Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Pete Rose…who Belongs in Baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Who is the best of the best not recognized in baseball’s Hall of Fame? I get asked this question a lot and it’s one that is debated in bars, living rooms, and bleachers across the country.

As the race for the playoffs is heating up and with the great response to the last sports roundtable, I thought it would be a great time to turn our focus to baseball.

Cleveland Indian Kenny Lofton.
Joining me this time are two of my former sports writing colleagues.

Orrin Schwarz, a repeat panelist from Chicago, who has covered high school sports from 1991-present and is currently Assistant Sports Editor/DuPage County and pro soccer writer for the Daily Herald Media Group.

Daniel Brown (no relation, although he does share my nephew’s name), awarding-winning general assignment sports reporter from the San Jose Mercury News and author of 100 Things 49ers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.

And I covered sports from 1985-86, 1988-2000, and 2012-2013.

So, without any further delay…

Who are the best baseball players, by position, who are not in the Hall of Fame?

Orrin: (PED users need not apply):

C-- Mike Piazza. Really just a DH who needed a position in the NL. Boy, could he hit.

1B -- Don Mattingly. A hitter who could field. Or a fielder who could hit. Either way, he was very good.

2B -- Lou Whitaker. Quiet production.

SS -- Alan Trammell. The other half of the Tigers’ DP combo.

3B -- Edgar Martinez. A great hitter who played a little third base before going to DH.

OF-- Tim Raines. Maybe if he had stayed in one city he’d be in the Hall already.

OF -- Shoeless Joe Jackson. Is this too obvious?

OF -- Riggs Stephenson. Surprised? Look him up. You’ll understand.

SP -- Jack Morris. He gets the call over Doc Gooden.

RP -- Lee Smith. Like Martinez, voters are biased against guys at his position.

Daniel: C -- Ted Simmons

1B -- Keith Hernandez. If you go across the diamond, the best-known defender of all-time from each position is in the Hall. Ozzie Smith, Bill Mazeroski, Brooks Robinson, etc. Not a rule, but a guideline. Hernandez won 11 Gold Gloves (most ever by a first baseman) and could hit a little bit—he was in the league’s Top 10 for OBP eight times. Honorable mention to Jeff Bagwell, but I think he’ll make it eventually.

2B -- Bobby Grich. If you believe in WAR, you might be surprised to know that Grich (70.9) ranks ahead of Ryne Sandberg (67.5), Roberto Alomar (66.8), and Craig Biggio (65.1).

SS -- Alan Trammell. The sabermatrician Jay Jaffe developed the JAWS scoring system to measure a players Hall of Fame worthiness. Trammell fairs extremely well, ranking 11th all-time and ahead of such players as Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, and Luis Aparicio.

3B -- Graig Nettles.

LF -- Tim Raines.

CF -- Kenny Lofton. I covered Lofton in San Francisco and couldn’t stand him; he was difficult. But he led the league in stolen bases five times and ranks 15th all-time. He was also a terrific defensive center fielder for some very good teams.

RF -- Dwight Evans.

SP -- Curt Schilling. The second best strikeout-to-walk ratio of all-time. The only pitcher better is Tommy Bond, who last played in 1884. Schilling’s career postseason record: 11-2, 2.23 ERA.

New York Yankee Mike Mussina. 
SP -- Mike Mussina.

RP -- Lee Smith.

PJ: C – Mike Piazza. He hit 30 or more home runs 9 out of 10 years and hit .300 or higher for 10 consecutive seasons.

1B – Don Mattingly. He won nine gold gloves, an MVP and a batting title. He did it with his bat and his glove.

2B – Lou Whitaker. He was one of only eight second basemen with 200 homeruns, 1,000 runs scored, and 1,000 RBI. As Orrin said, he quietly went about his business.

SS -- Alan Trammell.

3B – Bill Madlock. Yes, I am a Cubs fan and you might think this is a homer pick. However, look at these numbers: .305 batting average, 3 batting titles, and he hit more than .300 11 times.

OF – Tim Raines. Check this out: 808 stolen bases (only Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, and Ty Cobb have more), .998% fielding percentage, and 2,605 hits.

OF – Shoeless Joe Jackson. I’m in line with Orrin on this one. His batting average was .356 (third all-time). In his first three years in the league he hit .408, .395, and .378 and didn’t win the batting title. He finished second each year to Ty Cobb. He struck out only 234 times.

OF – Pete Rose. Yes, I’m going there. First, he played 1,200 games in left and right fields combined and played 939 games at first. So, I’m putting him in my outfield. I know, he gambled on baseball games he played or managed in. He’s not the only one. In 1963 Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended by the NFL for placing bets on NFL games. The difference here is that they admitted it, and they only lost a year and are in the NFL’s Hall of Fame. And who can forget the rumors that Michael Jordan was caught gambling and instead of taking a suspension he retired and played baseball for a while. He came back and finished his career and is in the NBA’s Hall of Fame. It’s time for baseball to do the right thing. The all-time hits leader belongs in the Hall. 

SP – Vida Blue. He won the Cy Young and MVP in the same season (1971), 209 wins, 3.27 ERA, 1.233 WHIP, and 2,175 strikeouts. He also threw a no-hitter, was part of a combined no-hitter, and pitched 37 shutouts. He had three 20 win seasons within five years. He is one of only four pitchers to start the All-Star team for both the American and National Leagues. He was 6-2 in postseason play.

RP – Lee Smith. He dominated during his era.

Name two all-time great teams, from 1970 on, that never won a World Series and that we seem to have forgotten.

Orrin: The teams that should’ve won the World Series but didn’t are the 1984 Cubs and the Indians of the late 1990s. Both franchises have gone so long without winning, and both had great chances then. I still remember where I was when watching both lose. So painful because I’m a Cubs fan, and as a Cubs fan I root for underdogs like the Indians and last year’s Royals.

Chicago White Sox Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Daniel: 1981 Houston Astros. A strike threw a monkey-wrench into that season, but it would have been fun to see what the pitching-rich Astros could have done over the long haul. That staff featured two future Hall of Famers in Nolan Ryan (1.69 ERA) and Don Sutton (2.61), as well as veterans such as Joe Niekro (2.82), Bob Knepper (2.18), and Vern Ruhl (2.91). Not surprisingly, that staff led the National League in ERA, shutouts, and strikeouts. They couldn’t hit a lick in their cavernous home ballpark—Jose Cruz led the team with 13 home runs—but that pitching could have been enough to carry them.

1994 Montreal Expos. One of the great what-ifs in baseball history. The ‘94 lockout canceled the World Series and thereby wiped out the best chance for the colorful franchise to win it all. The Expos were 74-40 behind such dominating talents as Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Pedro Martinez, and John Wetteland. They made for a spectacular show—and a heartbreaking place in history.

PJ: 1984 Cubs. They were the best team that season. If only Cubs Manager Jim Frey would have pulled Rick Sutcliffe when he was showing signs of tiring (which was typical of him all season) in Game 5. Frey kept Sutcliffe in too long and we got the infamous grounder through Leon Durham’s legs. The rest is history. The loss is on Frey...and the goat, not Durham.

*                                                              *                                                                                        *

There are lots of great players mentioned above that belong in the Hall of Fame. So many of these players have waited too long for their rightful place in Cooperstown. Let’s hope they are recognized soon.

Follow Orrin on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz

To read Daniel look here http://www.mercurynews.com/sports or email him at dbrown@mercurynews.com
Follow Daniel on Twitter @mercbrownie

Follow me on Twitter @PJBrown09