With Leo Mackowiak's induction to the Hall of Fame last season, Morgan has now immortalized 21 players. Who might join them in S28? Well, before we get to our candidates, let's take a look at some of the players who've exhausted their eligibility, and won't be making the trip to E-Cooperstown.
Three players in particular stand out among the guys who won't be on the ballot anymore. At the top of the list has to be Horace Polcovich. A compelling case can be made that Polcovich's prime years were good enough on their own to justify induction. In eight seasons (S10-S17), Polcovich played no fewer than 156 games every year, racked up seven straight seasons with 50+ home runs, including an absurd MVP year in S13 (89 HR, 205 RBI, 1.212 OPS, and a Gold Glove).
Unfortunately, in S17, Washington put Polcovich on irreversible waivers late in the year, hoping to dump the final 2 yrs/$10M he stood to make. Polcovich was claimed by Hartford, where there was already a glut of 1B/LF-types. He spent the next season as a fill-in player, and barely got on the field the season after, and then his career was over. The two-time MVP winner hit 550 career HRs, but didn't reach 2000 hits or 1500 RBI, making it tough for him to overcome players with better career numbers or who stood out among the peers at their position.
Donn Gwynn was probably the NL's best catcher for a 6-season period. Before Gerald Bradley and Pedro Arroyo came around, Gwynn might have started making real headway with HoF voters. Still, while his numbers were really solid, you tended to think of him as a great catcher, but only a good player. During an era which produced so many absurd offensive numbers, Gwynn's very nice stats just never created the kind of buzz that attracts voters to your cause.
Steve Taylor was one of the great shortstops of his generation, but much like Gwynn, he never posted the kind of eye-popping numbers that secure your place in game legend. Considering he hit 501 HRs and 2364 hits, maybe we all slept on him.
Well, enough crying over those nobodies!
Q: Who deserves induction this year?
A: Maybe a lot of guys. Unlike many years, there's no one guy with the kind of outlandish numbers or piles of awards that is certain to draw votes. As a result, we might see three, even four guys voted in, or possibly the votes will get spread around and no one will reach the 17 they need. Here's my case for the most deserving nominees:
1) A 6-time All Star and 2-time World Series winner, Hersh Knight looks like the cream of the crop this year. Knight only had one season where he exceeded 200 IP, which suppressed his career win and strikeout totals. But what he lacked in stamina and durability, he more than made up for with a tantalizing curveball and an uncanny ability to get hitters out.
Among eligibles with over 1000 IP, Knight leads the field with a meager .300 OBP against and a .353 SLG % against. He averaged just shy of 8 K/9, pretty good for his era, and 2.82 K/BB (Shane Hale and David Larson are the only eligible pitchers with a better ratio).
Plus, Knight rewarded those teams that limited his pitch counts in the regular season by amping up his performance in the playoffs, with a 2.92 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 157.1 playoff IP. In S22, Knight caught fire for Hartford in the playoffs, reeling off 4 W in 6 starts and holding opponents to a .574 OPS and earning himself his 2nd World Series ring.
2) I hear you, Morgan owners--your hatred of DHs makes them as likely to get HoF votes as deer ticks or hepatitis. But consider the following: The top five career leaders in Runs Created are Hall of Famer Carlos Johnson (2629.27), Hall of Famer Chili Olsen (2349.13), Hall of Famer Carl Cochrane (2090.65), Hall of Famer Bey Buckley (2032.64) and with 2027.39, Russell Cook.
Cook's hallmark was consistency. His stellar S16 MVP season (226 hits, 59 HR, 180 RBI, a 1.186 OPS) was incredible, but he hit 50+ HR five different times and drove in 100+ nine times. After falling to 25th pick in the S6 draft, Cook would go on to become a five-time Silver Slugger and All-Star. Among the eligibles, he ranks 4th in OPS, 2nd in runs, and 1st in hits, home runs, and RBI. He also acquitted himself well in the playoffs, posting a .915 OPS in 227 AB. Coming close to election last season, this should be the season Cook gets the call.
3) Dennis Perez deserved more of a write-up last year. He probably deserved more attention during his career. Drafted 13th overall in S7, Perez exploded onto the big league stage as a 21 year old in S10. Winning the starting job at second base coming out of spring training, Perez went on to hit .331/.407/.752 with 62 home runs and 150 runs driven in. He won not only the Rookie of the Year, but bested Carlos Johnson for the MVP award. Perez's Blood Sox won 110 games that year, besting Hartford in the division and losing a tough series against Atlanta for the pennant.
Perez moved to third base after a couple of years to take advantage of his strong arm and won a couple of Gold Gloves at the position. A winner of 4 Silver Sluggers and 6 All-Star appearances, in S16 he won his only World Series ring. The diminutive infielder from River Rouge, Michigan finished 2nd among eligibles in home runs (603), runs batted in (1673), and slugging percentage (.598).
