Also read: The Baseball “Sammies”
(1) Ken Griffey, Jr.
One of my two all-time favorite players (along with Eric Davis), Junior was The Kid in the 1990’s, but really he was The Man. He could do everything on the field – hit, field, run – and he did it all with a smile. And that swing! The most beautiful of all-time. I am about the same age as Junior, and we grew up near each other (my brother played little league against him), so I’ve always followed his career closely. I can’t overstate how excited I was when he was traded to my (and his) hometown Reds, but wow, did that not go well. But he is still a 1st ballot lock.
Not Inner Circle, But Deserving
(2) Mike Mussina
I lived in Baltimore during Mussina’s great years there, and I can’t believe how underrated he is. He might not be 1st ballot material, but I think he should be a shoo-in. Yet he only got 24% of the ballots last year. Most likely it is due to his personality – quiet and unassuming – and the fact he never won a Cy Young. But he amassed almost the exact same WAR as Griffey in his career, and everyone agrees that Junior is a lock.
(3) Curt Schilling
I think even outside of his playoff exploits (bloody sock, anyone?), Schilling is HOF-worthy. Like Mussina, he never won a Cy Young, but he was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball during his peak. And when you include what he did in the playoffs, he should be in. Unfortunately, he’ll probably lose votes this year from the politically correct crowd.
(4) Mike Piazza
I’ll be honest: I’ve never liked Mike Piazza. I know he is a practicing Catholic, and he was a great player, but for some reason I just didn’t like him as a player. That doesn’t mean he isn’t Hall-worthy. Johnny Bench is always the gold standard for me when it comes to catchers, but Piazza was probably (gulp) a better hitter than the backstop for the Big Red Machine.
(5) Jeff Bagwell
Although Bagwell played in the same division as the Reds, I didn’t really follow his career much – I just lumped him in with the other “Killer B’s” for the Astros. But looking over his stats, he was clearly a great player: career 79.6 WAR, a Bill James HOF Monitor of 150 (with over 100 being a “likely” Hall of Famer), and a careers OPS+ of 149. Dude could rake.
Overshadowed by Others, yet Worthy
(6) Tim Raines
I followed baseball pretty closely in the 1980’s, and there is one thing everyone knew about Tim Raines: he was the poor man’s Ricky Henderson. But this is unfair to Raines, because no one compares to Ricky (just ask Ricky). Raines was one of the best lead-off hitters of all time, but he happened to play concurrently with THE best lead-off hitter of all-time.
(7) Alan Trammell
If you look at Trammell’s “similarity score” at Baseball-Reference, guess who is #2? Barry Larkin, who is in the Hall of Fame. The two players have very similar stats and played at the same time. But among shortstops he ranks 11th, two ahead of Larkin (and one ahead of Jeter), in the Jaffe WAR Score system which ranks a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness. It’s a shame that he probably won’t get in.
And here are some players who did NOT make it onto my ballot:
“Small Hall” Victims
I’m a “Small Hall” guy – I think the the bar should be pretty high to get into the Hall, and I just don’t think these guys make it.
Only One Closer Gets My Vote
I have a real bias against closers. Other than Mariano Rivera (and many sentences could start like that), there is no closer that would even rank the top 100 pitchers of all time. So these guys don’t make it. Fun fact: in his first three full seasons, Mike Trout accumulated the same WAR as Trevor Hoffman did in his career.
Known Steroid Users
Unlike most sabermetric-friendly fans, I have no sympathy for known steroid-users, and do not think they should be in the Hall of Fame. Cheating at the very thing that they are being judged on is automatic disqualification for me. But note I don’t disqualify those who just have vague suspicions against them, only those where the evidence is pretty overwhelming. What is particularly sad about Bonds and Clemens is that they were clearly HOF players before they started taking PEDs.