Colbycakes asks on Twitter: “Who's your all-time (or just lifetime) Non-HoF team?”
Ah, the limits of 140 characters. I can imagine interpreting that question all sorts of different ways. Is the question, for example, asking who my favorite non-Hall of Fame players are? The group of players I think are most deserving? My favorites among those who should be in the Hall of Fame but aren't? What about current candidates who will eventually get in?
I think I’ll go with players who I think should be in the Hall of Fame but aren't on pace to get in (and only those I think of without looking anything up).
So, here's my list:
- Catcher: I’m not sure I have a player in mind. My old candidate was Joe Torre, but he’s in now. Maybe Ted Simmons? Bill Freehan? Who am I forgetting?
- First Base: Dick Allen. I do think his personality should count against him a bit (mainly because of the time he walked away from his team during the season), but I’m inclined to give a black man of his era the benefit of the doubt for clubhouse behavior.
- Second Basae: Lou Whitaker. Bobby Grich was probably a better player, but I was a bigger Whitaker fan; they both belong.
- Shortstop: Alan Trammell. He's been on the ballot but without much support. Bill James once wrote a wonderful essay about how the Tigers always develop great teams but wind up with relatively little to show for it. The current Tigers may be in the same situation. The anti-Tigers, of course, are the Marlins, who win the World Series every time they finish within 10 games of .500.
- Third Base: Darrell Evans. Yes, that’s three Tigers in a row. It just worked out that way although, of course, I think of Evans as a Giant. He was a terrific player with skills that don’t match what Hall of Fame voters tend to look for.
- Left Field: Not counting Barry Bonds, whom I think will get in. I’ll partially cheat and go with Tim Raines, whom I still hope will get in but isn’t quite on track to make it.
- Center Field: Reggie Smith. There’s a whole group of players who began in center field, moved to right field and wound up getting sold short. Oddly enough, Smith is one of three who started in Boston, along with Ellis Burks and Fred Lynn. Carlos Beltran will probably get in when he's done playing, but he’s in that group, too.
- Right Field: Dwight Evans. There’s a pretty good argument to be made that Jim Rice was the third-best player of that great Red Sox outfield. I’d rank them Evans-Lynn-Rice, with Evans definitely above the Hall of Fame line and Rice definitely below. I'll note too that I could have gone with Jack Clark (and Will Clark at first base), but I think both fall just a bit short.
- Pitcher: Hmm…I don’t seem to have an obvious candidate here now that Bert Blyleven and Rich Gossage are in. I’ll cheat and peak. The top two pitchers (based on wins above replacement via Baseball Reference) who fit the rules I've set up are Kevin Brown and Rick Reuschel. I’m not a Brown fan. I was, obviously, a huge Reuschel fan. Is he a deserving Hall of Famer? That's a tough call. I certainly wouldn’t be upset if he was in, though.
So that's the team. All of these players are from the division play era, which isn't just about my generational bias; the Hall has underappreciated players from the 1970s and 1980s, at least so far, compared with those playing in the earlier era and in the live-ball era. I am aware there are 19th century players who may be deserving, but I'm not going to come up with them without consulting experts, or at least a baseball reference. If I'm missing someone, let me know.
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Jonathan Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org