Both Chase Utley and David Ortiz have been in the news over the last few days, for different reasons; but what both men have in common is that they are considered “potential Hall of Famers”. This connotation gets thrown around more often the actual baseball on the field. Who should or shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame is a debate that fans, baseball writers, players and former player spend hours talking about 365 days a year!
So I decided to make my list of my top baseball players NOT in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In order to make my list, these players have to meet certain criteria:
-During their era, they were considered one of the best.
-Their statistics rival those in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
-Baseball Historians cannot tell the history of the game without them.
Now we also need to lay some ground rules:
-Player must have retired after 2008. As a result this list excludes Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Jeff Kent, Todd Helton, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Andy Pettitte, and Lance Berkman to name a few.
-This list does not include any players implicated of using steroids (examples include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Manny Ramirez); I will be making another list of players who have used steroids and others “banned by Major League Baseball” who I think should be in the Hall of Fame.
-This list does not factor in a player’s impact on a franchise or where they individually rank in that franchise history of great players. Instead I factor in the players impact on Major League Baseball overall and how great they were during their playing career. I also do not include players who were great for a few years. As a result of these exclusions I did not include players such as Don Mattingly, Fred Lynn, Ron Guidry, Jim Fregosi, Curt Flood, Deion Sanders, and JR Richards.
So here is my list, the top 12 Baseball players not in the Hall of Fame:
1. Curt Schilling (1988-2007: Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox)
Statistical Highlights: 3,116 career strikeouts, 3,261 Innings Pitched, 11 Postseason wins.
Career Highlights: 8 seasons with at least 15 wins; 6-time All Star Selection; led league in complete games 4 times; 2001 World Series MVP; Career Postseason 2.23 ERA.
Reasoning: Curt Schilling is one of the top ten postseason pitchers in baseball history and one of the top ten strikeout pitchers of the last 25 years. He had eight consecutive seasons (1996-2003) in which he threw a shutout each season as well as five different seasons he tallied a minimum 200 strikeouts. He also led the league in complete games four different seasons and won a minimum of 50 games with three different franchises (Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox). And there’s the postseason stats: 11 wins in 19 starts, 2.23 ERA, 120 strikeouts over 133 innings pitched, along with two shutouts.
2. Jack Morris (1977-1994: Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians)
Statistical Highlights: 254 career wins, 3,824 Innings Pitched, 175 Complete Games
Career Highlights: Twelve seasons with at least 15 wins; 5-time All-star selection; Won 3 World Series titles as front of the rotation starting pitcher; 1991 World Series MVP
Reasoning: During his 18 year career, for twelve of those seasons he was considered one of the top starting pitchers in all of baseball. While he never won a Cy Young award, Morris was a workhorse who would step up in big situations for his teams, especially in the postseason. His career ERA (3.90) is actually higher than his postseason ERA (3.80); but it is those same statistics that have many voters keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. Morris was one of the last pitchers who would stay on the mound for seven plus innings. If he would have pitched in 2015 he would have a lower career ERA because he would not have been out there as many innings which would leave him less likely to be scored on in the later innings. Morris should be judge on who he was in comparison to other pitchers during his playing career, not those who pitched decades before or after him.
3. Jeff Bagwell (1991-2005: Houston Astros)
Statistical Highlights: 449 Career Home Runs; 1,529 Career RBIs; Career .297 Batting Average.
Career Highlights: 10 seasons with at least 25 Home Runs; 4-time All Star selection; 1991 NL Rookie of the Year; 1994 NL MVP Award; 14 seasons with at least 80 RBIs .
Reasoning: During the “Steroid Era” in baseball, Bagwell was one of the overlooked power hitters who also hit for average. The infamy of being the MVP of the 1994 strike shortened season aside, for an 11 year period Bagwell was one of baseball’s most feared hitters. He had a minimum batting average of .300 during six of those seasons and had a minimum 100 RBIs during eight of those prime years. Furthermore, Bagwell was also a guy who got on base and scored runs, leading the NL in runs scored three times (1994, 1999, and 2000). The only explanation I have read or heard why Bagwell is not in the Hall of Fame is that some voters question if he used Performance Enhancing Drugs or not in his career. The fact that people do not vote for a player just because they suspect him without any proof is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.
4. Edgar Martinez (1987-2004: Seattle Mariners)
Statistical Highlights: Career .312 Batting Average; 309 Career Home Runs; Career .418 On-base percentage.
