Friday, February 3, 2023

100 Greatest Non-Hall of Famers : #120-101

Spring Training is just around the corner, the top free agents have all found a home, and the Baseball Writers Association of America has elected a new Hall of Famer. Scott Rolen squeaked in with just over 76% of the vote, while Todd Helton and Billy Wagner were not far behind. They will have an excellent shot at election in 2024, along with first-timer candidate Adrian Beltre. 

For now Helton, Wagner, and many other baseball greats are on the outside of Cooperstown's hallowed halls - which means they will appear on The Collector's 100 Greatest Non-Hall of Famers list. As I mentioned in my preview post I extended the list a little bit, to recognize twenty more stars of the past.

Let's take a look at the players who didn't quite make the 'players who didn't quite make the Hall' list. 

With Scott Rolen coming off this list upon his election, I had a choice between four infielders to start this countdown - one at each position. Joe Judge (1B), Stan Hack (3B), and Willie Randolph (2B) were considered. Going with the 'fantasy draft' approach, I favored the all-around talent over the slightly superior slash line.

#120 - SS  Tony Fernandez

A five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Tony Fernandez hit .310 or higher in four of his eight full seasons with the Blue Jays. Overshadowed by contemporaries Cal Ripken, Alan Trammell, and Barry Larkin, Fernandez surely would have received more attention in another era (or a U.S. city). His 2,276 career hits, 600 extra-base hits, and 3,156 total bases secure his spot in the upper echelon of non-Hall shortstops.

Cooperstown comparable: Pee Wee Reese
Highest HOF Vote: 2007 BBWAA - 4 votes (0.7%)

#119 - SP  Tommy John 

You know about the ground-breaking surgery that bears his name, and allowed Tommy John to pitch for-ev-er. You probably know about the impressive win total - 288, 26th all time and third among non-Hall hurlers. But did you know that the four-time All-Star finished second in Cy Young voting in both leagues? John was certainly a reliable starter before and after elbow surgery, and his longevity is impressive. However, he allowed more than a hit per inning on average and never struck out more than 138 batters in any of his 26 MLB seasons.

Cooperstown comparable: Jim Kaat
Highest HOF Vote: 2009 BBWAA - 171 votes (31.7%)

#118 - IF  Julio Franco

Here's another above-average star that kept going into his late forties. Julio Franco won five Silver Slugger awards as the top hitter at his position, earned three consecutive All-Star nods, and batted over .300 in five out of six seasons from 1986 to 1991, culminating in a league-leading .341 average at age 34. He hit his final major league home run at age 48, but the career numbers over 23 seasons aren't Hall worthy.

Cooperstown comparable: Billy Herman
Highest HOF Vote: 2013 BBWAA - 6 votes (1.1%)

#117 - C  Lance Parrish

Only four full-time catchers have hit more home runs than Lance Parrish, who hit as many as Hall of Famer Gary Carter (324) in 900 fewer at-bats. Parrish's power earned him six Silver Slugger awards and eight All-Star selections. His stellar work behind the plate earned him three Gold Glove awards. However his .252 career batting average and .313 on-base percentage is well below Cooperstown standard, even for a catcher.

Cooperstown comparable: Gary Carter
Highest HOF Vote: 2001 BBWAA - 9 votes (1.7%)

#116 - SP  Tony Mullane

19th century ace Tony Mullane notched 284 victories - just four fewer than Tommy John, and in nearly 200 fewer starts. "The Count" owns an impressive 3.05 career ERA and his 66.6 WAR ranks higher than Hall of Famers Roy Halladay, Bob Feller, and Juan Marichal. However, Mullane owns the all-time record for wild pitches, including a league-leading 63 in 1884. Why was he so wild that season? Because he refused to accept signs from his catcher, Moses "Fleet" Walker. Mullane's hostility toward his African-American teammate sabotaged his legacy and, more significantly, segregated the game for the next 62 years. 

