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Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates

Who are the best players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, who should be admitted? Who are the top candidates for the Hall of Fame? I have included players with known steroid "issues" in a separate category at the bottom of this page. Personally, I think they should all be judged on what they did on the field because the Hall of Fame is far from a company of angels. Some of the best players were of questionable character and actions, including some of the biggest names: Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Cap Anson. Perhaps put an asterisk by their names, but keeping great players out of the HOF because of "morals" makes no sense to me, considering some of the players who are already in. In any case, here are my rankings, for whatever they're worth ...

(#1) Pete Rose is the all-time leader in games played, winning games played, plate appearances, at-bats, hits and times on base. Anyone who thinks he "wasn't dynamic" in his heyday knows nothing about the game, or hasn't been paying attention. Rose's WAR7 puts him squarely between Al Simmons and Ralph Kiner, and ahead of Goose Goslin, Tim Raines, Billy Williams, Joe Medwick and Willie Stargell. If they were dynamic players, as they obviously were, then quite obviously Rose was too. Yes, he gambled. So did Rogers Hornsby. Yes, Rose was a bad boy at times. Ty Cobb was immeasurably worse. Keeping Rose out of the HOF at this point is a triumph of hypocritical puritans and bean counters over common sense. Pete Rose was either the greatest lead-off hitter of all time, or a close second to Rickey Henderson. He was either the greatest switch-hitter of all time, or second to Mickey Mantle. Mantle mocked Rose for "hitting singles," but Rose ended up with more total bases than Mantle. Hell, Rose finished only 47 total bases short of Babe Ruth! All those singles and doubles did add up, and they added up to greatness. And while Rose spent most of his career setting the table, he finished with more RBI than sluggers like Mickey Vernon, Paul "Big Poison" Waner, Larry Walker, Steve Garvey, Paul Molitor, Hank Greenberg, Gil Hodges, Dale Murphy and Edgar Martinez.

(#2) Shoeless Joe Jackson. Ditto the argument above. Shoeless Joe Jackson has the second-highest OPS+ and WAR per 162 games among right fielders, trailing only Babe Ruth. He compares with Tris Speaker. The Hall of Fame is not a Hall of Angels. Let him in!

(#3) Albert Pujols should be a first-ballot inductee into the HOF. He already has 100.1 WAR to go with a glittering 154 OPS+. Even in his declining years The Machine continues to crank out 30 homers and 100 RBI per year. Pujols compares with Jimmie Foxx.

(#4) Miguel Cabrera could rival Pujols if he stays healthy and productive, although he started slipping stats-wise in 2017. With 69.9 WAR and a 153 OPS+, he compares with the great Johnny Mize; in fact they're "slash twins" at this point.

(#5) Derek Jeter should be inducted quickly, probably on the first ballot, when he becomes eligible in 2020. With 72.4 WAR, a .310 career batting average and 3,465 hits, not to mention a clean slate and considerable popularity, a first-ballot induction seems likely. Jeter compares with Barry Larkin and Robin Yount and certainly merits induction.

(#6) Curt Schilling 79.5 WAR, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+. Will Schilling's enormous WAR and great postseason record (11-2, 2.23 ERA) sway voters in his favor? His top-50 ERA+ ties him with Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver, but Schilling has been "controversial" and may be penalized by the moralists.

(#7) Adrian Beltre 91.5 WAR, 453 HR, 1,602 RBI, 116 OPS+. Beltre compares with Ron Santo but has played longer and has more HR and RBI. He also compares favorably with a recent inductee, Chipper Jones.

(#8) Larry Walker 72.6 WAR, .313/.400/.565/.965 141 OPS+. Walker slashes well above the average HOFer. Should Denver's mile-high air be counted against him, when left-handed hitters thrive in Yankee Stadium? Please keep in mind that Walker's sky-high (pardon the pun) OPS+ is adjusted for the ballparks he played in. Walker compares with Lloyd Waner, Sam Thompson and Sam Crawford. His .565 slugging percentage is second only to Babe Ruth among right fielders and he won seven Gold Gloves.

