No Hall of Fame sees its induction choices more dissected and analyzed than Cooperstown, and with good reason. The Baseball Hall of Fame easily boasts the loftiest standards of entry, exclusive - for the most part - to the true greats of the game. Until that changes and enshrinement becomes easier, the New York State-based Hall will preserve both its aura and continued relevance.
The trade-off to such standards, however, is that some awfully good ballplayers get left out. MVP's, home run champions and Cy Young winners all reside outside of Cooperstown looking in. That doesn't seem to bother folks nearly as much as the strange morality that the Hall has assumed, rejecting those who are deemed to have disgraced the game of baseball. Most notably, recent classes have been notable for the seemingly arbitrary exclusion of stars connected to the "Home Run" Era.
Through this exercise, we aren't going to subjectively judge on the basis of character. If you were *good* (strike through) great enough to warrant enshrinement, then you can safely be considered a snub here. It's incredible that all 30 franchises, even newer outfits like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays, can lay claim to players who could make a pretty good argument about their own Hall merits. For this list, we have only considered those already eligible for induction (rest easy, Yankees fans, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter will get there soon) and have tried to ensure that every franchise is represented by someone primarily associated with that team. Without further ado, here is each MLB club's biggest Hall of Fame snub:
29 Arizona Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez
He got a mere five votes when 429 were needed for induction and was off the ballot after just one year, but Luis Gonzalez will always have 'the hit'. Stepping to the plate in the bottom of the ninth of a 2-2 Game 7 of the World Series with the bases loaded and one out, Gonzalez drilled a walk-off single off of Mariano Rivera to give the Arizona Diamondbacks their first and only championship. Lest you think that Gonzo is a one-hit wonder, the left fielder also appeared in five All-Star Games and won a Silver Slugger award over a 19-year career in the majors.
28 Atlanta Braves: Dale Murphy
From 1980 to 1987, few in baseball were better than Dale Murphy. That eight year stretch included two MVP awards, seven All-Star selections, five Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger awards. Murphy's career, however, extended from 1976 to 1993, far outside of the realm of those eight seasons. It's because of the long-time Atlanta Brave's slow career start and abrupt downturn at age 31 that voters haven't supported his HoF case.
Despite being a well-liked player in his heyday, Murphy was never really championed as a Cooperstown candidate, as Atlanta's dynastic 90s teams produced enough deserving inductees (Greg Maddox, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine among them) that Murphy became the forgotten man within the organization.
27 Baltimore Orioles: Mike Mussina
The consistent greatness of Mike Mussina was easy to overlook during his playing days. The righty known as 'Moose' won between 11 and 20 games in ever season from 1992 all the way through 2008, but never won a Cy Young and was never really considered one of the game's prominent stars. The five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glover was first eligible for induction in 2013, but still hasn't achieved the requisite 75%. To be fair, he's getting close, falling less than 12% short last year at 63.5%. If Mussina is being punished for failing to reach the revered 300-win plateau, it marks an interesting precedent for upcoming candidates Andy Pettitte and the late Roy Halladay. It's not time to worry yet, as Mussina has more years of eligibility to go.
26 Boston Red Sox: Roger Clemens
For a storied franchise such as the Boston Red Sox, even one that endured an 86-year World Series drought, there are bound to be some icons who've been ignored by Cooperstown. The BoSox are no exception, with a strong case to be made for any of Luis Tiant, Dwight Evans and Dom DiMaggio. And yet it's Roger Clemens who looms the largest here. If we're going solely by numbers and on-field achievements, the Rocket would be in.
Clemens ranks third in all-time strikeouts and ninth in wins among pitchers, all the while exuding a presence that made him one of the most intimidating hurlers of his generation. We all know the reason Clemens isn't in. With four years to go, the fearsome flamethrower is trending in the right direction, but still needs to gain some ground among voters.
25 Chicago Cubs: Rick Reuschel
You might be expecting to see Sammy Sosa here, but a four-year stretch which saw him average a super-human 60 homers and 150 RBI, coupled with some bizarre changes in retirement, have made it too hard to plausibly believe Slammin' Sammy. In his place, let's go with one of the most under-appreciated Cubs of all-time, Rick Reuschel. The ace for the North Sider's shone during the 70s, with a 3.37 career ERA that tends to get overlooked by his place on some truly terrible Cubs teams. How overlooked, you say? Reuschel was taken off the ballot after drawing just 0.4% voter support in his first year despite three All-Star nods, two Gold Gloves and a pair of top-three Cy Young finishes.
