With the 2017 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony taking place July 30, The 15 this month selects the 15 best players not in the Hall of Fame (active players and players not yet eligible for the ballot excluded, of course). Before reading any further, be advised this list does not include players who have been banned from baseball or have been linked to PED use. As for the criteria, I placed more emphasis on the “eye test” and traditional statistics than sabermetrics. When it comes to WAR, I’m with Bruce Springsteen: “What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” I also gave more weight to players who were considered among the elite during their prime years than to those who were very good (but not necessarily great) during a longer period. Players are listed in alphabetical order.
1. Dick Allen
A strong case can be made that the polarizing Allen was the best hitter in the majors from 1964 — when he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award with the Philadelphia Phillies — to 1974. During that span, the first baseman/third baseman/outfielder hit at least 32 home runs and as many as 40. A seven-time All-Star, Allen led the league in homers twice, RBIs once, on-base percentage twice, slugging percentage three times and OPS four times. The 1972 American League MVP with the Chicago White Sox, Allen’s slash line for his 15-year career is .292/.378/.534.
2. Albert Belle
Sure, it’s easy to dismiss the mercurial Belle as a Hall of Fame candidate due to his severe anger management issues and a perceived lack of hustle at times, but his eye-popping statistics are not so easily dismissed. From 1991 to 2000, the outfielder/designated hitter hit 30 or more home runs eight times (including 50 in 1995, 48 in 1996 and 49 in 1998) and had nine straight seasons of 100-plus RBIs. A five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner (given to the top hitter at each position in the AL and NL), Belle led the league in RBIs three times and finished in the top 3 in AL MVP voting three times. Belle, who retired at 33 due to an arthritic hip, finished with a .295 career average, 381 home runs and 1,239 RBIs.
3. Steve Garvey
In the 1970s and early 1980s, it seemed inconceivable Garvey would not be enshrined in Cooperstown. The first baseman with the massive forearms and matinee idol looks was the best player on Los Angeles Dodgers teams that were perennial contenders and played in four World Series (winning one). Garvey, a .294 lifetime hitter, was a 10-time All-Star, won the 1974 NL MVP Award (he finished in the top six in voting four other times) and won four Gold Gloves. He led the league in hits twice and batted better than .300 seven times. Garvey hit .338 in 222 postseason at-bats and was named National League Championship Series MVP twice. He also holds the NL record for consecutive games played at 1,201.
4. Vladimir Guerrero
Vlad The Impaler was nearly a first-ballot Hall of Famer this year, as he gained 71.7 percent of the required 75 percent of the vote, so his stay on a list of this type figures to be short. The 2004 AL MVP with the Anaheim Angels, Guerrero hit better than .300 13 times, had 30-plus home runs eight times and 100-plus RBIs 10 times. A nine-time All-Star, the right fielder/designated hitter also had 181 career stolen bases, including 40 in 2002 with the Montreal Expos when he just missed a 40-40 season by one home run. Guerrero has a .318/.379/.553 career slash line, with 449 home run and 1,496 RBIs.
5. Trevor Hoffman
The longtime San Diego Padres closer just missed making the 2017 Hall of Fame class, as he fell one-percentage-point short in his second year on the ballot. How good was Hoffman? Well, the NL Reliever of the Year Award is named after him, so that should tell you something. Hoffman has 601 career saves, second only to New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera. A seven-time All-Star with nine seasons of 40 or more saves, Hoffman finished in the top six in NL Cy Young Award voting four times, including two second-place finishes.
6. Edgar Martinez
It’s mind-boggling the former Seattle Mariners star still isn’t in the Hall of Fame after eight years on the ballot. Apparently, a significant amount of voters just can’t get over that Martinez spent most of his career as a designated hitter. Martinez’s numbers speak for themselves: He won two batting titles, batted better than .300 10 times, led the league in on-base percentage three times and led the league in RBIs once. The seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner has a .312 career average, and his .418 career OBP ranks 20th all-time.
7. Don Mattingly
Before chronic back problems sapped him of his power and ended his career at 34, Donnie Baseball was baseball’s best player from 1984-1989. During that span, the former New York Yankees captain won a batting title and an RBI title and led the league in hits twice and doubles three times. He hit better than .300 every one of those years, knocked in more than 100 runs in five of them and hit 30 or more home runs three times. Mattingly, who also won five Gold Gloves at first base and three Silver Slugger Awards in those six seasons, won the AL MVP Award in 1985 and finished as the runner-up in 1986. He went on to win four more Gold Gloves at first base (giving him nine for his career) and ended up with a .307 lifetime average.
