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Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates

Who are the best players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, who should be? Who are the top candidates for the Hall of Fame? I have included players with known steroid "issues" in a separate category. Personally, I think they should all be judged on what they did on the field because the Hall of Fame is far from a company of angels. Some of the very best players were of questionable character and actions, including some of the biggest early names: Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Cap Anson. Perhaps put an asterisk by their names, but keeping great players out of the HOF because of "morals" makes no sense to me, considering some of the players who are already in. In any case, here are my rankings, for whatever they're worth ...

(#1) Pete Rose is the all-time leader in games played, winning games played, plate appearances, at-bats, hits and times on base. Anyone who thinks he "wasn't dynamic" in his heyday knows nothing about the game, or hasn't been paying attention. Rose's WAR7 puts him squarely between Al Simmons and Ralph Kiner, and ahead of Goose Goslin, Tim Raines, Billy Williams, Joe Medwick and Willie Stargell. If they were dynamic players, as they obviously were, then quite obviously so was Rose. Yes, he gambled. So did Rogers Hornsby. Yes, Rose was a bad boy at times. Ty Cobb was immeasurably worse. Keeping Rose out of the HOF at this point is a triumph of hypocritical puritans and bean counters over common sense. Pete Rose was either the greatest lead-off hitter of all time, or a close second to Rickey Henderson. He was either the greatest switch-hitter of all time, or second to Mickey Mantle. Mantle mocked Rose for "hitting singles," but Rose ended up with more total bases than Mantle. Hell, Rose finished only 47 total bases short of Babe Ruth! All those singles and doubles did add up, and they added up to greatness. And while Rose spent most of his career setting the table, he finished with more RBI than sluggers like Mickey Vernon, Paul "Big Poison" Waner, Larry Walker, Steve Garvey, Paul Molitor, Hank Greenberg, Gil Hodges, Dale Murphy and Edgar Martinez.

(#2) Shoeless Joe Jackson. Ditto the argument above. Shoeless Joe Jackson has the second-highest OPS+ of all-time among right fielders, trailing only Babe Ruth. He compares with Tris Speaker.

(#3) Albert Pujols should be a first-ballot inductee into the HOF, unless something about steroids turns up. If Pujols retired today, he would still be a first-ballot inductee. He already has 100.1 WAR and a 154 OPS+. Even in his declining years he continues to crank out 30 homers and 100 RBI per year. Pujols compares with Jimmie Foxx.

(#4) Miguel Cabrera may rival Pujols if he stays healthy and productive, although he seems to be slipping at the middle of the 2017 season. With 69.9 WAR and a 153 OPS+, he compares with Johnny Mize; in fact they are "slash twins" at this point.

(#5) Derek Jeter should be inducted quickly, once he becomes eligible. With 71.8 WAR, a .310 career batting average and 3,465 hits, not to mention a clean slate and considerable popularity, a first-ballot induction seems likely. Jeter compares with Barry Larkin and Robin Yount, but he spent more time in the limelight and appear to have more "star quality" in the eyes of the public and probably the voters.

(#6) Chipper Jones could be a first-ballot inductee, with his gaudy stats for a third baseman: 85.0 WAR, .303/.401/.529, 468 HR, 1,623 RBI, 141 OPS+. He compares with Eddie Matthews.
(#6) Adrian Beltre 91.5 WAR, 453 HR, 1,602 RBI, 116 OPS+. He compares with Ron Santo but has played longer and has more HR and RBI. I would give Chipper Jones the edge here, but they are very close.

(#7) Jim Thome should be a lock for the HOF, with 612 homers, as long as PEDs don't rear their ugly heads. His stats are impressive: 72.9 WAR, .276/.402/.554, 612 HR, 147 OPS+. But will he make it the first year he's eligible? It may depend on how many votes other players receive. In any case, we shall soon find out!

(#8) Mariano Rivera becomes eligible in 2018 and definitely deserves to make it on the first ballot, being the all-time saves leader with 652, not to mention having a 2.21 ERA and all-time-best 205 ERA+. He compares to anyone, but no one compares to him.

(#9) Trevor Hoffman was knocking on the door with 74% of the vote in 2017, with great stats for a reliever: 601 SAVES, 2.87 ERA, 141 ERA+. Hoffman ranks second in all-time saves and vastly eclipses the relievers currently in the HOF: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Hoyt Wilhelm. But if he doesn't make it soon, will he suffer from comparisons to Rivera?

(#10) Vladimir Guerrero 59.3 WAR, .318/.379./.553/.931, 449 HR, 1,406 RBI. Guerrero reached 71.7% of the votes in 2017, and is also knocking on the door.
(#10) Joe Mauer 51.4 WAR, .307/.390/.443/.833, 126 OPS+. Mauer compares with Bill Dickey, Mickey Cochrane, Gabby Hartnett and Ernie Lombardi.

Other Players Who Have Good Chances to Make the HOF Eventually

Larry Walker 72.6 WAR, .313/.400/.565/.965 141 OPS+ (Walker slashes great, but did he accumulate enough HR and RBI? He compares with Sam Thompson.)
Curt Schilling 79.9 WAR, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+ (Will Schilling's great postseason record sway voters in his favor? He compares with Hal Newhauser.)
Mike Mussina 83.0 WAR, 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+ (Mussina's ERA is on the high side for the HOF, but 270 wins helps. He compares with Ted Lyons.)