24 Chicago White Sox: Shoeless Joe Jackson
The subject of numerous books and films, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and the 1919 Black Sox team seems more mythical than historical nearly 100 years on. That this infamy remains so closely association with Jackson and has kept him out of the Hall seems wildly unjust in hindsight. First, his stats: although they don't look impressive in modern context, they were plenty starry during the Dead Ball era, especially given that he was banned from baseball at age 32. He ranked among the top five in hits, runs and average throughout nearly his entire prime and stands ninth all-time in adjusted OPS+. And going to that 1919 World Series, the South Carolina native actually hit .375 in the Series and was cleared of wrongdoing.
23 Cincinnati Reds: Pete Rose
Yep, you knew this one was coming. When it comes to reinstatement and a possible enshrinement down the line, Pete Rose is probably doing himself no favors through his blatant shilling and self-promotion while desperately trying to squeeze every cent out of his own name. However, that doesn't change the prevailing sense that Cooperstown isn't quite complete without the sports all-time hits leader. Banned or not, there's no denying that the remarkable things that Charlie Hustle did on the field over his 24-year career left him with a list of Hall of Fame credentials that rival the game's greatest players. How much longer could we ignore on-field greatness?
22 Cleveland Indians: Kenny Lofton
The recent induction of Tim Raines was celebrated by nostalgic Montreal Expos fans, but also by Kenny Lofton supporters. Soon after Raines was enshrined in 2017, bloggers were quick to highlight how Lofton's career numbers parallel Raines's, even as the speedy Cleveland centerfielder boasts significantly better defensive skill. The six-time All-Star only became an everyday player at age 25, but immediately transformed into a dynamic top-of-the-order threat, leading the league in stolen bases in each of his first five full seasons.
The problem for Lofton, is that too many people remember the glorified fourth outfielder he turned into over the second half of his career, hanging on for eight years after his last All-Star appearance that were spent with nine different teams and during which the four-time Gold Glover averaged "only" 21 steals. That late career swoon didn't prevent Lofton from his current 15th place standing on the all-time steals list, with nine of those ahead of him already enshrined.
21 Colorado Rockies: Larry Walker
During his heyday, Larry Walker had slugging numbers that stood up to anyone in the game without the whispers of foul play. Although you never heard Walker's name associated with performance-enhancing drugs, many felt that it was his mile high Coors Field home park that gave him an edge. The home of the Rockies certainly did seem to help turn some fly balls into home runs, but it's not like all of Walker's teammates and opponents were mashing like he was.
At various times over his 17-year career, the slugger led the led the league in home runs, won three batting titles and earned seven Gold Gloves. Yes, the star first baseman and right fielder enjoyed better numbers at home then on the road, but we can't ignore the merits of every qualified Rockies hitter moving forward.
20 Detroit Tigers: Lou Whitaker
In 2018, 22 years after his last MLB game, Alan Trammel finally got the Hall call, voted in by the Veteran's Committee. Now, maybe it's time for Lou Whitaker, the other half of the Tigers' vaunted double play combination, to get a closer look. Trammell has his teammate of 19 years beat by one All-Star nomination (six to five) and an MVP award for the 1984 World Series. Whitaker, however, has a Rookie of the Year award to his credit and one more Silver Slugger trophy where Trammell has one more Gold Glove. A mere four career hits separates the two men, with Whitaker recording 2,369 to Trammell's 2,365.
19 Houston Astros: Billy Wagner
Wagner never once started a game during his 15-year career in the majors, but he is one of just six men to record over 400 career saves, of which only one is currently in Cooperstown. Yes, Mariano Rivera, the all-time save leader, will get in on the first ballot, but less certainly surrounds the candidacy of Francisco Rodriguez, John Franco and Wagner (Trevor Hoffman is already in). Wagner compiled over 900 career innings of relief work during his career while sporting a 2.31 ERA that would rank 20th all-time were he to have pitched the requisite 1,000 innings. He twice led the majors in appearances while being named to seven All-Star teams and averaging 28 saves per season.
