As I promised in my ballot post yesterday, and as I did last year, I’m going to run down the list of 42 players, representing what I believe is every player not appearing on the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot who was technically a first-time eligible candidate this year under the rules — that is, they played in at least 10 different MLB seasons and retired in 2006 — and say a little something about each. Because just lasting that long is a really impressive accomplishment, and these guys don’t deserve to be tossed aside (especially not in favor of, say, Tony Womack). A lot of them are journeyman relievers and career backup catchers, but again: ten years, in the Major Leagues! So, a few words of farewell.
If you want to see the stats, here are the hitters and here are the pitchers (with a few extras — there are some guys whose careers spanned more than a decade, but who didn’t actually play in the MLB in 10 different years). And here’s the commentary:
Manny Alexander: One up, two down: (1) I once saw him hit a game-winning home run for the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers; but (2) his 11 “seasons” include two with a combined total of seven games, and his career high was 108 games; and (3) once, on a road trip to Minnesota with the Orioles, he got the number of and tried to pick up a 17 year old classmate of mine.
Edgardo Alfonzo: It’s a cruel joke by the alphabet gods that we got to the very best one so early. In 2000, Alfonzo hit .324/.425/.542 (147 OPS+) with 25 homers, 94 runs scored and 109 RBI, while playing reputedly very good defense at second base, for a Mets team that won 94 games and the NL pennant. In a year without Bonds and Kent carrying the Giants, he probably gets serious MVP consideration. Add similarly great years in ’97, ’99 and ’02, and Alfonzo had put up approximately 30 rWAR through age 29. He completely lost it after that, and was sub-replacement for four more years.
Still, Edgardo deserved a place on that ballot. His 28.4 career rWAR bests one-and-dones-to-be Javy Lopez, Bill Mueller, Jeromy Burnitz, Eric Young, Vinny Castilla, Phil Nevin, Ruben Sierra, Tony Womack and Terry Mulholland, and his 7.0 single-season high is better than the best season of every other 2006 retiree, including Bernie Williams. It’s a shame he doesn’t get his name on the ballot.
Pedro Astacio: Probably a better pitcher than you realized, and with a much longer career, racking up 25.7 career WAR. His 1998 in Colorado (6.23 ERA in 209 innings) was almost as bad as it looked, but his ’99 (5.04 ERA in 232 innings) was actually kind of excellent, good for a 115 ERA+ and 5.3 WAR.
David Bell: Good-glove utility guy who at his very best, from age 28-31, was a perfectly fine starting third baseman. Twice hit 20 homers. Nowhere near the excellence of his dad Buddy, and probably didn’t quite match up to granddad Gus, but he did just fine for himself. He played himself into a big (ill-advised) three-year, $14-or-so-million contract with the Phillies late in his career, so there’s that, too.
Giovanni Carrara: The first of very many middle relievers. Interesting six-year run of ERAs to end his career: 3.18 and 3.28 with the Dodgers, 6.83! with the Mariners, then 2.18, 3.93 and 4.55 back with the Dodgers.
Mike DeJean: Also mostly a middle reliever, though he had mixed success as Milwaukee’s closer in 2002 and ’03. This is interesting: his ERA was significantly lower than his FIP in each season from 2000-2003, then flipped and was nearly a run higher than his FIP in 2004 and ’05. By FIP, his 2002 (3.12 ERA in 75 innings) was worse than his 2004 (4.57 in 61).
Einar Diaz: And there’s the first of many backup catchers. He played in 11 seasons, but in three of them he got into a combined total of twelve games, and he played 17 games in another. He somehow made $2.5 million in 2004, which perfectly sums up the final years of the Montreal franchise.
Joey Eischen: Just 90 total innings in parts of four seasons through age 27 (1997), then he didn’t make it back to the MLB at all in 1998, ’99, or ’00. So it’s pretty impressive that he got back up at age 31 and ended up playing in parts of six more seasons with the Expos/Nationals, including a 1.34 ERA in 53.2 innings in ’02.
