HOF 2013: The Guys You Can’t Even Vote For

It's Announcement Day (hide your wives and daughters, hide your computer and anything else that'll connect to Twitter!), and it's time for another tradition of mine (started in 2011, and here's 2012): there are throngs of players who are eligible for the Hall of Fame this year — they played in at least ten seasons, and retired in 2007 — but did not make the ballot, and ten (or more) years in a professional sport is by itself a pretty great accomplishment, so I like to say a little something about each of those guys. 

Antonio Alfonseca: Six fingers, as you know. He led the league in saves in 2001 for Florida, picking up 45 of them despite a subpar-for-a-reliever 4.24 ERA.

Tony Batista: It's a bit surprising that a guy with 221 homers didn't make the ballot, but of course that was just about all Batista was. That, and the best batting stance (non-Julio Franco Dvision) in history.

Mark Bellhorn: Among Bellhorn's ten "seasons" are years in which he played nine, 11, 13, 38 and 68 games. He really only had two seasons, but they were good ones: 2002 for the Cubs (27 HR, 133 OPS+, about three wins above replacement) and 2004 for the Red Sox (107 OPS+, another three wins and a World Series ring).

Hector Carrasco: Just another guy who went out and got his job done; rarely had impressive-looking numbers thanks to the crazy offense, but did wind up with a 113 ERA+. He sat out all of 2004 and then starred for the inaugural Nationals of 2005: 88.1 innings and a 2.04 ERA (200 ERA+). 

Alberto Castillo: A backup and often third-string catcher, but 12 big-league years is 12 big-league years. He peaked at 93 games and 290 plate appearances for the Cardinals and was probably overexposed, putting up a 69 OPS+.

Rheal Cormier: A French-Canadian who pronounced (and, one presumes, still pronounces) his name Ray-AL Cor-MEE-ay, Cormier hung around forever, from age 24 through 41 (16 years; he didn't pitch in '98, and made it only 1.1 innings in '97). Generally within a few ticks of average, he had just a phenomenal year for the Phillies in 2003, at 36: in 84.2 innings, Cormier put up a 1.70 ERA (235 ERA+) while striking out 67 and walking only 25, surrendering just four homers. He notched just one save, but was a ruthlessly efficient vulture, with an 8-0 record on the year.

Juan Encarnacion: Remembered mostly for the horrific eye injury that ended his career at age 31, Encarnacion hit 156 home runs (peaking at 24 in 2002) and stole 127 bases in the big leagues, which is certainly more than you can say.

Robert Fick: The lone All-Star for the woeful 106-loss Tigers of 2002, Fick probably had his best year in 2001, with a 119 OPS+ and 19 homers in only 124 games while spending most of his defensive time at catcher.

Steve Kline: Really good lefty reliever who wore a really dirty hat. He led the National League in games pitched three consecutive times from 1999-2001, and twice posted an ERA under 2.00 in more or less a full season.

Ricky Ledee: Best remembered for batting .600 as a rookie in the four-game 1998 World Series for the Yankees, Ledee ultimately played for seven teams in ten years. He could hit a little and field a little, a pretty solid fourth outfielder.

Mike Lieberthal: A bit surprised he didn't make the list, with very similar numbers to fellow catcher Sandy Alomar, though fewer of the accolades. Lieberthal had a really stellar 1999: .300/.363/.551 with 31 homers and 96 RBI. Only in 1999 is that kind fo performance from a catcher worth only 3.2 WAR.

John Mabry: I always thought of Mabry as a pretty solid backup 1B/OF, and can't make sense of the fact that he ended his career more than three wins below replacement level. Mabry is best remembered as an unexpected star for the 2002 Moneyball A's, who acquired him in May for Jeremy Giambi and saw him hit .275/.322/.523 with 11 homers in 211 plate appearances.

Tom Martin: I was a bit distressed at first that there was a guy who played for 11 years who I had no memory of, but only two of those years topped 60 innings, and six of them were 17 innings or fewer. Martin had a pretty awesome-looking rookie year, with a 2.09 ERA in 55 innings for the 1997 Astros, though he struck out only 36 and walked 23.

Damian Miller: Nice career for a catcher who debuted at age 27 and really didn't lock down a starting job until 30. He was a part of the world champ Diamondbacks in 2001, and (thanks probably to manager Bob Brenly) an All-Star in the ill-fated 2002 tie. He most certainly was not a star, but wouldn't hurt a team that had a lot of strengths elsewhere on the diamond.

Doug Mirabelli: Mirabelli was probably appreciated better for his name than his abilities, though you could do worse for a backup catcher. He never played more than 82 games, and had a career 87 OPS+

Mike Myers: Submarining lefty one-out guy who was always just around, and you were always surprised to see him pitching for that team this year. He pitched in 883 career games, and only logged 541.2 innings. Held lefties to an incredible .219/.304/.332 line; torched by righties to the tune of .300/.399/.476. 

