Election to the Baseball Hall of Fame is a dream come true for anyone who plays the game. It means you’re one of the greatest to put on cleats, grab a bat, and file your taxes in April with the words “Major League Baseball Player” all over the place. The life of a professional athlete is great and the best are rewarded with an election to the Hall of Fame and enshrinement in Cooperstown.
However, not all players in the Baseball Hall of Fame are the most elite players. Whether because of politics or the voters making a mistake, some members of the greatest baseball museum on earth are a little less deserving. Certainly wonderful players whose names we should all know, there are a handful of ex-MLB players we could classify on the lower tier.
There are a few factors to consider with this list. Many of baseball’s earlier players were elected partly because of the impact they had on the game. This list of the worst players in the Hall of Fame is a mix of those older guys and a few more modern ones that failed to put up numbers that should have gotten them a plaque.
You should note that we originally had Al Lopez and Hank O’Day on the list. They were removed because their induction into the Hall of Fame had more to do with their managerial and umpiring careers than what they did as players. Certainly neither deserved election based on what they did as players. What they did in their other titles can be further debated. Excluding those two, these are the worst 15 players in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
15 Lou Brock
At the start of this list we are going to have a few controversial entries who made a decently strong case for the Hall of Fame. That is the deal with Lou Brock who reached 3,000 hits over his 19 year career. Despite that, Brock has an amazingly low career WAR at 45.2, which ranks below guys like Mark Grace, Rusty Staub, and Brad Radke. Tim Raines, for instance, has better overall numbers, yet it’s Brock in the Hall of Fame with Raines still required to purchase a ticket whenever he wants a tour of the museum.
14 Ralph Kiner
Ralph Kiner barely made it to Cooperstown and looking over his statistics, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he wasn't a first ballot HOFer. Although he led the league in home runs in seven consecutive seasons, Kiner was never an elite player when compared to others of the era. A Pittsburgh Pirates’ legend in his own right, Kiner is one of those players who should be on the outside of the Hall of Fame rather than enshrined within. A pure power hitter, he didn’t even have 400 HRs for his career.
13 Bruce Sutter
Of the pitchers in the Baseball Hall of Fame who played at least 10 seasons, Bruce Sutter has the lowest WAR at 24.53. He also has one of the lowest winning percentages and is only a member of Cooperstown because of his 300 saves. Definitely worth consideration, he saved this many games before a number this high was quite common. Certainly a very valuable player in his day, Sutter is not the type of pitcher who belongs in the Hall of Fame. Elected in 2006 by the Veteran’s Committee, Sutter had the benefit of friends helping him out a few years after the writers made it known that he didn’t deserve it.
12 Bob Lemon
One of the more sour names on this list is Bob Lemon (our immediately apologies for that joke). A lifetime member of the Cleveland Indians, Lemon only managed to secure 207 career wins in his brief 13-year career. While he was a talented pitcher who served in the military before debuting in 1946 for the Tribe, Lemon was a really good pitcher that quite frankly was far below teammate and fellow Bob, Bob Feller. Lemon had only a 37.46 WAR for his career and put together a solid but not Hall of Fame worthy career.
11 Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is another member of the Baseball Hall of Fame who made it thanks to the Veteran’s Committee. Elected in 2009, more than 30 years after he passed away, Gordon was the second baseman for some of the great New York Yankees teams in the 1940s. He only had 1,530 career hits and a .268 batting average. However, one thing he does have, that Derek Jeter doesn’t, is an MVP award, which he won in 1942. Gordon may not belong in the Hall of Fame in terms of statistics, but he does deserve our respect. He was one of many who left the safety of playing Major League Baseball to fight in World War II, which cut two seasons out of his career. Had he stuck around, his numbers might have looked more Hall of Fame worthy.
10 Red Ruffing
Red Ruffing finds his place on this list based almost completely on his ERA. At 3.80, it’s the worst of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame. In fact, only ten players in the Hall have one over 3.50. Additionally, in 22 seasons, Ruffing had a 273-225 record for a less than impressive .548 winning percentage. He led the league in losses twice and wins only once. His lengthy 22 year career did raise his WAR significantly to 55.36, which unfortunately does not help his Hall of Fame worst ability at giving up runs.
