When looking at ten players that had borderline Hall of Fame cases, I had to break down the criteria in my selections. They all had to be Expansion Era to present (1961-), off the active BBWAA ballot, and free of any PED use or legitimate speculation. Ultimately, I was able to narrow it down to ten worthy players.
All ten had remarkable careers, but only five of the ten are players that I believe should be in Cooperstown. In this blog, I will list the five players that I believe should be in the Hall of Fame, and the other five that I think, in the end, fall short.
The Five that Should Get In:
1. Fred McGriff
McGriff was one of the most elite power hitters of the 1990s. In his 19-year career, he accumulated 2,490 hits, 493 home runs, 1,550 RBIs, and a .886 OPS. He was also a five-time All-Star, won three Silver Slugger Awards, and was a key part of the 1995 World Series Champion Atlanta Braves.
His Hall of Fame case is hurt because of the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike, which cut the 1994 season down to 132 games for Atlanta. At this point, McGriff was in the prime of his career, and it is fair to say that he would have reached 500 career home runs if the strike did not happen. 500 home runs has always been a “rite of passage” for entry into Cooperstown when looking at power hitters. However, I believe that McGriff accumulated more than enough home runs, RBIs, and has a good enough resumé to get into the Hall of Fame.
2. Carlos Delgado
Delgado is a far more controversial case than McGriff, as he did not compile a ton of hits or awards. He was just a two time All-Star, and won three Silver Slugger Awards. However, his career OPS of .929 is elite, and his 473 home runs and 1,512 career RBIs compare nicely to McGriff. In limited playoff experience, he put together an impressive .351/.442/.757 slash line, which helps his case.
He also had nine seasons of 100 RBIs or more. Delgado is the type of player that you may look at and initially not think he is deserving of Cooperstown, but the more you look, you realize just how worthy he is.
3. Kenny Lofton
Lofton was one of the most elite baserunners and leadoff hitters of the 1990s. He finished with a very good 68.4 bWAR, six All-Star game selections, and four Gold Gloves in centerfield. He stole 622 career bases, and led the league in stolen bases for five consecutive seasons, from 1992 through 1996. Many believe that he was snubbed of the 1992 AL Rookie of the Year, which would have been a nice piece to his resumé. Given the focus on hitting for power in his era, I believe he was overlooked back then, and ultimately overlooked when his name hit the ballot.
4. Tommy John
John is the only pitcher of the ten players I selected, but I firmly believe he should be in Cooperstown. In an era where 300 wins were the key to the Hall of Fame, he just fell short with 288 for his career. However, there are many players of his era that got in with less than that, and his career 3.34 ERA is definitely worthy. He was a four-time All-Star, and he is a revolutionary figure in baseball history after he took the risk of getting UCL reconstruction surgery. He bounced back tremendously after getting this surgery, which is now known as Tommy John Surgery. Given both his success as a pitcher and his great legacy, I believe he should be in the Hall.
5. Dave Parker
Parker peaked at just 24.5% in his second year on the BBWAA ballot in 1998 and is still falling short by the Veteran’s Committee to this day. He had a terrific career, compiling 2,712 hits, 339 home runs, and 1,493 RBIs. He won the 1978 NL MVP, was selected to seven All-Star teams, won two Batting Titles, three Gold Glove awards, and three Silver Slugger awards. He was also a two-time World Series Champion, won a Home Run Derby, and won the 1978 All-Star Game MVP. He could do it all, and given his accumulation and his plethora of awards, he is more than deserving of having a plaque in Cooperstown.
The Five That Fall Short:
1. Dale Murphy
Murphy is widely regarded as the best hitter of the 1980s. He won two NL MVPs, was selected to seven All-Star teams, won five Gold Glove awards, and four Silver Slugger awards. While he dominated a decade, he struggled mightily until his career ended after the 1993 season. His career success was too concentrated in these seven or eight straight years of success and did not reach the milestones of accumulation that you would like to see from a Hall of Famer.
2. Dick Allen
While Allen was a premier talent from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, he did not reach the levels of accumulation that others in Cooperstown have. He missed the 2,000 hit mark by 152 hits, and though he was a significant power hitter of his era, he hit 351 home runs and drove in 1,119 baserunners. These home run and RBI numbers pale in comparison to players like McGriff and Delgado, who both hit just shy of 500 home runs, and had over 1,500 RBIs. Of all the ten players that I picked, Allen is the only one that has passed away, and his great legacy is still remembered today.
3. Tony Oliva
Much like Murphy and Allen, Oliva was a player that was atop the talent in Major League Baseball in his era but did not accumulate enough outside of their peaks. Like the two above, Oliva won an MVP. He was also an eight-time All-Star, won a Gold Glove, and won the Batting Title three times. While Oliva is still a player that is known by most baseball fans, his totals are just too low for Cooperstown. He had just over 1,900 hits, 220 home runs, and 947 RBIs. He played for 15 years in the MLB, which definitely was a reason he lacked the accumulation of the other great players of his era.
4. Steve Garvey
Garvey is an interesting case, as he accumulated over 2,500 hits, won an NL MVP, to go along with ten All-Star Games. He was also a two-time NLCS MVP and won four Gold Glove awards. However, his career bWAR is just 38.1, which is quite low for Hall of Fame standards. For a corner infielder, he hit just 272 home runs, which hurts his case. His career batting average is a great .294, but his career .329 OBP and .775 OPS are both significantly low. While he did do a lot of great things over his career, he ultimately fell short of Cooperstown.
5. Lance Berkman
Berkman was a part of some great Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals teams over his career, and he was consistently at the forefront of those teams and their success. While he was an excellent talent, he was another player that did not compile the milestones of a surefire Hall of Famer. He missed the 2,000 hit mark significantly, by 95 hits. He had six seasons of thirty or more home runs but failed to make the 400 Club. While his career slash of .293/.406/.537 is outstanding, he did not have the totals that would get him into Cooperstown.
There is certainly still a chance that any of these ten players can get into the Hall of Fame. We have seen the standards fall significantly over time, as many new voters are valuing percentages and peak years over accumulation. Regardless of my opinion on the worthiness of these players when it comes to Cooperstown, they were all great talents, at the forefront of Major League Baseball throughout their careers.