The baseball world announced today that pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and first baseman Frank Thomas will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. All three are definitely qualified, with long, accomplished careers.
While the aforementioned will be inducted, baseball still struggles with a long line of candidates who played during the "PED era" of the 1990s and early 2000s - an era marked with high steroid and other performance drug use. Throughout the baseball blogosphere and twittersphere, numerous writers have offered points and counter-points on what the Hall of Fame should do about the issue.
Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame has done nothing, frustrating writers and fans alike.
At the blog Baseball Past and Present, writer Graham Womack came up with a different approach. For the fourth year, he polled his readers to select the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. When I offered to be a part of this year's effort, Graham sent me a list of over 500 retired players spanning from the early days of baseball through the Negro Leagues, the Japanese Leagues, to players of the current era. The only caveat is they had to be out of baseball for five years - the same qualification used by the Hall of Fame.
Going through Graham's ballot took me over a week. Although I thought I was knowledgeable about my baseball history, there were numerous names I never heard of. Baseball-Reference.com and other baseball history sites were a huge help as I researched every name I didn't know. I took the ballot very seriously.
My ballot was quite different than the final results. Here are my picks for the 50 Best Players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame (My Hall choice/final result).
- Jeff Bagwell - Yes/Yes
- Roger Clemens - Yes/Yes
- Barry Bonds - Yes/Yes
- Charlie Finley - Yes/Did not make list
- Tom Glavine - Yes/Yes
- Shoeless Joe Jackson - Yes/Yes
- Greg Maddux - Yes/Yes
- Minnie Minoso - Yes/Yes
- Mike Mussina - Yes/Yes
- Buck O'Neill - Yes/Did not make list
- Sadaharu Oh - Yes/Did not make list
- Tim Raines - Yes/Yes
- Pete Rose - Yes/Yes
- Frank Thomas - Yes/Yes
- Buzz Arlett - Yes/Did not make list
- Mike Piazza - Yes/Yes
- Tip O'Neill - Yes/Did not make list
- Craig Biggio - Yes/Yes
- Ollie Carnegie - Yes/Did not make list
- Jim Creighton - Yes/Did not make list
- Edgar Martinez - Yes/Yes
- Oliver Marcelle - Yes/Did not make list
- Newt Allen - Yes/Did not make list
- Victor Starffin - Yes/Did not make list
- Rafael Palmeiro - No/Yes
- Sammy Sosa - No/Yes
- Mark McGwire - No/Yes
- Pete Browning - Yes/Did not make list
- Dave Orr - Yes/Did not make list
- Charley Keller - No/Did not make list
- Gavy Cravath - No/Did not make list
- Charley Jones - Yes/Did not make list
- Dick Allen - Yes/Yes
- Albert Belle - No/Did not make list
- Maury Wills - No/Did not make list
- Bernie Williams - No/Did not make list
- Harry Stovey - Yes/Did not make list
- Isao Harimoto - Yes/Did not make list
- Smead Jolley - No/Did not make list
- Gil Hodges - Yes/Yes
- Masaichi Kaneda - Yes/Did not make list
- Jim Kaat - No/Yes
- Benny Kauff - No/Did not make list
- Jeff Kent - No/Yes
- Fred McGriff - No/Yes
- Ross Barnes - Yes/Did not make list
- Dave Concepcion - No/Did not make list
- Chuck Foster - Yes/Did not make list
- Curt Flood - Yes/Did not make list
- Bud Fowler - Yes/Did not make list
- Don Mattingly - No/No
- Jack Morris - No/No
- Alejandro Oms - Yes/Did not make list
- Home Run Johnson - Yes/Did not make list
As you can see, quite a few differences. I found many Negro League players and olde-time players I thought needed more recognition than they currently receive, so they made it on my list as Hall recommendations. Maybe one day the Hall of Fame will have a batch recognition of names from the past.
I also leaned heavily on international names. I would like to see the Baseball Hall of Fame become a global museum and induct players from the Japanese League, Mexican League, and other foreign organizations. That would not only be good for baseball's international popularity, it would also make Cooperstown a global tourist destination, which is good for business. Although many might say the levels of competition between those leagues and the American Major Leagues were too different, my argument is that not every Negro League player was Major League caliber. There is no doubt Josh Gibson homered against some inferior talent and he is a Hall of Famer. I believe the same standard should be held to Japanese, Mexican, and Cuban League players from generations ago. Those players could not go to the Major Leagues as easily as they can now.
There were also five names I don't think are Hall of Famers that a majority of those polled do think should have a plaque in Cooperstown: Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, and Jim Kaat. Palmeiro and Sosa both tested positive for steroids. In their case, I knocked 25% off their career stats, which made them borderline at best. Do the same for Bonds, Clemens, and several others and they still have great enough stats. Palmeiro and Sosa do not. McGriff, Kent, and Kaat had long and distinguished careers, but I don't believe they were great enough.
Finally, you are probably wondering why there are 54 names when I was only instructed to pick 50. That's because I can't keep track very well and confused myself on the print out and wrote the same number next to two different names four times. But on the online form I only voted for 50.