18 Kansas City Royals: Bret Saberhagen
All told, 19 players have won more than one Cy Young award. Of those 19, ten have already been enshrined, four remain active, one (Roy Halladay) is not yet eligible and one is Roger Clemens. That leaves three men - Bret Saberhagen, Denny McLain and Johan Santana - on the outside of the Hall of Fame vote looking in. For Royals fans, the lack of consideration for Saberhagen, who was bumped off the ballot, is puzzling. When he did pitch, he dominated, winning 20 games and the AL Cy Young en route to a Royals' World Series title in 1985 and sporting a league-low 2.16 ERA during a 23-win 1989 season that netted him a second Cy. Those were the career highlights, but don't totally explain Saberhagen's World Series MVP trophy, three All-Star appearances or an impressive career 3.34 ERA.
17 Los Angeles Angels: Bobby Grich
If your first reaction in seeing Bobby Grich listed here was "who??", then it only furthers the argument that the versatile six-time All-Star hasn't gotten the accolades he deserves since his career ended back in 1986. Although Grich's numbers don't jump off the page, he is heralded in the analytics community for sporting a 125 OPS+ that is good for fifth among second baseman all-time, with just Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins and Joe Morgan ranked ahead of him. Grich, who once led the AL with 22 home runs, was also revered for his defense, netting four Gold Glove awards across a 17-year career split between California and Baltimore.
16 Los Angeles Dodgers: Gil Hodges
Given that the storied Dodgers organization has produced just six Hall of Famers who have been enshrined donning their cap, it's plenty obvious that the franchise has a lot of talent sitting on the outskirts of Cooperstown. Steve Garvey, Don Newcombe, Tommy John, Maury Wills, Fernando Valenzuela and Kevin Brown are just some of the Dodger greats still waiting to hear their name called. Perhaps the most deserving, however, is slugger Gil Hodges, whose voting percentage ran as high as 63.4% but fell short of induction. This despite winning two World Series, making eight All-Star Games and mashing 370 home runs. Though his Dodger days were mostly spent in Brooklyn, he was part of the inaugural LA team.
15 Miami Marlins: Gary Sheffield
If we're being honest here, the Marlins haven't exactly developed a major cache of Hall of Fame-worthy talent in their history. There have been some great players to suit up for the Marlins, no doubt, but fire sales after each of their 1997 and 2003 World Series wins guaranteed that their stars didn't stick around long. For now, any hope of a player entering Cooperstown in a Marlins cap probably rests with Gary Sheffield, who played for eight different clubs over 22 years, but none for longer than the six years he spent in South Florida.
The nine-time All-Star and one-time batting champion is one of just five members of the 500-homer club to have not yet been inducted, all five of whom are connected to a checkered era.
14 Milwaukee Brewers: Cecil Cooper
In the modern age, with information so readily available and fantasy sports standing as an entire industry unto itself, Cecil Cooper's kind of localized fame would never exist. To this day, Cooper, who played his last game in 1987, remains a Milwaukee icon even as he's largely forgotten among most baseball fans. In 11 years as a Brewer, the first baseman was named to five All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and finished fifth in MVP voting on three occasions.
Although his career-best .352 batting average in 1980 was bettered by George Brett's historic .390 season, he twice led the league in RBI and covered more bases than any other player during that 1989 campaign. Now, Cooper seems all but a footnote in baseball history; just not for the Brew Crew.
13 Minnesota Twins: Tony Oliva
In their 1981 book "The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time", Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included beloved Twins legend Tony Oliva and identified him as a victim of what they termed the "Smoky Joe Wood Syndrome". That bittersweet designation highlights the fact that Oliva's stellar career was ultimately cut short due to injury, thus leaving some of that greatness untapped. The Cuban slugger set a major league record by attaining All-Star honors in each of his first eight seasons, picking up a Rookie of the Year award and three batting crowns along the way.
Soon, however, that streak would be derailed by the first of eight knee procedures that 'Tony-O' would undergo. Who knows what Oliva could have achieved were it not for his bum knees.
12 New York Mets: David Cone
If the "Mr. October" moniker hadn't already been claimed by Reggie Jackson, it would fit rather nicely on David Cone. The hard-throwing righty has a whole hand's worth of World Series rings and reached the postseason in eight of his 17 years in the big leagues. In other words, the leader of the 'Coneheads' was a winner. Though just three of Cone's 21 playoff appearances came as a Met (most came with the crosstown Yankees), it was with the Mets that he played seven seasons and earned his first 20-win campaign.