Cooperstown comparable: Vic Willis
Highest HOF Vote: Appeared on multiple Veterans' Committee ballots

#115 - SP Bobby Mathews

source: When Topps Had Balls

Until Roger Clemens came along, Bobby Mathews held the record for most wins by a pitcher not enshrined in Cooperstown. His 297 victories, 2.70 fielding-independent ERA, and nearly 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio are impressive for an 1870s star. Conversely, Mathews gave up a ton of hits - 5,601 to be exact. Only Cy Young and Pud Galvin served up more.

Cooperstown comparable: Mickey Welch
Highest HOF Vote: Appeared on multiple Veterans' Committee ballots

#114 - CF  Vada Pinson

Vada Pinson slugged 20 or more home runs in six of his first seven full seasons and stole over 20 bases in each of his first five campaigns. The four-time All-Star led the league in hits twice, doubles twice, and triples twice. He won a Gold Glove and finished third in MVP voting for the pennant-winning Reds in 1961, and his 2,757 career hits rank him in the top ten among non-Hall of Famers. His low walk total and .327 on-base percentage are detrimental to his Cooperstown case.

Cooperstown comparable: Andre Dawson
Highest HOF Vote: 1988 BBWAA - 67 votes (15.7%)

#113 - CF  Johnny Damon

Similar to Vada Pinson, Johnny Damon was an above-average center fielder who averaged 180 hits per 162 games over an eighteen-year career, resulting in a near-identical total of 2,769 base knocks. Damon made fewer All-Star teams than Pinson (two) but won more World Series rings (two) and stole a hundred more bases. He ranks one spot ahead of the Cincinnati center fielder based on a superior on-base percentage (.352 to .327)  though his sub-par defense and lack of accolades earned him far fewer Hall of Fame votes.

Cooperstown comparable: Max Carey
Highest HOF Vote: 2018 BBWAA - 8 votes (1.9%)

 #112 - SS  Jim Fregosi

Do you prefer WAR or counting stats? If you're in the compiling camp, Rangers infielder Michael Young might be your choice here. If you're a supporter of WAR, then Jim Fregosi's your guy. The Angels' first superstar earned six All-Star invites and a Gold Glove in the 1960s. His .265/.338/.398 slash line is far below Young's career marks of .300/.346/.441. However, Young benefited from a more hitter-friendly environment, reflected in his modest 104 OPS+. Jim Fregosi's career OPS+ is nearly ten points higher, and his career WAR total of 48.7 is nearly twice as high as Young's across fewer games. I'm not going to choose WAR often but I'll go with Fregosi here.

Cooperstown comparable: Travis Jackson
Highest HOF Vote: 1984 BBWAA - 4 votes (1%)

 #111 - 2B Cupid Childs

Here's a guy I had not heard of before starting this project. Cupid Childs was the leading hitter of the long-defunct Cleveland Spiders in the 1890's, posting a .318 batting average and .434 on-base percentage in his eight seasons with the Spiders. Combining league-leading defense at the keystone with above-average speed (11 triples and 30 SB per 162 games), Childs finished his nearly-forgotten career with a 120 OPS+ and 44.4 WAR - just a hair below Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst. 

Cooperstown comparable: Hughie Jennings
Highest HOF Vote: N/A

 #110 - 2B Larry Doyle

Larry Doyle led the NL in batting average, hits, and doubles in 1915, finished second in runs scored, OPS, and WAR in 1911, and won the NL MVP award in 1912 - when Cubs infielder Heinie Zimmerman led the league in several categories. His career compares so closely with Cupid Childs that a PvP match-up was needed to determine which one would rank higher. Doyle prevailed based on slightly more power and a 5% advantage in OPS+. The MVP trophy and batting title didn't hurt, either.

Cooperstown comparable: Hughie Jennings
Highest HOF Vote: 1938 BBWAA - 4 votes (1.5%)

 #109 - SP Rick Reuschel

To prove that these players weren't selected with any specific stat in mind, I present Rick Reuschel - who ranks 37th all-time among pitchers with 68.1 WAR. "Big Daddy" was a dependable innings-eater for nearly two decades, won two Gold Gloves, and made three All-Star teams. He pitched in the 1981 World Series for the Yankees and the 1989 World Series for the Giants, and finished third in Cy Young voting twice. But any stat that ranks him ahead of Jim Palmer, John Smoltz, Roy Halladay or even CC Sabathia is missing the full picture.