Career Highlights: 8 seasons with at least 80 RBIs; 7-time All Star selection; 11 seasons with at least 140 base hits; Won AL Batting Title twice (1992, 1995).
Reasoning: Considered by many to be the great Designated Hitter in baseball history, it is because of Martinez’s lack of playing time in the field that has hindered many voters from putting him of their ballots each year. The facts should not be ignored: aside from his impressive career statistics. For a seven year period Martinez was one of the top hitters in the American League (1995-2001). In an era of gaudy power numbers, Martinez was a stalwart of consistency. A two time AL batting champion (1992, 1995), Edgar Martinez also lead the league in On base Percentage three times (1995, 1998, and 1999). He also had a minimum of 100 RBIs six times in his career. Edgar Martinez is the ultimate definition of a “Professional Hitter”. He revolutionized how baseball executives and fans viewed the Designated Hitter, going from being a cover up for pitchers hitting to being a prime hitter position in the lineup.
5. Mike Piazza (1992-2007: Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s)
Statistical Highlights: 427 Career Home Runs; Career .308 Batting Average; Career .545 Slugging Percentage.
Career Highlights: 10 seasons with at least 80 RBIs; 12-time All Star Selection; 9 seasons with at least 25 Home Runs; 8 seasons with at least 140 base hits.
Reasoning: Arguable the best all-around hitting catcher in baseball history, Piazza was a force in the National League for a 10 year period (1993-2002). During that time he had six seasons with 100 plus RBIs, nine seasons with 30 plus home runs, and had a .300 or better batting average nine times. Also for his career he hit 175 home runs and 560 RBIs with two different franchises (Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets). Why is he not in the Hall of Fame already? Just like Jeff Bagwell, there is “suspicion” of PED usage, but no evidence.
6. Larry Walker (1989-2005: Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals)
Statistical Highlights: 383 Career Home Runs; Career .313 Batting Average; Career .565 Slugging Percentage.
Career Highlights: 9 seasons with at least 80 RBIs; 5-time All Star Selection; 1997 NL MVP; Won 3 NL Batting Titles (1998, 1999, 2001); 8 seasons with at least 140 base hits; 7-time Gold Glove Award recipient .
Reasoning: Larry Walker is one of the most talented and athletic ball players of the last 30 years. Walker was a great all-around player who put together five seasons in which he hit at least 25 Home Runs, 100 Runs Batted In, and a .300 batting average. More than a great hitter, Walker was a great fielder and base runner; before age and injuries caught up to him, he compiled five seasons in which he had at least 15 stolen bases and 30 doubles. Considered one of the most feared left-handed hitters of his era, Walker did not need the altitude of Coors Field in Denver, Colorado to be a great hitter. This is the major reason why many do not vote for him, thinking his statistics were “inflated”. Any honest person who watched Walker play knows he did not need any help to have a great plate discipline and be a great baseball talent.
7. Dale Murphy (1976-1993: Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies)
Statistical Highlights: 398 Career Home Runs; Intentional Base on Balls 159 times.
Career Highlights: 10 seasons with at least 80 RBIs; 6-time All Star Selection; 1982 & 1983 NL MVP; 7 seasons with at least 25 Home Runs; 5-Time Golden Glove Award recipient .
Reasoning: During the 1980’s Dale Murphy was one of the best all-around players in all of baseball. Aside from winning two MVP awards and five Gold Glove awards, from 1980 through 1990 he was a force to be reckoned with. During that stretch he averaged 34 home runs, 92 RBIs, and led the league in those categories two different seasons. During the 1980’s Murphy led the National League in in games played, at bats, runs scored, base hits, extra base hits, Runs Batted In, runs created, total bases, and plate appearances. Statistically, he is one of the best players in the history of baseball not in the Hall of Fame.
8. Mike Mussina (1991-2008: Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees)
Statistical Highlights: 270 Career Wins; 3,562 Career Innings Pitched; 2,813 Career Strikeouts
Career Highlights: Eleven seasons with at least 15 wins; 5-time All Star selection; Eleven seasons with at least 200 innings pitched; 7-time Golden Glove Award recipient
Reasoning: Mike Mussina is one of the most undervalued, overlooked pitchers of the last 30 years and yet he was one of the most consistent pitchers for a career that spanned two decades. Mussina’s first full season as a starting pitcher (1992) was almost the same statistically as his final season (2008): both seasons he pitched over 200 innings, had at least 18 wins, and finished in the top ten in ERA in the American League. Mussina was one of the top fielding pitchers during his playing career and won over 120 games for two different franchises (Orioles and Yankees). While he was never the most feared or dominant pitcher, he was the model of consistency and there are plenty of guys in the Hall of Fame with similar careers.