(#9) Scott Rolen 70.0 WAR, .281/.364/.490, 316 HR, 122 OPS+. Rolen offers solid offense and eight Gold Gloves. A top-ten third baseman according to WAR, he and Ron Santo are nearly identical "slash twins."

(#10) Carlos Beltran 70.3 WAR, 2,725 hits, 435 homers, 120 OPS+. Beltran and Andre Dawson are "slash twins."

(#11) Andruw Jones 62.8 WAR, .254/.337/.486, 434 HR, 111 OPS+. Great defense with ten Gold Gloves and considerable power, but did his offense fizzle out too soon?

(#12) Todd Helton 61.2 WAR, .316/.414/.539/.953, 369 HR, 1,406 RBI, 133 OPS+. All the numbers are there ... but are they enough with the Denver stigma? Helton's WAR7 (46.5) puts him in the top ten at first base, meaning he had a super-high peak. He compares with Hank Greenberg, George Sisler, Joey Votto and Willie McCovey.

(#13) David Ortiz 55.4 WAR, 541 HR, 1,768 RBI, 141 OPS+. Ortiz averaged 39 homers and 125 RBI per 162 games. Ortiz compares with Frank Thomas, Willie McCovey and Tony Perez as a power-hitting RBI man.

(#14) Ichiro Suzuki 59.3 WAR, 3,089 hits, 509 steals, .311/.355/.402/.757 107 OPS+. Suzuki's slash line doesn't scream HOF in our opinion. But the batting average, hits, steals and ten Gold Gloves could get him admitted.

(#15) Jeff Kent 55.2 WAR, .290/.356/.500/.855, 123 OPS+. Kent compares well with a number of HOF second basemen, including Joe Gordon, Babe Herman, Bobby Doerr, Nellie Fox, Tony Lazzeri and Johnny Evers. Among second basemen, Kent holds the record for home runs, is second only to Rogers Hornsby in slugging percentage, and is third in RBI.

(#16) Joe Mauer 51.4 WAR, .307/.390/.443/.833, 126 OPS+. As a catcher, the position where he had his best years, Mauer compares with Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, Gabby Hartnett and Ernie Lombardi.

Special Cases—Let Them In!!!

Smoky Joe Wood is seventh all-time with an otherworldly 146 ERA+ and he had a staggering 117 wins by age 25 despite only reaching 200 innings twice. What on earth would he have done if he had been healthy? The mind boggles. Smoky Joe got his nickname because his fastball—said to have been faster then Walter Johnson's (including by the Big Train himself)—sizzled as though burning through the air. The only starting pitchers with a better ERA+ than Smoky Joe are Clayton Kershaw, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, and Walter Johnson. When the first all-star game was organized in 1912 to benefit the family of Adie Joss after Joss's untimely death, Smoky Joe started the game and Walter Johnson relieved him. Let's stick that in our pipes and smoke it. After serious injuries cost him two years and left him unable to pitch, Smoky Joe became an outfielder and hit .283 for the rest of his career. But it understandably took him some time to excel as a batter. He hit .366 at age 31, drove in 92 runs at age 32, then retired. He could have been the greatest pitcher of all time, if he hadn't had such bad luck. But please consider what he did accomplish. How many pitchers could take two years off, then return to the majors to hit .366 and drive in 92 runs? Only a guy named Ruth did anything like that, and he was healthy. What Smoky accomplished was truly incredible. He has more WAR (39.8) than hall-of-famers like Hack Wilson, Harold Baines, Lefty Gomez, George Kell, Roy Campanella, and quite a few others. He only played two full seasons at his best position. When he was able to pitch, he was a superstar for the ages. Let him in!!!

Thurman Munson died prematurely in a plane crash, but compares with a HOF catcher, Roy Campanella, whose career was also cut short. Munson's 5.25 WAR per 162 games is third among catchers, after Johnny Bench and Mickey Cochrane. In his brief career Munson was a seven-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, and one-time MVP.

