A lot of people debate and argue about who should belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I’d like to shine a spotlight on some who chould be kicked out. I’ll limit it to ten since it helps to focus. Also for clarification I’ll ignore managers, contributors, negro leaguers, etc. from the discussions. They are all in the Hall for subjective reasons and I can only make definite conclusions about those who are in primarily for their play in the major leagues. Much as I’d love to exclude Bowie Kuhn or Effa Manley they can wait for another day.
Keep in mind there’s nobody in the Hall of Fame who was a “bad” player. But most of these in the list were really average players who played long enough to compile impressive stats, or good players who had misleading numbers for various reasons. These aren’t neccesarily the absolute ten worst, but they’re probably pretty close.
1. Ray Schalk C 1912-1929
Ray Schalk is a popular candidate for worst hall of fame player. He has the second worst OPS of any player elected primarily as a position player, with his .656 just beating out Luis Aparicio’s .653. But there are good reasons to rate Aparicio a lot higher than Schalk. Schalk had only 5306 at bats, and was generally a .250ish hitter with essentially no power, though he did draw a decent amount of walks. In 1922 after the live ball was introduced he “exploded” for a .281 average and 4 home runs. Despite playing half his career with the live ball he hit only 11 home runs in his career, less than Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton. He was actually 3rd in the MVP voting that year (1922). Other than that he didn’t make many headlines. He was a pretty good catcher, but not earth shatteringly good. As far as I can tell he’s in the hall for catching 1721 games, which was a large amount at the time.
2. Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance. SS, 2B, 1B 1902-1916, 1902-1929, 1898-1914
All right maybe it’s cheating to list three in one spot, but all are in the Hall of Fame for the same reason, and none of them deserve it. They are the subject of a famous poem, and were important cogs in one of the greatest dynasties, the Cubs of 1906-1910. That being said as individuals they are all lacking. Joe Tinker played the most games: 1806, and had a lifetime 96 OPS+. He was a pretty good fielder, even if the trio’s exploits are overstated. He never led the league in anything other than games played in 1908. Johnny Evers hit a Schalk-like 12 home runs in his career, though he did draw a decent number of walks, which put his OPS+ at 106. He also had some speed, stealing 346 bases. His fielding was somewhat better than average, though not as good as Joe Tinker. He won an MVP award in 1913, though he didn’t deserve it. He had a far superior year in 1911, though he didn’t deserve it then either. Frank Chance was the best hitter of the three, with an impressive 135 OPS+ lifetime. Problem is, he only played 1288 games with 4299 at bats. He led the league in runs once, stolen bases twice, and onbase percentage once. He was also player-manager during the Cubs run. I just don’t think his playing or managerial career was long enough to merit a Hall selection.
3. Phil Rizzuto SS 1941-1956
Phil Rizzuto is in the Hall of Fame because he’s a Yankee. Period. You know it, I know it. Phil Rizzuto knew it. After intense lobbying for years he was finally elected in 1994. He had a short career of 1661 games. That’s not completely his fault due to his WWII service but since his lifetime OPS+ was a below average 93 it would have just meant more mediocre stats had he played longer. Rizzuto came to the league late as a 23 year old and was washed up by 36. In between he appeared in five all star games, and in 1950 did have a really good year, hitting .324 and winning the MVP. He was a pretty good fielder but not especially spectacular. It’s worth noting that below average hitters who AREN’T good fielding shortstops won’t even stay in the majors. Vern Stephens and Marty Marion are among the shortstops of that time who were at least as good, if not better than Rizzuto and not in the Hall of Fame.
4. Rube Marquard P 1908-1925
From 1911 to 1913 Rube Marquard was 73-28 was an ERA around 2.50. In those days that was good enough for maybe 4th, 5th best pitcher in the National League. The rest of his career was 128-149 with a 3.26 ERA, especially bad when you consider most of his career was in the dead ball era.
5. Travis Jackson SS 1922-1936
Elected mainly because he was on a good team and his buddies were on the veterans comittee. Hit .291 with 135 home runs… in the best offensive era in baseball history. His lifetime OPS was 102 and he was an average fielder as well. In fact that pretty much sums up Jackson. Perfectly average.