Scott Erickson: Put up a 2.83 ERA in 19 starts as a rookie in 1990, then started 1991 12-3 with a 1.39 ERA for the eventual World Champion Twins and went on to win 20 games and finish second in the Cy Young voting. It was all downhill from there, of course, but Erickson still put up another strong year in ’92, threw a no-hitter (amidst what otherwise was a tailspin) in ’94, then rebounded to post four and a half more solid seasons following his trade to the Orioles in mid-1995. He certainly had a more significant career than Mulholland, or than Kirk Rueter (who made last year’s ballot), so it’s pretty surprising not to see him on there.
Carl Everett: Had three good years for the Astros and Red Sox in ’99-’01, and somehow kept finding teams willing to overlook the crazy all the way until 2006, in the hopes that magic would come back. It didn’t, but he was never boring.
Jeff Fassero: Didn’t even dip his toe in the big leagues until age 28 in 1991, and from then through ’98, as first a reliever, then a swing man, then a full-time starter, Fassero put up a 126 ERA+ in 1309 innings. You wouldn’t think a pitcher in his late thirties could see his career survive the type of 5-14, 7.20 ERA blowup season Fassero suffered through in ’99, but his did, and he was able to keep plugging along with mixed results for seven more years, right through his age-43 season. Have left arm, will travel.
Alex Gonzalez: For a good long while, you’d be forgiven for confusing this Alex Gonzalez with the Alex Gonzalez that just signed with the Brewers, and in fact, this Alex Gonzalez shows up as #1 (with a score of 918) on the other’s Bill James Similarity Scores list (the other comes in #3 on this one’s list, somehow). Both have/had a little power, good gloves and no patience. This one was almost four years older, which is why he’s here while the other one is headed to Milwaukee. There’s really no other difference.
Danny Graves: Graves had three brilliant seasons out of four from 1999-2002 as closer for the Reds, saving an average of 30 games while pitching an average of 95 innings — a good 25 more than his contemporary closers were expected to — and putting up a 143 ERA+ even accounting for his off-year of 2001. They tried to convert him to a starter after that, with disastrous results, and he was never the same again (not that that was necessarily the reason for his falling apart, but it ends up looking that way).
Todd Greene: Backup catcher with good pop. Only once got more than 210 plate appearances in his eleven seasons, spent with six different teams.
Chris Hammond: Put up a 4.54 ERA, mostly as a starter, from age 24 to 32. Upon his release in 1998, he retired to a ranch in Alabama. He came back starting in 2001, and all he did upon reemerging in the big leagues in ’02 was put up a 0.95 ERA in 76 relief innings with the Braves, then followed that up with a 2.78 in 117 innings with the Yankees and Athletics in 2003-2004. Pretty nice comeback.
Rick Helling: Basically a AAAA player from 1994-97, passed from the Rangers to the Marlins and back. Helling then got a full-time starter job with the Rangers in 1998 and ended up going 20-7, albeit with just a 4.41 ERA (109 ERA+). He had four more similarly workmanlike years with the Rangers and then Diamondbacks, but without the pretty W-L record, then lost his effectiveness at age 32 and bounced around for a few more years with different teams.
Dustin Hermanson: The Padres took him third overall in the ’94 draft, but after a couple bad partial years, they traded him to the Expos for Quilvio Veras prior to the 1997 season. Hermanson started 28-34 games each season from 1997-2001, averaging 11 wins and 190 innings with a respectable 4.07 ERA (108 ERA+). You might say he made his biggest contribution in 2005, though, as part of the Series-winning White Sox’ brilliant bullpen (57 innings, 2.04 ERA, 221 ERA+). An injury pretty much ended his career the next year, though, at age 33. He was born on the same date as LaTroy Hawkins, which isn’t quite Bagwell-Thomas, but it’s something.