Bret Saberhagen amassed 58.8 WAR and had a record of 167-117 despite missing large parts of six seasons due to injuries. His glittering 126 ERA+ puts him in a very select group with Bob Gibson (127), Tom Seaver (127), Justin Verlander (126), Lefty Grove (125), Jim Palmer (125), John Smoltz (125) and Dazzy Vance (125).

The Best Hall of Fame Candidates by Position, Regardless of Era

Catcher: Thurman Munson, Ted Simmons, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Jorge Posada, Gene Tenace
First Base: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Todd Helton, Keith Hernandez, Fred McGriff
Second Base: Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich, Jeff Kent, Robinson Cano, Willie Randolph, Chase Utley
Shortstop: Derek Jeter, Bill Dahlen, Alan Trammell, Jim Glasscock, Bert Campaneris, Dave Concepcion
Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen, Dick Allen, Graig Nettles, Ken Boyer, Buddy Bell, Sal Bando
Left Field: Pete Rose*, Sherry Magee, Indian Bob Johnson, Reggie Smith, Charlie Keller, George Foster
Center Field: Mike Trout**, Kenny Lofton, Jim Edmunds, Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, Johnny Damon
Right Field: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Larry Walker, Ichiro Suzuki, Tony Oliva, Roger Maris, Dwight Evans
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Gary Sheffield, Albert Belle, Jason Giambi, Lance Berkman, Jose Cruz
Starting Pitcher: Curt Schilling, Jim McCormick, Rick Reuschel, Kevin Brown, Tony Mullane, Luis Tiant
Relief Pitcher: Billy Wagner, John Franco, Francisco Rodriguez

* Pete Rose could make the Hall of Fame at five different positions: first, second, third, left or right. He played at least 500 games at each position and was an all-star at all five. He also played center at times, and he was baseball's last player-manager.

** Although Mike Trout is still a relative babe in the woods, having just completed his age 26 season in 2018, he has already passed most Hall of Fame centerfielders in WAR and seems destined to challenge Willie Mays for all-time supremacy at the position.

Other fan favorites according to Ranker: Don Mattingly, Roger Clemens, Jack Morris, Barry Bonds, Dale Murphy, Orel Hershiser, Mark McGwire, Dave Parker, Gil Hodges, Tommy John, Steve Garvey, Jim Kaat, Rafael Palmeiro, Minnie Minoso, Ron Guidry, Maury Wills, Mickey Lolich, Will Clark, Bill Freehan, Gary Sheffield, Vida Blue, Dwight Gooden, Dan Quisenberry, Sammy Sosa, Norm Cash, Fred Lynn, Darrell Evans, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Bobby Bonds, Don Newcombe, Vada Pinson, Fernando Valenzuela

Players on the Bubble

Johnny Damon 56.0 WAR, .284/.352/.433, 104 OPS+, 2,769 HITS, 1,668 RUNS (Damon was a very good all-round player, but his OPS+ is average.)
Johan Santana 51.4 WAR, 139-78, 3.20 ERA, 2025.2 IP, 136 ERA+ (That ERA+ would be 10th among HOF starting pitchers.)
Jamie Moyer 50.4 WAR, 269-209, 4.25 ERA, 4074.0 IP, 103 ERA+ (The 269 wins are impressive, the 4.25 ERA not so much.)
Miguel Tejada 47.3 WAR, .285/.336/.456/.791, 108 OPS+ (Good, but probably not good enough.)
Omar Vizquel 45.3 WAR, .272/.336/.352, 82 OPS+, 2,877 HITS, 1,445 RUNS (Great defense with 11 Gold Gloves; the hits and runs help, but a lackluster OPS+)
Matt Holliday 44.8 WAR, .299/.379/.510/.889, 132 OPS+ (That OPS+ is tied with Tony Gwynn, Joe Morgan and Jackie Robinson.)
Billy Wagner 28.1 WAR, 422 saves, 2.21 ERA, 187 ERA+ (Great relief pitcher, but did he pitch long enough to make the HOF? Wagner's 187 ERA+ is better than every HOF reliever not named Mariano Rivera. His 422 saves are sixth best in MLB history. Among pitchers with at least 800 innings, Wagner’s strikeout rate of 11.9 per nine innings and his opponents' batting average of .187 are the best ever.