Orlando Palmeiro: Backup outfielder who was occasionally pushed into starting, with poor results. He'd probably have a better chance of making it in on this ballot than Rafael will.

Neifi Perez: Probably the #1 whipping boy of the sabermetric community of the day, Perez kept getting chances despite not really being able to do much of anything very well. A sign of the times: in 2000 in Colorado, Perez hit an impressive-looking-for-a-shortstop .287/.314/.427, and nonetheless was credited with just a 69 OPS+ and -1.1 WAR.

Desi Relaford: An otherwise really underwhelming player, Relaford had one of the all-time great fluke years for the Mets in 2001: he hit .302/.364/.472 in 120 games, with 27 doubles. He was worth just over two wins that year by WAR, and -2.0 WAR for his whole career.

Paul Shuey: A pretty good middle reliever who suddenly started striking everybody out at age 28: 103 Ks in 81.2 innings in 1999, 69/63.2 in 2000, 70/54.1 in 2001. During his five-year peak from 1998 to 2002, Shuey put up a 144 ERA+ while throwing 64 innings a year and striking out 10.3 per 9. 

Scott Spiezio: Not sure whether he's better remembered for his postseason heroics in helping lead the Angels to the championship in 2002, or his ill-advised technicolor facial hair. He was one of the big names really foolishly brought in by terrible Mariners GM Bill Bavasi in 2004, killing the team for years. That's summarized almost as slantedly in this segment from Bavasi's Wikipedia page.

Kelly Stinnett: Stinnett was a backup catcher, and often a pretty good one, for fourteen seasons. Like all backup catchers, he seems to have played for about half the league, but did log nearly half his career games with Arizona.

John Thompson: Righty starting pitcher who was better than he looked because of where he pitched (mostly Colorado). He did very well when he could stay healthy, but coudln't stay healthy very often. 

Jose Valentin: Valentin is this year's Edgardo Alfonzo — easily the best player not to make the ballot. Valentin hit 249 home runs while mostly playing shortstop, and playing it pretty well. Go ahead and try to find a reason to put Todd Walker on the ballot and leave Valentin off, I dare you. Besides batting average.

John Wasdin: It was hard out there for a middling reliever in this time period; Wasdin lasted 12 years with a 5.28 career ERA. I remember a late-nineties computer game — probably one of the EA Triple Play ones — in which a bug gave a young Wasdin his usual 91-MPH fastball, but it was accompanied by an unhittable 116-MPH changeup. It was amazing. 

Rick White: If you look up "middle reliever" in the dictionary, and there's a picture of Rick White, you have a really weird but awesome and brilliant dictionary. 12 seasons, an almost perfectly average ERA, and eleven different teams. His best year was probably 2000; starting with the terrible, no-defense Rays, he managed to perform well enough to be traded to the Series-bound Mets. For the year, he threw almost exactly 100 innings in 66 relief appearances with a 137 ERA+, and got to pitch (though not particularly well) in all three playoff series.

Bob Wickman: 15 seasons, 1059 IP, 63-61, 267 saves, 126 ERA+. Roberto Hernandez: 17 seasons, 1071.1 IP, 67-71, 326 saves, 131 ERA+. Hernandez is on the ballot; guess we knew where they drew the line! Mike Stanton, also on the ballot, also had stats extremely similar to Wickman, but more years, a less-impressive ERA and many fewer saves. Wickman was good.

Preston Wilson: One of those guys who was much more exciting than good: he had a 30/30 season, two more 20/20s, and had one more year (aided by Colorado) in which he hit 36 homers and led the league with 141 RBI. But he wasn't a very efficient basestealer, the metrics rated his defense very poorly, and he very nearly set the then-strikeout record in 2000 by whiffing 187 times for the Marlins. Wilson clearly had a lot of talent, but couldn't quite put it together.

Jay Witasick: I never would have guessed that Witasick lasted until 2007 (mostly because he pitched 15 innings for the A's and 16 for the Rays that season). Witasick was a poor starter early, and a very good reliever late. He pitched for the losing team in consecutive World Series (2001 Yankees, 2002 Giants), but otherwise filled his career almost completely with small-market, usually pretty poor teams: Oakland twice (before and after their really good period), Kansas City, San Diego twice, Colorado and the Rays.

Jaret Wright: Peaked as Baseball America's #22 prospect in 1997, then drove the excitement up with a strong rookie showing and World Series performance later that season. It was mostly injuries and inconsistency after that, though Wright did have his one brilliant year, for Atlanta in 2004, leading to a pretty big, and pretty disappointing, contract with the Yankees.

Honorable mention: Orlando"'El Duque" Hernandez played across ten seasons, but missed all of 2003 with an injury; he'd probably be on the ballot if he'd made just one appearance that year. 21.5 wins above replacement is a pretty great career for a guy who got started at age 32 (and a lot of people didn't believe he was that). 

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