Wednesday, March 8, 2023

100 Greatest Non-Hall of Famers: #20-1

We've got some irascible characters up ahead. The final segment of our countdown is littered with some of baseball's most infamous players - and some of its greatest.
Celebrating these stars is not in my comfort zone. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not support rewarding cheaters (or racists or gamblers) with a plaque in Cooperstown. I've heard the arguments before - there are already cheaters in the Hall of Fame. There are racists and gamblers, too. That may be true, but no one living today voted for Ty Cobb, and no one actively voting today cast a ballot for Gaylord Perry. 
As for Bagwell, Piazza, Pudge, and Papi.. voters must have felt that there was insufficient evidence of any performance-enhancing drug use by these players. Or perhaps enough voters (10% or so) are okay with electing stars who skirted the line without brazenly crossing it, so long as they weren't arrogant jerks.

I didn't create this countdown to take a position on who should or should not be in the Hall. The players you'll see in this post are excluded from Cooperstown for various reasons - not all of them nefarious. Whether the voters are justified in shutting the door on them is another argument. This countdown was compiled simply as a way to spotlight just how much great baseball talent is sitting outside of Cooperstown's walls, and why. It was a fun exercise to mingle clean players with cheaters, modern greats with 19th-century stars, one-dimensional power hitters with deadball-era singles hitters. 
Enough preamble... let's meet these flawed greats.

The Collector's Countdown of the 100 Greatest players not enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame dashes for home with a look at players #20-1:

#19 & 20 - RF Sammy Sosa & 1B Mark McGwire

Ah, the Summer of 1998. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire are forever linked for the great home run chase, when "Slammin' Sammy" hopped and blew kisses after 66 home runs - while the more placid "Big Mac" saluted fans and lifted his batboy son after 70 blasts. Both superstars were products of their era, though we're often reminded that McGwire hit 49 home runs as a rookie in 1987 and less often reminded that Sosa was a 30/30 man in 1993 and 1995.

Sosa had the longer career, and his counting stats are superior as a result. McGwire was a slugger from day one; his career WAR, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage exceed Sosa's. McGwire has a Gold Glove and a World Series ring. Sosa has an NL MVP trophy and twice as many Silver Slugger awards. Sammy's affable personality soured quickly and his Cubs career ended unceremoniously, though he was a slightly better all-around player than his less controversial counterpart.

Cooperstown comparable (Sosa): Reggie Jackson
Cooperstown comparable (McGwire): Harmon Killebrew
Highest HOF Vote Total (Sosa): 2022 BBWAA - 73 votes (18.5%)
Highest HOF Vote Total (McGwire): 2010 BBWAA - 128 votes (23.7%)*

*McGwire received exactly 128 votes in three elections: 2007, 2008, and 2010. He received 118 votes in 2009.

#18 - CF Jim Edmonds

Jim Edmonds received fewer Hall of Fame votes than Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton despite besting Bernie in offensive production, getting on base at a higher clip than Lofton, and collecting as many Gold Glove awards (8) as both those stars combined. Edmonds finished top-5 in MVP voting twice while earning four All-Star nods and a Silver Slugger award to go with a World Series ring as a key member of the 2006 Cardinals. His all-out style in center field led to several injuries that prevented him from reaching 2,000 career hits and 400 home runs, though he still ranks in the all-time top ten at his position in several offensive categories.

Cooperstown comparable: Duke Snider
Highest HOF Vote Total:  2016 BBWAA - 11 votes (2.5%)

#17 - RF Dwight Evans

Here's another often-overlooked outfielder with eight Gold Gloves and nearly 400 career home runs. Dwight Evans made just three All-Star teams, earned two Silver Slugger awards, and finished top-5 in MVP voting twice. "Dewey" was more durable than Edmonds, playing in 600 more games and collecting 500 more hits. He posted three 30-home run seasons and four 100-RBI seasons - all after turning 30 - while leading the league in walks three times and OPS twice. Only 13 right fielders compiled more WAR than Evans, whose 67.2 career total ranks 88th all-time among position players.

Cooperstown comparable: Jim Rice
Highest HOF Vote Total: 1998 BBWAA - 49 votes (10.4%)

#16 - 2B Lou Whitaker

Lou Whitaker has a higher career WAR than anyone you've seen on this countdown. His 75.1 total ranks seventh all-time among second basemen and tied for 51st with Johnny Bench among all position players. Whitaker won AL Rookie of the Year honors in 1978, when he began a career-long double play partnership with Hall of Famer Alan Trammell. "Sweet Lou" earned five All-Star selections, four Silver Slugger awards, three Gold Gloves, and a World Series ring in a five-year peak from 1983 to 1987. He also accumulated more WAR, more base hits, more home runs, more total bases, more runs scored, and more RBI than his double-play partner. Whitaker's .276 lifetime average and lone top-10 MVP finish might be the only weaknesses in his otherwise sterling resume.

