Posted: Friday December 16, 2005 12:05PM; Updated: Monday December 19, 2005 11:55AM
1. Ron Santo Yeah, he played in Wrigley Field but he also played in a pitching-dominant era too, and when you put his numbers up against the other great third baseman, he's definitely in the top 10. Closest Ballot: 1998, 43.1 percent.
2. Ken Boyer The heart and soul of the Cardinal teams from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s, Boyer was a good fielder and a consistently productive hitter. Closest Ballot: 1988, 25.5 percent.
1. Minnie Minoso The first black Latin to play regularly in the major leagues and the first black man to play in Chicago (for either team) never has gotten his due. Minoso hit a homer in his first at-bat for the White Sox, the same game in which Mickey Mantle hit his first career bomb. From 1951 to 1961, Minoso averaged 29 doubles, seven triples, 16 homers, 98 runs and 96 RBIs, with rate stats of .304.395/.471. At different times he led the league in hits, doubles, slugging, triples and stolen bases (three times). He also won three Gold Gloves and played with a kind of enthusiasm and intelligence that made him the American League's answer to Willie Mays. Minoso's age is at the center of how to evaluate him properly: He was either 28 in 1951 or 25. This plays a factor in just how impressive he was at an older age, and how much of his prime he lost to the racism of the major leagues. Regardless, it is a mystery as to why he hasn't been more embraced or celebrated as a pioneer in the Latin baseball community. In fact, he's more remembered for his stunt pinch-hitting appearances (in 1970 and 1980) than for being a seven-time All-Star. Closest Ballot: 1988, 21.0 percent.
2. Albert Belle I like him better than Jim Rice. (And he was meaner too.) Closest Ballot: First year on the ballot.
1. Dale Murphy This two-time NL MVP (1982-83) had a short but monstrous peak. Closest Ballot: 2000, 23.2 percent. (Still eligible.)
2. Jimmy Wynn Possessing tremendous speed and all-out ability, Wynn played the majority of his career (1963-77) during a pitching era and in a run-suppressing environment (Astrodome). One of his teammates on the Astros, Joe Morgan, was fond of Wynn, an outgoing personality who liked to party and who wasn't as single-minded in his pursuit of greatness as Morgan was himself. "It may be that Jimmy had the right idea and I had the wrong one about what a life in baseball was all about," Morgan wrote in his autobiography. "Maybe there should be a Hall of Fame for all those guys ... who decided that life at the top was enjoying yourself to the fullest while you had the chance." Closest Ballot: 1983, zero percent.
1. Andre Dawson It couldn't have helped his cause that he played his prime years in Montreal. Closest Ballot: 2005, 52.3 percent. (Still eligible.)
2. Dwight Evans As defined by a powerful and accurate throwing arm, Evans was one of the great defensive right fielders of 'em all. Under the tutelage of hitting guru Charlie Lau's disciple Walt Hriniak, Evans developed into a productive and steady offensive player during the second half of his career. Closest Ballot: 1998, 10.3 percent.
1. Jim Rice Other than Dave Winfield, Gary Sheffield and Mike Piazza, Rice hit the ball harder than any other righty I ever saw. Closest Ballot: 2005, 59.5 percent. (Still eligible.)
2. Tony Oliva Another hard-hitter. I like him better than Al Oliver here. Closest Ballot: 1988, 47.3 percent.
1. Bert Blyleven Since 1900, Blyleven ranks fifth in career strikeouts (3701), eighth in shutouts (60) and 17th in wins (287). Other than Tommy John (who has one more win than Blyleven), everybody who ranks ahead of Blyleven in strikeouts, shutouts or wins is either in the Hall of Fame or will be enshrined five years after they retire. According to Rich Lederer, who is hosting a "Bert Blyleven for Hall of Fame Week" at The Baseball Analysts this week, "The case against Blyleven is that he didn't win 300 games or a Cy Young Award. But there are dozens of pitchers who were elected to the HOF who didn't accomplish that either, yet there isn't one pitcher who did everything he did who is NOT in Cooperstown." Closest Ballot: 2005, 40.8 percent. (Still eligible.)
2. Luis Tiant Given a choice between Jack Morris or Tiant in a big game, I'd take Tiant every day of the week. Not only that, but the guy gives you one of the most entertaining pitching motions in history. Closest Ballot: 1988, 30.9 percent.
1. Jim Kaat Staying power was his hallmark -- he pitched in four decades. The 13 Gold Gloves don't hurt, either. Closest Ballot: 1993, 29.55 percent.
2. Tommy John "The case for Tommy John is a bit too reliant on the fact that he stuck around for 26 years rather than having an exceptionally high peak," argues Jay Jaffe, who annually evaluates Hall of Fame candidates for Baseball Prospectus. "But if you consider the hundreds of pitchers whose careers have been salvaged by the pioneering surgical procedure which bears his name, his case for a bronze plaque becomes much stronger." Closest Ballot: 2001, 28.3 percent. (Still eligible.)
1. Goose Gossage He looked like a gorilla version of Yosemite Sam on the mound, guns a' blazin' and comically fierce but (legitimately) frightening as well. Just ask Ron Cey, who got pelted in the bean by an errant Gossage delivery in the 1981 World Series. Gossage was amazingly good for amazingly long. Closest Ballot: 2005, 55.2 percent. (Still eligible.)
2. Bruce Sutter On par with Dan Quisenberry, but I like him better than Lee Smith. Hey, he popularized a pitch for Pete's sake. Closest Ballot: 2005, 66.7 percent. (Still eligible.)
Lefty Setup Guy
1. Sparky Lyle For this category, there can only be one. Lyle had a penchant for throwing ridiculous sliders and sitting bare-assed naked on birthday cakes. He was the co-author of Bronx Zoo, the liveliest of a series of Yankee bios written with Peter Golenbock. It's the literary equivalent of Slap Shot -- funny and crude in a way that you can practically smell. Closest Ballot: 1988, 13.1 percent.