9 Rabbit Maranville
Undersized with one of the best nicknames in the early days of baseball, Rabbit Maranville was a 5’5" shortstop who spent the majority of his career with the Boston Braves. It was a long career too, spanning parts of 23 seasons. Maranville was a nice player for his time, but it’s hard to think a .258 hitter deserves a trip to Cooperstown. His .318 career OBP is also a bit shocking to see for someone in the Hall of Fame. Because of that and his defense (he once had 50 errors in a season, which was not unheard of at the time), Maranville is one of the players in Cooperstown that we can question.
8 Luis Aparicio
It doesn’t matter how good a player’s defense was; a guy who hit .262 does not belong in the Hall of Fame and Luis Aparicio is a guy who fits this description. A very solid shortstop, he was nothing more than a light-hitting, slick fielder with good speed. Aparicio did lead the league in stolen bases multiple times, but offered very little elsewhere. He could have been a much more significant leadoff hitter in baseball history... if his bat cooperated a little more.
7 Bill Mazeroski
It's a bit of a trend on this list for us to question light-hitting infielders from the simpler times of the MLB and their place in the Hall of Fame. The Gold Glove winning Bill Mazeroski is one of those players whose defense for some was enough for enshirement. On offense, Mazeroski hit only .260 with a .299 OBP. His walk-off home run in the 1960 World Series is the highlight of his career though and definitely one worth remembering. However, as a Veteran’s Committee nominee in 2001, we get a glimpse as to why he was elected: Mazeroski was a good person, who made the right friends, who years later paid their respects.
6 Joe Tinker/Johnny Evers/Frank Chance
The Hall of Fame trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance share a place on this list. Forming the most famous double-play combination of a shortstop, second baseman, and first baseman in baseball history, these three all made it into the Hall of Fame without truly noteworthy statistics. Tinker led the way with a 53.2 WAR and only a .262 lifetime batting average. Evers was next with a 47.7 WAR and a .270 batting average. Chance actually had the best batting average at .296, but only hit 20 home runs and had less than 600 career RBIs. Legends who played on the last Chicago Cubs’ team to win the World Series, these three are short in Hall of Fame merit.
5 Lloyd Waner
Lloyd Waner played in parts of 18 seasons yet managed only a 24.1 WAR during that time. His career started wonderfully with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1927, as he had amazing batting averages each year, typically around .350, with a ton of hits and runs scored, but it quickly fizzled out. Waner finished his career as a .316 hitter with a less impressive .353 OBP. His 24.1 WAR is the worst among position players who played more than 10 seasons whose election to the Hall of Fame was exclusively due to their playing career. Your guess is as good as mine when trying to figure out why he ever was inducted into Cooperstown.
4 Jesse Haines
A career 3.64 ERA for pitcher Jesse Haines must mean he also won a lot of games to make the Hall of Fame, right? Wrong. Haines was just 210-158 in his 19 MLB seasons. He only ever struck out 100 batters once in a season and only once ever received MVP consideration—his career ending before the Cy Young Award was in place. Haines had very average numbers for his time without any significant years of leading the league in a pitching statistic. A sure sign that he probably doesn’t belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Haines, whose career ended in 1937, was not inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame until 2014.
3 Ray Schalk
Catcher Ray Schalk was the backstop for the infamous 1919 Chicago Black Sox. He helped revolutionize the catching position. but his statistics are incredibly weak, even when compared to others from the Dead-ball era. With only a .253 career batting average and 11 home runs, Schalk was far from the guy you wanted at the plate in an important situation. He only had 1,345 career hits and, if we had to guess, he’s only in the Hall of Fame because he was one of the few honest men on a dishonest team.
2 Phil Rizzuto
Phil Rizzuto may belong in the Hall of Fame for his work as a broadcaster, but not as a player. With only 1,588 career hits and a .273 batting average, his numbers don't separate him from any other average shortstop. He never led the league in any major category, other than sacrifice hits. Only an All-Star five times, Rizzuto did capture the 1950 MVP Award in a year where voters got it wrong in both leagues, nominating Jim Konstanty in the National League over much more deserving players.
1 Roger Bresnahan
A career .279 hitter with only 1,252 career hits, it’s a mystery to many why Roger Bresnahan is in the Hall of Fame. He only had six seasons in his career when he even reached 100 hits and he was mostly a part-time player in the latter part of his career. The original Ben Zobrist because of his versatility, Bresnahan is one of the weakest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He doesn’t have a single statistic worthy of the honor. Rumor has it, if you go to his plaque in Cooperstown there’s dandruff on the ground from all of the head scratching that took place in front of it.