Cooperstown comparable: Alan Trammell
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2001 BBWAA - 15 votes (2.9%)*

*Trammell debuted on the BBWAA ballot a year later and received 74 votes (15.7%). While he was a Veterans' Committee selection in 2018, Trammell never dropped below 13.4% of the BBWAA vote.

#15 - OF Pete Browning

We've still got a couple more 19th-century stars to discuss including Pete Browning, who averaged an incredible 225 hits per 162 games. Though he played just 1,183 games Browning compiled 1,646 career base hits (more than Mark McGwire), won three batting titles, and collected 2,249 total bases - nearly two per game. There's some dispute about Pete's fielding prowess but there's no doubt that the "Gladiator" could hit. He ranks 15th on this countdown primarily because he ranks 15th all-time in career batting average with a whopping .341. The first Louisville Slugger bat was custom-made for Browning, the eccentric star of Louisville's two pro teams in the 1880s, and his instant success at the plate popularized the brand.

Cooperstown comparable: Ross Youngs
Highest HOF Vote Total: Appeared on at least one Veterans' Committee ballot

#14 - 1B/3B Dick Allen

Dick Allen was one of the greatest run producers of an offensively deficient era. The seven-time All-Star and 1964 NL Rookie of the Year posted six seasons of over 30 home runs, twice leading the league. He led the league in on-base percentage twice and OPS four times, including his MVP campaign of 1972. Like many players on this list, Allen is held back by a sub-2,000 hit total, collecting 1,848 base knocks in 1,749 career games. Very few of those players can match his career slash line of .292/.378/.534, and no third baseman in or out of Cooperstown can match Allen's 156 OPS+, a clear indication of his exceptional production.

Cooperstown comparable: Johnny Mize
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2015 & 2022 VC - 11 votes (one shy of election)


#13 - SS Bill Dahlen

Averaging one hit per game doesn't sound terribly impressive, which may be the only reason why Bill Dahlen isn't in the Hall of Fame. His 2,461 base hits over 2,444 games rank 12th all-time among shortstops and his RBI total of 1,234 ranks tenth at his position. Combine his exemplary defensive play - where he ranks ninth among shortstops in dWAR - with his speed, where he ranks 28th among all players with 548 stolen bases and t33rd all-time with 163 triples, and you have a player who leapfrogs Lou Whitaker for the highest career WAR on the countdown so far. Dahlen's 75.2 mark ranks him ninth all-time among shortstops - ahead of Derek Jeter - and 50th all-time among position players.

Cooperstown comparable: Ozzie Smith
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2013 VC - 10 votes (62.5%)

#12 - CF Carlos Beltran

A five-tool center fielder who excelled in the postseason, Carlos Beltran is the highest-ranking center fielder on our countdown. With a WAR score of 70.1 Beltran is eighth all-time at his position and the only player ahead of him who isn't enshrined in Cooperstown is still active. Carlos collected 2,725 career hits (62nd all-time), 4,751 total bases (34th all-time), and 565 doubles - more than every center fielder except Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb. Beltran belted 435 home runs and 1,587 RBI, ranking fifth all-time at his position in both categories. Despite that, the nine-time All-Star took home just two Silver Slugger awards. He concluded his career as a World Series champion with the Houston Astros - under highly suspicious circumstances.

Cooperstown comparable: Billy Williams
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2023 BBWAA - 181 votes (46.5%)


Submitted for your consideration: a first baseman with over 2,500 career hits and a career batting average of .316 who also hit for power, with six consecutive 30-home run seasons and a career slugging percentage of .539. Not only that, this first baseman had an excellent batting eye, with significantly more walks than strikeouts and an on-base percentage that ranks sixth all-time at his position. He was also an excellent fielder, leading the league in fielding percentage six times while winning three Gold Gloves. And, not that it should matter, but he played his entire career with one franchise and led said franchise to their first ever appearance in the World Series. He was a five-time All-Star (also not pertinent), a four-time Silver Slugger winner, and won a batting title with a .372 average - one of his twelve seasons batting above .300.

