Taking a look at the Hall of Fame ballot's one-and-done club
Dennis Martinez is close to Jack Morris, who has garnered more HOF support
Thirteen men have gotten 15-20 Hall votes and only one shot on the ballot
Dan Quisenberry is one such player who probably deserved a longer look
In 2004, Dennis Martinez got 16 votes for the Hall of Fame. I'm fascinated by the players who get between 15 and 20 votes their first year -- because that indicates that:
1. They were good enough that a handful of baseball writers believe they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
2. They did not inspire enough votes to remain on the ballot for a second year.
It's a small group, those between 15 and 20 votes who got one shot on the ballot. Here they are:
Lou Whitaker: 15 votes
Whitaker's No. 1 comp is Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. Whitaker played in more games than Sandberg, and he had a better OPS+, scored and drove in more runs. This is not to say that Whitaker was as good a player as Sandberg ... I'm not making a detailed comparison here except to say that Sandberg is in the Hall of Fame. And Whitaker never even got out of the starting gates.
Dan Quisenberry: 18
In this case, I HAVE done intensive study comparing Quisenberry and a Hall of Famer, Bruce Sutter. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Quiz was as good a pitcher as Sutter. Absolutely no question. They pitched almost exactly the same number of innings over more or less the same era, and while Sutter had more saves (the difference being when Sutter was an overpaid and mediocre closer in Atlanta), Quiz finished more games, gave up fewer runs (both earned and unearned) and, like Sutter, led the league in saves five times. Quiz finished second in the Cy Young voting twice and third twice more. I do wonder how many votes he would have received with even one Cy Young Award. Maybe he would have received exactly 18 -- I don't know.
Dwight Gooden: 17
My original thought was that these voters were just wishful thinkers -- those romantics who voted for Gooden based on his brilliant first two seasons (41-13, 2.00 ERA, 176 ERA+, 11 shutouts). But there's a little bit more here: Gooden did win 194 games and he had a 111 ERA+. He won a Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. His comps include Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance, who sort of had Gooden's career in reverse.
Joe Carter: 19
I think Carter might be a good example of the so-overrated-he's-underrated theory. True, he did not get on base much, which is the most important offensive skill (.306 lifetime on-base percentage). And this has made him the target of many people trying to make the point that RBIs don't paint a true picture of a player's talents. That's fine. He was probably overrated in many ways. But Carter was remarkably durable -- he played 155 or more games nine times. He did drive in 100-plus runs 10 times. And he hit one of the greatest home runs in World Series history.
Fernando Valenzuela: 19
This, I think, really WAS a case of romantics who remembered Fernandomania in 1981. He was remarkable that year -- or, anyway, he was in his first 10 starts of that year. He was just OK the rest of the year. And he was just OK for the rest of his career. Here's one for you: After that first year, Valenzuela had a couple more good seasons but overall he was 158-146 with a 101 ERA+.
Rusty Staub: 18
He had more than 2,700 hits and a 124 career OPS+. Not bad. He was basically Harold Baines before Harold Baines. But unlike Baines, he played in a lousy hitting era and played in crummy hitting ballparks most of his career. That really hurt him. In 1967, playing in the Astrodome, he hit .350/.421/.502 on the road. In 1969, playing for an expansion Expos team in Jarry Park, he hit .306/.423/.572 on the road. Neutralize his numbers, and he has almost 3,000 hits.
Frank White: 18
Frank is a friend of mine, so it's hard for me to be neutral about him. Plainly, his career mirrors Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski's. They were both brilliant defensive second basemen -- eight Gold Gloves each -- and neither could get on base. Maz turned the double play better and did get on base a touch more. Frank had great range and hit with more power and stole more bases. Maz hit the big home run in the World Series. Frank, though, hit cleanup in the World Series and was the first ALCS MVP. Maz's induction was quite controversial. Frank never made a second ballot.
Ted Simmons: 17
Bill James in the New Historical Abstract ranked Simmons the 10th best catcher of all time. He had a reputation as a lousy defensive catcher, which probably is not fair. Either way he was a very good hitter, posting a .300 batting average, a .369 on-base percentage and a 132 OPS+ from 1972-1980. Over a long career (he caught more games than Johnny Bench), he hit as well as Carlton Fisk and better than Gary Carter. But his Hall of Fame case never never took off.
Bill Madlock: 19
The original Mad Dog -- and the nickname always fit him better than Greg Maddux anyway -- Madlock is unique, I think. Eleven players have won four or more batting titles. Ten are in the Hall of Fame -- Cobb, Gwynn, Wagner, Carew, Hornsby, Musial, Williams, Boggs, Clemente, Heilmann. One is not: Madlock. He had a career .305 batting average. Madlock was a good base runner, really wasn't too bad defensively and he hit .375 in his one World Series appearance. But he only twice played 150 or more games in a season and he was traded four times, and he was widely viewed as a pain in the neck, and he was done at 36. Bill James wrote that he could think of no player who wanted to win batting titles as much as Madlock, and he did win batting titles, and I think that pretty much sums up a distinct career.
MLB Truth & Rumors