Away from Shea Stadium, he won his first World Series as a Toronto Blue Jay and would go onto win the 1994 AL Cy Young award with the Kansas City Royals. It's strange, then, that Cone got support so sparse during his first year on the ballot that he was dropped after year one due to too small a percentage.
11 New York Yankees: Graig Nettles
It's no surprise that the Yankees have their share of both enshrined greats and deserving candidates who remain on the outside looking in. An argument could be made for any of Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Willie Randolph or Roger Maris, but this entry will focus on the case of the vastly underrated Graig Nettles. Though Nettles endured plenty of trying seasons in pinstripes over his 11 years with the Yankees, the third baseman was integral to their back-to-back 1977 and 1978 championship teams, earning All-Star honors in each season and finishing in the top six of MVP voting both years.
Nettles has his underwhelming .248 career average, but the six-time All-Star makes up for that with power numbers that place him firmly in the mix with other enshrined third basemen. Moreso, the Nettles omission raises more questions about the curious lack of third basemen in Cooperstown, period.
10 Oakland Athletics: Mark McGwire
It's hard to find another player who better exemplifies the confusing position of MLB as it pertains to his era than Mark McGwire. We remember Big Mac as a larger than life hero in baseball's unforgettable 1998 home run record chase, but we also remember the reasons why he has yet to be inducted. If baseball is willing to sustain McGwire's career numbers (which keep him firmly in Hall of Fame company), then shouldn't the man, himself, be treated accordingly?
Philadelphia Phillies: Dick Allen
Generational bias probably plays a role in who you feel the biggest Hall of Fame snub is for the Phillies. Chances are that if you're reading this, a more contemporary star like Curt Schilling, who spent most of nine seasons as the ace of the Phillies but then enjoyed championship successes in Arizona and Boston, would be your pick. For those whose baseball memories go back a little further, however, Dick Allen is the choice.
One of the premier bats of his era, Allen was recognized as MVP, Rookie of the Year and a seven-time All-Star while leading many offensive categories during his peak years in the 60s and 70s.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates: Dave Parker
When looking at a season-by-season breakdown of Dave Parker's career, two things immediately stand out. One is his remarkable stretch from 1975 to an injury-shortened 1981 in which he was named to four All-Star teams, won two batting titles and even earned MVP honors in 1978. The other, however, is the nosedive that his career took in his early 30s, thanks to various issues.
Even with some impressive career numbers on the whole, missing three years of your prime, is hard to recover from for induction purposes. Parker does deserve credit for rebounding and even appearing in three more All-Star games, but that regrettable mid-career swoon might be enough to keep him out for good.
8 San Diego Padres: Ken Caminiti
This past year, Trevor Hoffman became just the second player ever to reach the Hall of Fame after having played primarily with the Padres. Unfortunately for San Diego, that probably won't be changing any time soon. Their greatest current snub is probably 1996 NL MVP Ken Caminiti, but the late third baseman probably isn't getting in any time soon. Though there is always the Veteran's Committee, they likely won't take much of a look at a slugger who was bumped off the ballot after getting just two votes in his first year of eligibility.
Caminiti's MVP season, along with three All-Star campaigns, three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger, all came within a four-year stretch that now looks like an artificially driven spike. Still, his place among the organization's all-time offensive leaders stands as a testament to the fact that he's probably still the best candidate that San Diego has.
7 San Francisco Giants: Barry Bonds
Yep, here we go. For as vaunted and revered as Cooperstown is, it simply doesn't seem right that the sport's all-time hits leader (Pete Rose) and its home runs leader (Barry Bonds) are on the outside looking in. Boasting numbers that put him firmly among the greatest of all time, the only thing keeping Bonds out of the Hall and we all know what it is. It doesn't help that the seven-time MVP is roundly disliked in baseball circles and remembered for a surly, arrogant demeanor.
Even still, his level of greatness may be too much for voters to ignore, as evidenced by a 56.4% voting result this past year, his fifth on the ballot. That means that Bonds has five more years to increase his percentage by just under 20% in order to make it in.