...., he's not a confirmed PED user, although one play-by-play announcer accused him of...


..well, he played his home games in Colorado, and... he might be an alcoholic?

#11 - 1B Todd Helton

Yeah, there's not much of an argument for keeping Todd Helton out of the Hall. It's very possible that both he and Beltran are elected in next year's class.

Cooperstown comparable: Jeff Bagwell
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2023 BBWAA - 281 votes (72.2%)

#10 - OF/3B Gary Sheffield

Gary Sheffield played five positions and suited up for eight teams in a 22 year-career bookended by controversy. Chastised for quitting on his team in Milwaukee, "Sheff" succeeded in nearly every other city he played in, accumulating 2,689 hits and 509 home runs while earning five Silver Slugger awards, a batting title, and a World Series ring in 1997 with the Marlins. A nine-time All-Star, Sheffield finished top-3 in MVP voting three times. He ranks sixth all-time among right fielders with 80.7 offensive WAR, seventh in home runs, and eighth in RBI with 1,676. However, his defensive WAR ranks dead last among right fielders (according to baseball-reference) and second-worst among all outfielders in the history of baseball. That's arguably easier for Hall of Fame voters to overlook than his admitted use of "the cream".

Cooperstown comparable: Chipper Jones
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2023 BBWAA - 214 votes (55.0%)*

*2024 will be Sheffield's final chance on the BBWAA ballot.


#9 - SP Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick is the final 19th century star on our countdown, and the last player without a major controversy on his record. In just ten seasons, McCormick compiled 265 wins and 1,704 strikeouts while leading his league in complete games three consecutive seasons and capturing an ERA title in 1883 and '84. His 76.2 WAR ranks 29th all-time - nestled between Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, who just passed him in 2022, and Clayton Kershaw, who will surely pass him this year. McCormick's 1.132 career WHIP is lower than several all-time aces, including Warren Spahn, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux.

Cooperstown comparable: Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourn
Highest HOF Vote Total: N/A

#8 - SP Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling struck out as many batters as Bob Gibson, earned as many shutouts as Roy Halladay, and won as many Cy Young awards as you and I. A six-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, Schilling was a postseason legend. Not counting the start in which he fractured his ankle, Schilling was 11-1 in postseason play with 119 strikeouts and just 23 walks. He is undeniably a top-ten starter in his era despite the lack of hardware, and would undoubtedly join the likes of Ty Cobb, Steve Carlton, and Chipper Jones in the Hall of Fame if he could have just stayed off of social media. Heck, the Hall might have even let Curt have a red hat on his plaque.

Cooperstown comparable: John Smoltz
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2021 BBWAA - 285 votes (71.1%)**

*Far too many baseball fans overlook the fact that 71% of the BBWAA set aside his contempt for journalists and evaluated his career accomplishments without bias. That number could have easily increased had he kept his mouth shut and waited for the 'final ballot boost' in 2022, rather than voicing his preference to be judged by his peers instead of the media.

**How'd that work out for him? Schilling received 7 of 16 votes (43%) from the most recent Veterans' Committee. He had a significantly better chance with the people he wanted to lynch than those whose opinions he respected.

#7 - 1B/DH Rafael Palmeiro

Rafael Palmeiro was one of those players whose Cooperstown credentials steadily sneak up on you, like Craig Biggio or Adrian Beltre. The first decade of his career didn't bespeak a string of nine consecutive 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons, or indicate that he would become just the fourth player with over 500 career home runs and over 3,000 career hits. The least decorated member of this exclusive club [which now includes just seven players], "Raffy" was a four-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger winner, and (oddly) a three-time Gold Glove winner. He never finished higher than fifth in MVP voting and never led the league in any triple-crown category, though he's in the top-20 all-time in both home runs and RBI. Palmeiro defiantly wagged his finger at those who accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs... then got busted for using performance-enhancing drugs shortly after collecting his 3,000th hit.

Cooperstown comparable: Eddie Murray
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2012 BBWAA - 72 votes (12.6%)



#6 - OF Manny Ramirez

Was Manny Ramirez one of the greatest right-handed hitters in history? Probably. Was Manny one of the most colorful characters in the modern game? Certainly. Was he aloof, selfish, lousy in the field and even worse in the clubhouse? Definitely. Ramirez won eight consecutive Silver Slugger awards, smacked over 40 home runs in a season five times, and led the league in slugging and on-base percentage three times. "Man-Ram" piled up RBI everywhere he went, finishing just behind Palmeiro(with Dave Winfield in between) for 20th on the all-time list with 1,831. His 555 home runs are the 15th-highest total in history, and his career slash line of .312/.411/.585 would have translated to a higher career WAR were he a merely adequate fielder. All of these stats would have translated to a plaque in Cooperstown had he resisted the siren song of steroids. Just Manny being Manny.