Players Who Warrant Serious HOF Consideration But Could Fall Short

Ironically, the player with the lowest WAR below may have been the best at his highly specific job!

Scott Rolen 70.0 WAR, .281/.364/.490, 316 HR, 122 OPS+ (Solid offense and 8 Gold Gloves, but does he generate enough excitement?)
Edgar Martinez 68.3 WAR, .312/.418/.515/.933 147 OPS+ (Martinez slashes great, but only had 309 HR and 1,261 RBI)
Andruw Jones 62.8 WAR, .254/.337/.486, 434 HR, 111 OPS+ (Great defense with 10 Gold Gloves, but his offense may have fizzled out too soon.)
Todd Helton 61.2 WAR, .316/.414/.539/.953, 369 HR, 1,406 RBI, 133 OPS+ (All the numbers are there ... are they enough?)
Johnny Damon 56.0 WAR, .284/.352/.433, 104 OPS+ (Damon was a very good player, but the OPS+ is on the low side.)
Jeff Kent 55.2 WAR, .290/.356/.500/.855, 123 OPS+ (
Johan Santana 51.4 WAR, 139-78, 3.20 ERA, 2025.2 IP, 136 ERA+ (Solid stats, but there may be another "excitement deficit" here.)
Jamie Moyer 50.4 WAR, 269-209, 4.25 ERA, 4074.0 IP, 103 ERA+ (The 269 wins are impressive, the 4.25 ERA not so much.)
Omar Vizquel 45.3 WAR, .272/.336/.352, 1,445 RUNS, 82 OPS+ (Great defense with 11 Gold Gloves; the runs help, but was there enough offense with that lackluster OPS+?)
Billy Wagner 28.1 WAR, 422 SAVES, 2.21 ERA, 187 ERA+ (Great relief pitcher, but did he pitch long enough to make the HOF? He was more dominant than Hoffman, but didn't play as long.)

Future Candidates (After 2018)

Mike Trout
Clayton Kershaw
Bryce Harper
Joey Votto
Josh Donaldson
Ichiro Suzuki
Adrian Beltre
Madison Bumgarner
Felix Hernandez
Max Scherzer 
Roy Halladay
Robinson Cano
Jose Altuve
Giancarlo Stanton
Carlos Beltran (70.3 WAR, 120 OPS+, he and Andre Dawson are currently "slash twins")
Buster Posey
David Price
Kris Bryant
Anthony Rizzo
Freddie Freeman
Evan Longoria

Running Out of Time, and Perhaps on Fumes

Larry Smith
Jorge Posada

Old-Timers Who Deserve Consideration

Kenny Lofton (he compares favorably with Tim Raines and was a better defender)
Dale Murphy (a two-time MVP, like George Foster he had a shorter career)
George "The Destroyer" Foster (was he the last player to hit 50+ homers honestly?
Dave Concepcion (he compares well with half the HOF shortstops and won five Gold Gloves)
Dick Allen (his OPS+ is the ninth-highest since 1947, on par with Frank Thomas)
Ted Simmons (Simmons was a top-20 offensive catcher in WAR, hits, doubles, homers, walks and RBI)
Lee Smith
Jack Morris
Allen Trammell (70.4 WAR, 110 OPS+, he compares favorably with a number of HOF shortstops)
Dwight Evans
Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff
Bobby Grich (70.9 WAR, 125 OPS+, compares with Joe Gordon and Nellie Fox)
Andy Pettitte
Minnie Minoso

Candidates with Steroid Issues, or Possible Issues

The players below are listed in the order that I rank them for inclusion in the HOF. I am not a fan of PEDs or players using them, but as I explained above, I can't see banning one player for life when someone who did far worse things soaks up the glory. I say let them all in, if they deserve it, and perhaps put an asterisk after their names if it can be proved that they cheated. If cheating can't be verified, "innocent until proven guilty" should apply. And what happens if someone elected to the HOF turns out to have cheated? That seems likely to happen, sooner or later.

Barry Bonds (162.4 WAR, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI, 182 OPS+)
Roger Clemens (140.3 WAR, 354-184, 4,672 SO, 3.12 ERA, 143 ERA+)
Alex Rodriguez (117.7 WAR, 696 HR, 2,086 RBI, 140 OPS+)
Rafael Palmeiro (71.6 WAR, 569 HR, 1,835 RBI, 132 OPS+)
Manny Ramirez (69.2 WAR, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI, 154 OPS+)
Mark McGwire (62.0 WAR, 583 HR, 1,414 RBI, 163 OPS+)
Gary Sheffield (60.3 WAR, 509 HR, 1,676 RBI, 140 OPS+)
Sammy Sosa (58.4 WAR, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI, 128 OPS+)
David Ortiz (55.4 WAR, 541 HR, 1,768 RBI, 141 OPS+)
Jason Giambi (50.5 WAR, 440 HR, 1,441 RBI, 139 OPS+)
Ryan Braun (44.6 WAR, 296 HR, 964 RBI, 140 OPS+)
Jose Canseco (42.2 WAR, 462 HR, 1,407 RBI, 132 OPS+)

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