For this column I had considered comparing the best of those on the outside looking into Cooperstown to the bottom players enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I soon realized that would be a useless exercise, however, as most everyone agrees that "better than the worst" should not be the standard. If everyone better than Rick Ferrell is to be enshrined, Cooperstown may have to invade Bowerstown, Toddsville, Hartwick and Middlefield just to make room.
Instead I decided I would just assemble a lineup of the best not in the Hall and let readers determine for themselves if any of these eight are Hall-worthy. Either this weekend or next week, maybe I will turn my attention to the pitchers but for now it's the position players. Readers of this site already have a pretty good sense of who the most glaring omissions are amongst the hurlers.
So without further ado, here is my All-Overlooked starting eight.
Ted Simmons - .285/.348/.437 - 117 OPS+ | 95.3 WARP3
Simmons played 19 seasons, was rarely injured and as his B-Ref page sponsor notes, he "had more RBIs than Bench, more runs than Carter, more hits than Berra or Fisk."
Hard to say it much better than that.
Will Clark - .303/.384/.497 - 137OPS+ | 105.2 WARP3
Clark's peak was tremendous, and there is little doubt that toiling for the better part of his career in Candlestick Park hampered the general public's appreciation for him. A terrific gloveman, Bill James famously ranked Clark among the best first baseman in baseball history in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. A Hall with Orlando Cepeda, Jim Bottomley and Tony Perez ought to be able to make some room for Clark.
Bobby Grich - .266/.371/.424 - 125 OPS+ | 121.1 WARP3
Grich won four gold gloves, finished in the top-10 for bases on balls in a season six times (he was hit by a ton of pitches too) but failed to live up to the electorate's standards in the team-dependent numbers like runs or RBI. I would love to know why, say, Bobby Doerr has a better case than Grich.
He edged Lou Whitaker for this slot, whom Rich has convinced me should also be enshrined.
Dick Allen - .292/.378/.534 - 156 OPS+ | 92.8 WARP3
Allen's shoddy defensive work over the course of his career harmed his candidacy but it is tough to imagine a hitter of Allen's greatness on the Cooperstown outs. His career OPS+ number is greater than Hank Aaron's.
Alan Trammell - .285/.352/.415 - 110 OPS+ | 129.4 WARP3
Trammell should be such a lock, yet he probably will not get in again. There is a tier of middle infielder that the electorate seems to overlook, whose offense does not stack up to the HOF position players further to the right of the defensive spectrum and whose defense does not stack up (at least in reputation) to their peers at their own positions. Think Trammell and Luis Aparicio, and Grich versus Bill Mazeroski.
This should be addressed.
Tim Raines - .294/.385/.425 - 123 OPS+ | 123.9 WARP3
Andre Dawson - .279/.323/.482 - 119 OPS+ | 105.3 WARP3
I have come around on Dawson. His superior defensive work as a center fielder early in his career combined with his exceptional power numbers overcome his crummy on-base. Without injuries, I have a feeling his case would be a real slam dunk.
Dwight Evans - .272/.370/.472 - 127 OPS+ | 120.2 WARP3
He was every bit the offensive force Jim Rice was, he played longer and won eight gold gloves. I addressed Evans's case in my first Change-Up column here at Baseball Analysts.
So have at it. Tell me why those eight do not belong in the Hall, and which position players you think are more glaring omissions.
Edit: For Will Clark/Bill James ranking accuracy
Update (01/04/08): Rob Neyer disagrees with me on Clark (he would put Keith Hernandez ahead of him), thinks Santo belongs ahead of Allen and Murphy ahead of Dawson.
As far as first base goes, a vote for Hernandez ahead of Clark places a whole lot of faith in the superiority of the mustached man's glove. Clark has him comfortably on the OPS+ front, and notched just a few less plate appearances over the course of his career. Maybe Keith really was that good a fielder but to my eye Clark looks like the superior option.
The Santo over Allen argument is all about fielding and longevity. Allen was a way better hitter (156 OPS+ vs. 125) but Santo has five gold gloves and about three full seasons worth of plate appearances over Santo. Still, I am comfy with my choice.
Murphy over Dawson is fair, but here is why I favor The Hawk. He and Murphy had similarly awesome peaks, but Dawson's was ended by a stroke of utter misfortune - his horrible knee injury on that Montreal turf. Murphy just kinda faded.