Cooperstown comparable: Jim Bunning
Highest HOF Vote: 1997 BBWAA - 2 votes (0.4%)

 #108 - 1B Steve Garvey

Steve Garvey must have seemed like a certain Hall of Famer to baseball fans in the 1970s and '80s. 2,599 career hits, ten All-Star selections, four Gold Gloves, and an NL MVP award would be more than enough for a middle infielder or catcher to earn enshrinement. While Garvey certainly had the 'fame', his career on-base and slugging numbers are below the standard of Hall-worthy first basemen. His 117 OPS+ and 38.0 WAR totals rank him outside the top 50 at his position, though any list of greatest non-Hall of Famers would be incomplete without him.

Cooperstown comparable: George "High Pockets" Kelly
Highest HOF Vote: 1995 BBWAA - 196 votes (42.6%)*

*It should be noted that nine of the top ten vote-getters on the 1995 BBWAA ballot (and two more outside the top ten) were eventually enshrined. Garvey, the lone non-HOFer, finished fifth.

#107 - SP Billy Pierce

Billy Pierce is in the conversation as the best left-hander pitcher and/or best American League pitcher of the 1950s. The seven-time All-Star didn't win as often as Whitey Ford but his career WAR is just one-third of a point below the Yankee icon. Pierce pitched primarily in an era when the Cy Young award was given to just one pitcher (usually the wins leader) and his best season - 1955 - was just before the Cy was introduced. A modest 1.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio prevents him from cracking the top 100.

Cooperstown comparable: Bob Lemon
Highest HOF Vote: 1971 BBWAA - 7 votes (1.9%)*

*Johnny Vander Meer and Marty Marion received a lot more votes than Pierce.

#106 - LF George Foster

George Foster had a season for the ages in 1977, leading the majors in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases. The National League MVP that season was far from a one-year wonder, finishing second in MVP voting the year before and third in 1981. In a lineup with Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, and Pete Rose, Foster was the one who drove them all home. From 1976-78 George drove in a total of 390 runs, leading the NL in RBI each year. His prodigious peak didn't last long and his career on-base percentage of .338 is sub-standard. But Cincy didn't become the "Big Red Machine" until Foster became a full-time starter.

Cooperstown comparable: Kirby Puckett
Highest HOF Vote: 1993 BBWAA - 29 votes (6.9%)

 #105 - SP Mickey Lolich

Mickey Lolich once held the major-league record for strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher. The 1968 World Series MVP famously outdueled Cardinals legend Bob Gibson, pitching three complete game victories. In 1971, Mickey led the majors with 25 wins, 376 innings pitched, and 308 strikeouts - but lost the AL Cy Young award to an otherworldly Vida Blue. Lolich was often the best in a second-tier of great starting pitchers, blessed and cursed to perform in the golden era of pitching. His modest career 104 ERA+ is mainly a reflection of the high standards of his era - though he did lead the league in earned runs twice.

Cooperstown comparable: Jim Bunning
Highest HOF Vote:  1988 BBWAA - 109 votes (25.5%)

 #104 - OF George Van Haltren

The early years of pro baseball are overflowing with .300 hitters, but few of them could burn up the basepaths like George Van Haltren. Only twenty players in history have stolen more bases than his career total of 583. Van Haltren's .316 lifetime average ranks just below Roberto Clemente and Todd Helton on the all-time list, and his career on-base percentage of .386 slots in ahead of such legends as Willie Mays and Miguel Cabrera. "GVH", as the kids call him, must have had a cannon arm. He led the league in outfield assists three times and finished second in two other seasons.

