Santo, Torre headline all-time non-Hall of Fame team
Posted: Friday December 16, 2005 12:05PM; Updated: Monday December 19, 2005 11:55AM
One of the greatest sources of true heat during the Hot Stove season is arguing about who should be in the Hall of Fame. You just don't get the same kind of passion when discussing the Hall of Fame in the other sports. For baseball fans, it's a pastime in itself. So I thought it would be fun to come up with a team of the best eligible guys NOT in the Hall of Fame, complete with runner-up selections (leaving out, then, Pete Rose and Joe Jackson). Of course, I couldn't add everyone who was possibly worthy, so peace to Mule Suttles, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Vada Pinson, Allie Reynolds, Lee Smith and Mickey Lolich, amongst others.
Before managing the Yankees to four World Series championships, Joe Torre put together an outstanding 18-year career with four teams.
1. Joe Torre He wasn't an especially good defensive catcher and eventually played a lot of third base, but what Torre did do well was hit. He won the NL MVP in 1971 with a batting line of .363/.421/.555. Closest Hall of Fame Ballot: 1997, 22.2 percent.
2. Ted Simmons As a second-year player in 1972, Simmons boldly played the season without a signing a new contract. He could have been the man who brought the case of how to interpret paragraph 10a of the players uniform contract -- the one which the owners felt bound a player to a team in perpetuity -- to arbitrator Peter Seitz. Ultimately, the Cardinals -- who recently had traded Steve Carlton to the Phillies -- caved, and just before the All-Star break agreed to a multi-year deal, which was uncommon at the time. The issue was resolved temporarily, but Messersmith/McNally was not far off. Simmons, an excellent hitter and all-around player, went on to enjoy an impressive career. Closest Ballot: 1994, 3.7 percent.
1. Dick Allen He hit for average and power at the height of the pitcher-dominated era of the late 1960s. For 11 seasons, from 1964-1974, Allen averaged rate stats of .299/.386/.559. He posted one of the greatest rookie years ever in 1964 and would have won the MVP had the Phillies held on to win the NL pennant. Allen, a self-involved and troubled personality, has been characterized as a man ahead of his time. He was often misunderstood and was infamous for his troubles with the Philly fans and media. He used to draw messages to the fans on the infield dirt at first base like "Boo!" Nevertheless, he was a ferocious hitter, and his talent can't be denied. Closest Ballot: 1996, 18.9 percent.
2. Keith Hernandez I agonized over this selection. Don Mattingly had a better peak, and Will Clark is probably better than both of them. They are all better than Gil Hodges. Hernandez was a very good hitter who didn't have the kind of power associated with great first basemen, but it was his fielding, which at turns was both cerebral and daring, that set him apart. Closest Ballot: 1998, 10.7 percent.
1. Bobby Grich The sabermetrician's pet, Grich could be viewed as an ideal proto-type from the great Orioles organization of the 1960s and '70s. A stellar fielder, Grich possessed both plate discipline and power. Closest Ballot: 1992, 2.5 percent.
2. Joe Gordon Word to Lou Whitaker, who would have been a fine selection, but Gordon is an underappreciated old timer. Man, the dude could hit. The 1942 AL MVP played on five world championship teams and just slugged the hell out of the ball for a second baseman (253 home runs). Closest Ballot: 1969, 28.5 percent.
1. Alan Trammell Victim of circumstance? I don't know, you call it. But for some reason Trammell, who was one of the premier shortstops in the league for a good five or six years in the 1980s has been overlooked. Closest Ballot: 2005, 16.8 percent. (Still eligible.)
2. Vern Stephens A power-hitting shortstop whose best season came for the Red Sox in 1949, Stephens placed among the top 10 in MVP voting six times. Closest Ballot: NA.