Kenny Lofton - Again, he never struck me as a HOFer. A terrific, championship-level player, yes, but Hall of Famer, no. Could run like crazy, drew a walk, an excellent center fielder (although I was surprised to see he'd only won four Gold Gloves - in my head, he was one of those every-year, automatic winners. Guess it was hard to do it with guys like Griffey and Devon White and Kirby Puckett around). He did get 2400 hits, which is a lot, and stole 600 bases, which is A Lot. He also played for ELEVEN teams, which tells me that, while he was good, nobody ever really saw him as completely indispensible. If they didn't, I don't either…Verdict - Out.
On to the first-timers. As always, it's easy to make fun of some guys on the ballot...guys who are so clearly not HOFers that to even make a case of them seems silly. But hey, you play 10 seasons, you get one last mention. Some I'll quickly skip, because I frankly don't have much to say about them:
- Todd Walker
- Mike Stanton
- Jeff Conine
- Aaron Sele
- Rondell White
- Woody Williams (an aside - I had absolutely no recollection of this guy...he actually pitched for 17 seasons. A classic LaRussa guy, a mediocre inning-eater with a 4.00 ERA and 14 wins.)
- Jeff Cirillo
- Royce Clayton - got struck out by Dennis Quaid in The Rookie, which I liked quite a bit. Other than that, meh.
Two deserve mention as part of larger conversations: Jose Mesa and Roberto Hernandez saved, respectively, 321 and 326 games, good for 13th and 14th all-time. That they are among the best all-time in anything is a) annoying as hell and b) points out how weird relief pitching has become. Neither of these two guys - both profoundly mediocre pitchers who had a single great year and milked another dozen seasons out of a bunch of teams - should ever, ever, ever have been considered the best pitchers in baseball...but because of the way they were used, they piled up flashy stats in non-critical situations: small lead, but nobody on base and no more than a single inning. Blech.
A few guys were good players for a long time but were never really considered elite players:
- Ryan Klesko
- Sandy Alomar (I remember him being a higher-profile player, but only had four seasons of over 100 games played. Weird.)
- Reggie Sanders
- Steve Finley (although I will say this - as I wrote this, I had him confused with Chuck Finley, who was also pretty good but never great...so I looked him up and, once I realized who I was talking about, I gave a look, and STEVE was a really, really good player. Scored a bunch of runs, could run, excellent fielder, had some pop, very durable, showed up in a couple of MVP votes. Closest comp is Vada Pinson, who was also pretty good. He wasn't great, but you could definitely win a championship with him playing center field and leading off...he's not a HOFer, but he's closer to it than anyone on this list. Thanks, Steve. You done good.)
Okay: next up, the first-year guys worth an argument...