As we head to Cooperstown this weekend, I've been thinking about some former players who have yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Below are my top five:
In nearly 2,200 games over 18 seasons (mostly with the Atlanta Braves), this seven-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner and two-time NL MVP winner amassed 398 home runs, 1,299 RBI and over 2,000 hits. A role model on and off the field, Murphy played the game how it's supposed to be played -- with class. Though his stats may not be amazing, they're quality for some not-so-great teams. But the Hall should open its doors to Murphy on personality alone, because he's first-class all the way.
Take a look at how Carter's numbers match up with fellow catcher and Hall-of-Famer Carlton Fisk:
Fisk: played in 2,499 games over 24 seasons
376 home runs
2 Gold Gloves
Carter:played in 2,296 games over 19 years
324 home runs
3 Gold Gloves
Playing perhaps the toughest physical position on the field, both Carter and Fisk were durable guys who called great games behind the plate and added some big hits on offense. While they both deserve to be in the Hall, only one has the honor. Inducting Carter into the Hall of Fame should be a no-brainer.
In his 17 major-league seasons, Hernandez helped both the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets reach the World Series. Hernandez, an 11-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star, made only 115 errors in over 2,000 games at first base. Offensively, he hit .296 for his career, walked 1,070 times and only struck out 1,012 times. Hernandez hit .300 seven times and in 1979 won the batting crown and was named NL co-MVP with Willie Stargell.
This one I really can't understand. Let's compare Blyleven to Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver:
Seaver: Pitched for 20 seasons
231 complete games
Gave up 380 home runs
Blyleven: Pitched for 22 seasons
242 complete games
gave up 430 home runs
I should mention that 96 of the home runs against Blyleven were given up in two seasons. Those seasons aside, he never gave up more than 25 homers in a season -- that's 20 seasons of 25 or less! As a former pitcher who lasted seven seasons in the Show, I can appreciate all of the pitches he threw in 22 seasons of spring training and the regular season.
Kaat threw 180 complete games and won 283. But stats aside, you have to consider the simple fact that Kaat pitched for 25 years. Think about that -- not just in terms of starts, wins and losses. Think about the number of drills, spring trainings and different batters he faced over his career.
Kaat also pitched in 62 games in his 24th year. Are you kidding me? I know that writers like to believe they're the all-knowing wise ones, but unless you've been there, it's difficult to fathom the wear and tear. It's an incredible feat to keep your arm in shape for all those years of drills and training ... all that throwing on the side!
I should also mention that Kaat won 16 Gold Gloves (I would have settled for one!). Not everyone is born with the natural ability of Willie Mays or Tom Seaver. Some players, like Kaat, had to work twice as hard to be half as good. The Hall of Fame is a very exclusive club, but hard work and class acts should be valued as much as ability.
BONUS PICK: Jim Rice
Rice was a career .298 hitter with 382 home runs, 1,451 RBI and nearly 2,500 hits. Rice was the 1978 AL MVP, an eight-time All-Star and led three-time HR crown winner. When I was growing up in New England, Rice was one of my favorite players. As I've indicated throughout my list, I'm not a big stats guy, but if the stats tell the story, you've got to pay attention. And looking at Rice's numbers, it's difficult to explain to my son why such a great hitter is not in the Hall of Fame.