As we continue to look at this year’s HOF ballot, we’ll take the next 5 highest ranked players from last year’s ballot. If you missed the first post on this subject, you can see it here.
#6 – Edgar Martinez – NO. I don’t really care about the debate over the DH for the HOF. Martinez did what he was paid to do – hit. No, he didn’t play in the field much (an equivalent of about 4 seasons, out of his 18-year career). But, I don’t think that should matter any more than how many innings a guy pitched. The question is simply, was he great at what he was supposed to do? Martinez was good . . . not great. 7 All-Star appearances in what we’ll call 15 real years in the league. In those 15 seasons, he was a .313 hitter, but only accumulated 2,181 hits. He led the league in runs once, doubles twice, RBI once, batting twice, OBP three times, and OPS once. Never finished higher than 3rd in MVP voting, and only finished in the top-10 twice. 309 career HR, 1261 career RBI, and a .312 average with a .933 OPS. Nice career. Not HOF worthy.
#7 – Fred McGriff – NO. We’re closer here than I think we were with Martinez, but I still say no. Over the primary 16 seasons of his career, McGriff averaged .287 with 30 HR, 94 RBI, .894 OPS, and 269 total bases. Very good numbers, and it’s no wonder he was able to accumulate 493 home runs. But, I still think McGriff is in that very next tier of players just below the Hall.
#8 – Larry Walker – NO. No steroid concerns here (I don’t think), but a new phenomena has arisen since 1993 – the mile-high air of Denver. There’s no denying that the ball travels further, and pitchers struggle more in Colorado. And, Walker spent more seasons in Colorado than anywhere else. And, while his numbers as a whole begin to look very impressive (.565 career slugging, .965 OPS, etc.), it looks very different when you begin to consider his career away from the thin air. His career batting average on the road was a very pedestrian .278 (70 points lower than at home), OBP of .370 (61 points lower), SLG of .495 (142 points lower!), OPS of .865 (203 points lower!). That’s a pretty major discrepancy. And, it’s not like Walker had a huge home run total (383), or RBI total (1311), or really anything else. So, even with the added bonus of playing so much in Colorado, Walker just doesn’t measure up.
#9 – Mark McGwire – NO. Our first PED’s case. Since he admitted use, there’s no question about that. The problem with McGwire (and others) is we aren’t 100% certain when he was or wasn’t on PED’s. He had a great rookie year, and everyone thought he was headed for huge success. But, over the next few years, he never lived up to the monster numbers he put up his first season. Plus, injuries began to set in. Over what should have been his prime seasons (age 26-32), McGwire averaged .257, 30 HR, 77 RBI, .960 OPS, and just 108 games. And, that includes his last season in Oakland when he had a ridiculous .730 SLG, and 1.198 OPS. Then, the questionable years begin. In the years his numbers should have been showing signs of decline, McGwire suddenly averaged 64 HR and 138 RBI. Yes, he averaged 155 games, but that should have brought his average home run total up to around 43 – not 64. As I’ve mentioned before, stamina/recovery is one of the benefits of steroid use. And, somehow, McGwire got healthier in his old age . . . and more powerful. Without PED’s, McGwire probably wouldn’t have even lasted the 16 seasons he did. And, a conservative estimate would be that he would have hit about 100-125 fewer home runs. Would he be in consideration for the HOF with a .260 average, 470 HR’s, and a .950 OPS? Not really. He’d be in that next tier, like so many others.
#10 – Don Mattingly – NO. MVP-winner (’85), 9-time Gold-Glove winner (though, he may have won a couple of those on reputation, rather than performance), 6-time All-Star. Here’s the problem . . . injury. In 14 seasons, he played 150+ games just 6 times. If the first 3 full seasons of his career had been able to be repeated for the rest of his career, without injury, he would have been a clear HOF choice. He could have had 400+ home runs, 3,000+ hits, might have won a Triple Crown, etc. etc., all while being one of the best fielding first basemen in the game. But, unlike guys like Kirby Puckett and Roy Campanella, we didn’t see enough of a healthy Mattingly to be able to say definitively he belongs in the HOF, even though his career was cut short. I wish we had, because Mattingly was a classy player – of the Cal Ripken ilk. His career just never could get back on its feet after the ’89 season.