As one might expect, the first couple seasons of HOF voting have involved a ton of nominations, many of them approaching Jim Deshaies-level desperation. In the midst of this confused landscape, those that voted ushered in the no-brainers: Doug Connelly, Rusty Jones and Earl Wilkerson.
In the hopes of helping the voters, I've attempted an objective study of the candidates for enshrinement. This far removed from the early days of Morgan, many owners didn't even see Jones or Connelly in action. So employing a scheme where I assigned points based on All-Star appearances and other awards, as well as points for ranking in important career stats,* I was able to separate some wheat from the chaff.
A perfect approach? Probably not. But, I think the results I've come up with make sense when viewed subjectively, and I suspect will make the HOF debate a little more interesting. On to the results!
Locks for a Plaque:
3 guys stood out above the rest. During their careers they gave pitchers nightmares. In my opinion, they should go in on the next ballot.
Yamid Sierra: Among the current nomination-eligible players, Sierra is the statistical king. He leads the pack in runs, hits, home runs and RBI. Toronto's had good and bad seasons, but Yamid's been the picture of consistency. The one knock on him is that he only played in two All-Star games and won one Silver Slugger. Even with Doug Connelly and Carlos Johnson overshadowing him most of his career, it's hard to believe he couldn't make more All-Star teams.
George Spence: If you're a relative newcomer to Morgan, you missed out. George Spence was only really dominant for about 5 years, but what a 5 years! While Connelly was the NL's best hitter, Spence was the best in the AL. Only Spence has posted a slugging percentage over .800 twice. In the first five years of Morgan, Spence was a 5-time All-Star, 4-time Silver Slugger, and was AL MVP twice. His AB/HR is better than Sierra's (11.4 vs. 11.7), despite missing out on some prime years when the league started. Now that the first tier of league legends are in, it's time for Spence to get his due.
Eric Thomas: He's a DH. He profited from a standout cast assembled by Jester. Doesn't matter. Thomas is too good to leave off your ballot. A member of 6 All-Star teams, he also won 8 Silver Sluggers to go with his 3 World Series rings. He's in the top 10 in runs, hits, homers, and RBI, and he is the only player in the top 10 in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Voters may not love one-dimensional players, but how many players have hit so well for so long?
Very close calls:
Rafael Cedeno: Maybe he gets in this next go-round. Maybe it'll be on the ballot after that. But with 2522 hits and a .322 career average from a shortstop, he should get in before his eligibility runs out. With 5 All-Star appearances and 3 Silver Sluggers and a top 10 finish in runs, hits, home runs, RBI and batting average, you can forgive Cedeno if he was only a mediocre defensive shortstop.
Hugh Moore: My gut tells me Cedeno should be in, and Moore should be out. His MVP goes a long way in my book, but Moore just didn't quite put up the impressive cumulative stats he needs. He's #1 in slugging percentage, but he only managed 1501 hits and 1222 RBI. And while he performed some heroics as a platoon player for Hartford's championship run in S9, he only made 2 All-Star teams and won 1 Silver Slugger.
Ben Musial: Looks a lot like Moore. He put up some nice power numbers (top 10 in homers, RBI, slugging) but the hits, runs and OBP aren't there. His 4 All-Star selections and his MVP are impressive, but he never won a Silver Slugger or a World Series ring. Playing out his best years at a time when offense was king, Musial didn't quite stand out enough to warrant HOF honors.
Tim Smith: Another guy with strong power numbers, Smith was a 4-time All Star and Silver Slugger. Adding in his 2 championship rings and his experience at numerous defensive positions and Smith has a pretty strong case. On the other hand, none of his career stats stand out, and they'll only seem less impressive when Carl Cochrane and Carlos Johnson and Tim Durbin hang 'em up.
Still worth talking about:
Phillip O'Malley is in the top 10 in a bunch of categories, though he only made 1 AS team and was never a standout star...Barry Durocher wasn't a real asset behind the plate, but at the plate he was the best around at getting on base safely...Andre Hamill was one of the very few players who could change a game with his aggressive baserunning for the go-go Braves...Darrel Perez didn't put up huge numbers, but not many players make it to 5 All-Star games, especially as a middle infielder.
Bottom line? You might want to save your pitching vote for Vitas Sobkowiak in case he retires. After the Polish Prince of Mascoutah, every other arm pales in comparison. While I don't think there are any clear first-ballot types, there are some intriguing cases to be made and arguments to get fans riled up.
In the Ballpark:
Jerome Turner: Remind you of anybody? He's done some starting. He's pitched out of the pen. 7 All-Star teams, a Cy Young, a Fireman of the Year and a ring to his credit. He's done as good a job as anyone of keeping runners off the bases and winning games. His case might be clearer if his teams had ever agreed on how best to use him. 128 wins and 150 saves just don't feel like Hall of Fame numbers.
Mike Andrews: 179 wins and 6 All-Star appearances aren't shabby. But what some people will remember about him are the big money contracts he never quite lived up to. A 6-time All-Star, Andrews walked away never having won a Cy Young or a championship. Still, he ranks in the top 10 in just about every major pitching category.
B. C. Sierra: His .680 winning percentage, 5 All-Star appearances and Cy Young award are great, but he never won a title, and only racked up 132 career wins. Like many pitchers, he suffered through years of offensive domination and a truncated career. One day we may look back and have a better appreciation of pitchers like Sierra, but there's no veterans' committee to sneak anyone in the back door.
Joel Coleman: Coleman felt like he had a few years of real dominance, and his 4 All-Star selections and 2 Cy Youngs back that up, but his career numbers don't help his case. His career ERA is just ok at 3.97, and he only managed 136 wins and a .596 winning percentage. I don't see him making it onto many ballots.
Javier Sosa: As his career saves total looks less and less impressive with every one Jerome Patrick racks up, Sosa's case might be DOA. If not for some infamous playoff implosions, the 7-time All-Star and 5-time Fireman of the Year could have made it in on his first or second ballot. He's still got a chance, but his window of opportunity is closing fast. Of the pitching candidates, I think Sosa and Turner probably make the strongest cases.
Not Yet Mathematically Eliminated:
Ramon Ramirez has the most wins of any candidate not in the Hall with 192, and his other stats stack up pretty well, even if he never was a dominant hurler...R. J. Sivilla won a number of strikeout titles and a Cy Young, though his 162-122 record is just so-so...Andres Terrero's stats aren't Hall of Fame-worthy, but the guy was a winner for Hartford, posting a 162-104 record and taking home a Cy Young and 2 World Series rings...Before Javier Sosa surpassed him, Chris Santangelo was the league's premier closer, appearing in 6 AS games...
* For those finishing in the top 10 in a given category among retirees, points were apportioned logarithmically based on where a player ranked. Leading all possible nominees in HRs, for instance, is worth twice as much as finishing second, which is worth twice as much as a third place finish, etc.