Cooperstown comparable: Frank Thomas
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2023 BBWAA - 129 votes (33.2%)

#5 -IF/OF Pete Rose

Pete Rose was laser-focused on becoming the "hit king", pulling double duty as Reds' player-manager for the final 2 1/2 years of his career. His career WAR would have been higher had he retired after 1981, but he kept going until he collected 4,256 base hits - more than any professional baseball player ever until Ichiro passed him. Rose was a 17-time All-Star, a three time batting champion, and a three-time World Series champion. The 1963 NL Rookie of the Year and 1973 NL MVP famously bowled over catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game, living up to his "Charlie Hustle" moniker even in an exhibition. If he hadn't gambled away his reputation, Rose would have been a first-ballot inductee in Cooperstown three decades ago instead of signing autographs down the street from the museum.

Cooperstown comparable: Paul Molitor
Highest HOF Vote Total: 
1992 BBWAA - 41 votes (9.5%)*

*Even though Rose was ineligible, he still received more votes (as a write-in candidate) than Thurman Munson, Bobby Bonds, and Bobby Grich.

#4 - OF Joe Jackson

Why did Pete Rose receive a permanent ban from baseball? Because of what the White Sox did seventy years earlier. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was the star of the 1919 Chicago squad; his .351 average that season was roughly on par with his lifetime average of .356 - the fourth highest career mark in history. Jackson batted .408 and led the majors in on-base percentage in his first full season, then paced the sport in hits the next two campaigns. Jackson stole over 200 bases and legged out 20 or more triples in a season three times, leading the league each time. He collected 2,577 total bases in just 1,332 games. Unfortunately he also collected money from gamblers to throw the World Series. Whether or not he played his best is a debate that's continued for over a hundred years. There's no debate that Jackson's career totals are Cooperstown-worthy. His 62.2 WAR is higher than Sheffield, Sosa, and several Hall of Fame right fielders who played far more than nine seasons' worth of games.

Cooperstown comparable: Elmer Flick (counting stats), Dan Brouthers (averages)
Highest HOF Vote Total: 1946 BBWAA - 2 votes (1%)*

*despite being permanently ineligible, Jackson received two votes in both 1936 and 1946.

#3 - SS/3B Alex Rodriguez

Immensely talented and immensely insecure, Alex Rodriguez led the majors in doubles and batting average in his first full season - at age 20. His power dipped slightly the following season... and then he began a streak of thirteen consecutive seasons with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. "A-Rod" won three MVP awards, ten Silver Sluggers, and two Gold Gloves. No other player in baseball history has accumulated 3,000 career hits, 600 career home runs, 2,000 career RBI and 300 career stolen bases. No other player has been involved in so much bizarre behavior on and off the field; his Yankee years make the Bronx Zoo era look tame. After lying about performance-enhancing drug use several times, Rodriguez eventually came clean and served a season-long suspension in 2014. Had he not been suspended, Rodriguez could have passed Babe Ruth for third on the all-time home run list. Had he not used steroids in the first place, he might have been a unanimous Hall of Famer -- or his career stats might have resembled Alex Gonzalez.

Cooperstown comparable: Willie Mays
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2023 BBWAA - 139 votes (35.7%)


#2 - SP Roger Clemens

Ugh... why are there so many Red Sox in this segment? Roger Clemens is among the top ten pitchers of all-time, as evidenced by his all-time rank in wins (9th), games started (7th), strikeouts (3rd), and WAR (3rd). "Rocket" led the league in ERA seven times, strikeouts five times, and shutouts six times. The 11-time All-Star's trophy case includes seven Cy Young Awards, two World Series rings, and the 1986 AL MVP award. He also got tossed in the second inning of a win or go home ALCS start for arguing with an umpire, threw a broken bat at Mike Piazza in the World Series (I guess he "misremembered" the difference between a bat and a ball), had an extramarital relationship with a young country singer who was underage at the time -- which if true was creepy at best and rapey at worst. And I haven't even mentioned steroids yet! Roger threw his best baseball buddy and his wife under the bus rather than own up to using PEDs. But hey... at least he was gracious to the BBWAA voters.