6 Seattle Mariners: Edgar Martinez
We've already covered cases of Hall of Fame voters rejecting candidates for behaviors unbecoming of an inductee. But being turned down because of the position you played? That seems to be the primary factor holding career designated hitter Edgar Martinez back from enshrinement. Having played his entire 18-year career with the AL-based Seattle Mariners and, thus, having been able to assume the DH role without manning a defensive position, it seems Martinez is being punished despite some Hall-worthy offensive totals.
The owner of two two battling titles and seven All-Star nods will be a fascinating case study for future HoF-eligible DH's, particularly when David Ortiz comes up for induction in 2022. By then, it's entirely possible that Martinez will already be enshrined, having received 70.4% of the most recent vote in his ninth year on the ballot and needing just 4.6% more in his final year of eligibility.
5 St. Louis Cardinals: Keith Hernandez
Before he starred on the 1986 world champion New York Mets, before he guest-starred on the famous 'second spitter' episode of Seinfeld, before he served as pitchman for "Just For Men", Keith Hernandez was a phenom slugger for the St. Louis Cardinals. He actually played three more seasons in St. Louis than at Shea Stadium, even though he's largely remembered as a Met. In those first 10 years of his career, the left-handed first baseman won the 1979 NL MVP award and was named to two of his seven career All-Star teams.
Aside from a potent bat that saw him hit a league-high .344 in that 1979 MVP season, Hernandez was also the best defensive first baseman of his era, netting 11 Gold Glove awards.
4 Tampa Bay Rays: Fred McGriff
In an MLB.com piece, Joe Posnanski referred to Fred McGriff as "the bar". This was, essentially, a compliment and an insult rolled into one, suggesting that the slugger served as a good measuring stick for Hall of Fame talent, even though he wasn't one, himself. If you had a better career than McGriff, you should be in Cooperstown. If you didn't, see you later. A five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger, McGriff's numbers put him right on the periphery of induction, but guarantee nothing. That he peaked just before the dawn of inflated era makes his 493 home runs - seven shy of the fabled 500 number - look rather pedestrian.
Although he remains on the ballot, he's closing in on the end of his 10-year window and remains well of the pace (the 2018 vote saw him earn 23.2%, more than 50% shy of the necessary 75%).
3 Texas Rangers: Juan Gonzalez
While he never had the broad-shouldered, barrel-chested physicality of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez was just as fearsome a power hitter as his 1990's contemporaries. And like Big Mac and Slammin' Sammy, Juan Gone has been cast under the long shadow of his era. To be fair, Gonzalez's Hall case isn't the cinch that McGwire's or Sosa's are, particularly as his home run and RBI numbers pale in comparison. He does, however, boast one more MVP award than the two of them combined, standing as one of just four Hall-eligible players (Barry Bonds, Roger Maris and Dale Murphy are the others) to remain outside the Cooperstown bubble despite multiple MVP trophies.
2 Toronto Blue Jays: Dave Stieb
From their inaugural 1977 season through to the 2011 induction of star second baseman Roberto Alomar, no player ever went into the Hall of Fame while donning a Blue Jays cap. The franchise may not have to wait long for their next one with the late Roy Halladay eligible this year, but the 34-year dry spell prior sheds light on how few worthy candidates they've actually developed. And no, superstars who made brief stops north of the border like Roger Clemens, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson don't count.
Arguably, the most Hall-worthy pitcher they've developed aside from Halladay is Dave Stieb, an exceptional competitor and seven-time All-Star, albeit one who never won 19 games in a season or was seriously considered for a Cy Young award.
1 Washington Nationals: Dennis Martinez
Having retired eight years prior to the franchise's relocation, Dennis Martinez never actually took the mound for the Washington Nationals. It's too bad, as it would have been fun to see Martinez, considering his nickname, take the mound in the nation's capital. Nevertheless, with few eligible candidates to choose from within the 14-year history of the post-relocation Nationals, we're going back to the franchise's days as the Montreal Expos for this one.
Martinez spent eight years in Montreal and became one of the team's most beloved figures, but that doesn't necessarily amount to being deserving of enshrinement. Truth be told, for as good as the four-time All-Star and one-time ERA champ was, his lengthy 23-year career never included a greater than 16-win season or anything higher than a fifth-place finish in Cy Young voting.