9. Harold Baines (1980-2001: Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians)
Statistical Highlights: 2,866 career base hits; 384 career Home Runs; 1,628 Career RBIs.
Career Highlights: 10 seasons with at least 80 RBIs; 6 time All Star selection; 10 seasons with at least 140 base hits.
Reasoning: As a sports geek, Harold Baines is one of those answers to sports trivia answers I always can lean back on. In order to play in the major leagues for 22 years, you have to have the talent to be allowed to play for so long a time. A career that touched three decades, Baines was an All Star during his 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Thanks to the Designated Hitter position, Baines talents were allowed to be used for many years past his prime athletic years. Baines hit at least 25 Home Runs and 100 RBIs in the same season at ages 25 and 40. Also he had minimum batting average of .300 eight times in his long career. Coming up short of the 3,000 Hits Club by 134 base hits is nothing to sneeze at and Baines is ranked in top 45 in baseball history in the career hits category.
10. Albert Belle (1989-2000: Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles)
Statistical Highlights: 381 Career Home Runs; Career .295 Batting Average; Career .564 Slugging Percentage.
Career Highlights: 10 seasons with at least 80 RBIs; 5-time All Star selection; 9 seasons with at least 140 base hits; 9 seasons with at least 25 Home Runs.
Reasoning: While Belle’s career is the shortest of all the players on this list, he had a major impact when he did play. One of the top hitters in the American League during the 1990’s, he led the league in Runs Batted In three times (1993, 1995, 1996) and drove in a minimum of 100 RBIs nine straight seasons (1992-2000). Belle also finished his career with one of the highest slugging percentages in baseball history (.564, ranked 14th all time) and when he led the AL in slugging percentage (1995, 1998) he also had a batting average over .315 both seasons. Belle was one of the top hitters of the 1990’s but is overlooked by many because he retired in his early 30’s; no one knows what numbers he would have accumulated if he had played another few years.
11. Kevin Brown (1986-2005: Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, new York Yankees)
Statistical Highlights: 211 Career Wins; 3.28 Career ERA; 3,256 Career Innings Pitched.
Career Highlights: 6-time All Star Selection, 6 seasons with at least 15 wins, 6 seasons with an ERA less than 3.00, and 9 seasons with at least 200 innings pitched.
Reasoning: Kevin Brown is one of the few pitchers in baseball history who had his best years after the age of 29. From the age 30 through 38 Brown was one of the most dynamic pitchers in baseball and led the National League twice in ERA (1996, 2000). During his 20’s, Brown was known as a pitcher with a lot of talent but lacked the consistency to put great seasons back to back. From 1996 to 2003 Brown dominated the National League while pitching for three different teams (Marlins, Dodgers, and Padres) with consecutive seasons and with at least 200 strikeouts, and 6 straight seasons with an ERA 3.00 or less. Brown probably will not make it to the Hall of Fame due to the sporadic nature of his career, but any hitter who had to face him can attest to how difficult he was to face and how talented he was.
12. Tim Raines (1979-2002: Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, Florida Marlins)
Statistical Highlights: 808 Stolen Bases; 2,605 Career Hits; 1,571 Runs Scored.
Career Highlights: 10 seasons with at least 140 base hits; 7-time All Star Selection; 8 seasons with at least 50 stolen bases.
Reasoning: During the 1980’s and early 1990’s Rickey Henderson was the dominant leadoff hitter in baseball. Tim Raines is overlooked because he was the 2nd best leadoff hitter. From 1981 through 1992 he stole a minimum of 40 bases 11 times and 9 times had at least 140 base hits. Also Raines scored a minimum of 100 runs six times. As age caught up to Raines in the 1990’s he became a more disciplined hitter, having at least a .290 batting average four times while reaching base on balls an average of 50 times per season.
Honorable Mentions: Fred McGriff, Joe Carter, Gil Hodges, Orel Hershiser, David Cone, Andreas Galarraga, and Dennis Martinez