6. George Kell 3B 1943-1957
Probably my favorite “bad” selection. Kell was elected by the Veteran’s committee in 1983 (the year after Jackson). I remember thinking “who the crap is George Kell?” Well he was an above average fielder at an important position. That’s good, but the real reason he was elected was his lifetime .306 batting average in an era where few players had averages over .300 . To illustrate the point if he had 51 less hits he would have hit .299. He would still be essentially the same player but never would have been considered by the Hall of Fame. Kell led the league once in batting average, and had another year where he hit .340. He led the league in hits twice, doubles twice, had very little power, and didn’t steal that many bases (though nobody did then). Basically he was Carney Lansford with a better glove. He didn’t have a particularly long career, though he somehow managed to make 10 all star games. That’s pretty impressive when you consider he played 140 games or more only four times. He had two top 5 MVP finishes. Another possible reason for his inclusion is the fact he was a third baseman, and there aren’t (or weren’t) that many in the Hall. But why not Ron Santo or Ken Boyer? Both are FAR more qualified in every statistic except batting average. Well they weren’t eligible to be considered by the Veteran’s committee but hey. Ron Cey is more deserving of the Hall than George Kell for pete’s sake. (Update 7/21/2013 – Ron Santo was elected to the hall of fame in 2012).
7. Red Ruffing P 1924-1947
Did you know Babe Ruth has the highest OPS of any player in the hall of fame? You probably did. Did you know Ruth also has the ninth-lowest ERA of any pitcher in the hall of fame? This guy however was no Babe Ruth. Ruffing in fact has the highest ERA of any player in the Hall of Fame at 3.80. I could have picked another Yankee pitcher for this list like Pennock or Hoyt but I’ll stick with Ruffing. Red Ruffing was one of those Boston to NY pipeline players and he was terrible in Boston. From 1925 to 1930 in Boston he posted a record of 39-96. While he may have been a little better than his record indicated his adjusted ERA was still well below average. He led the American League in losses in 1928 and 1929. He was then traded to the Yankees and the sun started to shine. My grandmother could have posted a winning record for the Yankees of the 1930’s. And that’s considering she was only 12. I’m exaggerating but not by a lot. Ruffing posted a record of 77-51 from 1930-1934 with the Yankees despite pitching pretty much the same as he did with Boston. Starting in 1935 he actually pitched well above average for a few years and his won loss record showed this. At the age of 35 in 1940 though he began to slow down and pitch like an average guy again. His lifetime adjusted ERA is 109. The rest of his stats are mediocre as well. He is in the hall of fame for two reasons: 1. He pitched for the Yankees. and 2. He pitched for a fairly long time and compiled a lot of optically impressive stats (for the time).
8. Rick Ferrell C 1929-1947
His brother Wes might belong on a list of 10 best ballplayers excluded from the Hall of Fame. Interestingly despite being a position player and playing over 1500 more games Rick hit ten less home runs than pitcher Wes. Of course Wes was 4 inches taller and 40 pounds of muscle heavier so that might have something to do with it. Rick Ferrell was a fairly average fielder (maybe a little better than average) and a terrible hitter. His adjusted OPS is 95 (100 being average of course) and as mentioned he rarely hit home runs. He did occasionally hit over .300 and caught a lot of games. I think this is why he was elected by the Veterans Committe in 1984 (them again!). This was despite not being on the BBWAA list in 24 years and only getting a couple of votes then.
9. Bill Mazeroski 2B 1956-1972
I’ve thought about this one a lot. It just depends on how valuable you think his defense is. Mazeroski may have been the greatest fielder ever to play. He was certainly one of the top 5. Thing is, I just am not convinced that translates into a whole lot more runs than an average replacement fielder. I wouldn’t have any problem with Mazeroski if he were a completely average hitter with his fielding stats. But he was atrocious. He gives Ray Schalk a run for his money as the worst hitter in the Hall of Fame. I would say the five worst hitters in the Hall’s history are Mazeroski, Schalk, Ozzie Smith, Rabbit Maranville and Luis Aparicio. Smith, Maranville, and Aparicio all had very long careers though and other complimetary skills like great baserunning. Mazeroski had a little power, but not much, couldn’t run, drew very few walks, and hit .260 lifetime. He is the only player in the Hall of Fame with an on base percentage lower than .300 (except pitchers, managers, etc.). The point is, he probably cost his team somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 runs or so over his career offensively with his suck-tacular play. He would have to make up all those runs with his defensive play just to be average. I don’t think he does.
10. Catfish Hunter P 1965-1979
I really didn’t want to put him on the list. I really didn’t. He’s from North Carolina. He was a nice guy as far as I know. Tragically died young. But man looking at the stats he just does not measure up. His lifetime ERA+ is only 105… slightly above average, worse than Ruffing. He only had three years above 115 in his career. He had an extremely short career only pitching two full years for the Yankees after he was traded in 1975 (only one of them good), and was out of the league after 1979 at the age of 33 with arm trouble. His won loss record is .574, good but not great. Really not that great at all when you consider he pitched on spectacular teams. Don Drysdale had a similar sort of career but was a much better pitcher and even his selection was controversial. I think Jim Hunter is in the Hall of Fame because he had a cool nickname. And he was a Yankee.