Jose Hernandez: Homers, strikeouts, and bad shortstop defense. If memory serves, the Brewers pulled some shenanigans to keep Hernandez from setting the all-time strikeout record in both 2001 and 2002 (when he finished with 185 and 188 Ks, respectively, just short of the then-record of 189). What’s really remarkable is that that his 2002 was actually pretty spectacular; he hit .288 despite the 188 strikeouts, and with 24 homers, meaning he got a hit over 40% of the time that he did manage to put the ball onto the field of play. Shockingly, that didn’t translate to long-term success.
Todd Hollandsworth: His Rookie of the Year-winning 1996 (.291/.348/.437, 2.5 rWAR) wasn’t really overwhelming itself, but that was easily as good as it ever got for Hollandsworth, although he put up some monster numbers as primarily a pinch hitter in 2001 and 2004.
Damian Jackson: Have glove, will also travel. Jackson was a utility or superutility guy for eight different teams in his eleven seasons, able to play passably at second, third or short and steal a bunch of bases. Maybe best remembered for colliding with Johnny Damon in the 2003 ALDS. Like I assume many of these other guys are, Jackson (now 38) is still trying to make a go of it in independent ball.
Kevin Jarvis: Of nearly 2,000 pitchers with a career ERA of over 6.00, only one (Scott Aldred) was allowed to appear in more games than was Jarvis. Jarvis took the mound 187 times, starting 118, for ten different teams spanning a twelve-year period, finishing with a 6.03 ERA (74 ERA+), thanks only in small part to a couple different tours through Coors Field. Congratulations to Jarvis on having whatever it was that convinced teams to keep giving him chances!
Steve Karsay: Former first-rounder and top prospect, had a really good stretch as a short reliever from 1999-2002. Now espouses his conservative philosophies on his protected Twitter account and occasionally gets in arguments with TCM about them.
Tim Laker: More of a third catcher than even a “backup,” Laker never appeared in more than 64 games, but appeared in some big-league games eleven times in a span of fifteen years, including seasons of 1, 4, 6, 7 and 17 games. Was probably never quite as exciting as this makes him look.
Matt Lawton: Lawton was the best position player on the Twins teams just before the ones that were really good, putting up a .379 OBP in his years with Minnesota. I’ll still never understand the deadline deal with the Mets in 2001 that sent Lawton (then hitting .293/.396/.439, the best hitter on the club) away for Rick Reed, but for whatever it’s worth, Lawton was never anywhere near the same player again, and his career ended with a “PE”D suspension while he was with the Mariners at age 34.
Jose Lima: One of the great characters, if not one of the great pitchers. Averaged 240 innings with a 118 ERA+ in 1998 and ’99, but completely fell apart after that, yet kept getting chances. Passed away far too early, in May 2010.
Eli Marrero: I always used to get him confused with the guy just below; Marrero was the slightly less light-hitting one of the two former Cardinal catchers whose names started with “Ma,” the one who later moved to the outfield.
Mike Matheny: Would’ve been excellent as a backup catcher, but teams (first the Brewers, then the Cardinals, then the Giants) loved his defense so much that they kept starting him, which probably wasn’t a great idea. Now managing the Cards, of course, at just 41. Forty years from now when they’re considering his Hall qualifications as manager, will it be fair to hold his playing career against him?
Quinton McCracken: An all-time great name, but a singles hitter without much patience who wasn’t good enough defensively to stick in center. All that adds up to -2.6 rWAR.
Dan Miceli: Because now and then, you just need a guy to pitch the 5th and 6th when you’re up or down by eight runs. For whatever reason, Miceli got better with age, putting up a 123 ERA+ from age 32 to 35 after a 91 ERA+ from 22 to 31.
Jeff Nelson: At a thin, lanky 6’8″, Nelson had a really spectacularly unique delivery, standing straighter than most pitchers do and kind of flinging the ball semi-sidearmed like some people throw a frisbee, which is what gave him his great, intimidating slider. The Mariners and Yankees just played hot potato with him for a while, and he was a big part of both the iconic Seattle teams of 1995 and 2001, and a big enough part to see postseason action for all of the Yanks’ Series-winning teams of 1998-2000. Now a very, very poor TV and radio analyst.
