There are obviously a handful of players that are playing the game that are sure thing hall-of-famers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, A-Rod, Ken Griffey, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Tom Glavine are members of the Hall-of-Fame in the future. Everyone remembers the hall of famers because they have met and surpassed a certain standard set forth by the individual voters. There are certainly debates about who should and shouldn’t get in, but I’m not going there with this series of blog entries. Instead, I’m going to look at a bunch of guys who are sure bets NOT to be hall of famers, but were still great players. Twenty years from now, people are going to talk about the “hall of fame” pitchers like Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Martinez, and Glavine. What about a guy like Bret Saberhagen who from 1984-1994 had 3.19 ERA over 2074-2/3 innings (averaging 188.6 innings per year), but will be remembered more as a guy who struggled with injuries later in his career than a guy who was 90 to 95% as good as the guys who are sure bet hall-of-famers, but just didn’t quite have the longevity that they did.
Not all of the guys I’m going to identify are going to be as great as Bret Saberhagen. Some of them were 80% as good as the hall-of-famers for quite a long time. Some of them were every bit as good as the hall-of-famers, but flamed out due to various reasons. Some of them were guys that showed all of the potential in the world, but never quite panned out. Some of them are just quirky guys that I enjoyed watching.
A majority of the guys on this list are going to be guys from my childhood (late 80s through mid 90s). There isn’t a real rhyme or reason for me doing the list. I’m not naming the best non-hall of famer of the 90s or anything like that. With baseball season starting up, I just thought of a baseball-related topic that would interest me that hasn’t been beaten to death. I’m going to post one position each day until I’m done (pitchers last). I’m going to try to go with 10 from each position with the exception of 30 outfielders and 30 starting pitchers. If I wind up with 11-12 guys at a certain position, though, I’ll live with it. I’ve had a lot of fun working up this list, so I hope you enjoy reading it.
Chuck Knoblauch – 1991-2002 – Twins/Yankees/Royals
Twins fans always hear what a wonderful trade the Knoblauch trade was for us. I still don’t buy it. Post-Minnesota, he had 369 “Runs Created” (crazy, but awesome, sabremetric stat used by us baseball nerds) although in his four seasons following the Twins, he averaged 85.25 RC per year. His replacement Cristian Guzman had two seasons of 76 and 79 runs created followed by three seasons of 64, 63, and 66. We also got Eric Milton who was completely overratedduring his six seasons with the Twins. I mean, which of his seasons was so unbelievable – his nicest season was a 4.32 ERA which is exactly 6% better than league average. We went on to trade Milton for Carlos Silva (1 nice season, 2 average seasons, and 1 god awful season). Here’s what we traded Chuck Knoblauch in his prime for: one season in which Cristian Guzman was 10% better than league average and five seasons where he was 20-30% worse than league average, five seasons of completely league average pitching from Eric Milton, the aforementioned Carlos Silva seasons, and five seasons of Nick Punto being anywhere from 10-50% worse than league average. How did we win this trade? I know Knoblauch wanted to get out of dodge, but Knoblauch went on to win three more World Series and we haven’t won three playoff series since he left the Twins.
Julio Franco – 1982-2005 – Played for Every ML Team
Okay, he didn’t really play for every major league team, but if I wrote down the Phillies, Indians, Rangers, White Sox, Indians, Brewers, Devil Rays, Braves, Mets, and Braves, I would’ve completely screwed up the formatting on my webpage. He had quite a remarkable career. Many people remember him for being old in the late 90s and STILL playing as of last year at the age of 49. (BTW – I really hope somebody picks him up mid-season this year as he turns 50 in August!). Counting his stints in Mexico, Japan, and South Korea (along with his major league numbers), the guy has something like 3,300 hits. From 1985-1996, the guy was dynamite as a shortstop and then second baseman. He was an average of 20% better than average from a defensive position. It’s forgotten that he was a three-time all-star. Even from 1997-2005 (from the age of 38-46), he was five percent better than average. Seriously, that is amazing