It’s Hall of Fame time, and with all the discussion around the interwebs about various candidates’ worthiness for baseball’s highest honor, we at YCPB figured we would put in our two cents on the current Hall of Fame ballot. However, great players doing great things is fairly predictable and boring, and so we have omitted great players like Jeff Bagwell and Mark McGwire and Barry Larkin. We value postseason feats as well, but are missing a couple of players who had prominent ones like Bernie Williams and Edgar Martinez. Most of all, we are looking for seasons and moments that remind us all of why we love baseball, so without further ado:
Juan Gonzalez: On July 5th, 1998, in the final game before the Break, Gonzalez hit two homers and drove in four. It was home runs 25 and 26, and RBIs 98, 99, 100, and 101. 101 RBIs before the All-Star Break had people talking about Hack Wilson’s (still) seemingly untouchable record of 191 in a season, and Gonzalez rode that talk to his second MVP in three years. His torrid RBI pace slowed down in the second half though, and he finished the season with 157 RBIs, not even leading the majors (Sammy Sosa with his 66 homers and 158 RBIs did), though his 157 was the best mark in the AL since Vern Stephens and Ted Williams both drove in 159 for the 1949 Red Sox. The best part? While his RBI pace slowed dramatically, Gonzalez was actually a much better hitter in the second half: he hit .293/.333/.590/.923 with 26 homers and 101 RBIs in the first half, and .353/.411/.686/1.097 with 19 homers and 56 RBIs in the second despite 100 fewer plate appearances.
Javy Lopez: Lopez was one of the better hitting catchers out there, with a career .287/.337/.491 line. In 2003 though, he came to the plate only 495 times. Because of that, his rate stats were not counted among the league leaders, but what stats they were: Lopez hit .328/.378/.687/1.065 with 43 home runs in 129 games. Those 43 homers tied him Albert Pujols for fourth in the NL, and his .687 slugging would have been second only to some guy named Barry Bonds. Making it even more remarkable, Lopez caught 120 games that year. Only Johnny Bench, who hit 45 homers in 1970 in nearly 200 more plate appearances, ever hit more homers in a single season as a catcher, and Bench slugged a full 100 points lower than Lopez. Lopez in 2003 slugged 49 points higher than any catcher ever had before or since (minimum 400 PAs) and for that he gets our vote.
Jack Morris: Morris was a very good pitcher, but his Hall of Fame case essentially rests on a single game. No matter how good a pitcher you are, throwing an extra inning complete game shutout in Game 7 of the World Series is as unpredictable as it gets, and while some of his supporters seem to think so, Morris was hardly the best pitcher of his era. He likely would have fallen off the ballot years ago if not for Chuck Knoblauch fooling Lonnie Smith in the 8th, but pitch that great game he did, and through it he seems poised to get over 60% of the actual Hall of Fame vote. That is good enough to get ours.
Tony Womack: The speedy second baseman-turned-outfielder-turned-shortstop-turned-utility guy played seven full seasons, thrice led the league in steals (his 72 stolen bases in 1999 remains the second highest mark of the last 14 years) but only once put together a bWAR of greater than 1. That year, 2004, was by far his best season with the bat, hitting .307/.349/.385/.735, 91+ (all career highs). His career 72 OPS+ ranks 10th worst among the 572 players with 5000 plate appearances since WWII. Point is, the guy was not a threat with the stick. So why does he get our vote? Because while everyone remembers Luis Gonzalez’s World Series winning blooper over the drawn-in infield, it was Womack’s double off Mariano Rivera that tied the game and set that up. A light hitting lefty doubling in the biggest spot possible off a guy who limited lefties to a .187/.226/.209 line that year? Tony Womack hitting arguably the biggest hit in the history of the Diamondbacks? Give that man a plaque.