4) You may have heard of Happy Moore. I'm gonna keep talking this guy up until he's in the Hall. He's 3rd among eligibles in HR and RBI, and 1st in SLG% and OPS. He's posted the 3rd best OPS season ever in S14; he hit .394 in S8; he drove in 150+ runs 4 times; he's the only player to post 15+ RC/27 over a season twice; he won two World Series rings, crushing 8 HR in Hartford's 13 playoff games in S9. Happy drew a good deal of interest last season, and this might be the year he gets the 17 votes he needs.
5) Another newcomer to the eligible list, we might not have to wait too long for Curtis Shumaker to garner the required vote totals. Boise took the University of Richmond junior with the 2nd pick of the S10 draft and brought him up to the big leagues in S12. The next year, Shumaker was an All-Star (his first of 8 appearances) and a Silver Slugger in LF (his first of 5--at SS, LF and RF). His best season was in S17 with the Madison Lasers, when he won the MVP on the strength of a .337 average, 41 homers, 121 RBI, and 29 steals. He finished his career with 349 HR and 385 SB, and is 6th among eligibles with 1546 runs scored.
6) After those top 5, I start questioning whether I've got these last guys on the list in the right order. Rafael Alicea was a 7-time All Star, 3-time Silver Slugger, and won 3 rings with steelforge's Huntington Hound Dawgs. Alicea combined speed and a solid bat (396 HR, 427 SB) with versatility with the glove, logging time at SS, 3B, 2B and all around the outfield. His racked up 2559 hits in his career (6th among eligibles), 1597 runs (3rd), and 1481 RBI (7th)
7) If in S6, owners had known that Gerald Bradley would be in the draft next season, there would have been a lot more tanking down the stretch. Even facing the grind of catching year after year, Bradley never went on the DL, and is 11th among eligibles and 1st among retired catchers with 2354 hits. Bradley had a nearly unparalleled talent for getting on base. At .424, his OBP is the highest among eligibles who played 1500+ games. He drew 100+ walks in a season 7 times and posted an OBP over .400 in 12 straight seasons.
Appearing with 8 All-Star teams, he also won 5 Silver Sluggers and in S15, won the MVP award. That year he hit .330/.445/.489 and drove in 103 runs while catching an impressive pitching staff and leading the Florida Phoenix to 103 wins.
8) David Larson might well have surpassed Hersh Knight's accomplishments, but whereas Knight managed to avoid arm troubles until his twilight years, Larson had a couple of setbacks during his prime. Both pitchers were drafted in S6, with Larson, the senior from UC-Riverside, taken at #3 and Knight drafted 4th fresh out of Elkhorn High in Nebraska. Larson quickly made his major league debut with Las Vegas the following season, but despite a promising year in S9 when he went 16-6 and doing a very good job keeping guys of the bases and runs off the board, he had a hard time posting wins.
It wasn't until Larson was traded to Vancouver that he really had a breakthrough season. Larson went 18-5 that year, with a 3.09 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Unfortunately, Larson broke his forearm in the playoffs and Vancouver was upset by Huntington that year. Larson came back the next year with a 20-win campaign and a world championship, but he struggled in S16 before a broken elbow shut him down for the year. Larson was never quite the same, and soon lost his rotation spot. He finished out with a 150-95 record and a 3.60 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.
9) In S7, Jester and jarazix got together on not one, but two blockbuster deals. The first of those deals sent the talented young rightfielder Bonk Linton, a light-hitting SS named Hiram Whang and cash to Vancouver for the previous year's Cy Young winner Jerome Turner and SP Matty Mendez. The second deal brought the Shrugging Atlases Boston's top prospect, Hersh Knight, in exchange for future Rookie of the Year and All-Star 2B Orlando Martin and a rookie pitcher who would become a Cy Young winner, 4-time All Star, and two-time world champ: Danys Guzman.
Guzman retired with a record of 197-115, a 3.71 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. Despite pitching fewer games than Knight or Larson, he finished with far more innings pitched. Only elbow and shoulder issues later in his career prevented him from surpassing 200 wins. He wasn't known as a guy who would strike out many hitters, but his career ERA and WHIP are only bested by Knight and Larson among the eligibles, and neither of those pitchers had a Cy Young campaign. Guzman won the award in S10, on the strength of a 19-7 record with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. His career playoff record is 10-5 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 223.2 IP.
So, you've read my analysis. My ballot: Knight, Cook, Perez, Moore, and I think I have to go with Bradley with my fifth vote--Shumaker and Alicea are great and probably deserve to get in, but other than Pedro Arroyo, Gerald Bradley was the best catcher in Morgan's history. His ability to get on base and hold down the catcher position (he's 3rd all-time in base stealers thrown out behind Arroyo and the under-rated backstop Kyle Forrest.) made him a unique talent.