This year's Hall of Fame debate looks to be interesting more because of who isn't in the running than who is. With Banjo Melhuse and Chili Olsen achieving election over the last two seasons, there might not be a clear Hall of Famer in this year's crop of candidates.
Alan O'Malley and Jerome Turner would be primed for strong runs at election, except they're no longer eligible until the WifS Veterans' Committee sneaks them in through the backdoor.
So, this year's nominee class might not have the kind of star power of seasons past. It does, however, have the seeds of some interesting debates. To wit...
1) Is Andres Tarasco a Hall of Famer?
Tarasco became the third player to rack up 3,000 hits. He slugged 602 HRs and drove in 1859 runs in his career (both 2nd among the eligibles). The 8-time All Star also won 6 Silver Sluggers, and he wasn't just another plodding 1b/DH type, putting in time at SS, CF, 2b and 3b over his career. The argument against his election? His OBP and SLG aren't terribly impressive. His career numbers are largely a function of a long career with very good teams. Still, those All-Star selections and Silver Sluggers were well deserved--at the positions he played, he was routinely the best in his league. Alan O'Malley was probably a better candidate (after all, the guy did win an MVP award), but I don't have any qualms about electing Andres Tarasco (not to be confused with Tony Tarasco, who, while a dangerous hitter, was a plodding 1b/DH type who doesn't quite have the numbers to justify his election).
2) Well, then what about Alex Cordero?
Cordero has plenty of backers, who can point to his 9 All Star appearances and 643 career steals as evidence of his worthiness. It would've been nice to see him tally some more hits and bump that batting average up just a smidge, but the guy was a dynamic player and was one of the best LF/1b for a decade. He's a challenging guy to size up, because he played in an era of the power hitter, which makes his accomplishments look less impressive, but he also played in the era of easy base-stealing, thus artificially inflating his value. I tend to like to see guys rewarded for All Star appearances and Silver Sluggers, despite the imperfections in how they're awarded (e.g. Carlos Johnson getting robbed of the All-Star nod in Season 14 based solely on his horrendous defense). I might change my mind on which side of borderline Cordero sits, but for now I'll vote for him.
3) Wait, haven't you forgotten about Ivan Santana? 728 home runs, dude...
Ho ho--interesting you should bring up Santana. According to my rating system, which as I've mentioned in the past is perhaps a bit heavily tilted towards award-winners, Santana isn't even a top 10 candidate. And that's just among the hitters! Well, this is a case where I take my own system with a grain of salt. For whatever reason, Santana only made the All-Star team twice, and never won the MVP. First base tends to be stacked with potent hitters, and Santana's BA and OBP were looked down upon by the selection engine. Worse, his Austin teams were generally not contenders, and he tended to be passed over for guys who took their teams to the playoffs (see Season 14). And those few times Austin did make it were forgettable--Santana's career playoff OPS in 97 AB? .585
And yet, you cannot ignore the HR and RBI totals. I think I have to vote for him.
4) Admit it, you're going to vote for Happy Moore, aren't you?
Yes I am (after all, I'll argue that getting Happy with the 28th pick in the first or second season we were allowed to set our own draft order was the greatest draft day steal in Morgan history)--and let me make the case for why you should, too. Moore's 4 All Stars and 3 Silver Sluggers are respectable, even if they don't immediately scream Hall of Famer. However, buoyed by an insane career slugging percentage of .616, Happy has the 3rd best OPS of the eligibles--exceeded only by Hugh Moore and Norm Freeman, each of whom had short careers and played in the liveliest days of the lively ball era. And unlike Santana, Moore's playoff OPS was .998, as he was a driving force behind Hartford's championship runs in S9 and S11.
Additionally, Happy Moore produced two of the greatest hitting seasons of all-time. He's among the very few players to post a season OPS over 1.250, and he did it twice. In S8, Moore's first full season in the majors, he made his presence felt by hitting .394 (2nd highest of all-time behind Rusty Jones' .405 in S5), with a .460 OBP and .797 SLG. He might have hit more than his 51 HR and 135 RBI, but Hartford tried to limit his playing time to conserve him for the post-season. In S14, Moore took the MVP with a .377 BA, .447 OBP and .831 SLG (the latter the third best of all-time, behind only Doug Connelly's unreachable .919 in S2, and Carlos Johnson's .883 in S8). With teammate Carlos Johnson on the decline, Moore put that Hartford club on his shoulders, bringing them all the way to the NLDS.
According to my ratings, Moore ranks 3rd behind Tarasco and Cordero, with 3383 points to Tarasco's 4296 and Cordero's 4057.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 & 3, in which I assess the other hitters who you can make intriguing cases for, and the pitchers, for whom no interesting case can be made.