Cooperstown Comparable: Fred Clarke
Highest HOF Vote: Appeared on at least one Veterans' Committee ballot

#103 - 1B Mark Grace

If you know one thing about Mark Grace (besides "slumpbuster") then you probably know he led the major leagues in hits during the 1990s. The three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner was a model of consistency for the Cubs, rapping out 170-180 hits and 30-40 doubles nearly every full season during the decade. He rarely made the playoffs in Chicago but won a World Series with Arizona in 2001. Mark's 46.4 career WAR is higher than some Hall of Fame first basemen, though his lack of home run power leaves him behind Hall of Very Good contemporaries like Will Clark and Don Mattingly.

Cooperstown comparable: Jim Bottomley
Highest HOF Vote: 2009 BBWAA - 22 votes (4.1%)

#102 - SP Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte arrived in New York around the same time as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada - forming the Yankees' "Core Four". Often slotted in the rotation behind big-ticket acquisitions, the home-grown ace thrived in pressure situations, earning a reputation as a "stopper" of losing streaks and a winner in the postseason. Pettitte earned three All-Star invites and four top-five Cy Young finishes but his only hardware (other than five World Series rings) is the 2001 ALCS MVP. A career  ERA of 3.85 and a 1.351 WHIP are probably too high for inclusion in Cooperstown - even if he had never touched PEDs.

Cooperstown comparable: Jack Morris
Highest HOF Vote: 2023 BBWAA - 66 votes (17%)


#101 - 1B Norm Cash


Like his teammate Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash had his best season at the wrong time. The Tigers' slugger led the majors with a .361 batting average, .487 on-base percentage, and 1.148 OPS - in 1961. He never batted .300 or reached base at a .400 clip in a season again, but his career slugging percentage of .488 and 377 home runs are impressive totals for a player in the low-scoring 1960s. Cash's career OPS+ score of 139 implies that he was 39% better than the league average hitter of his era. However, he collected just 1,820 hits and he totaled fewer total bases than players such as Curtis Granderson and Derrek Lee.

Cooperstown comparable: Gil Hodges
Highest HOF Vote: 1980 BBWAA - 6 votes (1.6%)

Whether you're in favor of a "big Hall" or a "small Hall" it's clear that there are a lot of excellent players without a plaque in Cooperstown. Would any of these players make your Hall of Fame?

The Top 100 Countdown officially kicks off next week. I hope you'll join me for a look at players #100-81. 

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!



  1. Tommy John should certainly be in--his 61.6 WAR in itself makes him at least a pretty reasonable candidate, and certainly his pioneering surgery has to count for something. I think Damon is quite underrated but I'm not sure I'd put him in the Hall. I don't know enough about the really old-time guys to have an opinion, but most of the rest are probably a no from me.

  2. I keep a few of those guys in my PCs. I loved watching Julio Franco play. Man did he put in some years (counting outside the US).

  3. I'd lean towards putting Tommy John in the HOF just because of how commonplace his name has become. Baseball would probably be a very different game today had his surgery not happened.

  4. Vada Pinson and Tommy John are the most interesting cases to me. As for Julio Franco, he's probably still playing pro ball somewhere, so he's not eligible for the Hall yet :-D

  5. Had no idea Damon only got 8 votes. While not a HOFer, that seems kind of low to me since he approached 3K hits.

  6. With Garvey and Foster sitting on the outside looking in... I can't wait to see the Top 100. I'm loving this series already. Wasn't familiar with most of these old timers.

  7. Super in-depth! ... Tommy John will get in and probably fairly soon, but not sure if he'll be alive to see it. He's had some health issues. ... Crazy that some of those guys won't be in your top 100, I guess that's how many are still knocking on the door!

  8. I've read a number of articles over the years that have argued for Vada's inclusion. And I'm not normally one to say who should or shouldn't be in the HOF, but those writers have convinced me that he at least deserves some more consideration.

  9. This is going to be fascinating. When you announced this idea, I thought that guys who were clearly in the "Hall 0f Very Good" but still had many supporters for their inclusion (guys like John and Garvey, even Petittie to a lesser degree) would be more in the 80-90 range. I can't wait to see who ends up ahead of them that will make me go "oh yeah, forgot about this guy!"