February is Black History Month, and with Baseball Hall of Fame talk still hot among many fans and scribes, now seems a good time to take a brief look at some Black players who have been considered and voted on but who have not been enshrined at Cooperstown.
When evaluating players for Hall of Fame worthiness, one criterion that I use to make my determinations is JAWS. If you rank among the top 20 at your position all-time across a century-and-a-half of baseball, then you stand a strong chance of receiving my support.
Listed here are a dozen of the greatest Black, non-Hispanic players of the last half-century. Each have interesting Hall of Fame cases. I’ll summarize their career stats, provide a brief background, and then give my opinion on their Hall worthiness. For me, nine of them deserve to be enshrined.
STATS: LF JAWS – 117.7 (1), WAR – 162.7, Slash – .298/.444/.607, 762 HR, 2558 RBI, 2227 R, 601 2B, 514 SB, 7x MVP, 8x Gold Glove, 12x Silver Slugger, 13x All-Star
SUMMARY: Barry Bonds was baseball’s only 400/400 HR/SB player, a 3x MVP, 8x Gold Glover, 7x Silver Slugger, 8x All-Star before even his most vocal critics believe he took a single PED.
HOF: Obviously belongs in the Hall. There is a legitimate argument that Bonds is the greatest overall player of all-time. Anyone who says that he doesn’t deserve a plaque at Cooperstown should not be taken seriously.
STATS: 2B JAWS 56.5 (13), WAR – 75.1, Slash – .276/.363/.426, 244 HR, 1084 RBI, 1386 R, 420 2B, 143 SB, 1978 AL Rookie of Year, 3x Gold Glove, 4x Silver Slugger, 5x All-Star
SUMMARY: Lou Whitaker was arguably the best AL second baseman of the 1980’s. Key member of 1984 Detroit Tigers world champions. Career WAR higher than positional/era contemporaries Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and Craig Biggio. Dropped off ballot after just 2.9% in 2001. Fell short in 2020 Modern Era committee vote.
HOF: Numbers put him on the edge. As I said earlier, for me, players need to be evaluated against others at their position, not against all players at any position. I would vote for him.
STATS: CF JAWS 55.9 (10), WAR – 68.4, Slash – .299/.372/.423, 1528 R, 383 2B, 622 SB, 1992 AL Rookie of Year runner-up, 4x Gold Glove, 6x All-Star
SUMMARY: Kenny Lofton finished with a career WAR higher than Kirby Puckett and Andre Dawson. Lost many AL Gold Gloves playing in Ken Griffey Jr. era. Dropped off ballot after 3.2% in 2013.
HOF: JAWS and WAR say he is a top 10 center fielder. In my IBWAA piece, I wrote that he came up just short. However, he will receive my support from now on. Argue against his being a top 10 all-time center fielder and maybe you can change my mind. When considering all things important at the position, I don’t see how you can.
STATS: CF JAWS – 54.6 (11), WAR – 62.7, Slash – .254/.337/.486, 434 HR, 1289 RBI, 1204 R, 383 2B, 152 SB, 2005 NL MVP runner-up, 2005 Silver Slugger, 10x Gold Glove, 4x All-Star
SUMMARY: Andruw Jones was the starter in center field for nine straight Atlanta Braves division champions. Greatest defensive center fielder of his era and brought power as well. Received 41.4% of vote this year in fifth on ballot.
HOF: Power the emphasis instead of Lofton’s speed/average. Lofton challenges his Gold Glove trophy case if not for the presence of Griffey. He joined Lofton under the “just misses” label for me in the newsletter version. That was a mistake on both. Andruw will receive my vote and support going forward for the same reasons.
STATS: 1B JAWS – 44.3 (32), WAR – 52.6, Slash – .284/.377/.509, 493 HR, 1550 RBI, 1349 R, 441 2B, 6x top 10 MVP, 3x Silver Slugger, 5x All-Star
SUMMARY: Career reminds me a lot of Tony Perez, the longtime run producer with the ‘Big Red Machine’ in Cincinnati back in the 1970’s who ranks just two places higher in all-time first base JAWS. McGriff delivered consistently strong production with the great Atlanta teams of the 1990’s after putting up even bigger numbers prior to that in both Toronto and San Diego. Received 39.8% in 2019 on his final ballot, by far his highest total.
HOF: Fred McGriff has a good argument in many regards, especially with the Perez comp. If you vote him in, then you have to vote in Todd Helton for sure, and must take Keith Hernandez, Mark Teixeira, John Olerud, and possibly a few others more seriously. I would lean towards a “Yes” for the Crime Dog.
STATS: RF JAWS – 49.3 (23), WAR – 60.5, Slash – .292/.393/.514, 509 HR, 1676 RBI, 1636 R, 467 2B, 253 SB, 6x top 10 MVP, 5x Silver Slugger, 9x All-Star, 1992 MLB Player of the Year, 1992 NL batting title, 1992 NL Comeback POY
SUMMARY: Arguments against will say that other than his huge 1996, the truly big numbers came 1999-2005 when Gary Sheffield was at ages 30-36 in the heart of the PED era. Up to 40.6% in 2021 BBWAA voting but stayed there again this year. Two years left on the ballot.