Other Candidates

Lance Berkman (144 OPS+)
Andy Pettitte (256 wins, 117 ERA+)
Roy Oswalt (163 wins, 127 ERA+)

Top Newly Eligible Players in 2020

(#1) Derek Jeter (72.4 WAR, 115 OPS+)
(#2) Bobby Abreu (60.0 WAR, 128 OPS+)
(#3) Jason Giambi (50.5 WAR, 440 homers, 139 OPS+)
(#4) Cliff Lee (43.5 WAR, 143 wins)
(#5) Paul Konerko (27.7 WAR, 439 homers)
(#6) Adam Dunn (17.4 WAR, 462 homers)

Only Jeter seems likely to make the HOF, in our opinion.

Future Candidates

Mike Trout (first ballot, duh!)
Clayton Kershaw (first ballot, duh!)
Joey Votto (destined for the HOF with a slash line of .311/.427/.530/.957 and a 155 OPS+)
Adrian Beltre (should be a lock with 3,166 hits, 477 homers, 1,707 RBI and five Gold Gloves)
Carlos Beltran (has a good chance but compares with players who haven't made it yet like Scott Rolen and Bobby Grich)
Chase Utley (his 5.47 WAR per 162 games is better than Ryne Sandberg, Rod Carew, Robinson Cano and Charlie Gehringer)
Robinson Cano (similar to Carlos Beltran)
Buster Posey
Bryce Harper (maddeningly inconsistent)
Mookie Betts (well on his way, but time will have to tell)
Josh Donaldson
Madison Bumgarner
Felix Hernandez
Max Scherzer 
Jose Altuve
Giancarlo Stanton
Kris Bryant
Anthony Rizzo
Freddie Freeman
Evan Longoria
Manny Machado
Andrelton Simmons
Torii Hunter
Tim Hudson
Mark Buehrle
David Price

Old-Timers Who Deserve Consideration

An asterisk (*) means the player should definitely be in the Hall of Fame, in our opinion. And please keep in mind that WAR undervalues catchers.

* Jim McCormick (76.2 WAR, 265 wins, 2.43 ERA in just ten seasons ... is there anything to discuss, really?)
* Bill Dahlen (75.4 WAR at shortstop is 7th all-time, comparable to Luke Appling, let him in!)
* Lou Whitaker (75.1 WAR at second is 7th all-time, comparable to Frankie Frisch, let him in!)
* Bobby Grich (71.1 WAR, at second is 8th all-time, 5.7 WAR per 162 games, comparable to Ryne Sandberg)
* Scott Rolen (70.0 WAR at third is 7th all-time, plus 5.6 WAR per 162 games, let him in!)
* Kenny Lofton (68.3 WAR, 1,528 runs, 622 steals, 5.5 WAR per 162 games, he compares favorably with Tim Raines)
* Jim Edmonds (60.4 WAR, eight Gold Gloves, .527 slugging, 132 OPS+, his WAR is higher than 8 HOF centerfielders')
Dick Allen (58.7 WAR, his 156 OPS+ is the ninth-highest since 1947, comparable to Dave Ortiz but first base is competitive)
Eddie Cicotte (58.4 WAR, 209-148, .238 ERA, 123 ERA+)
"Indian" Bob Johnson (57.3 WAR, 139 OPS+, drove in 100+ runs eight times despite debuting as a 27-year-old rookie)
Fred McGriff (52.6 WAR, 493 homers, 1,550 RBI, 134 OPS+ ... is the "Crime Dog" a victim of burglary?)
* Ted Simmons (50.3 WAR, 118 OPS+, Simmons has more WAR than seven HOF catchers, including Mickey Cochrane)
Dale Murphy (46.5 WAR, a two-time MVP, seven-time all-star, five Gold Gloves)
Vern Stephens (45.4 WAR, 119 OPS+, an eight-time all-star, a superior RBI man at shortstop in his prime with 130+ ribbies)
George "The Destroyer" Foster (44.2 WAR, 126 OPS+, was he the last player to hit 50+ homers honestly?)
Babe Herman (40.3 WAR, 141 OPS+)
Dave Concepcion (40.1 WAR, he compares well with half the HOF shortstops and won five Gold Gloves)
Steve Garvey (38.1 WAR, ten-time all-star, four Gold Gloves, perfect hair!)
Riggs Stephenson (32.1 WAR, .336 batting average, 129 OPS+)
Keith Hernandez
Ted Kluszewski 
Norm Cash
John Olerud
Joe Carter (100 RBI ten times!)
Lee Smith
Dwight Evans
Jorge Posada
Minnie Minoso
Orel Hershiser (a shooting star, perhaps, but an intensely bright one for six years)
Dan Quisenberry (his 5.98 WAR per relief appearance over 162 games is highest of the 43 non-Hall of Famers with at least 200 career saves)
Cecil Cooper (36.0 WAR, 121 OPS+, five time all-star, but too much competition at first base)
Don Baylor (28.5 WAR may not be enough against such stiff competition)

