting one of my previous statements, Buddy Bell actually won several Gold Gloves at third over Nettles. Accepting that Bell is arguably in Nettles' class as a third basemen, their offensive resumes are comparable as well, although Bell didn't have Nettles' power. Both are deserving of the Hall at one of its most under-represented positions. 

It should be no secret how I feel about Tim Raines, so I'll just add this:

Only eight players in history
have reached base 4000 times, scored 1500 runs, stolen 500 bases and were worth more than 60 wins above replacement for their careers. Five of them (Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner) are first-ballot Hall of Famers; one (Eddie Collins), while not being elected on the first ballot, was among the first 16 player inductees in the Hall's history; and the remaining two are Barry Bonds and Tim Raines.

Rice came of age during my childhood, and he definitely falls into the category of a player I thought of as a future Hall of Famer back then. But his offensive peak wasn't as impressive as I thought as a kid, and it didn't last long enough to overcome his deficiencies. I'll always remember his flashes of greatness, but he falls short to me.

However, two other former Red Sox outfielders step in in his place: Reggie Smith, who left the team before Rice arrived and who frightened the hell out of me while playing for the Dodgers in the 1977 and 1978 World Series against the Yankees; and Rice's unsung teammate Dwight Evans, whose 127 OPS+ was nearly identical to Rice's 128 while playing Gold Glove defense in right field over a career that lasted four years and 1500 plate appearances longer. 

I really think modernish starting pitchers have been short-changed by Hall voters who simply don't realize how rare consistency and longevity has become at the position. Sure, there's a new wave of pitchers about to descend on the Hall who measure up to the Lefty Groves, Warren Spahns and Tom Seavers. But, of the last 28 MLB players elected to the Hall, only two of them were starting pitchers, and one of those is Dennis Eckersley. 

I'm making up for that unattainable standard by extending the list of this era's greatest starters to include Rick Reuschel, Luis Tiant, David Cone, Dave Stieb and Bret Saberhagen.

As you may have already noticed, I'm being lazy and linking to articles supporting the Hall of Fame cases of some of these players (most provided by friends of the blog). Here's a good one that covers Cone, Saberhagen and Stieb. I'll use another familiar source to present Reuschel's case, but I'll handle Tiant myself.

There was some inconsistency to Tiant's career, just as with the other guys. But, I've already made the point that we've long since reached an era where that's simply the nature of starting pitchers. A few mediocre seasons over the course of a career should not disqualify a player from the Hall of Fame. At least, not in my book. El Tiante's rough stretch was from 1969-1971, although 1969 wasn't nearly as bad a year as his 9-20 W-L record would indicate. But, from 1964-1968 and 1972-1979, he was 200-126 with a 122 ERA+ and 62 WAR over just 13 seasons. If we leave those three seasons in, we're talking 66 WAR in 16 years, which easily passes my personal Hall of Fame litmus test.

The list of actual Hall of Famers who didn't make my personal Hall (in descending order by Hall Rating) is a short one: Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers.

Next Up: Part 6 - Modern Era


  1. Great list, as usual.


    "Also of note, there are 15 non-Hall of Famers added to my personal Hall here, almost doubling the previous high for an era. My best guess as to why is voters have failed to properly adjust for the game's continuously evolving playing environment and continue to hold players to standards established in the game's so-called heyday."

    Remember, most of these guys haven't been exposed to the Veterans' Committee yet. They've only been up with the BBWAA.