HOF: One of the most dangerous hitters in the game during his era for a long time. He’ll get my vote in the future.
STATS: 3B JAWS – 52.3 (17), WAR – 58.7, Slash – .292/.378/.534, 351 HR, 1119 RBI, 1099 R, 320 2B, 133 SB, 1964 NL Rookie of Year, 1972 AL MVP, 7x All-Star
SUMMARY: From 1964-74, Dick Allen was one of baseball’s most feared hitters. Fell off ballot after 3.7% in 1983. Allen was reinstated and voted on again from 1985-1997, never receiving more than 18.9% of the vote. Then in 2015 and again this year he fell just one vote shy with Golden Era/Days committees.
HOF: Allen has been victimized by a couple influential individuals during the committee process. Hopefully this changes in five years when they vote again. He belongs in the Hall.
STATS: 2B JAWS – 51.1 (16), WAR – 65.9, Slash – .276/.373/.351, 1239 R, 271 SB, 1980 AL Silver Slugger, 6x All-Star
SUMMARY: Willie Randolph was the New York Yankees starting second baseman 1976-88, He later managed the New York Mets to a 2006 NL East crown. Received just 1.1% of vote and fell off ballot in 1998.
HOF: Added Yankees Monument Park in 2015. His JAWS and WAR rankings at the Keystone position sell me on his HOF worthiness.
STATS: RF JAWS 51.6 (17), WAR – 64.6, Slash – .287/.366/.489, 314 HR, 1092 RBI, 1123 R, 363 2B, 1967 AL Rookie of Year runner-up, fourth in NL MVP vote both 1977-78, 1968 Gold Glove, 7x All-Star
SUMMARY: How did the BBWAA justify only three votes (0.7%) in 1988? Had a cannon for an arm. Started in right field as a rookie with Bosox AL pennant winners in 1967 and later three Dodgers’ pennant winners, including 1981 world champs.
HOF: Reggie Smith is grossly under-appreciated. Hit over .300 seven times and did it all: hit for average, hit for power, run, play defense. This is my guy. The one who seems to have been written off by most others, but who certainly deserves much more respect. He has my support and my vote.
STATS: RF JAWS – 49.5 (22), WAR – 57.9, Slash – .268/.353/.471, 332 HR, 1024 RBI, 1258 R, 302 2B, 461 SB, 2x top five NL MVP, 3x Gold Glove, 3x All-Star, 1973 Sporting News NL Player of Year
SUMMARY: Just second player after Willie Mays to reach 300/300 career HR/SB marks, but also struck out a ton. Defensively, his speed and athleticism allowed Bobby Bonds to cover the difficult right field at windy Candlestick Park.
HOF: I love the power and speed combo, and his 10-year peak WAR of 51.9 proves out that exciting talent. But the elder Bonds falls a bit short of the HOF overall for me.
STATS: RF JAWS – 38.5 (22), WAR – 42.1, Slash – .259/.357/.505, 335 HR, 1000 RBI, 898 R, 256 2B, 221 SB, 1983 NL Rookie of Year, 1988 NL MVP runner-up (3rd in 1990), 2x NL Silver Slugger, 8x NL All-Star, four World Series rings
SUMMARY: One of the biggest run-producers of the 1980’s while with the New York Mets. As with his buddy below, lost most of his 30’s to substance abuse, which included three MLB suspensions.
HOF: Especially because he starred on the biggest stage that the game has to offer with both New York based teams, Darryl Strawberry is an unforgettable baseball figure. As the 1980’s ended he looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But those drug problems, specifically with cocaine, cost him the ultimate career honor.
STATS: SP JAWS – 45.9 (87), WAR – 48.1, 430 Games (410 Starts), W-L 194-112, 3.51 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 3.33 FIP, 111 ERA+, 2564 hits allowed over 2800.2 IP, 2293/954 K:BB, 1984 NL Rooke of Year, 1985 Cy Young Award, 4x top five Cy Young, fourth 1985 NL MVP, 1992 Silver Slugger, 4x All-Star, 1996 no-hitter. Three World Series rings.
SUMMARY: Dwight Gooden made his MLB debut at just age 19 and dominated immediately. Over the decade from 1984-93 with Mets: 154 Wins, 1.169 WHIP, 2.73 FIP over 2128.1 innings. Won pitching Triple Crown in 1985. Key player on 1986 world champs.
HOF: Problems with drug and alcohol abuse surfaced around 1986, haunted him the rest of his career and beyond. Lost most of 1994 and all of 1995 in his prime at ages 29-30. Dropped off BBWAA ballot after 3.3% in 2006. ‘Doc’ is the highest-ranked HOF-eligible Black pitcher not enshrined. He and the game lost a great deal to the scourge of substance abuse and the disease of addiction, including a shot at the Hall.
Note: I originally wrote a version of this piece for the Thursday, February 3, 2022, Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) newsletter. Over the last few days, I have re-evaluated some of the players, listened to a few respected opinions, and changed my mind on a couple of the players. Also, this version includes two players who were not included in that newsletter.
MORE RECENT BASEBALL PIECES
- 2.01.22 – Charlie Finley and the Swingin’ A’s
- 1.04.22 – Memo Luna and those baseball lost in 2021
- 1.02.22 – My IBWAA 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot
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