8. Fred McGriff
Playing in the steroid era, McGriff — who is presumed to have been clean — didn’t put up the absurd offensive statistics of some of his peers, but the first baseman still has a Hall of Fame-worthy resume. He never hit 40 home runs, but he did hit 30-plus homers 10 times, leading the league twice. McGriff also knocked in 100 or more runs eight times. A five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, McGriff finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times. For his career, he hit .284 with 493 home runs and 1,550 RBIs.
9. Jack Morris
If you deem Morris not Hall of Fame-worthy because of his 3.90 ERA, you clearly don’t know Jack. The right-hander was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, a three-time 20-game winner, and he finished in the top five in wins eight times, leading the league in wins twice. A five-time All-Star, he finished in the top 10 in AL Cy Young Award voting seven times, including four times in the top five. Morris was the MVP of the 1991 World Series with the Minnesota Twins, and he also helped the 1984 Detroit Tigers and 1992 Toronto Blue Jays win World Series titles. Morris ended his career with a 254-186 (.577) record and 2,478 strikeouts.
10. Thurman Munson
When discussing the best catchers of the 1970s, three names immediately come to mind: Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Munson. Had Munson not died tragically in a plane crash at 32 in 1979, it’s highly likely he’d have joined Bench and Fisk in Cooperstown. The hard-nosed Munson was instrumental in the Yankees winning back-to-back World Series titles (1977-1978) and three straight AL pennants. A seven-time All-Star, Munson won the 1976 AL MVP Award and was the 1970 AL Rookie of the Year. He batted better than .300 five times in 11 seasons, knocked in 100-plus runs three times, had a .292 career average and won three Gold Gloves. Munson’s slash line in 16 World Series games is .373/.417/.493.
11. Mike Mussina
The former Orioles and Yankees right-hander never won a Cy Young Award, and he won 20 games in a season just once (in his final season in 2008 at 39), but there’s no denying he was one of the best starting pitchers of his generation. A five-time All-Star, Mussina placed in the top six in AL Cy Young Award voting nine times, including a runner-up finish in 1999. Mussina’s career record (270-153, .6382) is nearly identical to that of Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer (268-152, .6380). Mussina also won seven Gold Gloves, and his career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.58-1 ranks second among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings pitched.
12. Tony Oliva
From 1964-1971, Oliva arguably was the best hitter in baseball. The Twins right fielder won three batting titles during that span and led the league in hits five times, doubles four times and slugging percentage once. An eight-time All-Star, Oliva hit 20-plus homers five times, knocked in 100-plus runs twice and batted better than .300 six times. Oliva was the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year and placed in the top 10 in AL MVP voting five times, including two runner-up finishes. He also won a Gold Glove. Oliva, who has a .304 career average, seemed destined for Cooperstown, but he wasn’t the same player from 1972-1976 thanks to eight knee operations.
13. Dave Parker
The Cobra won two batting titles, batted better than .300 in each of his first five full seasons and won the 1978 NL MVP Award. In addition to being one of the most-feared hitters of his era, the right fielder had a powerful arm and won three Gold Gloves. Parker’s career was derailed in the early 1980s by drug, weight and injury issues, but he got back on track a few years later, posting career-highs of 34 home runs and 125 RBIs with the 1985 Cincinnati Reds to finish second in NL MVP voting. A career .290 hitter with 339 home runs and 1,493 RBIs, Parker was a seven-time All-Star, finished in the top five in MVP voting five times and won three Silver Slugger Awards.
14. Curt Schilling
The controversial right-hander was a three-time 20-game winner, won 15-or-more games eight times and has a 216-146 (.597). career record. He led the league in wins twice, strikeouts twice and complete games four times. In the postseason, he went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA, including a 4-1 mark with a 2.06 ERA in the World Series. Schilling has three World Series rings and was co-MVP of the 2001 series. A six-time All-Star, he is one of four pitchers to record at least three 300-plus strikeout seasons. He was the runner-up in Cy Young Award voting three times and placed fourth once.
15. Larry Walker
Sure, Walker’s numbers were inflated by playing most of his career at Coors Field in Colorado, but that shouldn’t disqualify the right fielder from induction into the Hall of Fame. In addition to winning three batting titles, a home run title and twice leading the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS, Walker won seven Gold Gloves and was an excellent baserunner. A five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Walker won the 1997 NL MVP Award and finished in the top 10 in voting three other times. Walker’s career slash line is .313/.400/.565, and he finished with 383 home runs and 1,311 RBIs.
Issue 235: July 2017