I’m not really sure what the requirements are to make the Hall of Fame ballot, but it seems like every year there are 10-15 players that have no place being there. Most, if not all, will receive less than 5% of the vote.
But let’s not forget that these guys had marvelous careers. If the Hall of Fame is made up of the best 1-2% of ballplayers, then these guys are still up in the top 10%. Or the top .00001% if you stretch it out to everyone, ever.
I’ll write a little something on each of these guys – a memory, a story, whatever – because they, too, deserve to be recognized. I’ll dig up some old baseball cards too.
Kenny Rogers. Rogers finished with 219 wins, which is more than I thought, but he also had a 4.27 career ERA. He only had four seasons (as a starter) with an ERA under 4. He had a nice renaissance in his forties with Detroit – in 2006, at age 41, he went 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA and helped the Tigers reach the World Series. In those playoffs, he started three games, pitched 23 innings, and gave up 0 runs. He also threatened and assaulted a cameraman.
Luis Gonzalez. Gonzalez was always a solid hitter – he led the NL in hits in 1999 – but then out of nowhere he hit 57 home runs in 2001 with a .688 slugging percentage. Other than 2001, he never hit more than 31 home runs and never had higher than a .549 slugging percentage. He finished with 354 home runs and a 119 OPS+, though he will mostly be remembered for his walk-off floater against Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
Moises Alou. I’ll mostly remember Moises Alou for, well, peeing on his hands before games. He wasn’t the only one who did this – Jorge Posada did too. Both of them didn’t wear batting gloves and said that this made their hands tougher before games. Their teammates and coaches were hesitant to give them high fives. Alou holds the record for the highest batting average among 40+ year olds – in his final two seasons, he hit .342 in 102 games.
Ray Durham. From 1996-2002, Durham was one of the more durable second basemen in the game. He played 150+ games each year and was a little better than a league average hitter. He was, simply, a solid major league player. He played for 14 years, had over 2,000 hits, collected $67 million in his career salary, and can probably walk in public without being recognized.
Hideo Nomo. Nomo was a trailblazer. He started the wave of Japanese pitchers coming over to Major League Baseball, and he dominated from the start with one of the best windups of all time. In 1995, his first year in the league, he struck out a league-high 236 batters, posted a 2.54 ERA, and easily won the Rookie of the Year. He went on to pitch for another decade and finished with nearly 2,000 career strikeouts and two no hitters.
Richie Sexson. Sexson was one of the taller, lankier hitters in the game. The bat looked like a toothpick in his hands. I’ll remember that he literally had no follow-through on his swing. He stood at 6’8″ but was barely above 200 pounds. According to Wikipedia, he is the tallest batter in MLB history. He hit 45 homers in 2001 and then hit 45 more in 2003. He finished with 306, which is 129th all time.
Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca had a solid career for a catcher – he hit .286 for his career and made four all star teams. He was one of the better contact hitters in the game – he only had two seasons with more than 40 strikeouts. Lo Duca was named in the Mitchell Report and will likely receive 0 Hall of Fame votes.
Armando Benitez. Mets fans will groan when they hear Benitez’s name, but he actually had a pretty dominant stretch of seasons – in his Mets career, he saved 160 games with a 2.70 ERA and almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings. He also hit Tino Martinez in the back with a 100-mph fastball in 1998 and started one of the more insane brawls we’ve seen.
Mike Timlin. Timlin was a real jerk. Awhile back, I went to a Red Sox/Yankees game, and Timlin was shagging fly balls in the outfield. Fans requested balls, an autograph, anything they could get, and Timlin not only refused but was cursing and yelling at the fans. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to Daryl from The Walking Dead.
Sean Casey. Sean Casey is pretty much the opposite of Mike Timlin. He was one of the more likable players of his time and was nicknamed the “mayor” because he did so much talking at first base. He had a nice career with the Reds – he finished his career with a .302 average – and made three all star teams.
Jacque Jones. Jones had a solid career with the Twins. His best year was probably 2002, when he hit .300 with 27 home runs and led the Twins to their first division title since 1991. He was traded a few times toward the end of his career – he played with the Cubs, Tigers, and Marlins before retiring in 2008.
Eric Gagne. Gagne’s 2003 was one of the best ever for a closer. He gave up just 37 hits in 82.1 innings, went a perfect 55-for-55 in save opportunities, and finished with a 1.20 ERA and 137 strikeouts. This was right in the middle of his 84 consecutive saves, a record that will likely stand for quite some time. Of course, Gagne was never the same after 2004, and he retired after just ten big league seasons.
J.T. Snow. The Yankees drafted Snow in the fifth round of the 1989 draft, but he only played 7 games with them before he was traded to the Angels in 1992. Snow did most of his damage with the Giants but never became an elite hitter. He finished his career with a .268 average and 189 home runs.
Todd Jones. This was one of the cards that I always liked from the Topps 2000 set. Jones looks like he’s 50 years old (even though he was only 34 at the time). I’m not sure how he was able to keep his closer’s role with the Tigers for so long – he never posted an ERA under 3 – but he somehow managed to rack up 319 career saves. And a strong resemblance to Santa.
When Todd Jones found out he was on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, he had one of the great retorts ever: “The Hall of Fame is for greatness. No one with the nickname ‘Roller Coaster’ should ever be considered. The only thing the Hall will let me in for is to use the restroom.”