Cooperstown comparable: Randy Johnson
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2022 BBWAA - 257 votes (65.2%)


Well, if Clemens is #2 then it won't surprise anyone that the #1 all-time greatest player who has not been inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame is.....

#1 - LF Barry Bonds

You know the stats: 762 home runs, 7 NL MVP awards, more walks than any player in history by far. So instead of rolling out the resume for Barry Bonds, I'm going to talk about Tiger Woods. When Tiger tied Sam Snead for most wins in PGA tournaments, some sports talkers were pondering where Woods ranks among the all-time greatest athletes across all sports.
Here's how I would answer that question: picture Barry Bonds playing baseball. He was pretty good, right? Now.. take away the fences, the fielders, the bases, and the pitcher. Put the ball on a tee and let Barry swing away without any obstacles whatsoever. What I'm saying is, if Barry Bonds were only allowed to use one-fifth of his abilities... he'd still be a better athlete than Tiger Woods. 

Would that still be true if PEDs were taken out of the equation? We can only speculate. Just as we can only speculate how well Woods would do against the likes of Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson throwing 98-mph heat at his head. I have no doubt that Bonds would win a sprint around the bases against a guy who gets to leisurely walk along his playing surface. Even though he was basically a baseball-mashing robot for the second half of his career, Barry still totaled 514 stolen bases - good for 34th all time and charter membership in the 500/500 club.

He might have been a stubbornly deficient outfielder, a detested teammate, and an irascible sonofabitch on a good day, but Barry Bonds is arguably the greatest baseball player ever -- in or out of the Hall.
Cooperstown comparable: Babe Ruth
Highest HOF Vote Total: 2022 BBWAA - 260 votes (66.0%)


Welp, there you have it, folks. All 157 of the 100 greatest players not enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Thanks for counting 'em down with me. I hope you enjoyed reading these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them.

If you have any thoughts on these players or the list in general, please share them in comments.

Thanks for reading!



  1. I should have known more about Dahlen, but I didn't thanks for the research.

  2. Great stuff. Great characterization of each player. ... It's a shame all of that talent isn't in the Hall.

  3. For the steroid guys, I'm inclined to vote them in if and only if I believe that they would be clear Hall of Famers without the steroids. To me, that makes Bonds, Clemens, and A-Rod clear "yes" votes, and Sosa and Palmiero clear "no"s. I'm thinking no for McGwire and maybe for Manny, but it's closer.

    I'm inclined to a yes on Rose (although he should never be allowed to work in baseball again) and Jackson, but I see the argument otherwise.

    For the others, I don't know much about the early guys, but most of the rest should be in. Allen, Evans, and Whitaker are guys I'd really push for. Helton and Edmonds not quite so strongly, but I certainly wouldn't object. (How was Luis Tiant only #46? I think he belongs on this page.)

    At first I strongly supported Schilling's candidacy, but he's just such a horrible person that I'd rather not see him get in at this point. On a related note, I think it's unfortunate that Ty Cobb gets cited so often as the example of the racist old-timer when in fact he supported integration. Now, Cap Anson--THAT GUY was a racist!

    1. Noted, and I was making myself cringe at the Cobb mentions. But he's 'casual fan' shorthand for surly racist, and not everyone is as familiar with Anson (or for that matter, Cobb's more progressive side)

  4. I'll just say once again that this was an extremely well researched and written series that was highly informative and entertaining!

  5. I'd like to see all of these guys in the Hall, and most of them are no-brainers to me:
    Joe Jackson

  6. My take on the PED guys...if all of them were using the same stuff, everybody in the league would have been able to do the stuff they did. But that isn't the case. They may have been enhanced but they were still better than the other enhanced players. I think they should be in but they should also openly discuss the reality of the situation.

  7. Awesome job as usual Chris! I'm curious why McCormick never got any respect from the Veterans Committee.

    1. I honestly have no idea. He was considered a couple times but never made the final ballot. Hopefully he'll make it to the next one, but the eras that the VC decides on keep changing.

  8. These were fun reads sir, thanks for the research!

  9. Have to imagine Whitaker and Helton get in eventually. The way you presented Helton's case was really fun and eye opening.

  10. I've gotta believe that a few of these guys will get in within the next decade or so... especially Helton and Beltran. I'm one of those fans who hopes Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod, Rose, and Jackson get in... but I don't want to take away from the positive from this blog series. You did a fantastic job on this series. I'm truly in awe of the amount of research you put into these posts. And I had a lot of fun trying to predict where certain players would land... while learning about so many guys I had never heard of before.