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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? 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 very best players were of questionable character and actions, including some of the biggest early 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+ of all-time 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 and a 154 OPS+. Even in his declining years he 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 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, but he spent more time in the limelight and appear to have more "star quality" in the eyes of the public and probably the voters.

(#6) Curt Schilling 79.9 WAR, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+. Will Schilling's great postseason record sway voters in his favor? He compares with Hal Newhauser.

(#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 with a recent inductee, Chipper Jones.

(#8) Larry Walker 72.6 WAR, .313/.400/.565/.965 141 OPS+. Walker slashes great, but did he accumulate enough HR and RBI? Should Denver's mile-high air be counted against him, when left-handed hitters thrive in Yankee Stadium? Walker compares with Sam Thompson.

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

(#10) David Ortiz 55.4 WAR, 541 HR, 1,768 RBI, 141 OPS+. Ortiz should be admitted to the HOF quickly, as long as there is nothing negative on the PED front.

(#11) 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.

(#12) 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 primary second basemen, Kent holds the record for home runs, is second only to Rogers Hornsby in slugging percentage, and is third in RBI.

(#13) 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.

Players on the Bubble

Scott Rolen 70.0 WAR, .281/.364/.490, 316 HR, 122 OPS+ (Solid offense and 8 Gold Gloves, but does he generate enough excitement?)
Andruw Jones 62.8 WAR, .254/.337/.486, 434 HR, 111 OPS+ (Great defense with 10 Gold Gloves, but his offense may have fizzled out too soon.)
Todd Helton 61.2 WAR, .316/.414/.539/.953, 369 HR, 1,406 RBI, 133 OPS+ (All the numbers are there ... are they enough?)
Johnny Damon 56.0 WAR, .284/.352/.433, 104 OPS+ (Damon was a very good player, but the OPS+ is on the low side.)
Johan Santana 51.4 WAR, 139-78, 3.20 ERA, 2025.2 IP, 136 ERA+ (Solid stats, but there may be an "excitement deficit" here.)
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.)
Omar Vizquel 45.3 WAR, .272/.336/.352, 1,445 RUNS, 82 OPS+ (Great defense with 11 Gold Gloves; the runs help, but a lackluster OPS+)
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.)

Other Candidates

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

Special Cases

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 Glover and one-time MVP.

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!)
Adrian Beltre
Carlos Beltran
Chase Utley (his 5.47 WAR per 162 games is better than Ryne Sandberg, Rod Carew, Robinson Cano and Charlie Gehringer)
Robinson Cano
Joey Votto
Buster Posey
Bryce Harper
Mookie Betts
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

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, let him in!)
Lou Whitaker (75.1 WAR at second is 7th all-time, let him in!)
Bobby Grich (70.9 WAR, 125 OPS+, compares with Joe Gordon and Nellie Fox)
Allen Trammell (70.4 WAR, 110 OPS+, he compares favorably with a number of HOF shortstops)
Scott Rolen (70.0 WAR at third is 7th all-time, let him in!)
Kenny Lofton (he compares favorably with Tim Raines and was a better defender)
George "The Destroyer" Foster (was he the last player to hit 50+ homers honestly?)
Dale Murphy (a two-time MVP, like George Foster he had a shorter career)
Dave Concepcion (he compares well with half the HOF shortstops and won five Gold Gloves)
Dick Allen (his OPS+ is the ninth-highest since 1947, on par with Frank Thomas)
Ted Simmons (Simmons was a top-20 offensive catcher in WAR, hits, doubles, homers, walks and RBI)
Steve Garvey (a ten-time all-star who won four Gold Gloves, but only 38.1 WAR)
Keith Hernandez
Ted Kluszewski 
Norm Cash
John Olerud
Joe Carter (100 RBI ten times!)
Lee Smith
Jack Morris
Dwight Evans
Fred McGriff (is the "Crime Dog" a victim of burglary?)
Don Baylor
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)

HOF Players Derailed by Injuries

Albert Belle (he hit 30 or more homers eight times before retiring at age 33 with an arthritic hip)
Will Clark (56.5 WAR , 137 OPS+ despite missing large chunks of eight seasons)
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 (he spent one prime year in the military and lost three others to a herniated disk)
Don Mattingly (a sure HOFer except for serious back problems at age 34)
Tony Oliva (arguably the best hitter in baseball from 1964-1971, Oliva had eight knee operations)
Dave Parker (the Cobra had a stellar career despite drug, weight and injury issues)
J. R. Richard (felled by a stroke that ended his career at age 30)
Grady Sizemore (he showed tremendous promise in his brief career)
Dave Stieb (56.8 WAR but virtually done by age 32)
David Wright (47.2 WAR, 137 OPS+)

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 his gaudy stats for a third baseman: 85.0 WAR, .303/.401/.529, 468 HR, 1,623 RBI, 141 OPS+. He compares with Eddie Matthews.
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+.
Roy Halladay should be a lock for the HOF. He won two Cy Young awards and finished in the top five a freakin' seven times!
Mike Mussina had a 3.68 ERA, which is on the high side for the HOF, but 270 wins and 83.0 WAR help a lot. He compares with Ted Lyons.
Vladimir Guerrero 59.3 WAR, .318/.379./.553/.931, 449 HR, 1,406 RBI. 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.

Player 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 only had 309 HR and 1,261 RBI.

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 (140.3 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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