Eduardo Perez: Hall of Famer Tony’s son, pretty much the definition of a replacement-level corner infielder and outfielder. He did have a nice .285/.365/.478 (123 OPS+) in 289 PA with the Cardinals in 2003.
Todd Pratt: The rare journeyman backup catcher who hung around despite having a better bat than glove, Pratt was actually better suited as the short side of a platoon than as the backup, hitting .277/.375/.493 against lefties for his fourteen-year career, with just a .686 OPS against righties. According to Wikipedia, Pratt was “a notable player of the online video game Ultima Online, and even appeared on the box of Ultima Online: Renaissance for marketing purposes.”
Curtis Pride: Another great name. His eleven seasons (with six different teams) were mostly little more than cups of coffee, though he had a nice partial season with the Tigers in ’96, hitting .300/.372/.513 (122 OPS+) in 301 PA. [Edit: oh and by the way, as a commenter pointed out below, Pride was deaf. I had totally forgotten that.]
Joe Randa: More evidence of the systemic underrating of third basemen. Randa was certainly as deserving of a place on the ballot as Jeromy Burnitz or Eric Young, but his uninspiring .284/.339/.426 line and mediocre power and stolen base numbers just don’t catch the eye enough. Randa switched teams five times between December 1996 and December 1998, but played for only two different teams: the Royals traded him to the Pirates, for whom he played the 1997 season; the Diamondbacks took him in the expansion draft, but then traded him to the Tigers, for whom he played the 1998 season, that same day; the Tigers traded him to the Mets; and six days later, the Mets traded him back to the Royals, for whom he played for the next six seasons. Must have been a confusing couple years for the Randa family.
Mike Remlinger: Again: have left arm, will travel. Dominated with the Braves in 1999, with a 2.37 ERA (190 ERA+) in 83.2 innings and a vulturiffic 10-1 record. Left-handed hitters must’ve been terrified of the Braves in 2002; just a tick behind Hammond’s season discussed above was Remlinger’s 1.99 ERA in 68 innings.
Felix Rodriguez: Actually got a down-ballot MVP vote or two in 1999 (finishing 20th), when he threw 80.1 innings, struck out 91 against only 27 walks, and put up a 1.68 ERA and 9-1 win-loss record. For his career, he put up a 113 ERA+ in 586 career innings, starting only one game out of his 563.
Michael Tucker: Once the tenth overall pick by the Royals and for several years considered a top prospect, Tucker never really panned out, but then, a lot of former top prospects would’ve been overjoyed with twelve years as a second-division starter/first-division fourth outfielder. And hey, his 3.1 rWAR in 1997 is nearly three times Tony Womack‘s career total.
Jose Vizcaino: Talented and versatile enough with the glove to stick it out for 18 years as a starting shortstop and utility man, despite a 75 OPS+. Ended his career by signing as a free agent with the Cardinals in late August of 2006 after his release from the Giants and hitting an unlikely .348/.375/.609 in his 25 PA, helping them to a 1.5 game defeat of his most significant former team, the Astros.
Chris Widger: Backup catcher who grades out poorly both offensively and defensively, putting up -2.1 career rWAR. He did average 114 games played and 14 homers a year from 1998-2000, which is certainly more than you can say, judgy.
Tim Worrell: Todd’s much younger brother hit his stride late, putting up a 130 ERA+ from 1999-2005 — age 31-37 — as a setup guy and closer after a much rougher go of it as mostly a long relief guy for the Padres.
Esteban Yan: Have right arm, will travel too? Decent go of it with the Devil Rays from ’98-’02, including two years as their closer, but overall put up just a 90 ERA+ in eleven seasons with seven different teams.
– Corey Koskie is one of my favorite players to watch of all time, and was an underrated hitter and third baseman. He appeared in Spring Training a few times after 2006, but was never able to get regular season game action in the tenth season that would’ve made him eligible for either the HOF ballot or this list.
– Believe it or not, Mark Prior‘s last appearance in the big leagues came in 2006, though he’s still just 31 and is trying to make it back.