HOF Players Derailed by Injuries

An asterisk (*) means the player should definitely be in the Hall of Fame, in our opinion. And please keep in mind that WAR undervalues catchers.

* Smoky Joe Wood is seventh all-time with a 146 ERA+ and had 117 wins by age 25. After a serious injury cost him two years, he became an outfielder and hit .283 for his career. He hit .366 at age 31, drove in 92 runs at age 32, then retired.
Bret Saberhagen (58.8 WAR, 167-117, 126 ERA+, but missed large parts of six seasons due to injuries)
Dave Stieb (56.8 WAR but virtually done by age 32)
Will Clark (56.5 WAR, 137 OPS+ despite missing large chunks of eight seasons)
Dwight Gooden (52.9 WAR, 194-112, 111 ERA+, his best years were over by age 25 due to injuries and drug abuse)
David Wright (47.2 WAR, 137 OPS+)
* Thurman Munson (46.1 WAR, died prematurely in a plane crash, his 5.25 WAR per 162 games is third among catchers, after Johnny Bench and Mickey Cochrane)
Albert Belle (40.1 WAR, 144 OPS+, he hit 30 or more homers eight times and drove in 100+ runs nine times before retiring at age 33 with an arthritic hip, his .564 slugging percentage is the 13th highest of all time)
Dave Parker (40.1 WAR, 121 OPS+, the Cobra had a stellar career despite drug, weight and injury issues)
Tony Oliva (40.1 WAR, 131 OPS+, arguably the best hitter in baseball from 1964-1971, Oliva had eight knee operations)
Roger Maris (38.2 WAR, 127 OPS+, derailed by injuries, he had his last all-star season at age 27 and tailed off from there)
Tony Conigliaro (still fourth in homers through age 22 with 104, behind only Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews and Alex Rodriguez)
Eric Davis (in a 162-game stretch between 1986-87, he slashed .308/.406/.622 with 47 homers and 98 steals in 110 attempts!)
Nomar Garciaparra (perhaps the best shortstop of his generation when healthy)
Charlie "King Kong" Keller (5.95 WAR per 162 games, lost a prime year to the military and three others to injuries)
Don Mattingly (a sure HOFer except for serious back problems that began at age 28 and forced him to retire at age 34)
J. R. Richard (felled by a stroke that ended his career at age 30)
Grady Sizemore (he showed tremendous promise in his brief career)

Players in our Previous Top Tens who are now in the HOF

Mariano Rivera definitely deserves to make it on the first ballot, being the all-time saves leader with 652, not to mention having a 2.21 ERA and all-time-best 205 ERA+. He compares to anyone, but no one compares to him.
Chipper Jones could be a first-ballot inductee, with strong stats for a third baseman: 85.0 WAR, .303/.401/.529, 468 HR, 1,623 RBI, 141 OPS+. He compares with Eddie Matthews.
Mike Mussina had a 3.68 ERA, which is on the high side for the HOF, but 270 wins and 83.0 WAR help his case. He compares with Ted Lyons.
Jeff Bagwell 79.9 WAR, 149 OPS+, 1,517 runs, 1,529 RBI, 449 homers, 202 steals, eleven consecutive seasons of ~5 WAR or higher, a no-brainer for the HOF.
Jim Thome should be a lock for the HOF, with 612 homers. His stats are impressive: 72.9 WAR, .276/.402/.554, 612 HR, 147 OPS+.
Alan Trammell 70.7 WAR, .285/.352/.415/.767 with 236 steals. Trammell ranks 9th among HOF shortstops in WAR and definitely belongs in the HOF.
Tim Raines 69.4 WAR, 1,571 runs, 808 steals, 123 OPS+, seven-time all-star, one of the top lead-off hitters of all time, should be a sure HOFer.
Roy Halladay should be a lock for the HOF with 64.3 WAR and such a high peak with 50.6 WAR7. He won two Cy Young awards and his 131 ERA+ is in the top 30 for starting pitchers.
Vladimir Guerrero 59.3 WAR, .318/.379./.553/.931, 449 HR, 1,406 RBI with a 140 OPS+. Guerrero has been knocking on the door and seems primed to enter.
Trevor Hoffman was knocking on the door with 74% of the vote in 2017, with great stats for a reliever: 601 SAVES, 2.87 ERA, 141 ERA+. Hoffman ranks second in all-time saves and vastly eclipses the relievers currently in the HOF: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Hoyt Wilhelm.

Players we had on the Bubble who are now in the HOF

Edgar Martinez 68.3 WAR, .312/.418/.515/.933 147 OPS+. Martinez slashes great, but spent a lot of time at DH and had only 309 HR and 1,261 RBI.
Jack Morris fails to excite with 43.4 WAR, a 3.90 ERA and 105 ERA+, but 254 wins gives him a case, and he had 14 years with 10+ wins.

Candidates with Steroid Issues, or Possible Issues

The players below are listed in the order that I rank them for inclusion in the HOF. I am not a fan of PEDs or players using them, but as I explained above, I can't see banning one player for life when someone who did far worse things soaks up the glory. I say let them all in, if they deserve it, and perhaps put an asterisk after their names if it can be proved that they cheated. If cheating can't be verified, "innocent until proven guilty" should apply. And what happens if someone elected to the HOF turns out to have cheated? That seems likely to happen, sooner or later.

Barry Bonds (162.4 WAR, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI, 182 OPS+)
Roger Clemens (139.2 WAR, 354-184, 4,672 SO, 3.12 ERA, 143 ERA+)
Alex Rodriguez (117.7 WAR, 696 HR, 2,086 RBI, 140 OPS+)
Rafael Palmeiro (71.6 WAR, 569 HR, 1,835 RBI, 132 OPS+)
Manny Ramirez (69.2 WAR, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI, 154 OPS+)
Mark McGwire (62.0 WAR, 583 HR, 1,414 RBI, 163 OPS+)
Gary Sheffield (60.3 WAR, 509 HR, 1,676 RBI, 140 OPS+)
Sammy Sosa (58.4 WAR, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI, 128 OPS+)
Jason Giambi (50.5 WAR, 440 HR, 1,441 RBI, 139 OPS+)
Ryan Braun (44.6 WAR, 296 HR, 964 RBI, 140 OPS+)
Jose Canseco (42.2 WAR, 462 HR, 1,407 RBI, 132 OPS+)

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